Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Archive for November, 2019

The Evolution of Our Civilization

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 29, 2019

Eridu

In Sumerian mythology, Eridu (Sumerian: NUN.KI/eridugki; Akkadian: irîtu; modern Arabic: Tell Abu Shahrain), also transliterated as Eridug, was an archaeological site in southern Mesopotamia (modern Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq).

Located 12 km southwest of Ur, Eridu was the southernmost of a conglomeration of Sumerian cities that grew around temples, almost in sight of one another. With the temples growing upward and the village growing outward, a larger city was built. The urban settlement was centered on a large temple complex built of mudbrick, within a small depression that allowed water to accumulate.

Kate Fielden reports “The earliest village settlement (c. 5000 BC) had grown into a substantial city of mudbrick and reed houses by c. 2900 BC, covering 8–10 ha (20–25 acres)”. Mallowan writes that by the Ubaid period, it was as an “unusually large city” of an area of approx. 20–25 acres, with a population of “not less than 4000 souls”.

Eridu could mean “mighty place” or “guidance place”. According to the Sumerian King List Eridu was the first city in the world, and is named as the city of the first kings. Babylonian texts talk of the foundation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight”.

In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was originally the home of Enki (Sumerian: dEN.KI(G)), later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology, who was considered to have founded the city, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians.

Whether Eridu at one time also played an important political role in Sumerian affairs is not certain, though not improbable. At all events the prominence of “Ea” led, as in the case of Nippur, to the survival of Eridu as a sacred city, long after it had ceased to have any significance as a political center.

The king list continues: In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalngar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira. In Sumerian mythology, it was said to be one of the five cities built before the Deluge occurred.

Piotr Steinkeller has hypothesised that the earliest divinity at Eridu was a Goddess, who later emerged as the Earth Goddess Ninhursag (Nin = Lady, Hur = Mountain, Sag = Sacred), with the later growth in Enki as a male divinity the result of a hieros gamos, with a male divinity or functionary of the temple.

The king list gave particularly long reigns to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred and shows how the centre of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country. The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization.

At first Enki, the god of Eridu, attempted to retrieve these sources of his power but later willingly accepted that Uruk now was the centre of the land. This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward.

Adapa, a man of Eridu, is depicted as an early culture hero. Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea (Abgallu, from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man, he was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim.

In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient’s body and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.

Abzu

In the city of Eridu the E-abzu, a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu, was located at the edge of a swamp, an abzu (Cuneiform: ZU.AB; lit., ab=’water’ zu=’deep’), also known as E-engura (Cuneiform: LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru), meaning “house of the subterranean waters”, the name for fresh water from underground aquifers which was given a religious fertilising quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology.

It was the first temple known to have been built in Southern Iraq. Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu. In this respect, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology it referred to the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above.

Enki was believed to live in Abzu and his templewas called E-Abzu, meaning “abzu temple” or “house of the deep waters”. The Apsu was figured as the abyss of water beneath the earth, and since the gathering place of the dead, known as Aralu, was situated near the confines of the Apsu, Enki was also designated as En-Ki; i.e. “lord of that which is below”, in contrast to Anu, who was the lord of the “above” or the heavens.

It has been suggested that etymologically the name Ea comes from the term *hyy (life), referring to Enki’s waters as life-giving. The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”.

The Sumerian En is translated as a title equivalent to “lord” and was originally a title given to the High Priest. Ki means “earth”, but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.

The name Ea is allegedly Hurrian in origin while others claim that his name ‘Ea’ is possibly of Semitic origin and may be a derivation from the West-Semitic root *hyy meaning “life” in this case used for “spring”, “running water”.

In Sumerian E-A means “the house of water”, and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the god at Eridu. It has also been suggested that the original non-anthropomorphic divinity at Eridu was not Enki but Abzu.

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

With some Sumerian deity names as Enlil there are variations like Elil. En means “Lord” and E means “temple”. It is likely that E-A is the Sumerian short form for “Lord of Water”, as Enki is a god of water. Ab in Abzu also means water.

P. Steinkeller believes that, during the earliest period, Enki had a subordinate position to a goddess (possibly Ninhursag), taking the role of divine consort or high priest, later taking priority. The Enki temple had at its entrance a pool of fresh water, and excavation has found numerous carp bones, suggesting collective feasts.

Carp are shown in the twin water flows running into the later God Enki, suggesting continuity of these features over a very long period. These features were found at all subsequent Sumerian temples, suggesting that this temple established the pattern for all subsequent Sumerian temples. “All rules laid down at Eridu were faithfully observed”.

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

On this basis Thorkild Jacobsen has hypothesized that the original deity of the temple was Abzu, with his attributes later being taken by Enki over time. The pool of the Abzu at the front of his temple was adopted also at the temple to Nanna (Akkadian Sin) the Moon, at Ur, and spread from there throughout the Middle East.

Atargatis or Ataratheh, whom Lucian calls Hera, was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity. Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. Michael Rostovtzeff called her “the great mistress of the North Syrian lands”. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite.

At her temples at Ascalon, Hierapolis Bambyce, and Edessa, there were fish ponds containing fish only her priests might touch. There is a sacred fish-pond swarming with untouchable fish at Qubbet el-Baeddwī, a dervish monastery three kilometres east of Tripolis, Lebanon. The fishpond of fish sacred to Atargatis survives at Şanlıurfa, the ancient Edessa, its mythology transferred to Ibrahim.

Certain tanks of holy water in Babylonian and Assyrian temple courtyards were also called abzu (apsû). Typical in religious washing, these tanks were similar to Judaism’s mikvot, the washing pools of Islamic mosques, or the baptismal font in Christian churches. It is believed to remain today as the sacred pool at Mosques, or as the holy water font in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.

Eridanus

Eridanus is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is represented as a river. It is the sixth largest of the modern constellations. The same name was later taken as a Latin name for the real Po River and also for the name of a minor river in Athens.

According to one theory, the Greek constellation takes its name from the Babylonian constellation known as the Star of Eridu (MUL.NUN.KI). Eridu was an ancient city in the extreme south of Babylonia; situated in the marshy regions it was held sacred to the god Enki-Ea who ruled the cosmic domain of the Abyss – a mythical conception of the fresh-water reservoir below the Earth’s surface.

Eridanus is connected to the myth of Phaethon, who took over the reins of his father Helios’ sky chariot (i.e., the Sun), but didn’t have the strength to control it and so veered wildly in different directions, scorching both Earth and heaven. Zeus intervened by striking Phaethon dead with a thunderbolt and casting him to Earth.

The constellation was supposed to be the path Phaethon drove along; in later times, it was considered a path of souls. Since Eridanos was also a Greek name for the Po (Latin Padus), in which the burning body of Phaethon is said by Ovid to have extinguished, the mythic geography of the celestial and earthly Eridanus is complex.

Another association with Eridanus is a series of rivers all around the world. First conflated with the Nile River in Egypt, the constellation was also identified with the Po River in Italy. The stars of the modern constellation Fornax were formerly a part of Eridanus.

Enki

The cult of Enki, and later Ea, extended throughout Babylonia and Assyria. We find temples and shrines erected in his honour, e.g. at Nippur, Girsu, Ur, Babylon, Sippar, and Nineveh, and the numerous epithets given to him, as well as the various forms under which the god appears, alike bear witness to the popularity which he enjoyed from the earliest to the latest period of Babylonian-Assyrian history.

As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumer, being equated with El (at Ugarit) and possibly Yah (at Ebla) in the Canaanite ‘ilhm pantheon. He is also found in Hurrian and Hittite mythology as a god of contracts, and is particularly favourable to humankind.

Enki is the Sumerian god of water, wisdom, knowledge (gestú), magic, mischief, crafts (gašam), and creation (nudimmud), and one of the Anunnaki. Many myths about Enki have been collected from various sites, stretching from Southern Iraq to the Levantine coast.

He is mentioned in the earliest extant cuneiform inscriptions throughout the region and was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times. Myths in which he figures prominently have among other places been found in Assurbanipal’s library, and in the Hattusas archive in Hittite Anatolia.

Enki, and later Ea, were apparently depicted, sometimes, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his temple E-apsu (“house of the watery deep”), points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters.

Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods he began as a local god who, according to the later cosmology, came to share the rule of the cosmos with Anu and Enlil. His kingdom was the sweet waters that lay below earth (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).

To him was assigned the control of the watery element, and in this capacity he becomes the shar apsi; i.e. king of the Apsu or “the abyss”. His temple was called E-Abzu, as Enki was believed to live in Abzu, an aquifer from which all life was believed to stem.

Enki, and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his temple E-apsu, “house of the watery deep”, points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters. Around the excavation of the 18 shrines found on the spot, thousands of carp bones were found, consumed possibly in feasts to the god.

It is, however, as the third figure in the triad (the two other members of which were Anu and Enlil) that he acquires his permanent place in the pantheon. He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus.

An (Sumerian) or Anu (Akkadian) is the divine personification of the sky, supreme god, and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion. Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers, and he is described in one text as the one “who contains the entire universe”.

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

He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus). Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for “40”, occasionally referred to as his “sacred number”.

The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk) was, in Sumerian times, identified with Enki. His symbol was that of a double-helix snake or the Caduceus, commonly confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine.

Ninhursag

The consort of Ea, known as Ninhursag, also known as Damkina (“lady of that which is below”) or Damgalnunna (“big lady of the waters”), was originally fully equal with Ea, but in more patriarchal Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian times plays a part merely in association with her lord.

Generally, however, Enki seems to be a reflection of pre-patriarchal times, in which relations between the sexes were characterised by a situation of greater gender equality. In his character, he prefers persuasion to conflict, which he seeks to avoid if possible.

Of his cult at Eridu, which goes back to the oldest period of Mesopotamian history, nothing definite is known except that his temple was also associated with Ninhursag’s temple and that incantations, involving ceremonial rites in which water as a sacred element played a prominent part, formed a feature of his worship.

This seems also implicated in the epic of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage of Enki and Ninhursag (above), which seems an etiological myth of the fertilisation of the dry ground by the coming of irrigation water (from Sumerian a, ab, water or semen).

The early inscriptions of Urukagina in fact go so far as to suggest that the divine pair, Enki and Ninki, were the progenitors of seven pairs of gods, including Enki as god of Eridu, Enlil of Nippur, and Su’en (or Sin) of Ur, and were themselves the children of An (sky, heaven) and Ki (earth).

Ninhursag was the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the “true and great lady of heaven” (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were “nourished by Ninhursag’s milk”.

Sometimes her hair is depicted in an omega shape and at times she wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders. Frequently she carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

Her temple, which was called Esaggila (from Sumerian E (temple) + SAG (head) + ILA (lofty), meaning “the lofty head house”), was located on the KUR of Eridu, although she also had a temple at Kish.The name is the same as the name of Marduk’s temple in Babylon, pointing to a staged tower or ziggurat (as with the temple of Enlil at Nippur, which was known as E-kur (“house on a hill”).

Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian).

According to legend, her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple.

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

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

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

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

Marduk

Enki/Ea is essentially a god of civilization, wisdom, and culture. He was also the creator and protector of man, and of the world in general. Traces of this version of Ea appear in the Marduk epic celebrating the achievements of this god and the close connection between the Ea cult at Eridu and that of Marduk.

The correlation between the two rises from that the name of Marduk’s sanctuary at Babylon bears the same name, Esaggila, as that of a temple in Eridu, and that Marduk is generally termed the son of Ea, who derives his powers from the voluntary abdication of the father in favour of his son.

Accordingly, the incantations originally composed for the Ea cult were re-edited by the priests of Babylon and adapted to the worship of Marduk, and, similarly, the hymns to Marduk betray traces of the transfer to Marduk of attributes which originally belonged to Ea.

Tiamat

In the religion of ancient Babylon, Tiamat (Akkadian: DTI.AMAT or DTAM.TUM, Greek: Thaláttē) is a primordial goddess of the salt sea, mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water, to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is referred to as a woman, and described as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, is named for its incipit: “When above” the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, “the first, the begetter”, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, “she who bore them all”; they were “mixing their waters”.

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

In the Enûma Elish she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, correctly assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed.

Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon. She is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopotamian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”. Marduk then forms the heavens and the Earth from her divided body.

A cosmic ocean or celestial river is a mythological motif found in the mythology of many cultures and civilizations, representing the world or cosmos as enveloped by primordial waters. In creation myths, the primordial waters are often represented as originally having filled the entire universe, being the first source of the gods cosmos with the act of creation corresponding to the establishment of an inhabitable space separate from the enveloping waters. Frāxkard (Middle Persian: plʾhwklt‎, Avestan: Vourukaša; also called Warkaš in Middle Persian) is the name of the cosmic ocean.

In the first creation story in the Bible, there is only earth and water in a disorganized state: “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.” (…). (Genesis 1:2.) The world is also created as a space inside of the water, and is hence surrounded of it, “And God saith, `Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ ” (Genesis 1:6).

Thorkild Jacobsen and Walter Burkert both argue for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea, tâmtu, following an early form, ti’amtum. Burkert continues by making a linguistic connection to Tethys. The later form Greek thaláttē, which appears in the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus’ first volume of universal history, is clearly related to Greek thálatta, an Eastern variant of thalassa (“sea”).

It is thought that the proper name ti’amat, which is the construct or vocative form, was dropped in secondary translations of the original texts because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word tāmtu (“sea”) for Tiamat, the two names having become essentially the same due to association. Tiamat also has been claimed to be cognate with Northwest Semitic tehom (“the deeps, abyss”), in the Book of Genesis 1:2.

Nammu

It is thought that female deities are older than male ones in Mesopotamia and Tiamat may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically dNAMMA = dENGUR), a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki.

In Sumerian mythology, Nammu was a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat. Nammu was the Goddess sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.

Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions. An indication of her continued relevance may be found in the theophoric name of Ur-Nammu, the founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur.

According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu. Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.

The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans, and Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.

Ubaid culture

The oldest agrarian settlement at Ubaid and Eridu seems to have been based upon intensive subsistence irrigation agriculture derived from the Chalcolithic Samarra culture (5500–4800 BCE) in northern Mesopotamia, characterised by the building of canals, and mud-brick buildings.

The fisher-hunter cultures of the Arabian littoral were responsible for the extensive middens along the Arabian shoreline, and may have been the original Sumerians. They seem to have dwelt in reed huts.

The third culture that contributed to the building of Eridu were the Semitic-speaking nomadic herders of herds of sheep and goats living in tents in semi-desert areas. All three cultures seem implicated in the earliest levels of the city.

The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility.

Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order.

It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one’s peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.

Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation.

Whatever the ethnic origins of this group, this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers, with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.

Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oecumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. “A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions.”

During the Ubaid Period (5000–4000 BC) the movement towards urbanization began. “Agriculture and animal husbandry [domestication] were widely practiced in sedentary communities”. There were also tribes that practiced domesticating animals as far north as Turkey, and as far south as the Zagros Mountains.

The Ubaid period in the south was associated with intensive irrigated hydraulic agriculture, and the use of the plough, both introduced from the north, possibly through the earlier Choga Mami, Hadji Muhammed and Samarra cultures.

The Samarra culture partially overlaps with Hassuna and early Ubaid. Samarran material culture was first recognized during excavations by German Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld at the site of Samarra. Other sites where Samarran material has been found include Tell Shemshara, Tell es-Sawwan and Yarim Tepe.

At Tell es-Sawwan, evidence of irrigation—including flax—establishes the presence of a prosperous settled culture with a highly organized social structure. The Samarran Culture was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period.

The culture is primarily known for its finely made pottery decorated with stylized animals, including birds, and geometric designs on dark backgrounds. This widely exported type of pottery, one of the first widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient Near East, was first recognized at Samarra.

At Tell Sabi Abyad and other Late Neolithic sites in Syria, scholars adopt increasingly vague terms such as Samarra “influenced”, Samarra-“related” or even Samarra “impulses”, largely because we do not understand the relationships with the traditional Samarra heartlands.

The term may be extended to include sites in Syria such as Tell Chagar Bazar, Tell Boueid II, Tell Sabi Abyad or Tell Halula, where similar pottery is currently being excavated in Pre-Halaf to Early Halaf Transitional contexts.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) represents the early Neolithic in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent, dating to c. 12,000 – c. 8,500 years ago, that is 10,000-6,500 BCE. It succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipalaeolithic Near East (also called Mesolithic), as the domestication of plants and animals was in its formative stages, having possibly been induced by the Younger Dryas.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) denotes the first stage of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic culture, dating to c. 12,000 – c. 10,800 years ago, that is, 10,000–8,800 BCE. Archaeological remains are located in the Levantine and Upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent.

The time period is characterized by tiny circular mud brick dwellings, the cultivation of crops, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was not yet in use. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian). PPNA succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic).

One of the most notable PPNA settlements is Jericho, thought to be the world’s first town (c. 9,000 BCE). The PPNA town contained a population of up to 2,000–3,000 people, and was protected by a massive stone wall and tower.

There is much debate over the function of the wall, for there is no evidence of any serious warfare at this time. One possibility is the wall was built to protect the salt resources of Jericho. It has also been proposed that the tower caught the shadow of the largest nearby mountain on summer solstice in order to create a sense of power in support of whatever hierarchy ruled the town’s inhabitants.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic culture centered in upper Mesopotamia, dating to c. 10,800 – c. 8,500 years ago, that is, 8,800–6,500 BCE. Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery. The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BCE at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley).

Sites from this period found in the Levant utilizing rectangular floor plans and plastered floor techniques were found at Ain Ghazal, Yiftahel (western Galilee), and Abu Hureyra (Upper Euphrates). The period is dated to between c. 10,700 and c. 8,000 BP or 7000–6000 BCE.

Danielle Stordeur’s recent work at Tell Aswad, a large agricultural village between Mount Hermon and Damascus could not validate Henri de Contenson’s earlier suggestion of a PPNA Aswadian culture. Instead, they found evidence of a fully established PPNB culture at 8700 BC at Aswad, pushing back the period’s generally accepted start date by 1,200 years.

Similar sites to Tell Aswad in the Damascus Basin of the same age were found at Tell Ramad and Tell Ghoraifé. How a PPNB culture could spring up in this location, practicing domesticated farming from 8700 BC has been the subject of speculation.

Whether it created its own culture or imported traditions from the North East or Southern Levant has been considered an important question for a site that poses a problem for the scientific community.

Around 8000 BCE, before the invention of pottery, several early settlements became experts in crafting beautiful and highly sophisticated containers from stone, using materials such as alabaster or granite, and employing sand to shape and polish. Artisans used the veins in the material to maximum visual effect.

Such object have been found in abundance on the upper Euphrates river, in what is today eastern Syria, especially at the site of Bouqras. These form the early stages of the develoment of the Art of Mesopotamia.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture came to an end disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 6200 BC, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. It is succeeded by the Pottery Neolithic.

In climatology, the 8.2-kiloyear event was a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 6200 BC, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. It defines the start of the Northgrippian age in the Holocene epoch.

Milder than the Younger Dryas cold spell before it but more severe than the Little Ice Age after it, the 8.2-kiloyear cooling was a significant exception to general trends of the Holocene climatic optimum.

The strongest evidence for the event comes from the North Atlantic region; the disruption in climate shows clearly in Greenland ice cores and in sedimentary and other records of the temperate and the tropical North Atlantic. It is less evident in ice cores from Antarctica and in South American indices. The effects of the cold snap were global, however, most notably in its changes in sea level.

Drier conditions were notable in North Africa, and East Africa suffered five centuries of general drought. In West Asia, especially Mesopotamia, the 8.2-kiloyear event was a 300-year aridification and cooling episode, which may have provided the natural force for Mesopotamian irrigation agriculture and surplus production, which were essential for the earliest formation of classes and urban life.

However, changes taking place over centuries around the period are difficult to link specifically to the approximately 100-year abrupt event, as recorded most clearly in the Greenland ice cores. In particular, in Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria, significant cultural changes are observed at c. 6200 BC; the settlement was not abandoned at the time.

In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of the Ghassulian culture.

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period, which existed between 6,200 and 5,900 BC. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt.

Spreading from Eridu, the Ubaid culture extended from the Middle of the Tigris and Euphrates to the shores of the Persian Gulf, and then spread down past Bahrain to the copper deposits at Oman. Numerous examples of Ubaid pottery have been found along the Persian Gulf, as far as Dilmun, where Indus Valley Civilization pottery has also been found.

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation.

At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1,000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. That might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron, a period between 4000-2600 BC, when sea levels were 3 to 5 metres higher than today.

The North Atlantic ice-rafting events happen to correlate with episodes of lowered lake levels in the Mid-Atlantic region, USA, the weakest events of the Asian monsoon for at least the past 9,000 years, and also correlate with most aridification events in the Middle East for the past 55,000 years (both Heinrich and Bond events).

Proto-Semitic is a hypothetical reconstructed language ancestral to the historical Semitic languages. A 2009 study proposes that it was spoken from about 3750 BCE in the Levant during the Early Bronze Age.

The Semitic language family is considered part of the broader macro-family of Afroasiatic languages. There is no consensus regarding the location of the Proto-Semitic urheimat; scholars hypothesize that it may have originated in the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, the Sahara, or the Horn of Africa.

Northern Mesopotamia

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 has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level.

The tell includes two phases of use, believed to be of a social or ritual nature by site discoverer and excavator Klaus Schmidt, 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 Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB). Younger structures date to classical times.

The details of the structure’s function remain a mystery. The excavations have been ongoing since 1996 by the German Archaeological Institute, but large parts still remain unexcavated. In 2018, the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The imposing stratigraphy of Göbekli Tepe attests to many centuries of activity, beginning at least as early as the Epipaleolithic period. Structures identified with the succeeding period, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), have been dated to the 10th millennium BCE. Remains of smaller buildings identified as Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) and dating from the 9th millennium BCE have also been unearthed.

It is one of several sites in the vicinity of Karaca Dağ, an area that geneticists suspect may have been the original source of at least some of our cultivated grains. Recent DNA analysis of modern domesticated wheat compared with wild wheat has shown that its DNA is closest in sequence to wild wheat found on Karaca Dağ 30 km (20 mi) away from the site, suggesting that this is where modern wheat was first domesticated.

With its mountains catching the rain and a calcareous, porous bedrock creating lots of springs, creeks, and rivers, the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris was a refuge during the dry and cold Younger Dryas climatic event (10,800 – 9,500 BCE).

Speculation exists that conditions driven by population expansions locally could have led them to develop common rituals strengthened by monumental gathering places to reduce tensions and conflicts over resources, and probably, to mark territorial claims.

Schmidt also engaged in speculation regarding the belief systems of the groups that created Göbekli Tepe, based on comparisons with other shrines and settlements. He presumed shamanic practices and suggested that the T-shaped pillars represent human forms, perhaps ancestors, whereas he saw a fully articulated belief in deities as not developing until later, in Mesopotamia, that was associated with extensive temples and palaces.

This corresponds well with an ancient Sumerian belief that agriculture, animal husbandry, and weaving were brought to humans from the sacred mountain Ekur, which was inhabited by Annuna deities, very ancient deities without individual names.

Schmidt identified this story as a primeval oriental myth that preserves a partial memory of the emerging Neolithic. It is apparent that the animal and other images give no indication of organized violence, i.e. there are no depictions of hunting raids or wounded animals, and the pillar carvings generally ignore game on which the society depended, such as deer, in favour of formidable creatures such as lions, snakes, spiders, and scorpions.

Expanding on Schmidt’s interpretation that round enclosures could represent sanctuaries, Gheorghiu’s semiotic interpretation reads the Göbekli Tepe iconography as a cosmogonic map that would have related the local community to the surrounding landscape and the cosmos.

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. 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.

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 Sumeric cultures, from the 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. Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings, is usually depicted as having two faces.

Isimud (also Isinu; Usmû; Usumu (Akkadian)) 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 also appears in the myth of Enki and Ninhursag, in which he acts as Enki’s messenger and emissary. He plays a similar role to Ninshubur, 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.

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit.

Subartu was apparently a kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris and later it referred to a region of Mesopotamia. Most scholars suggest that Subartu is an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris and westward, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east and/or north.

Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Amurru, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.

The name Subartu is often regarded as the source of, or even synonymous with, the later kingdom of Shupria (Shubria), which is mentioned as in records from the 13th millennium BC. However, the name Shupria was evidently used to describe a different area, corresponding to modern eastern Anatolia and the Armenian highlands, and the Shuprians appear to have been a component of the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people.

The Hassuna culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium BC. It is named after the type site of Tell Hassuna in Iraq. Other sites where Hassuna material has been found include Tell Shemshara.

By around 6000 BC people had moved into the foothills (piedmont) of northernmost Mesopotamia where there was enough rainfall to allow for “dry” agriculture in some places. These were the first farmers in northernmost Mesopotamia. They made Hassuna-style pottery (cream slip with reddish paint in linear designs). Hassuna people lived in small villages or hamlets ranging from 2 to 8 acres (3.2 ha).

At Tell Hassuna, adobe dwellings built around open central courts with fine painted pottery replace earlier levels with crude pottery. Hand axes, sickles, grinding stones, bins, baking ovens and numerous bones of domesticated animals reflect settled agricultural life. Female figurines have been related to worship and jar burials within which food was placed related to belief in afterlife. The relationship of Hassuna pottery to that of Jericho suggests that village culture was becoming widespread.

The site of Umm Dabaghiyah (de:Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto-Kultur), in the same area of Iraq, is believed to have the earliest pottery in this region, and is sometimes described as a ‘Proto-Hassuna culture’ site. Other related sites in the area are Sotto, and Kul Tepe (Iraq). Another pre-Hassuna or proto-Hassuna site in Iraq is Tell Maghzaliyah.

More recently, the concept of a very early ‘Pre-Proto-Hassuna’ pottery tradition has been introduced by some scholars. This has been prompted by more recent discoveries of still earlier pottery traditions.

Pre-Proto-Hassuna refers to the Late Neolithic period in Upper Mesopotamia when the ceramic containers were just being introduced, and the pottery vessels were still very few in number in these early settlements. At that time, the main emphasis was on the pottery with a mineral temper, as opposed to the plant-tempered pottery which came to predominate later.

The time frame for this initial Late Neolithic ceramic period was about 7000-6700 BC, and at this time stone vessels and White Ware were still being used in addition to pottery. Nevertheless, all of these nomenclatures may refer to quite similar types of pottery, depending on some specific geographic region of Upper Mesopotamia. Several archaeological sites are located in the Rouj basin, Idlib, Syria.

Because of the narrow local emphasis in many pottery studies as of now, these earliest pottery traditions may be known in literature as Pre-Proto-Hassuna (in Khabur, and northern Iraq), Initial Pottery Neolithic (in Balikh River area, for example Tell Sabi Abyad), Transitional (in Turkish Euphrates area; main sites are Mezraa Teleilat and Akarcay Tepe), Halula I (in Syrian Euphrates area; the main site is Tell Halula) and Rouj 2a (in Northern Levant).

The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 BC and 5100 BC. The period is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic and is located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

Although no Halaf settlement has been extensively excavated some buildings have been excavated: the tholoi of Tell Arpachiyah, circular domed structures approached through long rectangular anterooms. Only a few of these structures were ever excavated.

They were constructed of mud-brick sometimes on stone foundations and may have been for ritual use (one contained a large number of female figurines). Other circular buildings were probably just houses.

The best known, most characteristic pottery of Tell Halaf, called Halaf ware, produced by specialist potters, can be painted, sometimes using more than two colors (called polychrome) with geometric and animal motifs. Other types of Halaf pottery are known, including unpainted, cooking ware and ware with burnished surfaces. There are many theories about why the distinctive pottery style developed.

The theory is that the pottery came about due to regional copying and that it was exchanged as a prestige item between local elites is now disputed. The polychrome painted Halaf pottery has been proposed to be a “trade pottery”—pottery produced for export—however, the predominance of locally produced painted pottery in all areas of Halaf sites including potters settlement questions that theory.

Halaf pottery has been found in other parts of northern Mesopotamia, such as at Nineveh and Tepe Gawra, Chagar Bazar and at many sites in Anatolia (Turkey) suggesting that it was widely used in the region.

In addition, the Halaf communities made female figurines of partially baked clay and stone and stamp seals of stone, (see also Impression seal). The seals are thought to mark the development of concepts of personal property, as similar seals were used for this purpose in later times. The Halaf people used tools made of stone and clay. Copper was also known, but was not used for tools.

Previously, the Syrian plains were not considered as the homeland of Halaf culture, and the Halafians were seen either as hill people who descended from the nearby mountains of southeastern Anatolia, or herdsmen from northern Iraq.

However, those views changed with the recent archaeology conducted since 1986 by Peter Akkermans, which have produced new insights and perspectives about the rise of Halaf culture. A formerly unknown transitional culture between the pre-Halaf Neolithic’s era and Halaf’s era was uncovered in the Balikh valley, at Tell Sabi Abyad (the Mound of the White Boy).

Currently, eleven occupational layers have been unearthed in Sabi Abyad. Levels from 11 to 7 are considered pre-Halaf; from 6 to 4, transitional; and from 3 to 1, early Halaf. No hiatus in occupation is observed except between levels 11 and 10.

The new archaeology demonstrated that Halaf culture was not sudden and was not the result of foreign people, but rather a continuous process of indigenous cultural changes in northern Syria, that spread to the other regions.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture (6000 – 4000 BC) is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as small parts of northern Iran. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.

Especially in recent years as a result of archaeological research in the area of Goytepe, the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture has been identified as belonging to the 7th millennium BC and the second half of the 6th millennium. Although Shulaveri-Shomutepe complex firstly was attributed to the Eneolithic era, it is now considered as a material and cultural example of the Neolithic era except the upper layers where metal objects have been discovered as in Khramis Didi-Gora and Arucho I.

Sulaveri-Shomu culture is distinguished by circular mud-brick architectures, domestic animals breeding and cultivating cereals. Anthropomorphic figurines of mainly seated women found in the sites represent the items used for religious purposes relating to the fertility cult.

Handmade pottery with engraved decorations, blades, burins and scrapers made of obsidian, tools made of bone and antler, besides rare examples of metal items, remains of plant, such as wheat, pips, barley and grape, as well as animal bones (pigs, goats, dogs and bovids) have been discovered during the excavations.

The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found in the general “Shulaveri area”, near the site of Shulaveri gora, in Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia. Specifically, the most recent evidence comes from Gadachrili gora, near the village of Imiri in the same region; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC.

Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).

The technology and typology of bone-based instruments are similar to those of the Middle East Neolithic material culture. A quern with 2 small hollows found in Shomutepe is similar to the one with more hollows detected in Khramisi Didi-Gora.

The similarities between the macrolithic tools and the use of ochre also bring Shulaveri-Shomu culture closer to the culture of Halaf. Pestles and mortars found in Shulaveri-Shomu sites and Late Neolithic layers of Tell Sabi Abyad in Syria are also similar to each other.

Halaf culture ended by 5000 BC after entering the so-called Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period, which comprised the late Halaf (c. 5400–5000 BC), and then by the Ubaid period. Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters.

The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, and two explanations were presented for the transformation. The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians, however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid which exclude the invasion theory. The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture, which is supported by most scholars including Oates, Breniquet and Akkermans.

Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II — In the period from 4500–4000 BC saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia and was adopted by the Halaf culture. Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.

The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Caucasian Albania belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district of modern day Azerbaijan. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, from 4350 until 4000 BC. Other sites belonging to the same culture are in the Armenian held Karabakh valley of the partially recognized state of the Republic of Artsakh.

Among the sites associated with this culture, the Soyugbulag kurgans or barrows are of special importance. The excavation of these kurgans, located in Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia, demonstrated an unexpectedly early date of such structures on the territory of Azerbaijan. They were dated to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.

The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, closely associated with subsequent civilizations found on the Armenian Highlands. This is evident with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets, which closely resemble Armenian tonirs.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.

The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan.

In 2012, the important site of Galayeri, belonging to the Leyla-Tepe archaeological culture, was investigated. It is located in the Qabala District of modern day Azerbaijan. Galayeri is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East. Structures consisting of clay layers are typical; no mud-brick walls have been detected at Galayeri. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C.

The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. This is perhaps but not entirely attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases.

Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items. Later, the quality of metallurgy increased in both sophistication and quality with the advent of the Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture, a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC.

The earliest evidence for theKura–Araxes culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC. The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures.

Altogether, the early trans-Caucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.

Hurrian and Urartian language elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory although this is far from being universally accepted, and some scholars reject this connection.

The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.

In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages. The expansion of Y-DNA subclade R-Z93 (R1a1a1b2), according to Mascarenhas et al. (2015), is compatible with “the archeological records of eastward expansion of West Asian populations in the 4th millennium BCE, culminating in the so-called Kura-Araxes migrations in the post-Uruk IV period.”

According to Pamjav et al. (2012), “Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone” for the R -Z280 and R -Z93 lineages, implying that an “early differentiation zone” of R-M198 “conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Eastern Europe”.

According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), R1a1a1, the most frequent subclade of R1a, split into R-Z282 (Europe) and R-Z93 (Asia) at circa 5,800 before present, in the vicinity of Iran and Eastern Turkey. According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), “[t]his suggests the possibility that R1a lineages accompanied demic expansions initiated during the Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages.”

Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The early settlement dates back to the 5th millennium BCE, and it existed simultaneously with the Ubaid and the early Uruk cultures. It was a big centre of obsidian production.

In the 3rd millennium, this was one of the largest cities of Northern Mesopotamia, and extended to 105 ha. It is now believed that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer.

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

In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, some archaeologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.

The city flourished before the invention of writing. It also featured specialization of labor. Other contemporary early sites in this area are Chagar Bazar, Tell Arbid, and the multi-period site of Tell Brak.

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China: Fuxi and Nüwa

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 28, 2019

Anonymous-Fuxi and Nüwa.jpg

Fuxi and Nüwa

Pangu

Panguite (meteoritic mineral named after Pangu, discovered in 2012)

First man or woman

Kingu, Manu, Panhu, Purusha, Tiamat, Yama, Ymir

Fuxi (伏羲), also known as Paoxi, is a culture hero in Chinese legend and mythology, credited along with his sister Nüwa, also read Nügua, with creating humanity and the invention of hunting, fishing, domestication, and cooking as well as the Cangjie system of writing Chinese characters around 2,000 BCE.

Pangu, the first living being and the creator of all in some versions of Chinese mythology, was said to be the creation god in Chinese mythology. He was a giant sleeping within an egg of chaos. As he awoke, he stood up and divided the sky and the earth. The first writer to record the myth of Pangu was Xu Zheng during the Three Kingdoms period. Recently his name was found in a tomb dated 194 AD.

Pangu then died after standing up, and his body turned into rivers, mountains, plants, animals, and everything else in the world, among which is a powerful being known as Hua Hsu.[clarification needed] Hua Hsu gave birth to a twin brother and sister, Fuxi and Nüwa.

Fuxi and Nüwa are said to be creatures that have faces of human and bodies of snakes. Fuxi was known as the “original human”, and he was said to have been born in the lower-middle reaches of the Yellow River in a place called Chengji (possibly modern Lantian, Shaanxi province, or Tianshui, Gansu province).

In reality, many Chinese people believe[citation needed] that Hua Hsu was a leader during the matriarchal society (c. 2,600 BC) as early Chinese developed language skill while Fuxi and Nüwa were leaders in the early patriarchal society (c. 2,600 BCE) while Chinese began the marriage rituals.

Fuxi was counted as the first of the Three Sovereigns, sometimes known as the Three August Ones, at the beginning of the Chinese dynastic period. The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of mythological rulers or deities in ancient northern China. The Three Sovereigns is before The Five Emperors. Today they may be considered culture heroes.

The Three Sovereigns, sometimes known as the Three August Ones, were said to be god-kings, demigods or god emperors who used their abilities to improve the lives of their people and impart to them essential skills and knowledge.

The Five Emperors are portrayed as exemplary sages who possessed great moral character and lived to a great age and ruled over a period of great peace. The Three Sovereigns are ascribed various identities in different Chinese historical texts.

These kings are said to have helped introduce the use of fire, taught people how to build houses and invented farming. The Yellow Emperor’s wife is credited with the invention of silk culture. The discovery of medicine, the invention of the calendar and Chinese script are also credited to the kings. After their era, Yu the Great founded the Xia Dynasty.

According to a modern theory with roots in the late 19th century, the Yellow Emperor is supposedly the ancestor of the Huaxia people. The Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor was established in Shaanxi Province to commemorate the ancestry legend.

The Chinese word for emperor, huángdì (皇帝), derives from this, as the first user of this title Qin Shi Huang considered his reunion of all of the lands of the former Kingdom of Zhou to be greater than even the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors.

The Five Emperors in later history have been assigned dates in a period from circa 2852 BC to 2070 BC. The dates of these mythological figures may be fictitious, but according to some accounts and reconstructions, they preceded the Xia Dynasty (which itself is prehistoric, without writing, and which is likewise also documented only in much later written sources).

A related concept appears in the legend of the Four shi (四氏) who took part in creating the world. The four members are Youchao-shi (有巢氏), Suiren-shi (燧人氏), Fuxi-shi (伏羲氏), and Shennong-shi (神農氏). The list sometimes extends to one more member being Nüwa-shi (女媧氏), making Five shi (五氏).

Four of these five names appear in different lists of the Three Sovereigns. shi (氏) is the meaning of clan or tribe in china, so none of them are a single person in prehistoric times. There is a saying that the Three Sovereigns are Suiren-shi (燧人氏), Youchao-shi (有巢氏), Shennong-shi (神農氏).

The Suiren teach people to drill wood for fire, so people can easily migrate. The Youchao teach people to build houses with wood, so that people leave the cave to expand into the plains. After the number of people became more, Shennong tried a variety of grasses to find suitable cereals to solve people’s food problems.

People call them the Three Sovereigns in order to miss their contribution,The tribe also used their contribution as the name of the tribe. Depending on the source, there are many variations of who classifies as the Three Sovereigns or the Five Emperors. There are at least six to seven known variations.

Many of the sources listed below were written in much later periods, centuries and even millennia after the supposed existence of these figures, and instead of historical fact, they may reflect a desire in later time periods to create a fictitious ancestry traceable to ancient culture heroes.

The Emperors were asserted as ancestors of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. The following appear in different groupings of the Three Sovereigns: Fuxi (伏羲), Nüwa (女媧), Shennong (神農), Suiren (燧人), Zhurong (祝融), Gong Gong (共工), Heavenly Sovereign (天皇), Earthly Sovereign (地皇), Tai Sovereign (泰皇), Human Sovereign (人皇), and even the Yellow Emperor (黄帝).

The following appear in different groupings of the Five Emperors: Yellow Emperor (黃帝), Zhuanxu (顓頊), Emperor Ku (嚳), Emperor Yao (堯), Emperor Shun (舜), Shaohao (少昊), Taihao (太昊), and Yan Emperor (炎帝).

Nüwa is the mother goddess of Chinese mythology, the sister and wife of Fuxi, the emperor-god. She is credited with creating mankind and repairing the Pillar of Heaven. Her reverential name is Wahuang (Chinese: 媧皇; literally: ‘Empress Wa’).

女 nü ‘woman’ is a common prefix on the names of goddesses. The proper name is 媧 wa or gua. The Chinese character is unique to this name. Birrell translates it as ‘lovely’, but notes that it “could be construed as ‘frog’, which is consistent with her aquatic myth.” She has also been described as a “mythological snail goddess”.

The Huainanzi relates Nüwa to the time when Heaven and Earth were in disruption: “Going back to more ancient times, the four pillars were broken; the nine provinces were in tatters. Heaven did not completely cover [the earth]; Earth did not hold up [Heaven] all the way around [its circumference].

Fires blazed out of control and could not be extinguished; water flooded in great expanses and would not recede. Ferocious animals ate blameless people; predatory birds snatched the elderly and the weak.

Thereupon, Nüwa smelted together five-colored stones in order to patch up the azure sky, cut off the legs of the great turtle to set them up as the four pillars, killed the black dragon to provide relief for Ji Province, and piled up reeds and cinders to stop the surging waters.

The azure sky was patched; the four pillars were set up; the surging waters were drained; the province of Ji was tranquil; crafty vermin died off; blameless people [preserved their] lives. ”

The catastrophes were supposedly caused by the battle between the deities Gonggong and Zhuanxu (an event that was mentioned earlier in the Huainanzi). The five-colored stones symbolize the five Chinese elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), the black dragon was the essence of water and thus cause of the floods. Ji Province serves metonymically for the central regions (the Sinitic world).

Following this, the Huainanzi tells about how the sage-rulers Nüwa and Fuxi set order over the realm by following the Way (道) and its potency (德). Nüwa was born three months after her brother, Fuxi, to whom she later took as her husband; this marriage is the reason why Nüwa is credited with inventing the idea of marriage.

Before the two of them got married, they lived on mount K’un-lun. A prayer was made after the two became guilty of falling for each other. The prayer is as follows, “Oh Heaven, if Thou wouldst send us forth as man and wife, then make all the misty vapor gather. If not, then make all the misty vapor disperse.” Misty vapor then gathered after the prayer signifying the two could marry.

When intimate, the two made a fan out of grass to screen their faces which is why during modern day marriages, the couple hold a fan together. By connecting, the two were representative of Yin and Yang; Fuxi being connected to Yang and masculinity along Nüwa being connected to Yin and femininity.

This is further defined with Fuxi receiving a carpenter’s square which symbolizes his identification with the physical world because a carpenter’s square is associated with straight lines and squares leading to a more straightforward mindset.

Meanwhile, Nüwa was given a compass to symbolize her identification with the heavens because a compass is associated with curves and circles leading to a more abstract mindset. With the two being married, it symbolized the union between heaven and Earth. Other versions have Nüwa invent the compass rather than receive it as a gift.

Nüwa invented multiple musical instruments: The Shenghuang, Saengwhang, and Hulusi gourd flute (all of these instruments are various reed pipes). Nüwa created the Shenghuang around the idea of reproduction; the Shenghuang is used in marriages and reproduction rites.

‘With regards to the Saengwhang, Nüwa created this instrument to be in the shape of the god of music, Bonghwang. Chinese musical theaters around the world have pictures of Nüwa decorating their interiors.

Nüwa created mankind due to loneliness which in time grew larger and larger. The way in which she made some of mankind was by molding yellow earth or in other versions yellow clay to the shape of humans.

These people later became the wealthy nobles of society because they were created by Nüwa’s hands directly. However, the average majority of mankind was created by Nüwa dragging string across mud to mass produce humans. She did this because creating every human by hand was too time and energy consuming.

This creation of mankind gives an aetiological explanation to the social divide between people in China. The batch of humans handmade by Nüwa believed that being directly made by the goddess gave them more importance than the majority who were massed produce because Nüwa took time to create them and they were directly touched by her hand.

In another version of the creation of humanity, Nüwa and Fuxi were survivors of a great flood. By the command of the God of the heaven, they were married and Nüwa had a child which was a ball of meat. This ball of meat was cut into small pieces and the pieces were scattered across the world which then became humans.

Nüwa is featured within the famed Ming dynasty novel Fengshen Bang. As featured within this novel, Nüwa is very highly respected since the time of the Xia Dynasty for being the daughter of the Jade Emperor; Nüwa is also regularly called the “Snake Goddess”.

After the Shang Dynasty had been created, Nüwa created the five-colored stones to protect the dynasty with occasional seasonal rains and other enhancing qualities. Thus in time, Shang Rong asked King Zhou of Shang to pay her a visit as a sign of deep respect.

After Zhou was completely overcome with lust at the very sight of the beautiful ancient goddess Nüwa (who had been sitting behind a light curtain), he wrote a small poem on a neighboring wall and took his leave.

When Nüwa later returned to her temple after visiting the Yellow Emperor, she saw the foulness of Zhou’s words. In her anger, she swore the Shang Dynasty would end in payment for his offense. In her rage, Nüwa personally ascended to the palace in an attempt to kill the king, but was suddenly struck back by two large beams of red light.

After Nüwa realized that King Zhou was already destined to rule the kingdom for twenty-six more years, Nüwa summoned her three subordinates—the Thousand-Year Vixen (later becoming Daji), the Jade Pipa, and the Nine-Headed Pheasant. With these words, Nüwa brought destined chaos to the Shang Dynasty,

“The luck Cheng Tang won six hundred years ago is dimming. I speak to you of a new mandate of heaven which sets the destiny for all. You three are to enter King Zhou’s palace, where you are to bewitch him. Whatever you do, do not harm anyone else. If you do my bidding, and do it well, you will be permitted to reincarnate as human beings.” With these words, Nüwa was never heard of again, but was still a major indirect factor towards the Shang Dynasty’s fall.

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On the origin of Adam, Eva, the snake, the Tree of knowledge and the Garden of Eden

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 28, 2019

Adam and Eva – Humans (us)

The serpent – Mercury

Tree – the goddess

Apple – knowledge

Three of life – Apollo / Asklepios – snake – Rod of Asclepius

Three of knowledge – Hermes – snake – cadeceus

In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius, also known as the Staff of Asclepius (sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius) and as the asklepian, is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine.

Asclepius or Hepius is a hero and god of medicine in ancient Greek religion and mythology. He is the son of Apollo and Coronis, or Arsinoe, or Apollo alone. He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis and the Egyptian Imhotep. He was one of Apollo’s sons, sharing with Apollo the epithet Paean (“the Healer”).

Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia (“Hygiene”, the goddess cleanliness), Iaso (the goddess of recuperation from illness), Aceso (the goddess of the healing process), Aegle (the goddess of good health), and Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy).

The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care, yet frequently confused with the caduceus (from Greek: κηρύκειον kērū́keion “herald’s wand, or staff”), the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology and consequently by Hermes Trismegistus in Greco-Egyptian mythology.

Hermes is the god of trade, heralds, merchants, commerce, roads, thieves, trickery, sports, travelers, and athletes in Ancient Greek religion and mythology; the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, he was the second youngest of the Olympian gods (Dionysus being the youngest).

The Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes, which tells the story of the god’s birth and his subsequent theft of Apollo’s sacred cattle, invokes him as the one “of many shifts (polytropos), blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods.”

The word polutropos (“of many shifts, turning many ways, of many devices, ingenious, or much wandering”) is also used to describe Odysseus in the first line of the Odyssey. In addition to the chelys lyre, Hermes was believed to have invented many types of racing and the sport of wrestling, and therefore was a patron of athletes.

Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts. It is more than interpretive principles or methods we resort to when immediate comprehension fails. Rather, hermeneutics is the art of understanding and of making oneself understood.

Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a tree in the Garden of Eden, mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Yggdrasil, the Norse world tree, from which Odin hung upside down in exchange for knowledge. Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan (Odin), by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.

The caduceus is often incorrectly used as a symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice, particularly in the United States of America, due to confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which has only one snake and is never depicted with wings.

The cadeceus was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography, it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead, and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves.

Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus has its roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida; whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it, dates back to 4000 BC to 3000 BC.

As a symbolic object, it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations, or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury.

Thus, through its use in astrology, alchemy, and astronomy it has come to denote the planet and elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life.

By extension of its association with Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals.

This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. The caduceus is also used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).

Hermes was known to be a cunning trickster, stealing things from the other gods and hiding them in unbelievable locations. Back in the days when Hermes was still an infant, he once went out his cradle and started an adventure to Pieria, in Northern Greece. His aim was to steal the cattle from his half-brother Apollo.

Hermes discovered the herd very soon. One by one, he started pulling the hoofs out of the cows’ feet and re-attaching them in the reverse order. The same he did to his own sandals. Then he took the herd, which now seemed to be walking backwards and hid the herd inside a cave. Finally, he returned to his cave in Mount Cyllene in Arcadia.

Apollo soon found out that his herd was missing and started searching all around. The traces he saw on his way were nothing but confusing and led the god to despair. Apollo was the god of prophecy, so he soon found out the thief and went furiously to Mount Cyllene to find Hermes in his cave.

Little Hermes was peacefully sleeping inside his cradle, but Apollo didn’t bother- he grabbed the infant and took him up to Mount Olympus to be judged by their master Zeus, the king of the gods. Before the eyes of Zeus, Hermes first denied everything, but in the end he had to confess.

Zeus found the story quite amusing so he didn’t punish Hermes, he only asked from him to return the herd. Regretful of what he had done, Hermes then offered Apollo his lyre as a present. The lyre was a musical instrument Hermes had created all by himself out of the shell of a tortoise.

To compensate Hermes for his kindness, Apollo returned the gesture by giving Hermes a golden rod to guide the herds. From that moment on, there was peace again in Mount Olympus and a strong friendship began between Hermes and Apollo.

Mars and Pluto – Tuesday

Mars is associated with Tuesday and in Romance languages the word for Tuesday often resembles Mars (in Romanian, marţi, in Spanish, martes, in French, mardi and in Italian “martedì”). The English “Tuesday” is a modernised form of “Tyr’s Day”. Pluto is also associated with Tuesday, alongside Mars since Pluto is the higher octave of that planet in astrology.

Hermes / Mercury and Uranus – Wednesday

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). Uranus is also associated with Wednesday, alongside Mercury (since Uranus is in the higher octave of Mercury).

Mars in culture

Mars in culture is about the planet Mars in culture. Its symbol, derived from Roman mythology, is a circle with a small arrow pointing out from behind. It is a stylized representation of a shield and spear used by the Roman God Mars.

The planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war Mars. In Babylonian astronomy, the planet was named after Nergal, their deity of fire, war, and destruction, most likely due to the planet’s reddish appearance.

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.

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’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.

In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins. 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.

The Aśvins, or Ashwini Kumaras (“horse possessors”), are twin Vedic gods of medicine in Hindu mythology. Associated with the dawn, they are described as youthful divine twin horsemen in the Rigveda, travelling in a chariot drawn by horses that are never weary.

The twin gods are also referred to as Nā́satyā (possibly “saviours”; a derivate of nasatí, “safe return home”), a name that appears 99 times in the Rigveda. The epithet likely derives from the Proto-Indo-European root *nes-, “to return home (safely)”, with cognates in Avestan Nā̊ŋhaiθya, the name of a demon in the Zoroastrian religious system, in Greek Nestor and in Gothic nasjan (“save, heal”).

The first mention of the Nasatya twins is from the Mitanni documents of the second millennium BCE, where they are invoked in a treaty between Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, respectively kings of the Hittites and the Mitanni.

Apollo is the god who affords help and wards off evil; various epithets call him the “averter of evil”. Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius, and he delivered men from epidemics, yet Apollo is also a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague with his arrows.

Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. 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.

Pluto was the ruler of the underworld in classical mythology. The earlier name for the god was Hades, which became more common as the name of the underworld itself. In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Pluto represents a more positive concept of the god who presides over the afterlife.

Ploutōn was frequently conflated with Ploutos ( “the rich one”), the Greek god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because as a chthonic god Pluto ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest.

The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Pluto was venerated as both a stern ruler and a loving husband to Persephone. The couple received souls in the afterlife and are invoked together in religious inscriptions, being referred to as Plouton and as Kore respectively. 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 is spelled in Latin.

According to some 19th century authors, many of Cicero’s etymological derivations are not to be taken seriously, and may indeed have been intended ironically; however, this particular derivation of Cicero’s has been accepted by some contemporary authors, some even suggesting that Dīs Pater is a direct loan translation of the Greek Plouton.

Pluto is also associated with Tuesday, alongside Mars since Pluto is the higher octave of that planet in astrology. The modern English weekday name Tuesday means ‘Tíw’s day’, referring to the Old English extension of the deity.

The word has cognates in numerous other Germanic languages. All of these forms derive from a Proto-Germanic weekday name meaning ‘day of Tīwaz’, itself a result of interpretatio germanica of Latin dies Martis (meaning ‘day of Mars’). This attests to an early Germanic identification of *Tīwaz with Mars.

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

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.

Maruts

In Hinduism, the Maruts or Marutas, also known as the Marutagana and sometimes identified with Rudras, are storm deities and sons of Rudra and Prisni. They are very violent and aggressive, described as armed with golden weapons i.e. lightning and thunderbolts, as having iron teeth and roaring like lions, as residing in the north, as riding in golden chariots drawn by ruddy horses.

In the Vedic mythology, the Marutas, a troop of young warriors, are Indra’s companions. According to French comparative mythologist Georges Dumézil, they are cognate to the Einherjar and the Wild hunt. According to the Rig Veda, the ancient collection of sacred hymns, they wore golden helmets and breastplates, and used their axes to split the clouds so that rain could fall. The clouds were capable of shaking mountains and destroying forests.

According to later tradition, such as Puranas, the Marutas were born from the broken womb of the goddess Diti, after Indra hurled a thunderbolt at her to prevent her from giving birth to too powerful a son. The goddess had intended to remain pregnant for a century before giving birth to a son who would threaten Indra.

Rudra – Shiva – Shivini

Rudra is a Rigvedic deity, associated with wind or storm and the hunt. One translation of the name is “the roarer”. In the Rigveda, Rudra has been praised as the “mightiest of the mighty”. Rudra is the personification of ‘terror’. Depending up on the periodic 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.

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.

Shivini (also known as Siuini, Artinis, Ardinis) was a solar god in the mythology of the Armenian kingdom of Urartu. He is the third god in a triad with Khaldi and Theispas. The Assyrian god Shamash is a counterpart to Shivini. He was depicted as a man on his knees, holding up a solar disc. His wife was most likely a goddess called Tushpuea who is listed as the third goddess on the Mheri-Dur inscription.

Maryannu – Mitanni

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name maryannu, although plural, takes the singular marya, which in Sanskrit means ‘young warrior’, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, most would have spoken either Hurrian or Indo-Aryan, but by the end of the 14th century, most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform KUR URUMi-ta-an-ni; Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni), also called the Hurri by the Hittites, Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat, cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) in Assyrian or Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni in Egyptian texts, was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from c. 1500 to 1300 BC.

The different names seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour. Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”. The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat.

The name Mitanni is first found in the “memoirs” of the Syrian wars (c. 1480 BC) of the official astronomer and clockmaker Amenemhet, who returned from the “foreign country called Me-ta-ni” at the time of Thutmose I. The expedition to the Naharina announced by Thutmosis I at the beginning of his reign may have actually taken place during the long previous reign of Amenhotep I. Helck believes that this was the expedition mentioned by Amenhotep II.

Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin(a), from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim. Nairi was the Assyrian name (KUR.KUR Na-i-ri, also Na-‘i-ru) for a confederation of tribes in the Armenian Highlands, roughly corresponding to the modern Van and Hakkâri provinces of modern Turkey. The word is also used to describe the Armenian tribes who lived there.

Prior to the Bronze Age collapse, the Nairi tribes were considered a force strong enough to contend with both Assyria and Hatti. According to Trevor Bryce the Nairi lands were inhabited by what he calls “fierce tribal groups” divided into a number of principalities, and are first mentioned by Tukulti-Ninurta I (1243–1207 BC) when he defeated and exacted tribute from forty Nairi kings.

The Battle of Nihriya, the culminating point of the hostilities between Hittites and Assyrians for control over the remnants of the former kingdom of Indo-European Mitanni, took place there, c. 1230 BC. Nairi was incorporated into Urartu during the 10th century BC. In fact, the first kings of Urartu referred to their kingdom as Nairi instead of the native self-appellation Bianili.

The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya, the term for warrior in Sanskrit as well; note mišta-nnu (= miẓḍha,~ Sanskrit mīḍha) “payment (for catching a fugitive)”.

A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli, a Mitanni writer, contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids. However, with the ascent of the Hittite Empire, Mitanni and Egypt struck an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination.

At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, Mitanni had outposts centred on its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River.

The Mitanni dynasty ruled over the northern Euphrates-Tigris region between c. 1475 and c. 1275 BC. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

Graeco-Armeno-Aryan

Graeco-Aryan, or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan, is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family that would be the ancestor of Greek, Armenian, and the Indo-Iranian languages. The Graeco-Armeno-Aryan group supposedly branched off from the parent Indo-European stem by the mid-3rd millennium BC.

Phylogenetic models have been reconstructed on Indo-European populations through comparative studies using both genotyping based on haplotypes, specifically haplogroup R1a, as well as the analysis of their linguistic lexicon.

Evidence for the existence of a Graeco-Aryan subclade was given by Wolfram Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection. Graeco-Aryan is invoked in particular in studies of comparative mythology such as Martin Litchfield West (1999) and Calvert Watkins (2001).

A hypothesis has placed Greek in a Graeco-Armenian subclade of Indo-European, though some researchers have integrated both attempts by including also Armenian in a putative Graeco-Armeno-Aryan language family, further divided between Proto-Greek (possibly united with Phrygian) and thus arriving at an Armeno-Aryan subclade, the putative ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Armenian hypothesis, which asserts that the homeland of the Indo-European language family was in the Armenian Highlands.

W. M. Austin (1942) concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine gender and the absence of inherited long vowels.

However, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies), the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy), is not considered conclusive evidence of a period of common isolated development.

Armenian

There are words used in Armenian that are generally believed to have been borrowed from Anatolian languages, particularly from Luwian, although some researchers have identified possible Hittite loanwords as well.

In 1985, Soviet linguist Igor M. Diakonoff noted the presence in Classical Armenian of what he calls a “Caucasian substratum” identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages.

Noting that Hurro-Urartian-speaking peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium BC, Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms such as ałaxin “slave girl” ( ← Hurr. al(l)a(e)ḫḫenne), cov “sea” ( ← Urart. ṣûǝ “(inland) sea”), ułt “camel” ( ← Hurr. uḷtu), and xnjor “apple(tree)” ( ← Hurr. ḫinzuri).

Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartian. Given that these borrowings do not undergo sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European, he dates their borrowing to a time before the written record but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.

Loan words from Iranian languages, along with the other ancient accounts such as that of Xenophon above, initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. Scholars such as Paul de Lagarde and F. Müller believed that the similarities between the two languages meant that Iranian and Armenian were the same language.

The distinctness of Armenian was recognized when philologist Heinrich Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian words from the older Armenian vocabulary.

He showed that Armenian often had 2 morphemes for the one concept, and the non-Iranian components yielded a consistent PIE pattern distinct from Iranian, and also demonstrated that the inflectional morphology was different from that in Iranian languages.

Kura–Araxes culture

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC).

Their pottery was distinctive. The spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.

The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes and, most certainly, had extensive trade contacts. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin, and their deities also show Indo-Aryan roots (Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya), though some think that they are more immediately related to the Kassites.

While the Mitanni kings were Indo-Aryan, they used the language of the local people, which was at that time a non-Indo-European language, Hurrian. Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type.

Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

Bearers of names in the Hurrian language are attested in wide areas of Syria and the northern Levant that are clearly outside the area of the political entity known to Assyria as Hanilgalbat. There is no indication that these persons owed allegiance to the political entity of Mitanni; although the German term Auslandshurriter (“Hurrian expatriates”) has been used by some authors.

In the 14th century BC numerous city-states in northern Syria and Canaan were ruled by persons with Hurrian and some Indo-Aryan names. If this can be taken to mean that the population of these states was Hurrian as well, then it is possible that these entities were a part of a larger polity with a shared Hurrian identity.

This is often assumed, but without a critical examination of the sources. Differences in dialect and regionally different pantheons (Hepat/Shawushka, Sharruma/Tilla etc.) point to the existence of several groups of Hurrian speakers.

Kassites

Kassites, a people of the ancient Near East, controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire c. 1531 BC and until c. 1155 BC. The endonym of the Kassites was probably Galzu, although they have also been referred to by the names Kaššu, Kassi, Kasi or Kashi.

The Kassites were members of a small military aristocracy but were efficient rulers and not locally unpopular, and their 500-year reign laid an essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture. The chariot and the horse, which the Kassites worshipped, first came into use in Babylonia at this time.

The Kassite language has not been classified. What is known is that their language was not related to either the Indo-European language group, nor to Semitic or other Afro-Asiatic languages, and is most likely to have been a language isolate although some linguists have proposed a link to the Hurro-Urartian languages of Asia Minor.

However, the arrival of the Kassites has been connected to the contemporary migrations of Indo-European peoples. Several Kassite leaders and deities bore Indo-European names, and it is possible that they were dominated by an Indo-European elite similar to the Mitanni, who ruled over the Hurro-Urartian-speaking Hurrians of Asia Minor.

Holy Mountain

Mount Kailash (also Kailasa; Kangrinboqê or Gang Rinpoche) is a 6,638 m (21,778 ft) high peak in the Kailash Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which forms part of the Transhimalaya in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

The mountain is located near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal, close to the source of some of the longest Asian rivers: the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, and Karnali also known as Ghaghara (a tributary of the Ganges) in India.

Mount Kailash is considered to be sacred in four religions: Bon, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In Hinduism, it is traditionally recognized as the abode of Lord Shiva, who resided there along with his consort goddess Parvati and their children, lord Ganesh and lord Kartikeya.

According to Charles Allen, one description in the Vishnu Purana of the mountain states that its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus.

Mount Kailash is known as Mount Meru in Buddhist texts. It is central to its cosmology, and a major pilgrimage site for some Buddhist traditions. Vajrayana Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the buddha Cakrasaṃvara (also known as Demchok), who represents supreme bliss.

Mount Meru, also recognized as Sumeru, Sineru or Mahāmeru. Etymologically, the proper name of the mountain is Meru (Pāli Meru), to which is added the approbatory prefix su-, resulting in the meaning “excellent Meru” or “wonderful Meru”.

It is the sacred five-peaked mountain of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology and is considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. In order for humans to approach the mountain they would need to have permission from the mountain itself.

Mount Meru is a huge, sacred golden mountain in the centre of our universe which supports the heavens and passes through the centre of the Earth—or at least this is what the ancient Hindu texts state.

Different levels of ‘heavens’ correspond to different heights, and different deities are said to live on the different levels. Similarly, the levels of mountain inside the Earth correspond to multiple levels of Hell.

Furthermore, the supreme gods Brahma, Siva, Vishnu and the Devas (Hindu demi-gods) reside on the top of this mountain. Many temples and ancient places were model after their abode on Mount Meru, including Angkor Wat.

Mount Meru is guarded at the four cardinal points by four celestial Guardians who defend the world by keeping away the fallen gods (the Asuras)—similar to the fighting we see in Greek mythology with the Titans and the Olympians.

In the Buddhist mythology, Mount Meru exists at the same time in both the physical and the spiritual plane, and the golden palace of the gods is located on top.

It is surrounded by 7 rings of golden mountains, each separated from each other by sea, and the mountain itself separates 4 main continents, one of which is inhabited by the mythical kingdom of Shambhala.

A few scholars have tried to locate the mountain as a physical mountain—probably a high one judging from the fact that the ancient Greeks believed that the highest mountain of Greece (Olympus) was where the Greek gods abide.

A heavily guarded mountain with multidimensional existence, connections to the stars and to the center of the earth, and the residence of the supreme gods—obviously such a mountain could not exist in reality. There are, however, resemblance of Mount Meru with Mount Olympus.

Ekur

Ekur (É.KUR) is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”).

It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.

In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished. The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur.

Enamtila (É.NAM.TI.LA, E-nam-ti-la) is a Sumerian term meaning “house of life” or possibly “house of creation”. It was a sanctuary dedicated to Enlil, likely to have been located within the Ekur at Nippur during the Akkadian Empire.

Theogony

Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, by the Greeks as Kronos and by the Ugaritians with El.

The Song of Kumarbi or Kingship in Heaven is the title given to a Hittite version of the Hurrian Kumarbi myth, dating to the 14th or 13th century BC. It is preserved in three tablets, but only a small fraction of the text is legible.

The song relates that Alalu was overthrown by Anu who was in turn overthrown by Kumarbi. When Anu tried to escape, Kumarbi bit off his genitals and spat out three new gods.

In the text Anu tells his son that he is now pregnant with the Teshub, Tigris, and Tašmišu. Upon hearing this Kumarbi spit the semen upon the ground and it became impregnated with two children. Kumarbi is cut open to deliver Tešub. Together, Anu and Teshub depose Kumarbi.

From the first publication of the Kingship in Heaven tablets scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian creation myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus.

The thousands of mid-second-millennium B.C. documents unearthed at Boghazkoy, Turkey, the site of the Hittite capital of Hattusha, include several collections of myths dealing with ancient heroes and gods. In the most important group of these myths, however, the heroes and gods are not Hittite; they are Hurrian, and their stories are set not in Anatolia but in Syro-Mesopotamia, where Hurrian-speaking people lived.

These myths, the so-called Kumarbi Cycle, are Hittite translations of Hurrian stories. Some of them are even inscribed on bilingual tablets in both Hittite and Hurrian. The Kumarbi Cycle consists of stories about one of the principal Hurrian gods, Kumarbi, and his family. The Hittites took Kumarbi’s son Teshub, the storm god, as their main god.

Little is known about the Hurrians, whose history spanned perhaps more than a millennium, but their writings often spoke of the central god Kumarbi and Urkesh (thought to be the first Hurrian capital), the city where he supposedly lived.

Kumarbi rules over a city named Urkesh or Urkish (modern Tell Mozan), a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria.

Urkesh was founded during the fourth millennium BC possibly by the Hurrians on a site which appears to have been inhabited previously for a few centuries. There are other contemporary ancient sites in this area of upper Khabur River basin.

For example, Chagar Bazar is 22km south of Mozan, Tell Arbid 45km south of Tell Mozan, Tell Brak about 50km to the south and Tell Leilan 50km to the east of Urkesh. Leilan, Brak and Urkesh were particularly prominent during the Akkadian period.

The recently-arrived Hurrians founded the small state (or states) of Urkesh. Urkesh was an ally of the Akkadian Empire through what is believed to have been a dynastic marriage tradition. Tar’am-Agade the daughter of the Akkadian king, Naram-Sin, is believed to have been married to the king of Urkesh.

Naram-Sin also transcribed Narām-Sîn or Naram-Suen (Akkadian: DNa-ra-am DSîn, meaning “Beloved of the Moon God Sîn”), was a ruler of the Akkadian Empire, who reigned c. 2254–2218 BC, and was the third successor and grandson of King Sargon of Akkad.

Under Naram-Sin the empire reached its maximum strength. He was the first Mesopotamian king known to have claimed divinity for himself, taking the title “God of Akkad”, and the first to claim the title “King of the Four Quarters, King of the Universe”.

During the early second millennium BC the city passed into the hands of the rulers of Mari, a city a few hundred miles to the south. In the middle of the millennium, Tell Mozan was the location of a Mitanni religious site. The city appears to have been largely abandoned circa 1350 BC, although the reason for this is unknown to archaeologists at this time.

Kizzuwatna (or Kizzuwadna; in Ancient Egyptian Kode or Qode), is the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC. It was situated in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, near the Gulf of İskenderun in modern-day Turkey. It encircled the Taurus Mountains and the Ceyhan river.

The center of the kingdom was the city of Kummanni (Hittite: Kummiya), situated in the highlands. In a later era, the same region was known as Cilicia. Its location is uncertain, but is believed to be near the classical settlement of Comana in Cappadocia. Recent research make a location in Plain Cilicia more likely, presumably at Sirkeli Höyük.

Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.” The city persisted into the Early Iron Age, and appears as Kisuatni in Assyrian records. It was located in the east of Que, the successor of Kizzuwatna.

Comana was a city of Cappadocia and later Cataonia (Latin: Comana Cataoniae; frequently called Comana Chryse or Aurea, i.e. “the golden”, to distinguish it from Comana in Pontus). LAccording to ancient geographers, Comana was situated in Cappadocia (and later Cataonia).

Another epithet for the city, found in inscriptions, is Hieropolis (‘sacred city’), owing to a famous temple of the Syrian Moon goddess Enyo or, in the local language: Ma (cf. Men, the moon goddess of Caria). Strabo and Julius Caesar visited it; the former enters into long details about its position in a deep valley on the Sarus (Seihoun) river.

The temple and its fame in ancient times as the place where the rites of Ma-Enyo, a variety of the great west Asian nature-goddess, were celebrated with much solemnity. The service was carried on in a sumptuous temple with great magnificence by many thousands of hieroduli (temple slaves).

The town should not be confused with Kumme, a holy city for Assyrians and Urarteans, located in the highlands between Assyria and Urartu. Kummuh was an Iron Age Neo-Hittite kingdom located on the west bank of the Upper Euphrates within the eastern loop of the river between Melid and Carchemish.

Assyrian sources refer to both the land and its capital city by the same name. The city is identified with the classical-period Samosata (modern-day Samsat Höyük), which has now been flooded under the waters of a newly built dam. Urartian sources refer to it as Qumaha.

Several indigenous rock inscriptions have been found in the region, all written in hieroglyphic Luwian, attesting to the continuity of Hittite traditions. In his annals, the Assyrian king Sargon II referred to the Kummuh ruler as ‘Hittite’, and several rulers of Kummuh bore the same names as famous Hittite kings of the 2nd millennium BC.

Kummuh later gave its name to the classical Commagene, an ancient Armenian kingdom of the Hellenistic period, located in and around the ancient city of Samosata, which served as its capital. The Iron Age name of Samosata, Kummuh, probably gives its name to Commagene. The territory of Commagene corresponds roughly to the modern Turkish provinces of Adıyaman and northern Antep.

Little is known of the region of Commagene prior to the beginning of the 2nd century BC. However, it seems that, from what little evidence remains, Commagene formed part of a larger state that also included the Kingdom of Sophene.

One of the kingdom’s most lasting visible remains is the archaeological site on Mount Nemrut, a sanctuary dedicated by King Antiochus Theos to a number of syncretistic Graeco-Iranian deities as well as to himself and the deified land of Commagene. It is now a World Heritage Site.

Golden Age

The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology, particularly the Works and Days of Hesiod, and is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages, Gold being the first and the one during which the Golden Race of humanity lived.

Cronus overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus. Cronus was usually depicted with a harpe, scythe or a sickle, which was the instrument he used to castrate and depose Uranus, his father.

In Athens, on the twelfth day of the Attic month of Hekatombaion, a festival called Kronia was held in honour of Cronus to celebrate the harvest, suggesting that, as a result of his association with the virtuous Golden Age, Cronus continued to preside as a patron of the harvest.

Cronus was also identified in classical antiquity with the Roman deity Saturn, described as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation, in ancient Roman religion.

Those living in the first Age were ruled by Kronos, the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans, the divine descendants of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, after the end of the first age was the Silver, then the Bronze, after this the Heroic age, with the fifth and current age being Iron.

In some versions of the myth Astraea (“star-maiden” or “starry night”), in ancient Greek religion, is a daughter of Astraeus and Eos, also ruled. She is the virgin goddess of justice, innocence, purity and precision. She is closely associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike (daughter of Zeus and Themis).

She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age. But in the Bronze Age, when men became violent and greedy, she fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra.

Garden of the gods

The concept of a Garden of the gods or a divine paradise might be of Sumerian origin, or so it is argued by Samuel Noah Kramer. The concept of this home of the immortals was later handed down to the Babylonians who conquered Sumer.

In tablet nine of the standard version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh travels to the garden of the gods through the Cedar Forest and the depths of Mashu, a comparable location in Sumerian version is the “Mountain of cedar-felling”.

Little description remains of the “jewelled garden” of Gilgamesh because twenty four lines of the myth were damaged and could not be translated at that point in the text.

A Sumerian paradise is usually associated with the Dilmun civilization of Eastern Arabia. Sir Henry Rawlinson first suggested the geographical location of Dilmun was in Bahrain in 1880. Various other theories have been put forward on this theme.

Dilmun is first mentioned in association with Kur (mountain) and this is particularly problematic as Bahrain is very flat, having a highest prominence of only 134 metres (440 ft) elevation. Also, in the early epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, the construction of the ziggurats in Uruk and Eridu are described as taking place in a world “before Dilmun had yet been settled”.

In 1987, Theresa Howard-Carter realized that the locations in this area possess no archaeological evidence of a settlement dating 3300-2300 BC. She proposed that Dilmun could have existed in different eras and the one of this era might be a still unidentified tell.

Mashu, as described in the Epic of Gilgamesh of Mesopotamian mythology, is a great cedar mountain through which the hero-king Gilgamesh passes via a tunnel on his journey to Dilmun after leaving the Cedar Forest, a forest of ten thousand leagues span.

Siduri, the Alewife, lived on the shore, associated with “the Waters of Death” that Gilgamesh had to cross to reach Utnapishtim, the far-away. The Epic of Gilgamesh describes Gilgamesh travelling to a wondrous garden of the gods that is the source of a river, next to a mountain covered in cedars, and references a “plant of life”.

In the myth, paradise is identified as the place where the deified Sumerian hero of the flood, Utnapishtim (Ziusudra), was taken by the gods to live forever. Once in the garden of the gods, Gilgamesh finds all sorts of precious stones, similar to Genesis 2:12: There was a garden of the gods: all round him stood bushes bearing gems … fruit of carnelian with the vine hanging from it, beautiful to look at; lapis lazuli leaves hung thick with fruit, sweet to see … rare stones, agate and pearls from out the sea.

The corresponding location in reality has been the topic of speculation, as no confirming evidence has been found. The myth of Enki and Ninhursag also describes the Sumerian paradise as a garden, which Enki obtains water from Utu to irrigate.

The song of the hoe features Enlil creating mankind with a hoe and the Anunnaki spreading outward from the original garden of the gods. It also mentions the Abzu being built in Eridu. The song of the hoe features Enlil creating mankind with a hoe and the Anunnaki spreading outward from the original garden of the gods. It also mentions the Abzu being built in Eridu.

Jeffrey H. Tigay suggests that in the Sumerian version, through its association with the sun god Utu, “(t)he Cedar Mountain is implicitly located in the east, whereas in the Akkadian versions, Gilgamesh’s destination (is) removed from the east” and “explicitly located in the north west, in or near Lebanon”.

The name of the mountain is Mashu. As he arrives at the mountain of Mashu, Which every day keeps watch over the rising and setting of the sun, Whose peakes reach as high as the “banks of heaven,” and whose breast reaches down to the netherworld, The scorpion-people keep watch at its gate.

Bohl has highlighted that the word Mashu in Sumerian means “twins”. Jensen and Zimmern thought it to be the geographical location between Mount Lebanon and Mount Hermon in the Anti-Lebanon range.

Edward Lipinski and Peter Kyle McCarter have suggested that the garden of the gods relates to a mountain sanctuary in the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges. Other scholars have found a connection between the Cedars of Lebanon and the garden of the gods. The location of garden of the gods is close to the forest, which is described in the line: Saria (Sirion / Mount Hermon) and Lebanon tremble at the felling of the cedars.

Theophilus Pinches suggested in 1908 that Eridu was the Sumerian paradise calling it “not the earthly city of that name, but a city conceived as lying also “within the Abyss”, containing a tree of life fed by the Euphrates river. Pinches noted “it was represented as a place to which access was forbidden, for ‘no man entered its midst’, as in the case of the garden of Eden after the fall.”

In a myth called the Incantation of Eridu, it is described as having a “glorious fountain of the abyss”, a “house of wisdom”, sacred grove and a kiskanu-tree with the appearance of lapis-lazuli. Fuʼād Safar also found the remains of a canal running through Eridu in archaeological excavations of 1948 to 1949.

William Foxwell Albright noted that “Eridu is employed as a name of the Abzu, just as Kutu (Kutha), the city of Nergal, is a common name of Aralu” highlighting the problems in translation where several places were called the same name.

Alfred Jeremias suggested that Aralu was the same as Ariel in the West Bank and signified both the mountain of the gods and a place of desolation. As with the word Ekur, this has suggested that ideas associated with the netherworld came from a mountainous country outside of Babylonia.

The myth of Enlil and Ninlil opens with a description of the city of Nippur, its walls, river, canals and well, portrayed as the home of the gods and, according to Kramer “that seems to be conceived as having existed before the creation of man.”

Andrew R. George suggests “Nippur was a city inhabited by gods not men, and this would suggest that it had existed from the very beginning.” He discusses Nippur as the “first city” (uru-sag, “City-top” or “head”) of Sumer. This conception of Nippur is echoed by Joan Goodnick Westenholz, describing the setting as “civitas dei”, existing before the “axis mundi”.

George also noted that a ritual garden was re-created in the “Grand Garden of Nippur”, most probably a sacred garden in the E-kur (or Dur-an-ki) temple complex, is described in a cult-song of Enlil as a “garden of heavenly joy”. Temples in Mesopotamia were also known to have adorned their ziggurats with a sanctuary and sacred grove of trees, reminiscent of the Hanging gardens of Babylon.

In the Kesh temple hymn, the first recorded description (c. 2600 BC) of a domain of the gods is described as being the color of a garden: “The four corners of heaven became green for Enlil like a garden.”

In an earlier translation of this myth by George Aaron Barton in Miscellaneous Babylonian Inscriptions he considered it to read “In hursag the garden of the gods was green.” Another Sumerian creation myth, the Debate between sheep and grain opens with a location “the hill of heaven and earth”, and describes various agricultural developments in a pastoral setting.

This is discussed by Edward Chiera as “not a poetical name for the earth, but the dwelling place of the gods, situated at the point where the heavens rest upon the earth. It is there that mankind had their first habitat, and there the Babylonian Garden of Eden is to be placed.”

The Sumerian word Edin, means “steppe” or “plain”, so modern scholarship has abandoned the use of the phrase “Babylonian Garden of Eden” as it has become clear the “Garden of Eden” was a later concept.

The word for Paradise garden in much later Persian literature is apiri-Daeza, meaning “garden” or “walled enclosure” or “orchard”. The Arabic word for paradise or garden in the Qur’an is Jannah which literally means “concealed place”.

Two watercourses are supposed to flow underneath the jannah where large trees are described, mountains made of musk, between which rivers flow in valleys of pearl and ruby. Features of this garden of paradise are told in a parable in the Quran 47:15–15. Islamic gardens can further divide the watercourses into four, meeting at a spring and including a sanctuary for shade and rest.

In myths of the Greater Iranian culture and tradition, Jamshid is described as saving the world by building a magical garden on top of a mountain. This garden also features a tree of life and is the source of a river that brings fertility to the land. Jamshid is warned by Ahura Mazda about a freezing winter approaching and so creates this enclosure to protect the seeds of life when a climatic catastrophe strikes.

Edin (Sumerian: ÍDEDIN, “steppe” or “plain”; Akkadian: i3-ti-num2) is a placename featured on the Gudea cylinders as a watercourse from which plaster is taken to build a temple for Ningirsu: Clay plaster, harmoniously blended clay taken from the Edin canal, has been chosen by Lord Ningirsu with his holy heart, and was painted by Gudea with the splendors of heaven, as if kohl were being poured all over it.

Thorkild Jacobsen suggested this “Idedin” canal was an as yet unidentified “Desert Canal”, which “probably refers to an abandoned canal bed that had filled with the characteristic purplish dune sand still seen in southern Iraq”.

The Garden of Eden (Hebrew: גַּן־עֵדֶן – gan-ʿḖḏen), also called Paradise, is the biblical “garden of God” described in the Book of Genesis and the Book of Ezekiel. Genesis 13:10 refers to the “garden of God”, and the “trees of the garden” are mentioned in Ezekiel 31. The Book of Zechariah and the Book of Psalms also refer to trees and water, without explicitly mentioning Eden.

Friedrich Delitzsch and numerous other scholars of linguistics and Assyriology believe the Jewish and Christian term Eden traces back to this term. A few scholars of Judaism posit the word may originate from Aramaic.

The name derives from the Akkadian edinnu, from a Sumerian word edin meaning “plain” or “steppe”, closely related to an Aramaic root word meaning “fruitful, well-watered”. Another interpretation associates the name with a Hebrew word for “pleasure”; thus the Douay-Rheims Bible in Genesis 2:8 has the wording “And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure”, rather than “a garden in Eden”.

Like the Genesis flood narrative, the Genesis creation narrative and the account of the Tower of Babel, the story of Eden echoes the Mesopotamian myth of a king, as a primordial man, who is placed in a divine garden to guard the Tree of Life.

The Hebrew Bible depicts Adam and Eve as walking around the Garden of Eden naked, due to their innocence. The location of Eden is described in the Book of Genesis as the source of four tributaries. The Garden of Eden is considered to be mythological by most scholars.

Among those that consider it to have been real, there have been various suggestions for its location: at the head of the Persian Gulf, in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers run into the sea; and in Armenia, the Armenian Highlands or Armenian Plateau.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat is a snow-capped and dormant compound volcano in the extreme east of Turkey. It consists of two major volcanic cones: Greater Ararat and Little Ararat. Greater Ararat is the highest peak in Turkey and the Armenian Highland with an elevation of 5,137 m (16,854 ft); Little Ararat’s elevation is 3,896 m (12,782 ft).

Ararat (sometimes Ararad) is the Greek version of the Hebrew spelling (RRṬ) of the name Urartu, a geographical region commonly used as the exonym for the Iron Age kingdom also known by the modern rendition of its endonym, the Kingdom of Van, centered around Lake Van in the historic Armenian Highlands (present-day eastern Anatolia) in the 9th–6th centuries BC.

The written language that the kingdom’s political elite used is referred to as Urartian, which appears in cuneiform inscriptions in Armenia and eastern Turkey. It is unknown what language was spoken by the peoples of Urartu at the time of the existence of the kingdom, but there is linguistic evidence of contact between the proto-Armenian language and the Urartian language at an early date (sometime between the 3rd—2nd millennium BC), occurring prior to the formation of Urartu as a kingdom.

The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but went into gradual decline and was eventually conquered by the Iranian Medes in the early 6th century BC. The geopolitical region would re-emerge as Armenia shortly after. Being heirs to the Urartian realm, the earliest identifiable ancestors of the Armenians are the peoples of Urartu.

German orientalist and Bible critic Wilhelm Gesenius speculated that the word “Ararat” came from the Sanskrit word Arjanwartah, meaning “holy ground.” Some Armenian historians, such as Ashot Melkonyan, link the origin of the word “Ararat” to the root of the endonym of the indigenous peoples of the Armenian Highland (“ar–”), including the Armenians.

The name Urartu (Assyrian: Urarṭu; Babylonian: Urashtu; Hebrew: Ararat) comes from Assyrian sources. Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) recorded a campaign in which he subdued the entire territory of “Uruatri”. The Shalmaneser text uses the name Urartu to refer to a geographical region, not a kingdom, and names eight “lands” contained within Urartu (which at the time of the campaign were still disunited).

“Urartu” is cognate with the Biblical “Ararat”, Akkadian “Urashtu”, and Armenian “Ayrarat”. In addition to referring to the famous Biblical highlands, Ararat also appears as the name of a kingdom in Jeremiah 51:27, mentioned together with Minni and Ashkenaz. Mount Ararat is located approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi) north of its former capital.

The name Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili, is derived from the Urartian toponym Biainili (or Biaineli), which was probably pronounced as Vanele (or Vanili), and called Van in Old Armenian, hence the names “Kingdom of Van” or “Vannic Kingdom”.

In the 6th century BC, with the emergence of Armenia in the region, the name of the region was simultaneously referred to as variations of Armenia and Urartu. In the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius I, the country referred to as Urartu in Akkadian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language.

The mentions of Urartu in the Books of Kings and Isaiah of the Bible were translated as “Armenia” in the Septuagint. Some English language translations, including the King James Version follow the Septuagint translation of Urartu as Armenia. The identification of the biblical “mountains of Ararat” with the Mt. Ararat (Turkish: Ağrı Dağı) is a modern identification based on postbiblical tradition.

The name Ayrarat that was later used to describe lands located in the central region of the Kingdom of Armenia seems to have been of local usage as no known classical works use this word to refer to Armenia. The Ararat Province of modern Armenia is named after Mount Ararat, which itself receives its name from the biblical Mountains of Ararat (or Mountains of Urartu).

The “mountains of Ararat” have been widely accepted in Christianity as the resting place of Noah’s Ark, despite contention that Genesis 8:4 does not refer specifically to Mt. Ararat. It is the principal national symbol of Armenia and has been considered a sacred mountain by Armenians. It is featured prominently in Armenian literature and art and is an icon for Armenian irredentism. It is depicted on the coat of arms of Armenia along with Noah’s Ark.

The mountain is known as Ararat in European languages, however, none of the native peoples have traditionally referred to the mountain by that name. The traditional Armenian name is Masis, sometimes Massis. However, nowadays, the terms Masis and Ararat are both widely, often interchangeably, used in Armenian.

According to Russian orientalist Anatoly Novoseltsev the word Masis derives from Middle Persian masist, “the largest.” According to Armenian historian Sargis Petrosyan the mas root in Masis means “mountain”, cf. Proto-Indo-European *mņs-. According to archaeologist Armen Petrosyan it originates from the Māšu (Mashu) mountain mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which sounded Māsu in Assyrian.

The Genesis flood narrative was linked to the Armenian myth of origin by the early medieval historian Movses Khorenatsi. In his History of Armenia, he wrote that Noah and his family first settled in Armenia and later moved to Babylon.

Hayk, a descendant of Japheth, a son of Noah, revolted against Bel (the biblical Nimrod) and returned to the area around Mount Ararat, where he established the roots of the Armenian nation. He is thus considered the legendary founding father and the name giver of the Armenian people.

According to Razmik Panossian, this legend “makes Armenia the cradle of all civilisation since Noah’s Ark landed on the ‘Armenian’ mountain of Ararat. […] it connects Armenians to the biblical narrative of human development. […] it makes Mount Ararat the national symbol of all Armenians, and the territory around it the Armenian homeland from time immemorial.”

Ardini – Exit of the snake

Avestan aša and its Vedic equivalent ṛtá both derive from Proto-Indo-Iranian *ṛtá- “truth”, which in turn continues Proto-Indo-European *h2r-to- “properly joined, right, true”, from the root *h2ar. The word is attested in Old Persian as arta.

Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-. In Urartian Ardini was an ancient city of Urartu, attested in Assyrian sources of the 9th and 8th centuries BC. It was acquired by the Urartian King Ishpuini ca. 800 BC .

The city’s tutelary deity was dḪaldi (d,Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi), one of the three chief deities of Urartu. He was a warrior god to whom the kings of Urartu would pray for victories in battle. Ḫaldi was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion. Haldi was not initially worshipped by Urartians, at least as their chief god, as his cult does not appear to have been introduced until the reign of Ishpuini.

Of all the gods of the Urartian pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to Ḫaldi. His wife was the goddess Arubani, the Urartian’s goddess of fertility and art, and/or the goddess Bagvarti. Although throughout most of Urartu Arubani is known as Khaldi’s wife, at the excavation of Musasir references to “Khaldi and his wife, Bagmashtu” were found inscribed on some of the items.

It is assumed that when Urartu expanded its territories to include the area Musasir, local gods were incorporated and a new pantheon was created for that region. The locality and addition of Bagmashtu are supported by the fact that her name is of Armenian origin.

According to Michael C. Astour, Haldi could be etymologically related to the Hurrian word “heldi”, meaning “high”. He was the primary god of the most prominent group of Urartian tribes, which eventually evolved into the Armenian nation.

Some sources claim that the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenians, Hayk, is derived from Ḫaldi, but other theories about the etymology of Hayk are more widely accepted. An alternate theory postulates that the name could be of Indo-European (possibly Helleno-Armenian) or Old Armenian origin, meaning “sun god” (compare with Greek Helios and Latin Sol).

The city was called Muṣaṣir (KURMu-ṣa-ṣir and variants, including Mutsatsir) in Assyrian,which is Akkadian for Exit of the Serpent/Snake. The mušḫuššu (formerly also read as sirrušu, sirrush) or Mushkhushshu (pronounced “Mush·khush·shu”), is a creature from ancient Mesopotamian mythology. It was the sacred animal of Marduk and his son Nabu during the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Nabu, known as Nisaba in the Sumerian pantheon, is the ancient Mesopotamian patron god of literacy, the rational arts, scribes and wisdom. Nabu was worshipped by the Babylonians and the Assyrians. He rode on a winged dragon known as Sirrush that originally belonged to his father Marduk. In Babylonian astrology, Nabu was identified with the planet Mercury.

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.

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit.

The name Subartu is often regarded as the source of, or even synonymous with, the later kingdom of Shupria (Shubria), which is mentioned as in records from the 13th millennium BC.

However, the name Shupria was evidently used to describe a different area, corresponding to modern eastern Anatolia and the Armenian highlands, and the Shuprians appear to have been a component of the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people.

Nisaba’s name was originally written using a combination of the cuneiform sign called NAGA and the sign dingir, representing divinity. The NAGA sign is a pictogram representing a stalk of wheat, denoting her as the divinity present within grains.

Although the sign NAGA is sometimes read as Nidaba, Jeremy Black points out that “the name Nisaba (or Nissaba) seems more correct than Nidaba”. She is also known by the epithet Nanibgal (Sumerian: DAN.NAGA; later DAN.ŠE.NAGA), and may have been the same goddess as Nunbarsegunu.

In ancient Mesopotamian religion, Haya is the husband of the goddess Nisaba. Haya was primarily a god of scribes, but he 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.

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. He was designated 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  Haya.

Attempts have also been made to connect the remote origins of dha-ià with those of the god Ea (Ebla Ḥayya), although there remain serious doubts concerning this hypothesis. How or whether both are related to a further western deity called Ḥayya is also unclear.

Shiva (Apollo) and Vishnu (Mercury)

Sun: Surya is the Vedic name and main deity associated with the Sun. Surya is the fire of the heavenly sphere that illumines the world. The light form of Shiva is also associated with the Sun. Shiva means the “auspicious” one.

Shiva is the yogi in meditation reflected by Surya, who represents the atman, the soul. Surya is the origin of all evolution, the source of all that exists in the universe. According to Parashara, the chief deity associated with the Sun is Agni, the god of fire. Surya is also known as divya-agni, the celestial fire.

Moon: Chandra is the Vedic name for the Moon. Shakti / Parvati are considered the main female deities associated with the Moon. They are the consorts of Shiva. Parvati is said to remember her previous life as Shiva’s wife, Shakti. Parvati translates as, “she who dwells in the mountains”. Such a goddess is an appropriate mate for Shiva, who also likes to dwell in mountainous regions and the fringe of society.

Another name and deity associated with the Moon is Soma. Soma is the divine nectar, the sacrificial elixir of the Gods. Soma is pictured as a priestly sage, a powerful god who is a healer of all diseases and a bestower of riches. He is also the father of Mercury (“Out of the Moon, the mind was born”). Parashara states that the main deity of the Moon is Varuna, God of the cosmic waters.

Mars: Mangal or Kuja are the Vedic names for fiery Mars. The main deity is Subrahmanya or Skanda. He is the adolescent Kumara, the son of Pleiades (Kartikeya), lord of the armies, the spear-holder, the spiritual warrior. According to Parashara, Kartikeya is the chief deity associated with Mars and was Shiva and Parvarti’s second son.

In yoga, Skanda is the power of chastity and the virile seed. By making his sublimated seed rise through the central inner channel of the subtle-body (susumna) up to the sixth chakra where it is consumed, that the yogi becomes the complete master of his instincts. He is often depicted riding a peacock and carrying a spear. Rudra, the God of storms, is also mentioned as reflected the Mars archetype of the warrior.

Saturn: Shani is the Vedic name for the planet of truth (satya), Saturn. The male deity is the dark side of Shiva, the destroyer. He destroys Kama (desire) through the gaze of his eyes. The female deity associated with Saturn is Kali. She is adorned with a necklace of skulls around her neck, which represents the heads of ignorance that she has removed.

Shani and Kali are often dressed in black or dark blue and are associated with spritual discipline and asceticism. Parashara states that Brahma is the chief deity associated with Saturn. Yama is also associated with Saturn as a planetary deity according to Phaladeepika by Mantereswara.

Mercury: Budha is the Vedic name for Mercury reflecting divine intelligence (buddhi). Beyond the mind is intellect (buddhi). According to Parashara, Vishnu is the main male deity associated with Mercury. He is the god of cosmic intelligence, the preserver and pervader of the universe.

Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and learning is the female deity reflecting mercurial powers. Saraswati means “the flowing one”. She is the goddess of creative intelligence, a flowing stream of inspiration like the ancient Sarasvati River which she takes her name from. Saraswati is identified with thought and intellect. “May the Goddess Saraswati, with all power, full of power, further us, as the guide of our minds.” Rig Veda Vol. I. 61.

Venus: Shukra is the Vedic name for Venus. Shukra actually means “semen” representing the power of fertility and reproduction. Lakshmi is the main female deity associated with Venus in Hindu mythology. She is often pictured as the devoted wife or consort of Vishnu.

She is the earth, the creation, one with all females, abundance, luxury and pleasure that is healing and revitalizing. She is often depicted sitting on a lotus flower, flanked by two elephants, who are showering her with cosmic waters which represent fertilizing rains. Parashara states that Indrani, Lord Indra’s consort, is the presiding deity of Venus.

Vedic Planetary Deities

The Golden Age

The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology, particularly the Works and Days of Hesiod, and is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages, Gold being the first and the one during which the Golden Race of humanity lived. After the end of the first age was the Silver, then the Bronze, after this the Heroic age, with the fifth and current age being Iron.

By extension, “Golden Age” denotes a period of primordial peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. During this age, peace and harmony prevailed in that people did not have to work to feed themselves for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age with a youthful appearance, eventually dying peacefully, with spirits living on as “guardians”. Plato in Cratylus (397 e) recounts the golden race of humans who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean literally made of gold, but good and noble.

European pastoral literary tradition often depicted nymphs and shepherds as living a life of rustic innocence and peace, set in Arcadia, a region of Greece that was the abode and center of worship of their tutelary deity, goat-footed Pan, who dwelt among them.

Cronus

Those living in the first Age, the Golden Age, were according to classical Greek mythology ruled by  Cronus, the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans, the divine descendants of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth.

He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus. Cronus was usually depicted with a harpe, scythe or a sickle, which was the instrument he used to castrate and depose Uranus, his father.

According to Plato, however, the deities Phorcys, Cronus, and Rhea were the eldest children of Oceanus and Tethys, a Titan daughter of Uranus and Gaia, sister and wife of the Titan Oceanus, mother of the river gods and the Oceanids.

In an ancient myth recorded by Hesiod’s Theogony, Cronus envied the power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus. Uranus drew the enmity of Cronus’s mother, Gaia, when he hid the gigantic youngest children of Gaia, the hundred-handed Hecatoncheires and one-eyed Cyclopes, in Tartarus, so that they would not see the light. Gaia created a great stone sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus.

Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked him with the sickle, castrating him and casting his testicles into the sea.

From the blood that spilled out from Uranus and fell upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae were produced. The testicles produced a white foam from which the goddess Aphrodite emerged. For this, Uranus threatened vengeance and called his sons Titenes for overstepping their boundaries and daring to commit such an act.

After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyclopes and set the dragon Campe to guard them. He and his sister Rhea took the throne of the world as king and queen. The period in which Cronus ruled was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did the right thing, and immorality was absent.

Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own sons, just as he had overthrown his father. As a result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to prevent the prophecy. When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution on Cronus for his acts against his father and children.

Rhea secretly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and handed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the Omphalos Stone, which he promptly swallowed, thinking that it was his son. Rhea kept Zeus hidden in a cave on Mount Ida, Crete.

According to some versions of the story, he was then raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes, armored male dancers, shouted and clapped their hands to make enough noise to mask the baby’s cries from Cronus.

Other versions of the myth have Zeus raised by the nymph Adamanthea, who hid Zeus by dangling him by a rope from a tree so that he was suspended between the earth, the sea, and the sky, all of which were ruled by his father, Cronus. Still other versions of the tale say that Zeus was raised by his grandmother, Gaia.

Once he had grown up, Zeus used an emetic given to him by Gaia to force Cronus to disgorge the contents of his stomach in reverse order: first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Mount Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, and then his two brothers and three sisters. In other versions of the tale, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the children.

After freeing his siblings, Zeus released the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyclopes who forged for him his thunderbolts, Poseidon’s trident and Hades’ helmet of darkness. In a vast war called the Titanomachy, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, with the help of the Hecatoncheires and Cyclopes, overthrew Cronus and the other Titans.

Afterwards, many of the Titans were confined in Tartarus. However, Oceanus, Helios, Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius were not imprisoned following the Titanomachy. Gaia bore the monster Typhon to claim revenge for the imprisoned Titans.

Accounts of the fate of Cronus after the Titanomachy differ. In Homeric and other texts he is imprisoned with the other Titans in Tartarus. In Orphic poems, he is imprisoned for eternity in the cave of Nyx. Pindar describes his release from Tartarus, where he is made King of Elysium by Zeus.

In another version, the Titans released the Cyclopes from Tartarus, and Cronus was awarded the kingship among them, beginning a Golden Age. In Virgil’s Aeneid, it is Latium to which Saturn (Cronus) escapes and ascends as king and lawgiver, following his defeat by his son Jupiter (Zeus).

One other account referred by Robert Graves, who claims to be following the account of the Byzantine mythographer Tzetzes, it is said that Cronus was castrated by his son Zeus just like he had done with his father Uranus before.

However the subject of a son castrating his own father, or simply castration in general, was so repudiated by the Greek mythographers of that time that they suppressed it from their accounts until the Christian era (when Tzetzes wrote).

In Athens, on the twelfth day of the Attic month of Hekatombaion, a festival called Kronia was held in honour of Cronus to celebrate the harvest, suggesting that, as a result of his association with the virtuous Golden Age, Cronus continued to preside as a patron of the harvest. Cronus was also identified in classical antiquity with the Roman deity Saturn.

Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, by the Greeks as Kronos and by the Ugaritians with El.

For the Canaanites and the ancient Levantine region as a whole, Ēl or Il was the supreme god, the father of mankind and all creatures. He also fathered many gods, most importantly Hadad, Yam, and Mot, each sharing similar attributes to the Greco-Roman gods: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades respectively. As recorded on the clay tablets of Ugarit, El is the husband of the goddess Asherah, a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources.

Kumarbi is known from a number of mythological Hittite texts, sometimes summarized under the term “Kumarbi Cycle”. These texts notably include the myth of The Kingship in Heaven (also known as the Song of Kumarbi, or the “Hittite Theogony”), the Song of Ullikummi, the Kingship of the God KAL, the Myth of the dragon Hedammu, the Song of Silver.

From the first publication of the Kingship in Heaven tablets scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian creation myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus.

Ekur

Enlil, later known as Elil, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with wind, air, earth, and storms. He is first attested as the chief deity of the Sumerian pantheon, but he was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hurrians.

Enlil’s primary center of worship was the Ekur (É.KUR; “Mountain House”) temple in the city of Nippur, which was believed to have been built by Enlil himself and was regarded as the “mooring-rope” of heaven and earth. Ekur, also known as Duranki, is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.

The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued. The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East. Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (DNIN.LÍL “lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil. Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu (a goddess of barley) or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (a.k.a. An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.

She lived in Dilmun with her family. Impregnated by her husband Enlil, who lie with her by the water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.

Enlil impregnated her disguised as the gatekeeper, where upon she gave birth to their son Nergal, god of death. In a similar manner she conceived the underworld god Ninazu when Enlil impregnated her disguised as the man of the river of the nether world, a man-devouring river. Later Enlil disguised himself as the man of the boat, impregnating her with a fourth deity Enbilulu, god of rivers and canals. All of these act as substitutes for Nanna/Suen to ascend. In some texts Ninlil is also the mother of Ninurta, the heroic god who slew Asag the demon with his mace, Sharur.

The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur. In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished.

Omphalos

An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus. Omphalos stones were believed to allow direct communication with the gods. Holland (1933) suggested that the stone was hollow to allow intoxicating vapours breathed by the Oracle to channel through it.

In Ancient Greek, the word omphalós means “navel”. In Greek lore, Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the “navel” of the world. Among the Ancient Greeks, it was a widespread belief that Delphi was the center of the world.

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

Omphalos is also the name of the stone which Rhea wrapped in swaddling clothes, pretending it was Zeus, in order to deceive Cronus. In the ancient world of the Mediterranean, it was a powerful religious symbol.

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

Erwin Rohde wrote that the Python at Delphi was an earth spirit, who was conquered by Apollo and buried under the Omphalos. However, understanding of the use of the omphalos is uncertain due to destruction of the site by Theodosius I and Arcadius in the 4th century CE.

The omphalos was not only an object of Hellenic religious symbolism and world centrality; it was also considered an object of power. Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.

Virgo – Pisces

In some versions of the myth Astraea also ruled in the mythological Golden Age. She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age, when all the other gods fled to Olympus, but in the Bronze Age, when men became violent and greedy, she fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra – hence the sign’s association with Earth. The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea.

Virgo (Greek: Parthenos) is the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans the 150–180th degree of the zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and the Sun transits the constellation of Virgo from approximately September 16 to October 30.

Pisces

Pisces (Ancient Greek: Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Pisces are the negative mutable water sign of the zodiac. It spans 330° to 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area between February 19 and March 20. In Sidereal astrology, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 12 to April 18.

While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from ecliptic longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox, is in the Pisces constellation. Nevertheless, the sign of Pisces remain in the 30 degree span of 330°-0°.

There are no prominent stars in the constellation. One star in the constellation, Alpha Piscium, is also known as Alrescha, which comes from the Arabic al-rišā’, meaning “the well rope,” or “the cord.” Ptolemy described Alpha Piscium as the point where the cords joining the two fish are knotted together. The astrological symbol shows the two fishes captured by a string, typically by the mouth or the tails.

The fish are usually portrayed swimming in opposite directions; this represents the duality within the Piscean nature. They are ruled by the planet Neptune. Although they appear as a pair, the name of the sign in all languages originally referred to only one fish with the exception of Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Dutch, Latvian and Italian.

In classical interpretations, the symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, Typhon, Vishnu and the Sumerian goddess Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu. While Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Isimud – Ninshubar

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. 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.

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 Sumeric cultures, from the 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. Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings, is usually depicted as having two faces.

Isimud (also Isinu; Usmû; Usumu (Akkadian)) 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 also appears in the myth of Enki and Ninhursag, in which he acts as Enki’s messenger and emissary. He plays a similar role to Ninshubur, 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.

Ouroboros

The ouroboros or uroborus is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magical tradition and was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism and Hermeticism and most notably in alchemy. The term derives from Ancient Greek from oura (“tail”) + bora (“food”), from bibrōskō (“I eat”).

The ouroboros is often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death and rebirth. The skin-sloughing process of snakes symbolizes the transmigration of souls, the snake biting its own tail is a fertility symbol. The tail of the snake is a phallic symbol, the mouth is a yonic or womb-like symbol.

The first known appearance of the ouroboros motif is in the Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld, an ancient Egyptian funerary text in KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the 14th century BC. The text concerns the actions of the god Ra and his union with Osiris in the underworld.

The ouroboros is depicted twice on the figure: holding their tails in their mouths, one encircling the head and upper chest, the other surrounding the feet of a large figure, which may represent the unified Ra-Osiris (Osiris born again as Ra).

Both serpents are manifestations of the deity Mehen (mḥn) or the Mehenet (mḥnt), meaning ‘the coiled one’), a protective deity who is depicted as a snake which coils around the sun god Ra during his journey through the night, for instance in the Amduat, who in other funerary texts protects Ra in his underworld journey. The whole divine figure represents the beginning and the end of time.

The ouroboros appears elsewhere in Egyptian sources, where, like many Egyptian serpent deities, it represents the formless disorder that surrounds the orderly world and is involved in that world’s periodic renewal.

The symbol persisted in Egypt into Roman times, when it frequently appeared on magical talismans, sometimes in combination with other magical emblems. The 4th-century AD Latin commentator Servius was aware of the Egyptian use of the symbol, noting that the image of a snake biting its tail represents the cyclical nature of the year.

In Norse mythology, the ouroboros appears as the serpent Jörmungandr, one of the three children of Loki and Angrboda, which grew so large that it could encircle the world and grasp its tail in its teeth.

In the legends of Ragnar Lodbrok, such as Ragnarssona þáttr, the Geatish king Herraud gives a small lindworm as a gift to his daughter Þóra Town-Hart after which it grows into a large serpent which encircles the girl’s bower and bites itself in the tail.

The serpent is slain by Ragnar Lodbrok who marries Þóra. Ragnar later has a son with another woman named Kráka and this son is born with the image of a white snake in one eye. This snake encircled the iris and bit itself in the tail, and the son was named Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye.

In the Aitareya Brahmana, a Vedic text of the early 1st millennium BCE, the nature of the Vedic rituals is compared to “a snake biting its own tail.” Ouroboros symbolism has been used to describe the Kundalini.

According to the medieval Yoga-kundalini Upanishad, “The divine power, Kundalini, shines like the stem of a young lotus; like a snake, coiled round upon herself she holds her tail in her mouth and lies resting half asleep as the base of the body” (1.82). Storl (2004) also refers to the ouroboros image in reference to the “cycle of samsara”.

Nabu

The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu, the son of Marduk, and the ancient Mesopotamian patron god of literacy, the rational arts, scribes and wisdom, was, in Sumerian times, identified with Enki. Nabu was worshipped by the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Nabu gained prominence among the Babylonians in the 1st millennium BC when he was identified as the son of the god Marduk.

Nabu was worshipped in Babylon’s sister city Borsippa, where his statue was moved to Babylon each New Year so that he could pay his respects to his father. Nabu’s symbol was a stylus resting on a tablet. Clay tablets with especial calligraphic skill were used as offerings at Nabu’s temple.

His wife was the Akkadian goddess Tashmet or Tashmetum (cuneiform: Dur-me-tum, DTashmetu; “the lady who listens”). She is called upon to listen to prayers and to grant requests. Tashmetum and Nabu both shared a temple in the city of Borsippa, in which they were patron deities. She is also known as Tashmit and Tashmetu, and she was known by the epithets “Lady of Hearing” and “Lady of Favor”.

Nabu was the patron god of scribes, literacy, and wisdom. He was also the inventor of writing, a divine scribe, the patron god of the rational arts, and a god of vegetation. As the god of writing, Nabu inscribed the fates assigned to men and he was associated with the scribe god Ninurta. As an oracle he was associated with the Mesopotamian moon god Sin.

In Babylonian astrology, Nabu was identified with the planet Mercury. As the god of wisdom, Nabu was linked by the Romans with Mercury. In the Bible, Nabu is mentioned as Nebo in Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 48:1. In Hellenistic times, Nabu was identified with the Greek god Apollo.

Thoth

Nabu was continuously worshipped until the 2nd century, when cuneiform became a lost art. Nabu’s cult spread to ancient Egypt. Nabu was one of five non-Egyptian deities worshipped in Elephantine. He got associated by the Egyptians with Thoth (the reflex of Ancient Egyptian: ḏḥwtj “[He] is like the Ibis”), the god of wisdom, writing, hieroglyphs, science, magic, art, judgment, and the dead.

Thoth is one of the ancient Egyptian deities. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His chief temple was located in the city of Hermopolis (Ancient Egyptian: ḫmnw /χaˈmaːnaw/, Egyptological pronunciation: “Khemenu”, Coptic: Shmun). Later known as el-Ashmunein in Egyptian Arabic, it was partially destroyed in 1826.

Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma’at) who stood on either side of Ra’s solar barge. In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, the arts of magic, the system of writing, the development of science, and the judgment of the dead.

Thoth’s roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and Egyptian hieroglyphs. In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, Aani, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased’s heart against the feather, representing the principle of Maat, was exactly even.

The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. divine) law, making proper use of Ma’at. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them.

The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.

Thoth was originally a moon god. The moon not only provides light at night, allowing time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy.

The cycles of the moon also organized much of Egyptian society’s rituals and events, both civil and religious. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement and regulation of events and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counselor of the sun god Ra, and with Ma’at (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky.

Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing (hieroglyphs), and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld. For this reason, Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their “office”. Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis.

His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at. 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.

Hermes Trismegistus

The Greeks related Thoth to their god Hermes due to his similar attributes and functions. One of Thoth’s titles, “Thrice great”, was translated to the Greek trismégistos, making Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-greatest Hermes”; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus), the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism.

Hermes Trismegistus may be associated with the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. Greeks in the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt recognized the equivalence of Hermes and Thoth through the interpretatio graeca. Consequently, the two gods were worshiped as one, in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemenu, which was known in the Hellenistic period as Hermopolis.

A Mycenaean Greek reference to a deity or semi-deity called ti-ri-se-ro-e (Linear B: Tris Hḗrōs, “thrice or triple hero”) was found on two Linear B clay tablets at Pylos and could be connected to the later epithet “thrice great”, Trismegistos, applied to Hermes/Thoth.

Nehmetawy and Nehebu-kau

In Hermopolis, Thoth led “the Ogdoad”, a pantheon of eight principal deities, and his spouse was Nehmetawy (nḥm.t-ˁw3ỉ; “she who embraces those in need”). She is not very widely known. Her depictions are anthropomorph, with a sistrum-shaped headdress, often with a child in her lap.

Nehmetawy was the wife of snake god Nehebu-kau (also spelled Nehebu-Kau, and Neheb Ka), or in other places of worship, like in Hermopolis, the wife of Thoth. In Egyptian mythology, Nehebkau  was originally the explanation of the cause of binding of Ka and Ba after death.

Ka is also the Egyptian word for sustenance, and is associated with spirit. Thus his name, which means (one who) brings together Ka. Since these aspects of the soul were said to bind after death, Nehebkau was said to have guarded the entrance to Duat, the underworld.

One of the more important glyphs in his name was technically a variation on the glyph for two arms raised in prayer, however, it also resembles a two-headed snake, and so Nehebkau became depicted in art as a snake with two heads (occasionally with only one).

As a two-headed snake, he was viewed as fierce, being able to attack from two directions, and not having to fear as much confrontations. Consequently, sometimes it was said that Atum, the chief god in these areas, had to keep his finger on him to prevent Nehebkau from getting out of control. Alternatively, in areas where Ra was the chief god, it was said that Nehebkau was one of the warriors who protected Ra whilst he was in the underworld, during Ra’s nightly travel, as a sun god, under the earth.

When he was seen as a snake, he was also thought to have some power over snake-bites, and by extension, other venomous bites, such as those of scorpions, thus sometimes being identified as the son of Serket, the scorpion-goddess of protection against these things.

Renenutet

Alternatively, as a snake, since Nehebkau was connected to an aspect of the soul, he was sometimes seen as the son of Renenutet (also transliterated Ernūtet and Renenet), a snake-goddess, who distributed the Ren, another aspect of the soul, and of the earth (Geb), on which snakes crawl.

Renenūtet  was a goddess of nourishment and the harvest in ancient Egyptian religion. The importance of the harvest caused people to make many offerings to Renenutet during harvest time. She was the mother of the god Nepri.

Initially, her cult was centered in Terenuthis. Renenutet was depicted as a cobra, or as a woman with the head of a cobra. The verbs ‘to fondle, to nurse, or rear’ help explain the name Renenutet. This goddess was a ‘nurse’ who took care of the pharaoh from birth to death.

Sometimes, as the goddess of nourishment, Renenutet was seen as having a husband, Sobek. He was represented as the Nile River, the annual flooding of which deposited the fertile silt that enabled abundant harvests. The temple of Medinet Madi is dedicated to both Sobek and Renenutet. It is a small and decorated building in the Faiyum.

More usually, Renenutet was seen as the mother of Nehebkau, who occasionally was represented as a snake also. When considered the mother of Nehebkau, Renenutet was seen as having a husband, Geb, who represented the Earth.

Later, as a snake-goddess worshiped over the whole of Lower Egypt, Renenutet was increasingly associated with Wadjet, Lower Egypt’s powerful protector and another snake goddess represented as a cobra. Eventually Renenutet was identified as an alternate form of Wadjet, whose gaze was said to slaughter enemies. Wadjet was the cobra shown on the crown of the pharaohs.

Shai

Renenutet was the female counterpart of Shai (also spelt Sai, occasionally Shay, and in Greek, Psais; “destiny”), who represented the positive destiny of the child. Along with this, Renenutet was also the Thermouthis, or Hermouthis in Greek. She embodied the fertility of the fields and was the protecter of the royal office and power.

Shai was the deification of the concept of fate in Egyptian mythology. As a concept, with no particular reason for associating one gender over another, Shai was sometimes considered female, rather than the more usual understanding of being male, in which circumstance Shai was referred to as Shait (simply the feminine form of the name). His name reflects his function, as it means (that which is) ordained.

As the god of fate, it was said that he determined the span of each man’s life, and was present at the judgement of the soul of the deceased in duat. In consequence, he was sometimes identified as the husband of Mesenet, goddess of birth, or, in later years, of Renenutet, who assigned the Ren, and had become considered goddess of fortune.

Because of the power associated in the concept, Akhenaten, in introducing monotheism, said that Shai was an attribute of Aten, whereas Ramses II claimed to be lord of Shai (i.e. lord of fate).

Meshkenet

In Ancient Egyptian mythology, Meskhenet, (also spelt Mesenet, Meskhent, and Meshkent) was the goddess of childbirth, and the creator of each child’s Ka, a part of their soul, which she breathed into them at the moment of birth. She was worshipped from the earliest of times by Egyptians.

In ancient Egypt, women delivered babies while squatting on a pair of bricks, known as birth bricks, and Meskhenet was the goddess associated with this form of delivery. Consequently, in art, she was sometimes depicted as a brick with a woman’s head, wearing a cow’s uterus upon it. At other times she was depicted as a woman with a symbolic cow’s uterus on her headdress.

Meskhenet, an ancient Egyptian deity of birth. Here, she is depicted as a birth-brick with a woman’s head. She could also be depicted as a woman with a symbolic uterus on her head. Since she was responsible for creating the Ka, she was associated with fate. Thus later she was sometimes said to be paired with Shai, who became a god of destiny after the deity evolved out of an abstract concept.

Meskhenet features prominently in the last of the folktales in the Westcar Papyrus. The story tells of the birth of Userkaf, Sahure, and Neferirkare Kakai, the first three kings of the Fifth Dynasty, who in the story are said to be triplets. Just after each child is born, Meskhenet appears and prophesies that he will become king of Egypt.

Agathos Daimon

During Ptolemaic Egypt, Shai, as god of fate, was identified with the Greek god Agathodaemon, who was the god of fortune telling. Thus, since Agathodaemon was considered to be a serpent, and the word Shai was also the Egyptian word for pig, in the Hellenic period, Shai was sometimes depicted as a serpent-headed pig, known to Egyptologists as the Shai animal.

An agathodaemon (Ancient Greek: agathodaímōn) or agathos daemon (Greek: agathós daímōn, lit. “noble spirit”) was a spirit (daemon) of the vineyards and grainfields in ancient Greek religion. They were personal companion spirits, comparable to the Roman genii, who ensured good luck, health, and wisdom.

Though little noted in Greek mythology (Pausanias conjectured that the name was merely an epithet of Zeus), he was prominent in Greek folk religion; it was customary to drink or pour out a few drops of unmixed wine to honor him in every symposium or formal banquet.

In Aristophanes’ Peace, when War has trapped Peace (Eirene) in a deep pit, Hermes comes to give aid: “Now, oh Greeks! is the moment when, freed of quarrels and fighting, we should rescue sweet Eirene and draw her out of this pit… This is the moment to drain a cup in honor of the Agathos Daimon.” A temple dedicated to him was situated on the road from Megalopolis to Maenalus in Arcadia.

His numinous presence could be represented in art as a serpent or more concretely as a young man bearing a cornucopia and a bowl in one hand, and a poppy and an ear of grain in the other. The agathodaemon was later adapted into a general daemon of fortuna, particularly of the continued abundance of a family’s good food and drink.

In the syncretic atmosphere of Late Antiquity, agathodaemons could be bound up with Egyptian bringers of security and good fortune: a gem carved with magic emblems bears the images of Serapis with crocodile, sun-lion and Osiris mummy surrounded by the lion-headed snake Cnum–Agathodaemon–Aion, with Harpocrates on the reverse.

Tyche Agathe

Agathos Daimon was the spouse or companion of Tyche Agathe (“Good Fortune”; Latin: Agatha). “Tyche we know at Lebadeia as the wife of the Agathos Daimon, the Good or Rich Spirit”. Tyche (“luck”; Roman equivalent: Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity who governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. In Classical Greek mythology, she is the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus or Hermes.

In literature, she might be given various genealogies, as a daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite, or considered as one of the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus, and Tethys, or of Zeus. She was connected with Nemesis and Agathos Daimon (“good spirit”). The Greek historian Polybius believed that when no cause can be discovered to events such as floods, droughts, frosts, or even in politics, then the cause of these events may be fairly attributed to Tyche.

In Greco-Roman and medieval art she was depicted as carrying a cornucopia (horn of plenty), an emblematic gubernaculum (ship’s rudder), and the wheel of fortune, or she may stand on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate. The constellation of Virgo is sometimes identified as the heavenly figure of Tyche, as well as other goddesses such as Demeter and Astraea.

Erechtheus

Tyche was uniquely venerated at Itanos in Crete, as Tyche Protogeneia, linked with the Athenian Protogeneia (“firstborn”), daughter of Erechtheus, in Greek mythology the name of an archaic king of Athens, the founder of the polis and, in his role as god, attached to Poseidon, as “Poseidon Erechtheus”, whose self-sacrifice saved the city.

Athenians thought of themselves as Erechtheidai, the “sons of Erechtheus”. In Homer’s Iliad (2. 547–48) he is the son of “grain-giving Earth”, reared by Athena. The earth-born son was sired by Hephaestus, whose semen Athena wiped from her thigh with a fillet of wool cast to earth, by which Gaia was made pregnant. In the contest for patronage of Athens between Poseidon and Athena, the salt spring on the Acropolis where Poseidon’s trident struck was known as the sea of Erechtheus.

The mythic Erechtheus and the historical Erechtheus were fused into one character in Euripides’ lost tragedy Erechtheus (423/22 BCE). The name Erichthonius is carried by a son of Erechtheus, but Plutarch conflated the two names in the myth of the begetting of Erechtheus.

The central gods of the Acropolis of Athens were Poseidon Erechtheus and Athena Polias, “Athena patron-guardian of the city”. The Odyssey (VII.81) already records that Athena returned to Athens and “entered the strong-built house of Erechtheus”.

The archaic joint temple built upon the spot that was identified as the Kekropion, the hero-grave of the mythic founder-king Cecrops and the serpent that embodied his spirit was destroyed by the Persian forces in 480 BC, during the Greco-Persian wars, and was replaced between 421 and 407 BCE by the present Erechtheum.

Continuity of the site made sacred by the presence of Cecrops is inherent in the reference in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca to the Erechtheion lamp as “the lamp of Cecrops”. Priests of the Erechtheum and the priestess of Athena jointly took part in the procession to Skiron that inaugurated the Skira festival near the end of the Athenian year. Their object was the temenos at Skiron of the hero-seer Skiros, who had aided Eumolpus in the war between Athens and Eleusis in which Erechtheus II, the hero-king, was both triumphant and died.

That Poseidon and Erechtheus were two names at Athens for the same figure was demonstrated in the cult at the Erechtheum, where there was a single altar, a single priest and sacrifices were dedicated to Poseidon Erechtheus, Walter Burkert observed, adding “An historian would say that a Homeric, pan-Hellenic name has been superimposed on an autochthonous, non-Greek name.”

Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over grains and the fertility of the earth. Demeter was often considered to be the same figure as the Anatolian goddess Cybele, and in Rome she was identified as the Latin goddess Ceres.

The earliest recorded worship of a deity possibly equivalent to Demeter is found in Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of c. 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos. The tablets describe worship of the “two queens and the king”, which may be related to Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Wanax (wa-na-ka) was her male companion (Greek: Paredros) in Mycenaean cult.

The Arcadian cult links her to the god Poseidon, who probably substituted the male companion of the Great Goddess ; Demeter may therefore be related to a Minoan Great Goddess (Cybele). She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious tradition that predated the Olympian pantheon, and which may have its roots in the Mycenaean period c. 1400–1200 BC.

The Eleusinian Mysteries are believed to be of considerable antiquity. Some findings in the temple Eleusinion in Attica suggest that their basis was an old agrarian cult. Some practices of the mysteries seem to have been influenced by the religious practices of the Mycenaean period and thus predating the Greek Dark Ages. Excavations showed that, a private building existed under the Telesterion in the Mycenean period, and it seems that originally the cult of Demeter was private.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiations held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. One line of thought by modern scholars has been that the Mysteries were intended “to elevate man above the human sphere into the divine and to assure his redemption by making him a god and so conferring immortality upon him”.

Comparative study shows parallels between these Greek rituals and similar systems—some of them older—in the Near East. Such cults include the mysteries of Isis and Osiris in Egypt, the Adoniac of Syrian cults, the Persian mysteries, and the Phrygian Cabeirian mysteries.

Some scholars argued that the Eleusinian cult was a continuation of a Minoan cult, and that Demeter was a poppy goddess who brought the poppy from Crete to Eleusis. Some useful information from the Mycenean period can be taken from the study of the cult of Despoina, (the precursor goddess of Persephone), and the cult of Eileithyia who was the goddess of childbirth.

The megaron of Despoina at Lycosura is quite similar with the Telesterion of Eleusis,[29] and Demeter is united with the god Poseidon, bearing a daughter, the unnamable Despoina (the mistress).[30] In the cave of Amnisos at Crete, the goddess Eileithyia is related with the annual birth of the divine child, and she is connected with Enesidaon (The Earth Shaker), who is the chthonic aspect of Poseidon.

Cecrops

Cecrops was a mythical king of Attica which derived from him its name Cecropia, having previously borne the name of Acte or Actice (from Actaeus). He was the founder and the first king of Athens itself though preceded in the region by the earth-born king Actaeus of Attica. Cecrops was a culture hero, teaching the Athenians marriage, reading and writing, and ceremonial burial.

The name of Cecrops was not of Greek origin according to Strabo, or it might mean ‘tail-face’ (cerc-ops): it was said that, born from the earth itself (an autochthon) and was accordingly called a gegenes (“native”), and described as having his top half shaped like a man and the bottom half in serpent or fish-tail form.

Hence he was called diphues, or of two natures. Diodorus rationalized that his double form was because of his double citizenship, Greek and barbarian. Some ancients referred the epithet to marriage, of which tradition made him the founder.

Apparently Cecrops married Aglaurus, the daughter of Actaeus, former king of the region of Attica, whom he succeeded to the throne. It is disputed that this woman was the mother of Cecrops’s son Erysichthon. Erysichthon predeceased him, and he was succeeded by Cranaus, who is said to have been one of the wealthiest citizens of Athens at that time.

Cecrops was the father of three daughters: Herse, Pandrosus and Aglaurus. To them was given a box or jar containing the infant Erichthonius to guard unseen. They looked, and terrified by the two serpents Athena had set within to guard the child, they fled in terror and leapt from the Acropolis to their deaths. Some accounts say one of the sisters was turned to stone instead.

Cecrops was represented in the Attic legends as the author of the first elements of civilized life such as marriage, the political division of Attica into twelve communities, and also as the introducer of a new mode of worship. He was said to have been the first who deified Zeus, and ordained sacrifices to be offered to him as the supreme Deity.

Cecrops was likewise affirmed to have been the first who built altars and statues of the gods, offered sacrifices, and instituted marriage among the Athenians, who, before his time, it seems, lived promiscuously. Pausanias tells us that he forbade the sacrificing of any living creatures to the gods, as well as any sort of other offering, only allowing cakes (πέλανοι) formed into the shape of an ox with horns, called by the Athenians Pelanous, which signifies an ox.

He is likewise said to have taught his subjects the art of navigation; and, for the better administration of justice and intercourse among them, to have divided them into the four tribes called Cecropis, Autochthon, Actea, and Paralia. Some likewise make him the founder of the areopagus. The Acropolis was also known as the Cecropia in his honor. The Athenians are said to have called themselves Cecropidæ, during the reigns of the five following kings, in his honor.

The name of Cecrops occurs also in other parts of Greece, especially where there existed a town of the name of Athenae, such as in Boeotia, where he is said to have founded the ancient towns of Athenae and Eleusis on the river Triton, and where he had a heroum at Haliartus. Tradition there called him a son of Pandion. In Euboea, which had likewise a town Athenae, Cecrops was called a son of Erechtheus and Praxithea, and a grandson of Pandion.

From these traditions it appears, that Cecrops must be regarded as a hero of the Pelasgian race; and Müller justly remarks, that the different mythical personages of this name connected with the towns in Boeotia and Euboea are only multiplications of the one original hero, whose name and story were transplanted from Attica to other places.

The later Greek writers describe Cecrops as having immigrated into Greece with a band of colonists from Sais in Egypt. But this account is not only rejected by some of the ancients themselves, but by the ablest critics of modem times.

Maat

Maat or Maʽat refers to the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also the goddess who personified these concepts, and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who had brought order from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological opposite was Isfet (Egyptian jzft), meaning injustice, chaos, violence or to do evil.

Seshat

Seshat, under various spellings, was the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. She was seen as a scribe and record keeper, and her name means she who scrivens (i.e. she who is the scribe), and is credited with inventing writing.

She also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying. In art, she was depicted as a woman with a seven-pointed emblem above her head.

It is unclear what this emblem represents. This emblem is the origin of an alternate name for Seshat, Sefkhet-Abwy, which means “seven-horned”. Mistress of the House of Books is another title for Seshat, being the deity whose priests oversaw the library in which scrolls of the most important knowledge were assembled and spells were preserved.

Usually, she is shown holding a palm stem, bearing notches to denote the recording of the passage of time, especially for keeping track of the allotment of time for the life of the pharaoh. She was also depicted holding other tools and, often, holding the knotted cords that were stretched to survey land and structures.

She is frequently shown dressed in a cheetah or leopard hide, a symbol of funerary priests. If not shown with the hide over a dress, the pattern of the dress is that of the spotted feline. The pattern on the natural hide was thought to represent the stars, being a symbol of eternity, and to be associated with the night sky.

As the divine measurer and scribe, Seshat was believed to appear to assist the pharaoh in both of these practices. It was she who recorded, by notching her palm, the time allotted to the pharaoh for his stay on earth.

Seshat assisted the pharaoh in the “stretching the cord” ritual. This ritual is related to laying out the foundations of temples and other important structures in order to determine and assure the sacred alignments and the precision of the dimensions.

Her skills were necessary for surveying the land after the annual floods to reestablish boundary lines. The priestess who officiated at these functions in her name also oversaw the staff of others who performed similar duties and were trained in mathematics and the related store of knowledge.

She also was responsible for recording the speeches the pharaoh made during the crowning ceremony and approving the inventory of foreign captives and goods gained in military campaigns. During the New Kingdom, she was involved in the Sed festival held by the pharaohs who could celebrate thirty years of reign.

Sirrush

Nabu wore a horned cap, and stood with his hands clasped in the ancient gesture of priesthood. He rode on a winged dragon known as Sirrush that originally belonged to his father Marduk.

The mušḫuššu, formerly also read as sirrušu, sirrush or Mushkhushshu, is a creature from ancient Mesopotamian mythology. A mythological hybrid, it is a scaly animal with hind legs resembling the talons of an eagle, lion-like forelimbs, a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snake-like tongue, and a crest. The mušḫuššu most famously appears on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, dating to the sixth century BC.

The form mušḫuššu is the Akkadian nominative of the Sumerian MUŠ.ḪUS, “reddish snake”, sometimes also translated as “fierce snake”. One author, possibly following others, translates it as “splendor serpent” (MUŠ is the Sumerian term for “serpent”. The reading sir-ruššu is due to a mistransliteration in early Assyriology.

The mušḫuššu is the sacred animal of Marduk and his son Nabu during the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It was taken over by Marduk from Tishpak, the local god of Eshnunna. Tishpak, a warrior god possibly identical with the Hurrian god Teshub, was an Akkadian god, who had replaced Ninazu as the tutelary deity of the city of Eshnunna.

The constellation Hydra was known in Babylonian astronomical texts as Bašmu, “the Serpent” (MUL.dMUŠ). It was depicted as having the torso of a fish, a tail of a snake, the fore paws of a lion, the hind legs of an eagle, with wings, and with a head comparable to the mušḫuššu.

Nisaba

Nabu was known as Nisaba (Sumerian: DNAGA; later DŠE.NAGA), the Sumerian goddess of writing, learning, and the harvest, in the Sumerian pantheon. She was worshiped in shrines and sanctuaries at Umma and Ereš, and was often praised by Sumerian scribes. She is considered the patroness of mortal scribes as well as the scribe of the gods. In the Babylonian period, her worship was mainly was redirected towards the god Nabu, who took over her functions.

Nisaba’s worship began in the city of Umma, where she was originally a grain goddess during Early Dynastic Period I, c. 2900–2700 BC. As a grain goddess, she was represented by the symbol of a single stalk of grain. A fragment from a stone vase, probably found in Girsu and held in the British Museum, shows a goddess usually identified as Nisaba (though it could depict Baba or Inanna).

She is depicted with four long curled tresses of hair crowned with a horned headdress supporting ears of wheat and a crescent moon, and holds a bunch of dates. After she became recognized as a goddess of writing, she was described on the Gudea cylinders (c. 2125 BC) as holding a gold stylus and a clay tablet carrying the image of starry heaven.

Nisaba’s transition from being strictly a grain goddess to one also worshiped as patroness of writing and accounting probably took place as modes of writing became more and more important for documenting the buying and selling of grain and other staple goods.

Cuneiform writing itself was seen as a gift handed down from the goddess. As writing itself moved from a simple accounting shorthand to documenting contracts, laws, history, and literature, Nisaba’s worship grew to include these functions. Her worship spread to Ereš, which housed a shrine to her and other deities in the temple, though she does not seem to have had any temples dedicated solely to her worship.

Worship seems to have been conducted primarily via the art of writing, and each composition was seen as a gift for the goddess. Many clay-tablets end with the phrase “Nisaba be praised” (Sumerian: AN.NAGA.ZAG.SAL; Dnisaba za3-mi2) to honor her.

A Hymn to Nisaba composed during the Second Dynasty of Ur begins, “Lady colored like the stars of heaven, holding a lapis lazuli tablet! Nisaba, great wild cow born of Uras, wild sheep nourished on good milk among holy alkaline plants, opening the mouth for seven reeds! Perfectly endowed with fifty great divine powers, my lady, most powerful.”

Nisaba’s worship seems to have declined during the Babylonian period and the reign of Hammurabi in the 18th century BC, during which time goddesses were de-emphasized in favor of gods. By end of the Third Dynasty of Ur, her worship seems to have been mostly replaced by that of Nabu, the male god of writing, who in some sources had Nisaba as his wife, though she continued to be revered alongside him in his temples for millennia.

She continued to be counted alongside Nabu in lists of the gods of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and their widespread veneration protected them from some of the religious persecution that came with new regimes.

However, while the cult of Nabu spread as far as the Mediterranean during the first few centuries AD, worship of Nisaba seems to have remained within Mesopotamia, where it seems to have died out following the fall of the Seleucid Empire in 63 BC, the last period during which she is attested in historical records. This saw Nisaba fall into obscurity and lose influence, her remaining forms of worship likely being suppressed as Christianity spread.

Nisaba serves as the scribe of the gods in Sumerian and later Mesopotamian mythology. The god of wisdom, Enki, who organized the world after creation, gave each deity a role in the world order. He named Nisaba 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. Some pieces of writing, such as the Kesh Temple Hymn (one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the world), were said to have been spoken by the gods and recorded by Nisaba herself.

She is the chief scribe of Nanshe. On the first day of the new year, she and Nanshe work together to settle disputes between mortals and give aid to those in need. Nisaba keeps a record of the visitors seeking aid and then arranges them into a line to stand before Nanshe, who will then judge them. Nisaba is also seen as a caretaker for Ninhursag’s temple at Kesh, where she gives commands and keeps temple records.

As with many Sumerian deities, Nisaba’s exact place in the pantheon and her heritage appears somewhat ambiguous. In the tradition of her original center of worship at Umma, she is held to be the daughter of An and Urash, and the sister of Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh. In the Eresh tradition, she is said to be the daughter of Enlil and Ninlil. In still other sources, she is considered the mother of Ninlil, and by extension, the mother-in-law of Enlil.

Sources beginning in the First Babylonian dynasty (c. 1830 BC – c. 1531 BC) assign Nisaba a husband, named Ḫaya, who is described primarily as a god of scribes, though Ḫaya seems to have originally been little more than a masculine “reflection” of Nisaba.

In one of the Mesopotamian god lists, Ḫaya is called “the Nissaba of Wealth”, counterpart to the female “Nissaba of Wisdom”. His rise to prominence following the end of the Third Dynasty of Ur which marked the end of the Sumerian period and the beginning of the Babylonian period, around the same time as Nabu, came during a time period when many goddesses’ roles were being re-ascribed to gods.

Naga

Nisaba’s name was originally written using a combination of the cuneiform sign called NAGA, and the dingir representing divinity. The NAGA sign is a pictogram representing a stalk of wheat, denoting her as the divinity present within grains.

Although the sign NAGA is sometimes read as Nidaba, Jeremy Black points out that “the name Nisaba (or Nissaba) seems more correct than Nidaba”. She is also known by the epithet Nanibgal (Sumerian: DAN.NAGA; later DAN.ŠE.NAGA), and may have been the same goddess as Nunbarsegunu.

In Sanskrit, a nāgá is a cobra, the Indian cobra (Naja naja). A synonym for nāgá is phaṇin. There are several words for “snake” in general, and one of the very commonly used ones is sarpá. Sometimes the word nāgá is also used generically to mean “snake”. The word is cognate with English ‘snake’, Germanic: *snēk-a-, Proto-IE: *(s)nēg-o- (with s-mobile).

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, the nāga or Nagi are divine, semi-divine deities, or a semi-divine race of half-human half-serpent beings that reside in the netherworld (Patala) and can occasionally take human form.

They are principally depicted in three forms: wholly human with snakes on the heads and necks; common serpents, or as half-human half-snake beings. A female naga is a “nagi”, “nagin”, or “nagini”. Nagaraja is seen as the king of nāgas and nāginis. They are common and hold cultural significance in the mythological traditions of many South Asian and Southeast Asian cultures.

The mythological serpent race that took form as cobras often can be found in Hindu iconography. The nāgas are described as the powerful, splendid, wonderful and proud semidivine race that can assume their physical form either as human, partial human-serpent or the whole serpent.

Their domain is in the enchanted underworld, the underground realm filled with gems, gold and other earthly treasures called Naga-loka or Patala-loka. They are also often associated with bodies of waters — including rivers, lakes, seas, and wells — and are guardians of treasure.

Their power and venom made them potentially dangerous to humans. However, they often took beneficial protagonist role in Hindu mythology, such as in Samudra manthan mythology, Vasuki, a nāgarāja who abides on Shiva’s neck, became the churning rope for churning of the Ocean of Milk. Their eternal mortal enemies are the Garudas, the legendary semidivine birdlike-deities.

Vishnu is originally portrayed in the form sheltered by Śeṣanāga or reclining on Śeṣa, but the iconography has been extended to other deities as well. The serpent is a common feature in Ganesha iconography and appears in many forms: around the neck, use as a sacred thread (Sanskrit: yajñyopavīta) wrapped around the stomach as a belt, held in a hand, coiled at the ankles, or as a throne. Shiva is often shown garlanded with a snake. Patanjali is thought to be a manifestation of the serpent of eternity.

Atargatis

Atargatis or Ataratheh, whom Lucian calls Hera, was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity. Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. Michael Rostovtzeff called her “the great mistress of the North Syrian lands”. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite.

The etymology of the name Atargatis points to a connection with “Astarte” (Ishtar), “Ata” (Anath), and this in turn suggests that Atargatis was a syncretistic figure which incorporated elements of many Near Eastern fertility divinities.

Asherah, in ancient Semitic religion, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ašratu(m) (Ashratum), and in Hittite as Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʾAṯiratu (Athirat).

Asherah is identified as the queen consort of the Sumerian god Anu, and Ugaritic ʾEl, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons, as well as Yahweh, the god of Israel and Judah. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon.

The name Dione, which like ʾElat means ‘goddess’, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (ʾElat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit. The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “queen of heaven” in Jeremiah 7:16–18 and Jeremiah 44:17–19, 25.

The picture given us by Lucian is characteristic of the worship not only of Astarte-Ishtar, but also of Aphrodite, Cybele, Ashera, Isis, and Caelestis. The representation of Atargatis as half woman/half fish, the emphasis on water (an essential element in the process of fertilization) and the sea, and their common titles “Urania” (“Heavenly”) and “Queen of Heaven,” points to a theology which was shared by many cults of fertility goddesses.

Atargatis is seen as a continuation of Bronze Age goddesses. At Ugarit, cuneiform tablets attest the three great Canaanite goddesses. These shared many traits with each other and may have been worshipped in conjunction or separately during 1500 years of cultural history.

It was Aṭirat, described as a fecund “Lady Goddess of the Sea” (rabbatu ʾat̪iratu yammi) and is identified with Asherah, Anat, the war-like virgin goddess. and Ațtart, the goddess of love, namesake of the Phoenician goddess Aštart, called Astarte in Greek.

In many cases Atargatis, ‘Ashtart, and other goddesses who once had independent cults and mythologies became fused to such an extent as to be indistinguishable. This fusion is exemplified by the Carnion temple, which is probably identical with the famous temple of ‘Ashtart at Ashtaroth-Karnaim.

In Akkadian, the form one would expect Anat to take would be Antu, earlier Antum. This would also be the normal feminine form that would be taken by Anu, the Akkadian form of An ‘Sky’, the Sumerian god of heaven. Antu appears in Akkadian texts mostly as a rather colorless consort of Anu, the mother of Ishtar in the Gilgamesh story, but is also identified with the northwest Semitic goddess ‘Anat of essentially the same name.

It is unknown whether this is an equation of two originally separate goddesses whose names happened to fall together or whether Anat’s cult spread to Mesopotamia, where she came to be worshipped as Anu’s spouse because the Mesopotamian form of her name suggested she was a counterpart to Anu.

It has also been suggested that the parallelism between the names of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, and her West Semitic counterpart, Ishtar, continued in Canaanite tradition as Anath and Astarte, particularly in the poetry of Ugarit.

The two goddesses were invariably linked in Ugaritic scripture and are also known to have formed a triad (known from sculpture) with a third goddess who was given the name/title of Qadesh (meaning “the holy one”).

Ctesias also used the name Derketo for her, and the Romans called her Dea Syria, or in one word Deasura. Primarily she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat (“mistress”) of her city and people, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being.

Her consort is usually Hadad, also known as Adad or Iškur (Sumerian), the storm and rain god in the Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian religions. They are the protecting deities of the community. Atargatis, wearing a mural crown, is the ancestor the royal house, the founder of social and religious life, the goddess of generation and fertility (hence the prevalence of phallic emblems), and the inventor of useful appliances.

By the conjunction of these many functions, despite originating as a sea deity analogous to Amphitrite, she becomes ultimately a great nature-goddess, analogous to Cybele and Rhea: In one aspect she typifies the protection of water in producing life; in another, the universal of other-earth; in a third (influenced, no doubt, by Chaldean astrology), the power of Destiny. She was also identified with Hera by Lucian in his De Dea Syria.

Hadad is usually written with the logogram dIM – the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. He was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.

The bull was his symbolic animal. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. He was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

As Ataratheh, doves and fish were considered sacred to her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, and fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters. She is sometimes described as a mermaid-goddess, due to identification of her with a fish-bodied goddess at Ascalon. However, there is no evidence that Atargatis was worshipped at Ascalon, and all iconographic evidence shows her as anthropomorphic.

The name Atargatis derives from the Aramaic form ʿAtarʿatheh, which comes in several variants. The name ʿAtarʿatheh is widely held to derive from a compound of the Aramaic form ʿAttar, which is a cognate of ʿAțtart minus its feminine suffix -t, plus ʿAttah or ʿAtā, a cognate of ʿAnat.

It has also been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados “fish”. For example, the Greek name for “sea monster” or “whale” is the cognate term ketos). So Atar-Gatis may simply mean “the fish-goddess Atar”.

As a consequence of the first half of the name, Atargatis has frequently, though wrongly, been identified as ‘Ashtart. The two deities were probably of common origin and have many features in common, but their cults are historically distinct.

In the 1930s, numerous Nabatean bas-relief busts of Atargatis were identified by Nelson Glueck at Khirbet et-Tannûr, Jordan, in temple ruins of the early first century CE; there the lightly veiled goddess’s lips and eyes had once been painted red, and a pair of fish confronted one another above her head. Her wavy hair, suggesting water to Glueck, was parted in the middle.

At her temples at Ascalon, Hierapolis Bambyce, and Edessa, there were fish ponds containing fish only her priests might touch. Glueck noted in 1936 that “to this day there is a sacred fish-pond swarming with untouchable fish at Qubbet el-Baeddwī, a dervish monastery three kilometres east of Tripolis, Lebanon.” The fishpond of fish sacred to Atargatis survives at Şanlıurfa, the ancient Edessa, its mythology transferred to Ibrahim.

The legends are numerous and of an astrological character. A rationale for the Syrian dove-worship and abstinence from fish is seen in the story in Athenaeus 8.37, where Atargatis is naively explained to mean “without Gatis”, the name of a queen who is said to have forbidden the eating of fish.

Thus Diodorus Siculus (2.4.2), quoting Ctesias, tells how Derceto fell in love with a youth and became by him the mother of a child and how in shame Derceto flung herself into a lake near Ascalon and her body was changed into the form of a fish though her head remained human.

Derceto’s child grew up to become Semiramis, the Assyrian queen. In another story, told by Hyginus, an egg fell from the sky into the Euphrates, was rolled onto land by fish, doves settled on it and hatched it, and Venus, known as the Syrian goddess, came forth.

The author of Catasterismi explained the constellation of Piscis Austrinus as the parent of the two fish making up the constellation of Pisces; according to that account, it was placed in the heavens in memory of Derceto’s fall into the lake at Hierapolis Bambyce near the Euphrates in Syria, from which she was saved by a large fish — which again is intended to explain the Syrian abstinence from fish.

Ovid in his Metamorphoses (5.331) relates that Venus took the form of a fish to hide from Typhon. In his Fasti (2.459-.474) Ovid instead relates how Dione, by whom Ovid intends Venus/Aphrodite, fleeing from Typhon with her child Cupid/Eros came to the river Euphrates in Syria.

Hearing the wind suddenly rise and fearing that it was Typhon, the goddess begged aid from the river nymphs and leapt into the river with her son. Two fish bore them up and were rewarded by being transformed into the constellation Pisces — and for that reason the Syrians will eat no fish.

During the Roman era, eunuch priests worshipped Atargatis. Similar to the Galli priests of Cybele. At the shrine in Hieropolis founded by Semiramis, eunuch priests served the image of a fish-tailed woman. Rituals to the goddess were accompanied by flute playing and rattle shaking. In one rite, young males castrated themselves to become cross-dressing priests at the temple and thereafter performed tasks usually done by women.

According to a third-century Syriac source, “In Syria and in Urhâi [Edessa] the men used to castrate themselves in honor of Taratha. But when King Abgar became a believer, he commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day to the present no one in Urhâi emasculates himself anymore.”

Adam

Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible and in the creation story of the Quran. According to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, he was the first man. The word adam is also used in the Bible as a pronoun, individually as “a human” and in a collective sense as “mankind”. Biblical Adam (man, mankind) is created from adamah (earth), and Genesis 1–8 makes considerable play of the bond between them, for Adam is estranged from the earth through his disobedience.

In both Genesis and Quran, Adam and his wife were expelled from a Garden of Eden for eating the fruit of a tree forbidden by Yahweh or Allah, though various names are different, as is the sequence of events, the consequences of this disobedience, and Adam’s later biography.

The majority view among scholars is that the book of Genesis dates from the Persian period (the 5th and 4th centuries BCE), but the absence from the rest of the Hebrew Bible of all the other characters and incidents mentioned in chapters 1–11 of Genesis, (Adam appears only in chapters 1–5, with the exception of a mention at the beginning of the Books of Chronicles where, as in Genesis, he heads the list of Israel’s ancestors) has led a sizable minority to the conclusion that Genesis 1–11 was composed much later, possibly in the 3rd century BCE.

The Bible uses the word אָדָם ( ‘adam ) in all of its senses: collectively (“mankind”, Genesis 1:27), individually (a “man”, Genesis 2:7), gender nonspecific (“man and woman”, Genesis 5:1-2), and male (Genesis 2:23-24).

In Genesis 1:27 “adam” is used in the collective sense, and the interplay between the individual “Adam” and the collective “humankind” is a main literary component to the events that occur in the Garden of Eden, the ambiguous meanings embedded throughout the moral, sexual, and spiritual terms of the narrative reflecting the complexity of the human condition.

Genesis 2:7 is the first verse where “Adam” takes on the sense of an individual man (the first man), and the context of sex is absent; the gender distinction of “adam” is then reiterated in Genesis 5:1–2 by defining “male and female”.

A recurring literary motif is the bond between Adam and the earth (adamah): God creates Adam by molding him out of clay in the final stages of the creation narrative. After the loss of innocence, God curses Adam and the earth as punishment for his disobedience. Adam and humanity are cursed to die and return to the earth (or ground) from which he was formed.

This “earthly” aspect is a component of Adam’s identity, and Adam’s curse of estrangement from the earth seems to describe humankind’s divided nature of being earthly yet separated from nature. God himself, who took of the dust from all four corners of the earth with each color (red, black, white, and green), then created Adam therewith, where the soul of Adam is the image of God.

Genesis 1 tells of God’s creation of the world and its creatures, with humankind as the last of his creatures: “Male and female created He them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam …” (Genesis 5:2). God blesses mankind, commands them to “be fruitful and multiply”, and gives them “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1.26-27).

In Genesis 2, God forms “Adam”, this time meaning a single male human, out of “the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). God then places this first man in the Garden of Eden, telling him that “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

God notes that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and brings the animals to Adam, who gives them their names, but among all the animals there was not found a companion for him (Genesis 2:20). God causes a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and forms a woman (Genesis 2:21-22), and Adam awakes and greets her as his helpmate.

Genesis 3, the story of the Fall: A serpent persuades the woman to disobey God’s command and eat of the tree of knowledge, which gives wisdom. Woman convinces Adam to do likewise, whereupon they become conscious of their nakedness, cover themselves, and hide from the sight of God.

God questions Adam, who blames the woman. God passes judgment, first upon the serpent, condemned to go on his belly, then the woman, condemned to pain in childbirth and subordination to her husband, and finally Adam, who is condemned to labour on the earth for his food and to return to it on his death. God then expels the man and woman from the garden, lest they eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal.

The chiastic structure of the death oracle given to Adam in Genesis 3:19 forms a link between man’s creation from “dust” (Genesis 2:7) to the “return” of his beginnings.

Genesis 4 deals with the birth of Adam’s sons Cain and Abel and the story of the first murder, followed by the birth of a third son, Seth. Genesis 5, the Book of the Generations of Adam, lists the descendants of Adam from Seth to Noah with their ages at the birth of their first sons (except Adam himself, for whom his age at the birth of Seth, his third son, is given) and their ages at death (Adam lives 930 years). The chapter notes that Adam had other sons and daughters after Seth, but does not name them.

Adam

Tree of the knowledge

Various trees of life are recounted in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality or fertility. They had their origin in religious symbolism. The tree of life is a widespread myth (mytheme) or archetype in the world’s mythologies, related to the concept of sacred tree more generally, and hence in religious and philosophical tradition.

In the Avestan literature and Iranian mythology, there are several sacred vegetal icons related to life, eternality and cure, like: Amesha Spenta Amordad (guardian of plants, goddess of trees and immortality), Gaokerena (or white Haoma, a tree that its vivacity would certify continuance of life in universe), Bas tokhmak (a tree with remedial attribute, retentive of all herbal seeds, and destroyer of sorrow), Mashyа and Mashyane (parents of the human race in Iranian myths), Barsom (copped offshoots of pomegranate, gaz or Haoma that Zoroastrians use in their rituals), Haoma (a plant, unknown today, that was source of sacred potable), etc.

Gaokerena is a large, sacred Haoma planted by Ahura Mazda. Ahriman (Ahreman, Angremainyu) created a frog to invade the tree and destroy it, aiming to prevent all trees from growing on the earth. As a reaction, Ahura Mazda created two kar fish staring at the frog to guard the tree. The two fish are always staring at the frog and stay ready to react to it. Because Ahriman is responsible for all evil including death, while Ahura Mazda is responsible for all good (including life).

Haoma is another sacred plant due to the drink made from it. The preparation of the drink from the plant by pounding and the drinking of it are central features of Zoroastrian ritual. Haoma also personified Frick Gilliam as a divinity. It bestows essential vital qualities—health, fertility, husbands for maidens, even immortality.

The source of the earthly haoma plant is a shining white tree that grows on a paradisiacal mountain. Sprigs of this white haoma were brought to earth by divine birds. The tree is considerably diverse. Haoma is the Avestan form of the Sanskrit soma. The near identity of the two in ritual significance is considered by scholars to point to a salient feature of an Indo-Iranian religion antedating Zoroastrianism.

Another related issue in ancient mythology of Iran is the myth of Mashyа and Mashyane, two trees who were the ancestors of all living beings. This myth can be considered as a prototype for the creation myth where living beings are created by Gods (who have a human form).

The Assyrian tree of life was represented by a series of nodes and criss-crossing lines. It was apparently an important religious symbol, often attended to in Assyrian palace reliefs by human or eagle-headed winged genies, or the King, and blessed or fertilized with bucket and cone.

Assyriologists have not reached consensus as to the meaning of this symbol. The name “Tree of Life” has been attributed to it by modern scholarship; it is not used in the Assyrian sources. In fact, no textual evidence pertaining to the symbol is known to exist.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a similar quest for immortality. In Mesopotamian mythology, Etana searches for a ‘plant of birth’ to provide him with a son. This has a solid provenance of antiquity, being found in cylinder seals from Akkad (2390–2249 BCE).

In ancient Urartu, the tree of life was a religious symbol and was drawn on walls of fortresses and carved on the armor of warriors. The branches of the tree were equally divided on the right and left sides of the stem, with each branch having one leaf, and one leaf on the apex of the tree. Servants stood on each side of the tree with one of their hands up as if they are taking care of the tree.

Tree of life

The tree of knowledge

The tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree, and are portrayed in various religions and philosophies as the same tree.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is one of two specific trees in the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2–3, along with the tree of life. Genesis 2 narrates that God places the first man and woman in a garden with trees of whose fruits they may eat, but forbids them to eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” When, in Genesis 3, a serpent persuades the woman to eat from its forbidden fruit and she also lets the man taste it, God expels them from the garden and thereby from eternal life.

The phrase in Hebrew: tov wa-raʿ, literally translates as good and evil. This may be an example of the type of figure of speech known as merism, a literary device that pairs opposite terms together in order to create a general meaning, so that the phrase “good and evil” would simply imply “everything.”

This is seen in the Egyptian expression evil-good, which is normally employed to mean “everything.” In Greek literature, Homer also uses the device when he lets Telemachus say, “I know all things, the good and the evil” (Od.20:309-10).

However, if tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to be understood to mean a tree whose fruit imparts knowledge of everything, this phrase does not necessarily denote a moral concept. This view is held by several scholars.

Given the context of disobedience to God, other interpretations of the implications of this phrase also demand consideration. Robert Alter emphasizes the point that when God forbids the man to eat from that particular tree, he says that if he does so, he is “doomed to die.” The Hebrew behind this is in a form regularly used in the Hebrew Bible for issuing death sentences.

A cylinder seal, known as the Adam and Eve cylinder seal, from post-Akkadian periods in Mesopotamia (c. 23rd-22nd century BCE), has been linked to the Adam and Eve story.

Assyriologist George Smith (1840-1876) describes the seal as having two facing figures (male and female) seated on each side of a tree, holding out their hands to the fruit, while between their backs is a serpent, giving evidence that the fall of man account was known in early times of Babylonia.

The British Museum disputes this interpretation and holds that it is a common image from the period depicting a male deity being worshipped by a woman, with no reason to connect the scene with the Book of Genesis.

In Jewish tradition, the Tree of Knowledge and the eating of its fruit represents the beginning of the mixture of good and evil together. Before that time, the two were separate, and evil had only a nebulous existence in potential.

While free choice did exist before eating the fruit, evil existed as an entity separate from the human psyche, and it was not in human nature to desire it. Eating and internalizing the forbidden fruit changed this and thus was born the yeitzer hara, the Evil Inclination.

In Rashi’s notes on Genesis 3:3, the first sin came about because Eve added an additional clause to the Divine command: Neither shall you touch it. By saying this, Eve added to YHWH’s command and thereby came to detract from it, as it is written: Do not add to His Words (Proverbs 30:6).

In Kabbalah, the sin of the Tree of Knowledge (called Cheit Eitz HaDa’at) brought about the great task of beirurim, sifting through the mixture of good and evil in the world to extract and liberate the sparks of holiness trapped therein.

Since evil has no independent existence, it depends on holiness to draw down the Divine life-force, on whose “leftovers” it then feeds and derives existence. Once evil is separated from holiness through beirurim, its source of life is cut off, causing the evil to disappear.

This is accomplished through observance of the 613 commandments in the Torah, which deal primarily with physical objects wherein good and evil are mixed together. Thus, the task of beirurim rectifies the sin of the Tree and draws the Shechinah back down to earth, where the sin of the Tree had caused Her to depart.

In Christian tradition, consuming the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the sin committed by Adam and Eve that led to the fall of man in Genesis 3. In Catholicism, Augustine of Hippo taught that the tree should be understood both symbolically and as a real tree – similarly to Jerusalem being both a real city and a figure of Heavenly Jerusalem.

Augustine underlined that the fruits of that tree were not evil by themselves, because everything that God created was good (Gen 1:12). It was disobedience of Adam and Eve, who had been told by God not to eat of the tree (Gen 2:17), that caused disorder in the creation, thus humanity inherited sin and guilt from Adam and Eve’s sin.

In Western Christian art, the fruit of the tree is commonly depicted as the apple, which originated in central Asia. This depiction may have originated as a Latin pun: by eating the mālum (apple), Eve contracted malum (evil).

The Quran never refers to the tree as the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil” but rather typically refers to it as “the tree” or (in the words of Iblis) as the “tree of immortality.” The tree in Quran is used as an example for a concept, idea, way of life or code of life. A good concept/idea is represented as a good tree and a bad idea/concept is represented as a bad tree.

Muslims believe that when God created Adam and Eve, he told them that they could enjoy everything in the Garden except this tree(idea, concept, way of life), and so, Satan appeared to them and told them that the only reason God forbade them to eat from that tree is that they would become Angels or they start using the idea/concept of Ownership in conjunction with inheritance generations after generations which Iblis convinced Adam to accept.

When they ate from this tree their nakedness appeared to them and they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden. The Arabic word used is ورق which also means currency/notes. Which means they started to use currency due to ownership.

As Allah already mentioned that everything in Heaven is free(so eat from where you desire) so using currency to uphold the idea of ownership became the reason for the slip. The Quran mentions the sin as being a ‘slip’, and after this ‘slip’ they were sent to the destination they were intended to be on – Earth.

Consequently, they repented to God and asked for his forgiveness and were forgiven. It was decided that those who obey God and follow his path shall be rewarded with everlasting life in Jannah, and those who disobey God and stray away from his path shall be punished in Jahannam.

God in Quran (Al-A’raf 27) states: “[O] Children of Adam! Let not Satan tempt you as he brought your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their garments to show them their shameful parts. Surely he [Satan] sees you, he and his tribe, from where you see them not. We have made the Satans the friends of those who do not believe.”

Adapa

Adapa was a Mesopotamian mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. Adapa was a mortal man, a sage or priest of the temple of Ea in the city of Eridu. Ea (sometimes considered his father) had given Adapa the gift of great wisdom but not eternal life.

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).

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 Ea aided him by instructing Adapa to gain the sympathy of Tammuz and Gishzida, 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 the clothes on and anoint himself.

Adapa puts on mourning garments, tells Tammuz and Gishzida 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 Ea told him not to.

Anu laughs at Ea’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) may allay. Adapa is then sent back down to earth. The ending of the text is missing.

When the story of Adapa was first rediscovered some scholars saw a resemblance with the story of the biblical Adam, such as Albert Tobias Clay. Later scholars such as Alexander Heidel (“The Adapa legend and the Biblical story (of Adam) are fundamentally as far apart as antipodes”) rejected this connection.

However, potential connections are still (1981) considered worthy of analysis. Possible parallels and connections include similarity in names, including the possible connection of both the same word root; both myths include a test involving the eating of purportedly deadly food; and both are summoned before god to answer for their transgressions.

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. Apkallu (Akkadian) and Abgal (Sumerian) are terms found in cuneiform inscriptions that in general mean either “wise” or “sage.” There is some evidence for that connection, but the name “adapa” may have also been used as an epithet, meaning “wise”.

In several contexts the Apkallu are seven demi-gods, sometimes described as part man and part fish, associated with human wisdom; these creatures are often referred to in scholarly literature as the Seven Sages. The terms Apkallu (as well as Abgal) is also used as an epithet for kings and gods as a mark of wisdom or knowledge.

A further use of the term Apkallu is when referring to figurines used in apotropaic rituals; these figurines include fish-man hybrids representing the seven sages, but also include bird-headed and other figures.

Caduceus

The caduceus (from Greek: kērū́keion “herald’s wand, or staff”) is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology and consequently by Hermes Trismegistus in Greco-Egyptian mythology. The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera.

It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography, it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead, and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves.

Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus has its roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida; whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it, dates back to 4000 BC to 3000 BC.

As a symbolic object, it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations, or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury.

Thus, through its use in astrology, alchemy, and astronomy it has come to denote the planet and elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life.

By extension of its association with Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals.

This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. The caduceus is also used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).

The caduceus is often incorrectly used as a symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice, particularly in the United States of America, due to confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which has only one snake and is never depicted with wings.

Snake god

The behaviour of snakes and their facial features (e.g. the unblinking, lidless eyes) seemed to imply that they were intelligent, that they lived by reason and not instinct, and yet their thought-processes were as alien to humans as their ways of movement.

In most cultures snakes were symbolic and symbols of healing and transformation, but in some cultures snakes were fertility symbols, for example the Hopi people of North America performed an annual snake dance to celebrate the union of Snake Youth (a Sky spirit) and Snake Girl (an Underworld spirit) and to renew fertility of Nature.

During the dance, live snakes were handled and at the end of the dance the snakes were released into the fields to guarantee good crops. “The snake dance is a prayer to the spirits of the clouds, the thunder and the lightning, that the rain may fall on the growing crops..”

In other cultures snakes symbolised the umbilical cord, joining all humans to Mother Earth. The Great Goddess often had snakes as her familiars—sometimes twining around her sacred staff, as in ancient Crete—and they were worshipped as guardians of her mysteries of birth and regeneration.

Ištaran (also Gusilim) was the local deity of the city of Der, a Sumerian city state positioned east of the Tigris on the border between Sumer and Elam. His cult flourished from the Early Dynastic III Period until the Middle Babylonian Period, after which his name is no longer attested in the personal names of individuals.

The beast and symbol of Ištaran, as frequently represented on kudurrus, is a snake (presumably representing Nirah, the snake god who acted as Ištaran’s minister). The consort of Ištaran was known simply as Šarrat-Deri: “the queen of Der”. As early as the Early Dynastic period, Ištaran was being called upon as a god who might abjudicate in an inter-city border dispute between Umma and Lagaš.

In Sumerian religion, Nirah is the sukkal, or personal attendant, of Ištaran, the local god of the Sumerian city-state of Der. He was identified with snakes and may appear in the form of a snake on kudurrus (boundary stones).

Representations of two intertwined serpents are common in Sumerian art and Neo-Sumerian artwork and still appear sporadically on cylinder seals and amulets until as late as the thirteenth century BC. The horned viper (Cerastes cerastes) appears in Kassite and Neo-Assyrian kudurrus and is invoked in Assyrian texts as a magical protective entity.

A dragon-like creature with horns, the body and neck of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, and the hind-legs of a bird appears in Mesopotamian art from the Akkadian Period until the Hellenistic Period (323 BC–31 BC). This creature, known in Akkadian as the mušḫuššu, meaning “furious serpent”, was used as a symbol for particular deities and also as a general protective emblem.

It seems to have originally been the attendant of the Underworld god Ninazu, but later became the attendant to the Hurrian storm-god Tishpak, as well as, later, Ninazu’s son Ningishzida, the Babylonian national god Marduk, the scribal god Nabu, and the Assyrian national god Ashur.

Ningishzida (sum: dnin-g̃iš-zid-da) is a Mesopotamian deity of vegetation and the underworld. Thorkild Jacobsen translates Ningishzida as Sumerian for “lord of the good tree”. In Sumerian mythology, he appears in Adapa’s myth as one of the two guardians of Anu’s celestial palace, alongside Dumuzi. He was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head.

In Mesopotamian mythology Ningishzida, is sometimes depicted as a serpent with horns. In other depictions, he is shown as human but is accompanied by bashmu, horned serpents. Ningishzida shares the epithet ushumgal, “great serpent”, with several other Mesopotamian gods.

The ram-horned serpent is a well-attested cult image of north-west Europe before and during the Roman period. It appears three times on the Gundestrup cauldron, and in Romano-Celtic Gaul was closely associated with the horned or antlered god Cernunnos, in whose company it is regularly depicted.

A bronze image at Étang-sur-Arroux and a stone sculpture at Sommerécourt depict Cernunnos’ body encircled by two horned snakes that feed from bowls of fruit and corn-mash in the god’s lap. Also at Sommerécourt is a sculpture of a goddess holding a cornucopia and a pomegranate, with a horned serpent eating from a bowl of food. According to Miranda Green, the snakes reflect the peaceful nature of the god, associated with nature and fruitfulness, and perhaps accentuate his association with regeneration.

At Yzeures-sur-Creuse a carved youth has a ram-horned snake twined around his legs, with its head at his stomach. At Cirencester, Gloucestershire, Cernunnos’ legs are two snakes which rear up on each side of his head and are eating fruit or corn.

Other deities occasionally accompanied by ram-horned serpents include “Celtic Mars” and “Celtic Mercury”. The horned snake, and also conventional snakes, appear together with the solar wheel, apparently as attributes of the sun or sky god.

Enki

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.

Early royal inscriptions from the third millennium BCE mention “the reeds of Enki”. Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried. This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology.

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. In another even older 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'”.

In the Garden of Paradise

The cosmogenic myth common in Sumer was that of the hieros gamos, a sacred marriage where divine principles in the form of dualistic opposites came together as male and female to give birth to the cosmos.

In the epic Enki and Ninhursag, Enki, as lord of Ab or fresh water (also the Sumerian word for semen), is living with his wife in the paradise of Dilmun. Despite being a place where “the raven uttered no cries” and “the lion killed not, the wolf snatched not the lamb, unknown was the kid-killing dog, unknown was the grain devouring boar”, Dilmun had no water.

Enki heard the cries of its goddess, Ninsikil, and orders the sun-god Utu to bring fresh water from the Earth for Dilmun. Dilmun was identified with Bahrain, whose name in Arabic means “two seas”, where the fresh waters of the Arabian aquifer mingle with the salt waters of the Persian Gulf.

This mingling of waters was known in Sumerian as Nammu, and was identified as the mother of Enki. The subsequent tale, with similarities to the Biblical story of the forbidden fruit, repeats the story of how fresh water brings life to a barren land.

Enki, the Water-Lord then “caused to flow the ‘water of the heart” and having fertilised his consort Ninhursag, also known as Ki or Earth, after “Nine days being her nine months, the months of ‘womanhood’… like good butter, Nintu, the mother of the land, …like good butter, gave birth to Ninsar, (Lady Greenery)”.

When Ninhursag left him, as Water-Lord he came upon Ninsar (Lady Greenery). Not knowing her to be his daughter, and because she reminds him of his absent consort, Enki then seduces and has intercourse with her. Ninsar then gave birth to Ninkurra (Lady Fruitfulness or Lady Pasture), and leaves Enki alone again.

A second time, Enki, in his loneliness finds and seduces Ninkurra, and from the union Ninkurra gave birth to Uttu (weaver or spider, the weaver of the web of life). A third time Enki succumbs to temptation, and attempts seduction of Uttu. Upset about Enki’s reputation, Uttu consults Ninhursag, who, upset at the promiscuous wayward nature of her spouse, advises Uttu to avoid the riverbanks, the places likely to be affected by flooding, the home of Enki.

In another version of this myth Ninhursag takes Enki’s semen from Uttu’s womb and plants it in the earth where eight plants rapidly germinate. With his two-faced servant and steward Isimud, “Enki, in the swampland, in the swampland lies stretched out, ‘What is this (plant), what is this (plant).’

His messenger Isimud, answers him; ‘My king, this is the tree-plant’, he says to him. He cuts it off for him and he (Enki) eats it”. And so, despite warnings, Enki consumes the other seven fruit. Consuming his own semen, he falls pregnant (ill with swellings) in his jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his hip, his throat, his limbs, his side and his rib.

The gods are at a loss to know what to do; chagrined they “sit in the dust”. As Enki lacks a birth canal through which to give birth, he seems to be dying with swellings. The fox then asks Enlil, King of the Gods, “If I bring Ninhursag before thee, what shall be my reward?” Ninhursag’s sacred fox then fetches the goddess.

Ninhursag relents and takes Enki’s Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body: Abu for the jaw, Nintul for the hip, Ninsutu for the tooth, Ninkasi for the mouth, Dazimua for the side, Enshagag for the limbs.

The last one, Ninti (Lady Rib), is also a pun on Lady Life, a title of Ninhursag herself. The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess.

Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means “the mother of all living”, and was a title later given to the Hurrian goddess Kheba. This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah (חוה), who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam – not Enki – walks in the Garden of Paradise.

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The Pillar, the World Tree and the Kundalini

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 27, 2019

Bilderesultat for Asherah Pole

Bilderesultat for Asherah Pole

Relatert bilde

Relatert bilde

Asherah, Part I: The lost bride of Yahweh

Asherah, Part II: The serpent’s bride

Hermetic Principles by Zapista Zapista

Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah: Continuity of a Goddess symbol in Judaism?

Why the Bible says Jesus was crucified on a cross, hung on a tree as well as impaled on a stake, or pole

True Word of Yahuah & Reality: The worship of Asherah poles are Still In Effect Today

Sacred grove

A sacred grove or sacred woods are any grove of trees that are of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves feature in various cultures throughout the world. They were important features of the mythological landscape and cult practice of Celtic, Baltic, Germanic, ancient Greek, Near Eastern, Roman, and Slavic polytheism, and continue to occur in locations such as India, Japan, and West Africa.

Examples of sacred groves include the Greco-Roman temenos, various Germanic words for sacred groves, and the Celtic nemeton, which was largely but not exclusively associated with Druidic practice. During the Northern Crusades, there was a common practice of building churches on the sites of sacred groves. Singular trees which a community deems to hold religious significance are known as sacred trees.

Asherah Pole

Biblical references to “Asherah” refer to a type of sacred pillar or tree that was erected next to Canaanite or Israelite altars in many places. These trees or groves were associated with sacred prostitution of the Canaanite fertility cult. It is connected with the cosmic or World Tree usually conceived at the centre of the earth with its roots in the Underworld and crown in Heaven.

It is also connected closely with the Menorah, described in the Bible as the seven-lamp (six branches) ancient Hebrew lampstand made of pure gold and used in the portable sanctuary set up by Moses in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fresh olive oil of the purest quality was burned daily to light its lamps. The menorah has been a symbol of Judaism since ancient times and is the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel.

An Asherah pole is a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the Ugaritic mother-goddess Asherah, consort of El. Ugaritic amulets show a miniature “tree of life” growing out of Asherah’s belly. The relation of the literary references to an asherah and archaeological finds of Judaean pillar-figurines has engendered a literature of debate.

The asherim were also cult objects related to the worship of the fertility goddess Asherah, the consort of either Ba’al or, as inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom attest, Yahweh, and thus objects of contention among competing cults.

Kuntillet Ajrud is a late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE site in the northeast part of the Sinai Peninsula while Khirbet el-Qom was an archaeological site from the West Bank, in the territory of the biblical kingdom of Judah, between Lachish and Hebron, 14 km to the west of the latter.

Kuntillet Ajrud was excavated in 1975/76 by Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze’ev Meshel. The fortress-like main building is divided into two rooms, one large and the other small, both with low benches. Both rooms contained various paintings and inscriptions on the walls and on two large water-jars (pithoi), one found in each room.

The paintings on the pithoi show various animals, stylised trees, and human figures, some of which may represent gods. They appear to have been done over a fairly considerable period and by several different artists, and do not form coherent scenes. The iconography is entirely Syrian/Phoenician and lacks any connection to the Egyptian models commonly found in Iron Age IIB Israel art.

The inscriptions are mostly in early Hebrew with some in Phoenician script. Many are religious in nature, invoking Yahweh, El and Baal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.”

There is general agreement that Yahweh is being invoked in connection with Samaria (capital of the kingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom); this suggests that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, and raises a question over the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god of Edom.

The “Asherah” is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of El, is unclear.

An image on the piece of pottery (belonging to a pithos vase) found at Kuntillet Ajrud is adjacent to a Hebrew inscription “Berakhti etkhem l’YHVH Shomron ul’Asherato” (“I have blessed you by Yahweh of Samaria and [his] Asherah”).

Scholars disputed about the meaning and the significance of this. The two figures portrayed are generally identifiable as representing the Egyptian god Bes. Also, it is believed that part of this image was drawn after the inscription was written, namely the figure labeled as S (the leftmost humanoid figure depicted).

Bes (also spelled as Bisu), together with his feminine counterpart Beset, is an Ancient Egyptian deity worshipped as a protector of households and, in particular, of mothers, children and childbirth. Bes later came to be regarded as the defender of everything good and the enemy of all that is bad.

While past studies identified Bes as a Middle Kingdom import from Nubia or Somalia, more recent research indicates that he was present in Egypt since the Old Kingdom.

Mentions of Bes can be traced to pre-dynastic Nile Valley cultures[citation needed]; however his cult did not become widespread until the beginning of the New Kingdom. Worship of Bes spread as far north as the area of Syria, and later into the Roman and Achaemenid Empires.

In translations of the Hebrew Bible that render the Hebrew asherim into English as “Asherah poles,” the insertion of “pole” begs the question by setting up unwarranted expectations for such a wooden object: “we are never told exactly what it was”, observes John Day.

The traditional interpretation of the Biblical text is that the Israelites imported pagan elements such as the Asherah poles from the surrounding Canaanites. In light of archeological finds, however, modern scholars now theorize that the Israelite folk religion was Canaanite in its inception and always polytheistic, and it was the prophets and priests who denounced the Asherah poles who were the innovators; such theories inspire ongoing debate.

Accordingly, Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible, rendered as palus sacer (sacred poles) in the Latin Vulgate. Asherah poles were prohibited by the Deuteronomic Code which commanded “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God”.

The prohibition, as Dever notes, is also a testament that some people were putting up Asherah poles beside Yahweh’s altars (cf. 2 Kings 21:7). Another significant biblical reference occurs in the legend of Deborah, a female ruler of Israel who held court under a sacred tree (Judges 4:5), which was preserved for many generations.

Morrow further notes that the “funeral pillars of the kings” described by Ezekiel (43:9, variously translated as “funeral offerings” or even “carcasses of the kings”) were likely constructed of sacred wood, since the prophet connects them with “prostitution.”

Like the dove and tree, the lioness made a ubiquitous symbol for goddesses of the ancient Middle East. Lionesses figure prominently in Asherah’s iconography, including the 10th century BC Ta’anach cult stand, which also includes the tree motif. A Hebrew arrowhead from 11th century BC bears the inscription “Servant of the Lion Lady.”

May Queen – Queen of May

The May Queen or Queen of May is a personification of the May Day holiday, and of springtime and also summer. The May Queen is a girl who rides or walks at the front of a parade for May Day celebrations. She wears a white gown to symbolise purity and usually a tiara or crown.

Her duty is to begin the May Day celebrations. She is generally crowned by flowers and makes a speech before the dancing begins. Certain age-groups dance round a Maypole celebrating youth and the spring time.

In the High Middle Ages in England the May Queen was also known as the “Summer Queen”. George C. Homans points out: “The time from Hocktide, after Easter Week, to Lammas (1 August) was summer (estas).”

English historian Ronald Hutton concurs with Swedish scholar Carl Wilhelm von Sydow who stated that maypoles were erected “simply” as “signs that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned.”

Their shape allowed for garlands to be hung from them and were first seen, at least in the British Isles, between AD 1350 and 1400 within the context of medieval Christian European culture.

In 1588, at Holy Trinity Church in Exeter, villagers gathered around the ‘summer rod’ for feasting and drinking. Chaucer mentions that a particularly large maypole stood at St Andrew Undershaft, which was collectively erected by church parishioners annually due to its large shape.

The symbolism of the maypole has been continuously debated by folklorists for centuries, although no definitive answer has been found. Some scholars classify maypoles as symbols of the world axis (axis mundi).

The fact that they were found primarily in areas of Germanic Europe, where, prior to Christianisation, Germanic paganism was followed in various forms, has led to speculation by some that the maypoles were in some way a relic of a Germanic pagan tradition.

James George Frazer speculated that the figure of the May Queen was linked to ancient tree worship and that they were a remnant of the Germanic reverence for sacred trees, as there is evidence for various sacred trees and wooden pillars that were venerated by the pagans across much of Germanic Europe, including Thor’s Oak and the Irminsul.

Ronald Hutton, however, states that “there is absolutely no evidence that the maypole was regarded as a reflection of it.” It is also known that, in Norse paganism, cosmological views held that the universe was a world tree, known as Yggdrasil.

Some observers have proposed phallic symbolism, an idea which was expressed by Thomas Hobbes, who erroneously believed that the poles dated back to the Roman worship of the god Priapus, a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia.

This notion has been supported by various figures since, including the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Phallic symbolism has been attributed to the maypole in the later Early Modern period. However, Ronald Hutton has stated, however, that there is no historical basis for this claim, and no sign that the people who used maypoles thought that they were phallic and that they were not carved to appear so.

The anthropologist Mircea Eliade theorizes that the maypoles were simply a part of the general rejoicing at the return of summer, and the growth of new vegetation. In this way, they bore similarities with the May Day garlands which were also a common festival practice in Britain and Ireland.

Priapus

Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the medical term priapism. He became a popular figure in Roman erotic art and Latin literature, and is the subject of the often humorously obscene collection of verse called the Priapeia.

Priapus was described as the son of Aphrodite by Dionysus, or the son of Dionysus and Chione, perhaps as the father or son of Hermes, and the son of Zeus or Pan, depending on the source. He was represented in a variety of ways, most commonly as a misshapen gnome-like figure with an enormous erect phallus. Statues of Priapus were common in ancient Greece and Rome, standing in gardens.

The phallus is also associated with “possession and territorial demarcation” in many cultures, attributing to Priapus’ other role as a navigational deity.  Priapus’ role as a patron god for merchant sailors in ancient Greece and Rome is that of a protector and navigational aide. Priapus’ protection traits can be traced back to the importance placed on the phallus in ancient times (particularly his association with fertility and garden protection).

In Greece, the phallus was thought of to have a mind of its own, animal-like, separate from the mind and control of the man. The Athenians often conflated Priapush Hermes, the god of boundaries, and depicted a hybrid deity with a winged helmet, sandals, and huge erection.

Hermaphroditus

In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos, the basis for the word hermaphrodite, was the son of Aphrodite and Hermes (Venus and Mercury). According to Ovid, he was born a remarkably handsome boy with whom the naiad Salmacis fell in love and prayed to be united forever.

A god, in answer to her prayer, merged their two forms into one and transformed them into an androgynous form. His name is compounded of his parents’ names, Hermes and Aphrodite. He was one of the Erotes.

Hermaphroditus, the two-sexed child of Aphrodite and Hermes had long been a symbol of androgyny or effeminacy, and was portrayed in Greco-Roman art as a female figure with male genitals. Theophrastus’s account also suggests a link between Hermaphroditus and the institution of marriage.

Because Hermaphroditus was a son of Hermes, and consequently a great-grandson of Atlas, sometimes he is called Atlantiades. Hermaphroditus’ father, Hermes, was also called Atlantiades because his mother, Maia was the daughter of Atlas.

The deification and the origins of the cult of hermaphrodite beings stem from Eastern religions, where the hermaphrodite nature expressed the idea of a primitive being that united both genders. This double sex also attributed to Dionysus and Priapus – the union in one being of the two principles of generation and conception – denotes extensive fertilizing and productive powers.

The oldest traces of the cult in Greek countries are found in Cyprus. Here, according to Macrobius, there was a bearded statue of a male Aphrodite, called Aphroditus by Aristophanes. This Cyprian Aphrodite is the same as the later Hermaphroditos, which simply means Aphroditos in the form of a herma, and first occurs in the Characters of Theophrastus.

The earliest mention of Hermaphroditus in Greek literature is by the philosopher Theophrastus (3rd century BC), in his book The Characters, XVI The Superstitious Man, in which he portrays various types of eccentric people.

Irminsul

Sacred trees and sacred groves were widely venerated by the Germanic peoples (including Donar’s Oak), and the oldest chronicle describing an Irminsul (Old Saxon ‘great pillar’), a sacred pillar-like object attested as playing an important role in the Germanic paganism of the Saxons, refers to it as a tree trunk erected in the open air.

The Old Saxon word compound Irminsûl means ‘great pillar’. The first element, Irmin- (‘great’) is cognate with terms with some significance elsewhere in Germanic mythology.

Among the North Germanic peoples, the Old Norse form of Irmin is Jörmunr, which just like Yggr is one of the names of Odin. 19th century scholar Jakob Grimm connects the name Irmin with Old Norse terms like iörmungrund (“great ground”, i.e. the Earth) or iörmungandr (“great snake”, i.e. the Midgard serpent).

In Old English, Odin was known as Wōden; in Old Saxon, as Wōdan; and in Old High German, as Wuotan or Wōtan. In the 2001 Neil Gaiman novel American Gods, as well as the 2017 television series based on it, Odin goes mainly by the name Mr. Wednesday.

This is a nod to the fact that the modern English name of the day Wednesday is, itself, derived from the Old English Wōdnesdæg (pronounced [ˈwoːdnezdæj]), which meant Day of Woden or Woden’s Day. In other languages, such as the French mercredi or Italian mercoledì, the day’s name is a calque of dies Mercurii “day of Mercury”.

According to the Royal Frankish Annals (772 AD), during the Saxon wars, Charlemagne is repeatedly described as ordering the destruction of the chief seat of their religion, an Irminsul. The Irminsul is described as not being far from Heresburg (now Obermarsberg), Germany.

Jacob Grimm states that “strong reasons” point to the actual location of the Irminsul as being approximately 15 miles (24 km) away, in the Teutoburg Forest and states that the original name for the region “Osning” may have meant “Holy Wood.”

The Benedictine monk Rudolf of Fulda (AD 865) provides a description of an Irminsul in chapter 3 of his Latin work De miraculis sancti Alexandri. Rudolf’s description states that the Irminsul was a great wooden pillar erected and worshipped beneath the open sky and that its name, Irminsul, signifies universal all-sustaining pillar.

A Germanic god Irmin, inferred from the name Irminsûl and the tribal name Irminones, is in some older scholarship presumed to have been the national god or demi-god of the Saxons. It has been suggested that Irmin was more probably an aspect or epithet of some other deity – most likely Wodan (Odin).

Among other sources the prefix “Irmin” is documented in the Irminsul “great pillar that supports all”/”Columna Universalis Sustenans Omni”, as described in Einhards ‘Vita Karoli Magni’, and informed by Tacitus (~1st century) via a mentioned Germanic tribe name of Hermiones; the Old Saxon adjective irmin being synonymous to “great, strong”. As such it may also have been an epithet of later deities like Ziu (Týr) or Wodan (Odin)).

The Irminones, also referred to as Herminones or Hermiones (Ancient Greek: Ἑρμίονες), were a large group of early Germanic tribes settling in the Elbe watershed and by the 1st century AD expanding into Bavaria, Swabia and Bohemia. Notably this included the large sub-group of the Suevi, that itself contained many different tribal groups, but the Irminones also for example included the Chatti.

Irminonic or Elbe Germanic is also therefore a term for one of the unattested dialect groups ancestral to the West Germanic language family, especially the High German languages, which include modern Standard German.

Irmin might also have been an epithet of the god Ziu (Tyr) in early Germanic times, only later transferred to Odin, as certain scholars subscribe to the idea that Odin replaced Tyr as the chief Germanic deity at the onset of the Migration Period. This was the favored view of early 20th century Nordicist writers, but it is not generally considered likely in modern times.

Tyr

Týr (Old Norse), Tíw (Old English), and Ziu (Old High German) is a god in Germanic mythology. Stemming from the Proto-Germanic deity *Tīwaz and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European chief 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 (ᛏ), 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 interpreted 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 or governing assembly among the ancient Germanic peoples in early Germanic society, made up of the free people of the community presided over by lawspeakers.

In Norse mythology, from which most surviving 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). Lokasenna makes reference to an unnamed otherwise unknown consort, perhaps also reflected in the continental Germanic record.

Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil (from Old Norse Yggdrasill; Old Norse meaning ‘Yggr’s horse’) is a immense and mythical cosmic tree from which Odin sacrificed himself. It plays a central role in Norse cosmology, where it connects the Nine Worlds.

Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is center to the cosmos and considered very holy.

The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things, traditional governing assemblies. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the dragon Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, its connection to the many sacred trees and groves in Germanic paganism and mythology, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.

The generally accepted meaning of Old Norse Yggdrasill is “Odin’s horse”, meaning “gallows”. This interpretation comes about because drasill means “horse” and Ygg(r) is one of Odin’s many names.

The Poetic Edda poem Hávamál describes how Odin sacrificed himself by hanging from a tree, making this tree Odin’s gallows. This tree may have been Yggdrasil. Gallows can be called “the horse of the hanged” and therefore Odin’s gallows may have developed into the expression “Odin’s horse”, which then became the name of the tree.

Nevertheless, scholarly opinions regarding the precise meaning of the name Yggdrasill vary, particularly on the issue of whether Yggdrasill is the name of the tree itself or if only the full term askr Yggdrasil (where Old Norse askr means “ash tree”) refers specifically to the tree.

According to this interpretation, askr Yggdrasils would mean the world tree upon which “the horse [Odin’s horse] of the highest god [Odin] is bound”. Both of these etymologies rely on a presumed but unattested *Yggsdrasill.

A third interpretation, presented by F. Detter, is that the name Yggdrasill refers to the word yggr (“terror”), yet not in reference to the Odinic name, and so Yggdrasill would then mean “tree of terror, gallows”. F. R. Schröder has proposed a fourth etymology according to which yggdrasill means “yew pillar”, deriving yggia from *igwja (meaning “yew-tree”), and drasill from *dher- (meaning “support”).

Hilda Ellis Davidson comments that the existence of nine worlds around Yggdrasil is mentioned more than once in Old Norse sources, but the identity of the worlds is never stated outright, though it can be deduced from various sources. Davidson opines that “those who have tried to produce a convincing diagram of the Scandinavian cosmos from what we are told in the sources have only added to the confusion”.

Davidson comments that “no doubt the identity of the nine varied from time to time as the emphasis changed or new imagery arrived”. Davidson says that it is unclear where the nine worlds are located in relation to the tree; they could either exist one above the other or perhaps be grouped around the tree, but there are references to worlds existing beneath the tree, while the gods are pictured as in the sky, a rainbow bridge (Bifröst) connecting the tree with other worlds.

Davidson notes parallels between Yggdrasil and shamanic lore in northern Eurasia: The conception of the tree rising through a number of worlds is found in northern Eurasia and forms part of the shamanic lore shared by many peoples of this region.

This seems to be a very ancient conception, perhaps based on the Pole Star, the centre of the heavens, and the image of the central tree in Scandinavia may have been influenced by it…. Among Siberian shamans, a central tree may be used as a ladder to ascend the heavens.

Davidson says that the notion of an eagle atop a tree and the world serpent coiled around the roots of the tree has parallels in other cosmologies from Asia. She goes on to say that Norse cosmology may have been influenced by these Asiatic cosmologies from a northern location.

Davidson adds, on the other hand, that it is attested that the Germanic peoples worshiped their deities in open forest clearings and that a sky god was particularly connected with the oak tree, and therefore “a central tree was a natural symbol for them also”.

Connections have been proposed between the wood Hoddmímis holt (Old Norse “Hoard-Mímir’s” holt) and the tree Mímameiðr (“Mímir’s tree”), generally thought to refer to the world tree Yggdrasil, and the spring Mímisbrunnr.

John Lindow concurs that Mímameiðr may be another name for Yggdrasil and that if the Hoard-Mímir of the name Hoddmímis holt is the same figure as Mímir (associated with the spring named after him, Mímisbrunnr), then the Mímir’s holt—Yggdrasil—and Mímir’s spring may be within the same proximity.

Carolyne Larrington notes that it is nowhere expressly stated what will happen to Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök. Larrington points to a connection between the primordial figure of Mímir and Yggdrasil in the poem Völuspá, and theorizes that “it is possible that Hoddmimir is another name for Mimir, and that the two survivors hide in Yggdrasill.”

Rudolf Simek theorizes that the survival of Líf and Lífþrasir through Ragnarök by hiding in Hoddmímis holt is “a case of reduplication of the anthropogeny, understandable from the cyclic nature of the Eddic eschatology.”

According to Simek Hoddmímis holt “should not be understood literally as a wood or even a forest in which the two keep themselves hidden, but rather as an alternative name for the world-tree Yggdrasill. Thus, the creation of mankind from tree trunks (Askr, Embla) is repeated after the Ragnarǫk as well.”

Simek says that in Germanic regions, the concept of mankind originating from trees is ancient. He additionally points out legendary parallels in a Bavarian legend of a shepherd who lives inside a tree, whose descendants repopulate the land after life there has been wiped out by plague. In addition, he points to an Old Norse parallel in the figure of Örvar-Oddr, who is rejuvenated after living as a tree-man.

Continuing as late as the 19th century, warden trees were venerated in areas of Germany and Scandinavia, considered to be guardians and bringers of luck, and offerings were sometimes made to them. A massive birch tree standing atop a burial mound and located beside a farm in western Norway is recorded as having had ale poured over its roots during festivals. The tree was felled in 1874.

Davidson comments that “the position of the tree in the centre as a source of luck and protection for gods and men is confirmed” by these rituals to Warden Trees. Davidson notes that the gods are described as meeting beneath Yggdrasil to hold their things, and that the pillars venerated by the Germanic peoples, such as the pillar Irminsul, were also symbolic of the center of the world.

Davidson details that it would be difficult to ascertain whether a tree or pillar came first, and that this likely depends on if the holy location was in a thickly wooded area or not. Davidson notes that there is no mention of a sacred tree at Þingvellir in Iceland yet that Adam of Bremen describes a huge tree standing next to the Temple at Uppsala in Sweden, which Adam describes as remaining green throughout summer and winter, and that no one knew what type of tree it was.

Davidson comments that while it is uncertain that Adam’s informant actually witnessed that tree is unknown, but that the existence of sacred trees in pre-Christian Germanic Europe is further evidenced by records of their destruction by early Christian missionaries, such as Thor’s Oak by Saint Boniface. Ken Dowden comments that behind Irminsul, Thor’s Oak in Geismar, and the sacred tree at Uppsala “looms a mythic prototype, an Yggdrasil, the world-ash of the Norsemen”.

Níðhöggr

Yggdrasil is a tree central to the Norse concept of the cosmos. The tree’s branches extend into various realms, and various creatures dwell on and around it. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things, traditional governing assemblies.

The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr.

Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the dragon Níðhöggr (“Malice Striker”, traditionally also spelled Níðhǫggr, often anglicized Nidhogg), an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Níðhöggr is a dragon/serpent who gnaws at a root of the world tree, Yggdrasil. In historical Viking society, níð was a term for a social stigma implying the loss of honor and the status of a villain.

Thus, its name might refer to its role as a horrific monster in its action of chewing the corpses of the inhabitants of Náströnd: those guilty of murder, adultery, and oath-breaking, which Norse society considered among the worst possible.

Samuel Noah Kramer (1932, published 1938) translated ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith in “Tablet XII” of the Epic of Gilgamesh dated c.600 BCE. “Tablet XII” is not part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, but is a later Assyrian Akkadian translation of the latter part of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. The ki-sikil-lil-la-ke is associated with a serpent and a zu bird.

In Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld, a huluppu tree grows in Inanna’s garden in Uruk, whose wood she plans to use to build a new throne. After ten years of growth, she comes to harvest it and finds a serpent living at its base, a Zu bird raising young in its crown, and that a ki-sikil-lil-la-ke made a house in its trunk. Gilgamesh is said to have killed the snake, and then the zu bird flew away to the mountains with its young, while the ki-sikil-lil-la-ke fearfully destroys its house and runs for the forest.

Identification of ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith is stated in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1999). A connection between the Gilgamesh ki-sikil-lil-la-ke and the Jewish Lilith was rejected by Dietrich Opitz (1932) and rejected on textual grounds by Sergio Ribichini (1978).

According to a new source from Late Antiquity, Lilith appears in a Mandaic magic story where she is considered to represent the branches of a tree with other demonic figures that form other parts of the tree, though this may also include multiple “Liliths”.

Suggested translations for the Tablet XII spirit in the tree include ki-sikil as “sacred place”, lil as “spirit”, and lil-la-ke as “water spirit”. but also simply “owl”, given that the lil is building a home in the trunk of the tree.

Jörmungandr

Jǫrmun, the Viking Age Norse form of the name Irmin, can be found in a number of places in the Poetic Edda as a by-name for Odin. Some aspects of the Irminones’ culture and beliefs may be inferred from their relationships with the Roman Empire, from Widukind’s confusion over whether Irmin was comparable to Mars or Hermes, and from Snorri Sturluson’s allusions, at the beginning of the Prose Edda, to Odin’s cult having appeared first in Germany, and then having spread up into the Ingvaeonic North.

In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr (Old Norse: Jǫrmungandr, meaning “huge monster”), also known as the Midgard (World) Serpent (Old Norse: Miðgarðsormr), is a sea serpent, the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and Loki.

According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki’s three children by Angrboða—the wolf Fenrir, Hel, and Jörmungandr—and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so large that it was able to surround the earth and grasp its own tail. As a result, it received the name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. When it releases its tail, Ragnarök will begin. Jörmungandr’s arch-enemy is the thunder-god, Thor. It is an example of an ouroboros.

One sign for the coming of Ragnarok is the violent unrest of the sea as Jörmungandr releases its tail from its mouth and thrashes its way onto land. Fenrir will set ablaze one half of the world with fire while Jörmungandr sprays poison to fill the skies and seas of the other half. Fenrir and Jörmungandr will then join the sons of Muspell into the plain of Vigrid.

Here is where the last meeting between the serpent and Thor is predicted to occur. Thor will become occupied with battling the serpent and is unable to help others as they fight their own battles. He will eventually kill Jörmungandr but will fall dead after walking nine paces, having been poisoned by the serpent’s deadly venom.

The motif of Chaoskampf (“struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon. The same term has also been extended to parallel concepts in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet or the battle of Horus and Set.

The origins of the Chaoskampf myth most likely lie in the Proto-Indo-European religion the descendants of which almost all feature some variation of the story of a storm god fighting a sea serpent representing the clash between the forces of order and chaos. Early work by German academics such as Gunkel and Bousset in comparative mythology popularized translating the mythological sea serpent as a “dragon.”

In the religion of ancient Babylon, Tiamat (Akkadian: DTI.AMAT or DTAM.TUM, Greek: Thaláttē) is a primordial goddess of the salt sea, mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water, to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is referred to as a woman, and described as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

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

In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, correctly assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed.

Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon. She is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopotamian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”. Marduk then forms the heavens and the Earth from her divided body.

Hermes

In Ancient Greece, Hermes, the god of trade, heralds, merchants, commerce, roads, thieves, trickery, sports, travelers, and athletes in Ancient Greek religion and mythology, was a phallic god of boundaries. His name, in the form herma, was applied to a wayside marker pile of stones; each traveler added a stone to the pile.

In the 6th century BC, Hipparchos, the son of Pisistratus, replaced the cairns that marked the midway point between each village deme at the central agora of Athens with a square or rectangular pillar of stone or bronze topped by a bust of Hermes with a beard.

An erect phallus rose from the base. In the more primitive Mount Kyllini or Cyllenian herms, the standing stone or wooden pillar was simply a carved phallus. In Athens, herms were placed outside houses for good luck. “That a monument of this kind could be transformed into an Olympian god is astounding,” Walter Burkert remarked.

Hermes is the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, he was the second youngest of the Olympian gods (Dionysus being the youngest). Hermes was the emissary and messenger of the gods. He was also “the divine trickster” and “the god of boundaries and the transgression of boundaries, … the patron of herdsmen, thieves, graves, and heralds.”

He is described as moving freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, and was the conductor of souls into the afterlife. He was also viewed as the protector and patron of roads and travelers. In some myths, he is a trickster and outwits other gods for his own satisfaction or for the sake of humankind. His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster, the tortoise, satchel or pouch, winged sandals, and winged cap.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, 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. His main symbol is the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus, which appears in a form of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff with carvings of the other gods.

Mercury

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), boundaries, luck and trickery. He is the protector of merchants, shepherds, travelers, gamblers, liars, 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. In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes.

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 οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), 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.

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. 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. Odin is a widely revered god in Germanic mythology. In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, the god was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan.

In Norse mythology, from which stems most surviving information about the god, Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, victory, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg.

Ninshubar

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.

Ninshubur accompanied Inanna as a vassal and friend throughout Inanna’s many exploits. She helped Inanna fight Enki’s demons after Inanna’s theft of the sacred me. Later, when Inanna became trapped in the Underworld, it was Ninshubur who pleaded with Enki for her mistress’s release.

In later Akkadian mythology, Ninshubur was syncretized with the male messenger deity Papsukkal, who acts as both messenger and gatekeeper for the rest of the pantheon. In older sources, Ninshubur herself is usually referred to as a male god as well; more recent sources have recognized this portrayal as erroneous.

The gender of a sukkal always matches the gender of the deity it serves. Thus, Enki’s sukkal Isimud is male, but Ninshubur is female. In her primary aspect as the sukkal to Inanna, Ninshubur was female, but, when she served as the sukkal to An, he was male.

In Sumerian mythology, Ninshubur is portrayed as “unshakably loyal” in her devotion to her mistress. In addition to being a source of great wisdom and knowledge, Ninshubur was also a warrior goddess. She was the guardian and messenger of the god An. She is said to have walked in front of An wherever he went, a position traditionally reserved for a bodyguard.

Ninshubur was an important figure in ancient Sumerian mythology and she played an integral role in several myths involving her mistress, the goddess, Inanna. In the Sumerian myth of “Inanna and Enki,” Ninshubur is described as the one who rescues Inanna from the monsters that Enki has sent after her. In this myth, Ninshubur plays a similar role to Isimud, who acts as Enki’s messenger to Inanna.

In the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent into the Netherworld, Ninshubur is described as the one who pleads with all the gods in an effort to persuade them to rescue Inanna from the Netherworld.

Mercury

Mercury, who represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, rationality and reasoning, and adaptability and variability, is the ruling planet of both Virgo and Gemini and is exalted in Virgo and Aquarius. Mercury rules over Wednesday, alongside Uranus, since Uranus is in the higher octave of Mercury. In Romance languages, the word for Wednesday is often similar to Mercury.

Uranus is the modern ruling planet of Aquarius and is exalted in Scorpio. In classical Greek mythology, Uranus is the personification of the sky. Uranus is very unusual among the planets in that it rotates on its side, so that it presents each of its poles to the Sun in turn during its orbit; causing both hemispheres to alternate between being bathed in light and lying in total darkness over the course of the orbit.

Astrological interpretations associate Uranus with the principles of ingenuity, new or unconventional ideas, individuality, discoveries, electricity, inventions, democracy, and revolutions. Uranus, among all planets, most governs genius. Uranus governs societies, clubs, and any group based on humanitarian or progressive ideals. Uranus, the planet of sudden and unexpected changes, rules freedom and originality.

Pluto, called “the great renewer”, and is considered to represent the part of a person that destroys in order to renew, through bringing buried, but intense needs and drives to the surface, and expressing them, even at the expense of the existing order, is the modern ruling planet of Scorpio and is exalted in Virgo.

In classical Roman mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld who is extremely wealthy. The alchemical symbol was given to Pluto on its discovery, three centuries after alchemical practices had all but disappeared. The alchemical symbol can therefore be read as spirit over mind, transcending matter. A commonly used keyword for Pluto is “transformation”.

Pluto is associated with power and personal mastery, and the need to cooperate and share with another, if each is not to be destroyed. Pluto governs major business and enormous wealth, mining, surgery and detective work, and any enterprise that involves digging under the surface to bring the truth to light. Pluto is also associated with Tuesday, alongside Mars since Pluto is the higher octave of that planet in astrology.

In old opinion, Ceres, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, is the ruling planet of Virgo, but the majority opinion of modern astrologers denotes Ceres being the ruler for Taurus. However, Ceres is exalted in Virgo.

The goddess (and metaphorically the planet) is also associated with the reproductive issues of an adult woman, as well as pregnancy and other major transitions in a woman’s life, including the nine months of gestation time, family bonds and relationships.

In an updated revision, Taurus is also ruled by Chiron with that very same centaur having an astrological maverick character being a co-ruler to Virgo, and exalted in Sagittarius. The Moon is the ruling planet of Cancer and is exalted in Taurus. In classical Roman mythology, the Moon was Luna, at times identified with Diana.

Although a mother, Ceres is also the archetype of a virgin goddess. Ceres epitomizes independent women who are often unmarried (since, according to myth, Ceres is an unmarried goddess who chose to become a mother without a husband or partner.) While the moon represents our ideal of “motherhood”, Ceres would represent how our real and natural motherhood should be.

Caduceus

The caduceus (from Greek: kērū́keion “herald’s wand, or staff”) is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology and consequently by Hermes Trismegistus in Greco-Egyptian mythology.

The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography, it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury.

Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus has its roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida; whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it, dates back to 4000 BC to 3000 BC.

As a symbolic object, it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations, or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury.

Thus, through its use in astrology, alchemy, and astronomy it has come to denote the planet and elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life.

By extension of its association with Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals.

This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. The caduceus is also used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).

The caduceus is often incorrectly used as a symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice, particularly in the United States of America, due to confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which has only one snake and is never depicted with wings.

William Hayes Ward (1910) discovered that symbols similar to the classical caduceus sometimes appeared on Mesopotamian cylinder seals. He suggested the symbol originated some time between 3000 and 4000 BC, and that it might have been the source of the Greek caduceus.

A.L. Frothingham incorporated Dr. Ward’s research into his own work, published in 1916, in which he suggested that the prototype of Hermes was an “Oriental deity of Babylonian extraction” represented in his earliest form as a snake god.

From this perspective, the caduceus was originally representative of Hermes himself, in his early form as the Underworld god Ningishzida, “messenger” of the “Earth Mother”. The caduceus is mentioned in passing by Walter Burkert as “really the image of copulating snakes taken over from Ancient Near Eastern tradition”.

The Homeric hymn to Hermes relates how Hermes offered his lyre fashioned from a tortoise shell as compensation for the cattle he stole from his half brother Apollo. Apollo in return gave Hermes the caduceus as a gesture of friendship. The association with the serpent thus connects Hermes to Apollo, as later the serpent was associated with Asclepius, the “son of Apollo”.

The association of Apollo with the serpent is a continuation of the older Indo-European dragon-slayer motif. Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (1913) pointed out that the serpent as an attribute of both Hermes and Asclepius is a variant of the “pre-historic semi-chthonic serpent hero known at Delphi as Python”, who in classical mythology is slain by Apollo.

One Greek myth of origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tiresias, who found two snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff. Tiresias was immediately turned into a woman, and so remained until he was able to repeat the act with the male snake seven years later. This staff later came into the possession of the god Hermes, along with its transformative powers.

Another myth suggests that Hermes (or Mercury) saw two serpents entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his wand he brought about peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace. In Rome, Livy refers to the caduceator who negotiated peace arrangements under the diplomatic protection of the caduceus he carried.

In some vase paintings ancient depictions of the Greek kerukeion are somewhat different from the commonly seen modern representation. These representations feature the two snakes atop the staff (or rod), crossed to create a circle with the heads of the snakes resembling horns. This old graphic form, with an additional crossbar to the staff, seems to have provided the basis for the graphical sign of Mercury (☿) used in Greek astrology from Late Antiquity.

Djed

In Egyptian iconography, the Djed pillar (Ancient Egyptian: ḏd, Coptic jōt “pillar”), one of the more ancient and commonly found symbols in ancient Egyptian religion, is depicted as containing a snake in a frieze of the Dendera Temple complex.

The djed is a pillar-like symbol in Egyptian hieroglyphs representing stability. It is associated with the creator god Ptah and Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead. It is commonly understood to represent his spine.

In the Osiris myth, Osiris was killed by Set by being tricked into a coffin made to fit Osiris exactly. Set then had the coffin with the now deceased Osiris flung into the Nile. The coffin was carried by the Nile to the ocean and on to the city of Byblos in Lebanon.

It ran aground and a sacred tree took root and rapidly grew around the coffin, enclosing the coffin within its trunk. The king of the land, intrigued by the tree’s quick growth, ordered the tree cut down and installed as a pillar in his palace, unaware that the tree contained Osiris’s body.

Meanwhile, Isis searched for Osiris aided by Anubis, and came to know of Osiris’s location in Byblos. Isis maneuvered herself into the favor of the king and queen and was granted a boon. She asked for the pillar in the palace hall, and upon being granted it, extracted the coffin from the pillar. She then consecrated the pillar, anointing it with myrrh and wrapping it in linen. This pillar came to be known as the pillar of djed.

The djed may originally have been a fertility cult related pillar made from reeds or sheaves or a totem from which sheaves of grain were suspended or grain was piled around. Erich Neumann remarks that the djed pillar is a tree fetish, which is significant considering that Egypt was primarily treeless. He indicates that the myth may represent the importance of the importation of trees by Egypt from Syria.

The djed came to be associated with Seker, the falcon god of the Memphite Necropolis, then with Ptah, the Memphite patron god of craftsmen. Ptah was often referred to as “the noble djed”, and carried a scepter that was a combination of the djed symbol and the ankh, the symbol of life. Ptah gradually came to be assimilated into Osiris. By the time of the New Kingdom, the djed was firmly associated with Osiris.

In their 2004 book The Quick and the Dead: Biomedical Theory in Ancient Egypt, Andrew Hunt Gordon and Calvin W. Schwabe speculated that the ankh, djed, and was symbols have a biological basis derived from ancient cattle culture (linked to the Egyptian belief that semen was created in the spine).

Thus: the ankh, symbol of life, thoracic vertebra of a bull (seen in cross section), the djed, symbol of stability, base on sacrum of a bull’s spine, and the was-sceptre, symbol of power and dominion, a staff featuring the head and tail of the god Set, “great of strength”.

The djed hieroglyph was a pillar-like symbol that represented stability. It was also sometimes used to represent Osiris himself, often combined “with a pair of eyes between the crossbars and holding the crook and flail.”

Parallels have also been drawn between the djed pillar and various items in other cultures. Sidney Smith in 1922, first suggested a parallel with the Assyrian “sacred tree” when he drew attention to the presence of the upper four bands of the djed pillar and the bands that are present in the center of the vertical portion of the tree.

He also proposed a common origin between Osiris and the Assyrian god Assur with whom he said, the sacred tree might be associated. Cohen and Kangas suggest that the tree is probably associated with the Sumerian god of male fertility, Enki and that for both Osiris and Enki, an erect pole or polelike symbol stands beneath a celestial symbol.

They also point out that the Assyrian king is depicted in proximity to the sacred tree, which is similar to the depiction of the pharaoh in the raising of the djed ceremony. Additionally, the sacred tree and the Assyrian winged disk, which are generally depicted separately, are combined in certain designs, similar to the djed pillar which is sometimes surmounted with a solar disk.

Tyet

The djed hieroglyph is often found together with the tyet (also known as Isis knot) hieroglyph, which is translated as life or welfare. The djed and the tiet used together may depict the duality of life. The tyet hieroglyph may have become associated with Isis because of its frequent pairing with the djed.

The tyet (Ancient Egyptian: tjt), sometimes called the knot of Isis or girdle of Isis, is an ancient Egyptian symbol that came to be connected with the goddess Isis. Its hieroglyphic depiction is catalogued as V39 in Gardiner’s sign list.

In many respects the tyet resembles an ankh, except that its arms curve down. Its meaning is also reminiscent of the ankh, as it is often translated to mean “welfare” or “life”. The tyet resembles a knot of cloth and may have originally been a bandage used to absorb menstrual blood.

Raising the Djed

The djed was an important part of the ceremony called “raising the djed”, which was a part of the celebrations of the Sed festival, the Egyptian jubilee celebration. The act of raising the djed has been explained as representing Osiris’s triumph over Seth.

Ceremonies in Memphis are described where the pharaoh, with the help of the priests, raised a wooden djed column using ropes. The ceremony took place during the period when fields were sown and the year’s agricultural season would begin, corresponding to the month of Koiak, the fourth month of the Season of the Inundation.

This ceremony was a part of one of the more popular holidays and celebrations of the time, a larger festival dedicated to Osiris conducted from the 13th to 30th day of the Koiak. Celebrated as it was at that time of the year when the soil and climate were most suitable for agriculture, the festival and its ceremonies can be seen as an appeal to Osiris, who was the God of vegetation, to favor the growth of the seeds sown, paralleling his own resurrection and renewal after his murder by Seth.

Kundalini

Katherine Harper and Robert Brown also discuss a possible strong link between the djed column and the concept of kundalini (“coiled snake”) in yoga. Kundalini in Hinduism is a form of divine energy (or shakti) believed to be located at the base of the spine (muladhara). It is an important concept in Śaiva Tantra, where it is believed to be a force or power associated with the divine feminine.

This energy, when cultivated and awakened through tantric practice, is believed to lead to spiritual liberation. Kuṇḍalinī is associated with Paradevi or Adi Parashakti, the supreme being in Shaktism; and with the goddesses Bhairavi and Kubjika. The term, along with practices associated with it, was adopted into Hatha yoga in the 11th century.

The concept of Kuṇḍalinī is mentioned in the Upanishads (9th – 3rd centuries BCE). The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means “circular, annular”. It is mentioned as a noun for “snake” (in the sense of “coiled”) in the 12th-century Rajatarangini chronicle. Kuṇḍa (a noun meaning “bowl, water-pot” is found as the name of a Nāga (serpent deity) in Mahabharata. The 8th-century Tantrasadbhava Tantra uses the term kundalī (“ring, bracelet; coil (of a rope)”).

The use of kuṇḍalī as a name for Goddess Durga (a form of Shakti) appears often in Tantrism and Shaktism from as early as the 11th century in the Śaradatilaka. It was adopted as a technical term in Hatha yoga during the 15th century, and became widely used in the Yoga Upanishads by the 16th century. Eknath Easwaran has paraphrased the term as “the coiled power”, a force which ordinarily rests at the base of the spine, described as being “coiled there like a serpent”.

Kuṇḍalinī awakenings have been described as occurring by means of a variety of methods. Many systems of yoga focus on awakening Kuṇḍalinī through: meditation; pranayama breathing; the practice of asana and chanting of mantras.

Kundalini Yoga is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of Mantra, Tantra, Yantra, Asanas or Meditation. The Kuṇḍalinī experience is frequently reported to be a distinct feeling of electric current running along the spine.

The experience of Kundalini awakening can happen when one is either prepared or unprepared. According to Hindu tradition, in order to be able to integrate this spiritual energy, a period of careful purification and strengthening of the body and nervous system is usually required beforehand.

Yoga and Tantra propose that Kundalini can be awakened by a guru (teacher), but body and spirit must be prepared by yogic austerities, such as pranayama, or breath control, physical exercises, visualization, and chanting. The student is advised to follow the path in an open-hearted manner.

Traditionally, people visited ashrams in India to awaken their dormant kundalini energy with regular meditation, mantra chanting, spiritual studies and physical asana practice such as kundalini yoga.

Kundalini is considered to occur in the chakra and nadis of the subtle body. Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics[30] and with proper training, moving Kundalini through these chakras can help express or open these characteristics.

Kundalini is described as a sleeping, dormant potential force in the human organism. It is one of the components of an esoteric description of the “subtle body”, which consists of nadis (energy channels), chakras (psychic centres), prana (subtle energy), and bindu (drops of essence).

Kundalini is described as being coiled up at the base of the spine. The description of the location can vary slightly, from the rectum to the navel. Kundalini is said to reside in the triangular shaped sacrum bone in three and a half coils.

Pisces

Pisces (Ancient Greek: Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Pisces are the negative mutable water sign of the zodiac. It spans 330° to 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area between February 19 and March 20. In Sidereal astrology, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 12 to April 18.

While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from ecliptic longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox, is in the Pisces constellation. Nevertheless, the sign of Pisces remain in the 30 degree span of 330°-0°.

There are no prominent stars in the constellation. One star in the constellation, Alpha Piscium, is also known as Alrescha, which comes from the Arabic al-rišā’, meaning “the well rope,” or “the cord.” Ptolemy described Alpha Piscium as the point where the cords joining the two fish are knotted together. The astrological symbol shows the two fishes captured by a string, typically by the mouth or the tails.

The fish are usually portrayed swimming in opposite directions; this represents the duality within the Piscean nature. They are ruled by the planet Neptune. Although they appear as a pair, the name of the sign in all languages originally referred to only one fish with the exception of Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Dutch, Latvian and Italian.

In classical interpretations, the symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, Typhon, Vishnu and the Sumerian goddess Inanna.

Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Theogony

In an ancient myth recorded by Hesiod’s Theogony, Cronus envied the power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus. Uranus drew the enmity of Cronus’s mother, Gaia, when he hid the gigantic youngest children of Gaia, the hundred-handed Hecatoncheires and one-eyed Cyclopes, in Tartarus, so that they would not see the light.

Gaia created a great stone sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked him with the sickle, castrating him and casting his testicles into the sea.

After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyclopes and set the dragon Campe to guard them. He and his sister Rhea took the throne of the world as king and queen. The period in which Cronus ruled was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did the right thing, and immorality was absent.

Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own sons, just as he had overthrown his father. As a result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to prevent the prophecy.

When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution on Cronus for his acts against his father and children. Rhea secretly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and handed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the Omphalos Stone, which he promptly swallowed, thinking that it was his son.

Rhea kept Zeus hidden in a cave on Mount Ida, Crete. According to some versions of the story, he was then raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes, armored male dancers, shouted and clapped their hands to make enough noise to mask the baby’s cries from Cronus.

Other versions of the myth have Zeus raised by the nymph Adamanthea, who hid Zeus by dangling him by a rope from a tree so that he was suspended between the earth, the sea, and the sky, all of which were ruled by his father, Cronus. Still other versions of the tale say that Zeus was raised by his grandmother, Gaia.

Once he had grown up, Zeus used an emetic given to him by Gaia to force Cronus to disgorge the contents of his stomach in reverse order: first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Mount Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, and then his two brothers and three sisters. In other versions of the tale, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the children.

After freeing his siblings, Zeus released the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyclopes who forged for him his thunderbolts, Poseidon’s trident and Hades’ helmet of darkness. In a vast war called the Titanomachy, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, with the help of the Hecatoncheires and Cyclopes, overthrew Cronus and the other Titans. Afterwards, many of the Titans were confined in Tartarus.

Dingir

Dingir (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.

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.

The Sumerian sign DIĜIR originated as a star-shaped ideogram indicating a god in general, or the Sumerian god An, the supreme father of the gods. Dingir also meant sky or heaven in contrast with ki which meant earth. Its emesal pronunciation was dimer.

According to one interpretation, DINGIR could also refer to a priest or priestess although there are other Akkadian words ēnu and ēntu that are also translated priest and priestess. For example, nin-dingir (lady divine) meant a priestess who received foodstuffs at the temple of Enki in the city of Eridu.

An

An (Sumerian) or Anu (Akkadian) is the divine personification of the sky, supreme god, and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion. Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers, and he is described in one text as the one “who contains the entire universe”.

By the time of the earliest written records, Anu was rarely worshipped, and veneration was instead devoted to his son Enlil, but, throughout Mesopotamian history, the highest deity in the pantheon was always said to possess the anûtu, meaning “Heavenly power”.

Anu’s primary role in myths is as the ancestor of the Anunnaki, the major deities of Sumerian religion. His primary cult center was the Eanna temple in the city of Uruk, but, by the Akkadian Period (c. 2334 – 2154 BC), his authority in Uruk had largely been ceded to the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven.

Anu’s consort in the earliest Sumerian texts is the goddess Uraš, but she is later the goddess Ki and, in Akkadian texts, the Babylonian goddess Antu or Antum, whose name is a feminine form of Anu. She was the first consort of Anu, and the pair were the parents of the Anunnaki and the Utukki.

Antu was a dominant feature of the Babylonian akit festival until as recently as 200 BC, her later pre-eminence possibly attributable to identification with the Greek goddess Hera. Antu was replaced as consort by Ishtar or Inanna, who may also be a daughter of Anu and Antu.

Tree of Life

Various trees of life are recounted in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality or fertility. They had their origin in religious symbolism. The tree of life is a widespread myth (mytheme) or archetype in the world’s mythologies, related to the concept of sacred tree more generally, and hence in religious and philosophical tradition.

The tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree, and are portrayed in various religions and philosophies as the same tree.

The Assyrian tree of life was represented by a series of nodes and criss-crossing lines. It was apparently an important religious symbol, often attended to in Assyrian palace reliefs by human or eagle-headed winged genies, or the King, and blessed or fertilized with bucket and cone.

Assyriologists have not reached consensus as to the meaning of this symbol. The name “Tree of Life” has been attributed to it by modern scholarship; it is not used in the Assyrian sources. In fact, no textual evidence pertaining to the symbol is known to exist.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a similar quest for immortality. In Mesopotamian mythology, Etana searches for a ‘plant of birth’ to provide him with a son. This has a solid provenance of antiquity, being found in cylinder seals from Akkad (2390–2249 BCE).

In ancient Urartu, the tree of life was a religious symbol and was drawn on walls of fortresses and carved on the armor of warriors. The branches of the tree were equally divided on the right and left sides of the stem, with each branch having one leaf, and one leaf on the apex of the tree. Servants stood on each side of the tree with one of their hands up as if they are taking care of the tree.

In the Avestan literature and Iranian mythology, there are several sacred vegetal icons related to life, eternality and cure, like: Amesha Spenta Amordad (guardian of plants, goddess of trees and immortality), Gaokerena (or white Haoma, a tree that its vivacity would certify continuance of life in universe), Bas tokhmak (a tree with remedial attribute, retentive of all herbal seeds, and destroyer of sorrow), Mashyа and Mashyane (parents of the human race in Iranian myths), Barsom (copped offshoots of pomegranate, gaz or Haoma that Zoroastrians use in their rituals), Haoma (a plant, unknown today, that was source of sacred potable), etc.

Gaokerena is a large, sacred Haoma planted by Ahura Mazda. Ahriman (Ahreman, Angremainyu) created a frog to invade the tree and destroy it, aiming to prevent all trees from growing on the earth. As a reaction, Ahura Mazda created two kar fish staring at the frog to guard the tree. The two fish are always staring at the frog and stay ready to react to it. Because Ahriman is responsible for all evil including death, while Ahura Mazda is responsible for all good (including life).

Haoma is another sacred plant due to the drink made from it. The preparation of the drink from the plant by pounding and the drinking of it are central features of Zoroastrian ritual. Haoma also personified Frick Gilliam as a divinity.

It bestows essential vital qualities—health, fertility, husbands for maidens, even immortality. The source of the earthly haoma plant is a shining white tree that grows on a paradisiacal mountain. Sprigs of this white haoma were brought to earth by divine birds. The tree is considerably diverse.

Haoma is the Avestan form of the Sanskrit soma. The near identity of the two in ritual significance is considered by scholars to point to a salient feature of an Indo-Iranian religion antedating Zoroastrianism.

Another related issue in ancient mythology of Iran is the myth of Mashyа and Mashyane, two trees who were the ancestors of all living beings. This myth can be considered as a prototype for the creation myth where living beings are created by Gods (who have a human form).

Delphi

Among the Ancient Greeks, it was a widespread belief that Delphi was the center of the world. The Omphalos of Delphi is an ancient marble monument that was found at the archaeological site of Delphi, Greece.

According to the myths regarding the founding of the Delphic Oracle, Zeus, in his attempt to locate the center of the earth, launched two eagles from the two ends of the world, and the eagles, starting simultaneously and flying at equal speed, crossed their paths above the area of Delphi.

From this point, Zeus threw a stone from the sky to see where it will fall. The stone fell at Delphi, which since then was considered to be the center of the world, the omphalos – “navel of the earth”. Indeed, the same stone thrown by Zeus took the same name and became the symbol of Apollo, the sacred Oracle and more generally of the region of Delphi.

The marble-carved stone which constituted the omphalos in the monument with the tripod and the dancers troubled the excavators, because they could not decide if it was the original or a copy from Hellenistic and Roman times.

In the 2nd century A.D., Pausanias traveled to the area of Delphi and has provided us with rare evidence through his work. The stone of the omphalos seems to have been decorated in high relief and had an oval shape.

It is possible that in ancient times it was covered by a mesh of wool cloth and it was kept in the adyton (inner sanctum), beside the tripod and the daphne (bay leaves), the other sacred symbols of the god. As described by Pausanias, within the woolen cloth that was wound around the stone there were precious stones designed in the shape of a mermaid, while two gilded eagles were fixed on top of it.

Recent studies by French archaeologists have demonstrated that the omphalos and the columns are connected and interlocked. In other words, the stone navel was mounted on the bronze tripods supported by the three dancers, at the top of the column.

This is the spot where the omphalos is thought to have been placed till today, as a cover of the column, in order to symbolically supplement the meaning and importance of the Athenian votive offering. The Athenians, wanting to placate and honor the goddess of light, offered him this copy of the original stone, which combined both delphic symbols as a gift from the hands of the three priestess figures of Athenian origin.

Python

In Greek mythology, Python, who presided at the Delphic oracle, which existed in the cult center for its mother, Gaia, “Earth,” was the serpent, sometimes represented as a medieval-style dragon, living at the center of the earth, believed by the ancient Greeks to be at Delphi. Greeks considered the site to be the center of the earth, represented by a stone, the omphalos or navel, which Python guarded.

Python being the place name that was substituted for the earlier Krisa. Python became the chthonic enemy of the later Olympian deity Apollo, who slew it and took over Python’s former home and oracle. These were the most famous and revered in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.

Omphalos

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

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

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

Omphalos is also the name of the stone given to Cronus. It represents the stone which Rhea wrapped in swaddling clothes, pretending it was Zeus, in order to deceive Cronus.

Nehushtan

Snake cults had been well established in Canaan in the Bronze Age: archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan: two at Megiddo, one at Gezer, one in the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies) of the Area H temple at Hazor, and two at Shechem.

In the biblical Books of Kings (2 Kings 18:4; written c. 550 BCE), the Nehushtan (Hebrew: Nəḥuštān) is a derogatory name given to a bronze serpent on a pole first described in the Book of Numbers which God told Moses to erect so that the Israelites who saw it would be protected from dying from the bites of the “fiery serpents”, which God had sent to punish them for speaking against Him and Moses (Numbers 21:4-9).

In the biblical story, following their Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites set out from Mount Hor, where Aaron was buried, to go to the Red Sea. However they had to detour around the land of Edom (Numbers 20:21, 25).

Impatient, they complained against Yahweh and Moses (Num. 21:4-5), and in response God sent “fiery serpents” among them and many died. The people came to Moses to repent and asked him to ask God to take away the serpents.

Moses prayed to God, who told Moses, ‘Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.’ (Numbers 21:4-9)

The term also appears in 2 Kings 18:4 in a passage describing reforms made by King Hezekiah, in which he tore down altars, cut down symbols of Asherah, destroyed the Nehushtan, and according to many Bible translations, gave it that name.

In Kings, King Hezekiah institutes an iconoclastic reform that requires the destruction of “the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan”. The term means “a brazen thing, a mere piece of brass”.

Regarding the passage in 2 Kings 18:4, M. G. Easton noted that “the lapse of nearly one thousand years had invested the ‘brazen serpent’ with a mysterious sanctity; and in order to deliver the people from their infatuation, and impress them with the idea of its worthlessness, Hezekiah called it, in contempt, ‘Nehushtan’, a brazen thing, a mere piece of brass”.

According to Lowell K. Handy, the Nehushtan may have been the symbol of a minor god of snakebite-cure within the Temple. The tradition of naming it Nehushtan is not considered to be any older than the time of Hezekiah.

Ningishzida

Ningishzida (sum: dnin-g̃iš-zid-da) is a Mesopotamian deity of vegetation and the underworld. The death of vegetation is associated with the travel to the underworld of Ningishzida. In some texts Ningishzida is said to be female, which means “Nin” would then refer to Lady, which is mostly how the word is used by the Sumerians. He or she was one of the ancestors of Gilgamesh.

Thorkild Jacobsen translates Ningishzida as Sumerian for “lord of the good tree”. In Sumerian mythology, he appears in Adapa’s myth as one of the two guardians of Anu’s celestial palace, alongside Dumuzi, later known by the alternate form Tammuz, an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar).

He was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head. Lagash had a temple dedicated to Ningishzida, and Gudea, patesi of Lagash in the 21st century BC (short chronology), was one of his devotees. In the Louvre, there is a famous green steatite vase carved for King Gudea of Lagash, dedicated by its inscription: “To the god Ningiszida, his god Gudea, Ensi (governor) of Lagash, for the prolongation of his life, has dedicated this”.

Ningishzida is sometimes the son of Ninazu and Ningiridda, even though the myth Ningishzida’s journey to the netherworld suggests he is the son of Ereshkigal. Following an inscription found at Lagash, he was the son of Anu, the heavens.

His wife is Azimua and also Geshtinanna, Dumuzid’s sister, who was the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation, while his sister is Amashilama. In the Sumerian King List, Dumuzid is listed as an antediluvian king of the city of Bad-tibira and also an early king of the city of Uruk.

In the Sumerian poem Inanna Prefers the Farmer, Dumuzid competes against the farmer Enkimdu for Inanna’s hand in marriage. In Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, Dumuzid fails to mourn Inanna’s death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement.

Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

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Virgo – Kanya

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 23, 2019

Mercury, who represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, rationality and reasoning, and adaptability and variability, is the ruling planet of both Virgo and Gemini and is exalted in Virgo and Aquarius. Mercury rules over Wednesday, alongside Uranus, since Uranus is in the higher octave of Mercury. In Romance languages, the word for Wednesday is often similar to Mercury.

Uranus is the modern ruling planet of Aquarius and is exalted in Scorpio. In classical Greek mythology, Uranus is the personification of the sky. Uranus is very unusual among the planets in that it rotates on its side, so that it presents each of its poles to the Sun in turn during its orbit; causing both hemispheres to alternate between being bathed in light and lying in total darkness over the course of the orbit.

Astrological interpretations associate Uranus with the principles of ingenuity, new or unconventional ideas, individuality, discoveries, electricity, inventions, democracy, and revolutions. Uranus, among all planets, most governs genius. Uranus governs societies, clubs, and any group based on humanitarian or progressive ideals. Uranus, the planet of sudden and unexpected changes, rules freedom and originality.

Pluto, called “the great renewer”, and is considered to represent the part of a person that destroys in order to renew, through bringing buried, but intense needs and drives to the surface, and expressing them, even at the expense of the existing order, is the modern ruling planet of Scorpio and is exalted in Virgo.

In classical Roman mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld who is extremely wealthy. The alchemical symbol was given to Pluto on its discovery, three centuries after alchemical practices had all but disappeared. The alchemical symbol can therefore be read as spirit over mind, transcending matter. A commonly used keyword for Pluto is “transformation”.

Pluto is associated with power and personal mastery, and the need to cooperate and share with another, if each is not to be destroyed. Pluto governs major business and enormous wealth, mining, surgery and detective work, and any enterprise that involves digging under the surface to bring the truth to light. Pluto is also associated with Tuesday, alongside Mars since Pluto is the higher octave of that planet in astrology.

In old opinion, Ceres, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, is the ruling planet of Virgo, but the majority opinion of modern astrologers denotes Ceres being the ruler for Taurus. However, Ceres is exalted in Virgo.

The goddess (and metaphorically the planet) is also associated with the reproductive issues of an adult woman, as well as pregnancy and other major transitions in a woman’s life, including the nine months of gestation time, family bonds and relationships.

In an updated revision, Taurus is also ruled by Chiron with that very same centaur having an astrological maverick character being a co-ruler to Virgo, and exalted in Sagittarius. The Moon is the ruling planet of Cancer and is exalted in Taurus. In classical Roman mythology, the Moon was Luna, at times identified with Diana.

Although a mother, Ceres is also the archetype of a virgin goddess. Ceres epitomizes independent women who are often unmarried (since, according to myth, Ceres is an unmarried goddess who chose to become a mother without a husband or partner.) While the moon represents our ideal of “motherhood”, Ceres would represent how our real and natural motherhood should be.

Pisces

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

Pisces is detriment to Virgo. Jupiter is the traditional ruling planet of Sagittarius and Pisces and it is exalted in Cancer. Neptune is the modern ruling planet of Pisces and is exalted in Leo. Venus is the traditional ruling planet of Libra and Taurus and is exalted in Pisces.

Pisces (Ancient Greek: Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Pisces are the negative mutable water sign of the zodiac. It spans 330° to 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area between February 19 and March 20. In Sidereal astrology, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 12 to April 18.

While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from ecliptic longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox, is in the Pisces constellation. Nevertheless, the sign of Pisces remain in the 30 degree span of 330°-0°.

There are no prominent stars in the constellation. One star in the constellation, Alpha Piscium, is also known as Alrescha, which comes from the Arabic al-rišā’, meaning “the well rope,” or “the cord.” Ptolemy described Alpha Piscium as the point where the cords joining the two fish are knotted together. The astrological symbol shows the two fishes captured by a string, typically by the mouth or the tails.

The fish are usually portrayed swimming in opposite directions; this represents the duality within the Piscean nature. They are ruled by the planet Neptune. Although they appear as a pair, the name of the sign in all languages originally referred to only one fish with the exception of Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Dutch, Latvian and Italian.

In classical interpretations, the symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, Typhon, Vishnu and the Sumerian goddess Inanna.

According to one Greek myth, Pisces represents the fish, sometimes represented by koi fish, into which Aphrodite (also considered Venus) and her son Eros (also considered Cupid) transformed in order to escape the monster Typhon.

Typhon, the “father of all monsters,” had been sent by Gaia to attack the gods, which led Pan to warn the others before himself changing into a goat-fish and jumping into the Euphrates. A similar myth, one in which the fish “Pisces” carry Aphrodite and her son out of danger, is resounded in Manilius’ five volume poetic work Astronomica: “Venus ow’d her safety to their Shape.”

Another myth is that an egg fell into the Euphrates river. It was then rolled to the shore by fish. Doves sat on the egg until it hatched, out from which came Aphrodite. As a sign of gratitude towards the fish, Aphrodite put the fish into the night sky.

Because of these myths, the Pisces constellation was also known as “Venus et Cupido,” “Venus Syria cum Cupidine,” “Venus cum Adone,” “Dione” and “Veneris Mater,” the latter being the formal Latin term for mother. Purim, a Jewish holiday, falls at the full moon preceding the Passover, which was set by the full moon in Aries, which follows Pisces.

Puruli was a Hattian spring festival, held at Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna, who is married to a new king. The central ritual of the Puruli festival is dedicated to the destruction of the dragon Illuyanka by the storm god Teshub. The corresponding Assyrian festival is the Akitu of the Enuma Elish. Also compared are the Canaanite Poem of Baal and Psalms 93 and 29.

The story of the birth of Christ is said to be a result of the spring equinox entering into the Pisces, as the Savior of the World appeared as the Fisher of Men. This parallels the entering into the Age of Pisces.The Church Father Jerome records in a letter dated to the year 395 AD that “Bethlehem… belonging now to us… was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, that is to say, Adonis, and in the cave where once the infant Christ cried, the lover of Venus was lamented.”

Sacred sexual intercourse is thought to have been common in the Ancient Near East[2] as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the kings of a Sumerian city-states and the High Priestesses of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and warfare. Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna.

The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox[5] (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).

Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: EZEN Á.KI.TUM, akiti-šekinku, Á.KI.TI.ŠE.GUR₁₀.KU₅, lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu or rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.

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

Atargatis was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity. Ctesias also used the name Derketo for her, and the Romans called her Dea Syria, or in one word Deasura. She was also identified with Hera by Lucian in his De Dea Syria.

Primarily she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat (“mistress”) of her city and people, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being. Her consort is usually Hadad. They are the protecting deities of the community. Hadad (Ugaritic), Adad, Haddad (Akkadian) or Iškur (Sumerian) was the storm and rain god in the Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian religions.

Adad and Iškur are usually written with the logogram dIM – the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. Hadad was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.

The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. She is sometimes described as a mermaid-goddess, due to identification of her with a fish-bodied goddess at Ascalon. However, there is no evidence that Atargatis was worshipped at Ascalon, and all iconographic evidence shows her as anthropomorphic. As Ataratheh, doves and fish were considered sacred to her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, and fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters.

Atargatis, wearing a mural crown, is the ancestor the royal house, the founder of social and religious life, the goddess of generation and fertility (hence the prevalence of phallic emblems), and the inventor of useful appliances. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite.

By the conjunction of these many functions, despite originating as a sea deity analogous to Amphitrite, she becomes ultimately a great nature-goddess, analogous to Cybele and Rhea: In one aspect she typifies the protection of water in producing life; in another, the universal of other-earth; in a third (influenced, no doubt, by Chaldean astrology), the power of Destiny.

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center.

Virgo

Virgo (Greek: Parthenos) is the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin. Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second-largest constellation in the sky (after Hydra) and the largest constellation in the zodiac.

It spans the 150–180th degree of the zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and the Sun transits the constellation of Virgo from approximately September 16 to October 30.

It can be easily found through its brightest star, Spica, designated α Virginis (Latinised to Alpha Virginis, abbreviated Alpha Vir, α Vir), the brightest object in the constellation Virgo and one of the 20 brightest stars in the night sky. Spica retains this tradition as it is Latin for “ear of grain”, one of the major products of the Mesopotamian furrow. For this reason the constellation became associated with fertility.

The traditional name Spica derives from Latin spīca virginis “the virgin’s ear of [wheat] grain”. It was also anglicized as Virgin’s Spike. Johann Bayer cited the name Arista. Other traditional names are Azimech from Arabic al-simāk al-ʼaʽzal (‘the unarmed simāk’); Alarph (Arabic for ‘the grape-gatherer’ or ‘gleaner’), and Sumbalet (Sombalet, Sembalet and variants), from Arabic sunbulah (“ear of grain”).

Virgo has multiple different origins depending on which mythology is being studied. Most myths generally view Virgo as a virgin/maiden with heavy association with wheat. In the Babylonian MUL.APIN (c. 10th century BC), part of this constellation was known as “The Furrow”, representing the goddess Shala and her ear of grain.

In Egyptian mythology, the time when the constellation Virgo was in the sun was the beginning of the wheat harvest, thus connecting Virgo back to the wheat grain. Virgo has the equivalent sign in Indian astrology as the Kanya (which also means “maiden”), and has even been connected with the Virgin Mary.

In Chinese Jiǎo Xiù (meaning ‘Horn’), refers to an asterism consisting of Spica and Virginis. Consequently, the Chinese name for Spica is Jiǎo Xiù yī (‘The First Star of Horn’). In Hindu astronomy, Spica corresponds to the Nakshatra Chitrā.

Corvus

Corvus is a small constellation in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere. Its name means “raven” in Latin. One of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, it depicts a raven, a bird associated with stories about the god Apollo, perched on the back of Hydra the water snake. As with more familiar Classical astronomy, it was placed sitting on the tail of the Serpent (Greek Hydra).

The four brightest stars, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Beta Corvi, form a distinctive quadrilateral in the night sky. With an apparent magnitude of 2.59, Gamma Corvi—also known as Gienah—is the brightest star in the constellation. The neighboring constellations are Crater, Hydra, and Virgo.

The Greek Corvus was borrowed from the mythical Babylonian Raven, MUL.UGA.MUSHEN, which was usually depicted perched on the tail of a serpent, in the Babylonian star catalogues dating from at least 1100 BCE. ). Babylonians associated the constellation with Adad, the god of rain and storm, because its stars would rise before the rainy season, in the fall, in the second millennium.

The Babylonian constellation was sacred to Adad, the god of rain and storm; in the second Millennium it would have risen just before the autumnal rainy season. John H. Rogers observed that Hydra signified Ningishzida, the god of the underworld in the Babylonian compendium MUL.APIN.

He proposed that Corvus and Crater (along with Hydra) were death symbols and marked the gate to the underworld. These two constellations, along with the eagle Aquila and the fish Piscis Austrinus, were introduced to the Greeks around 500 BCE; they marked the winter and summer solstices respectively.

Furthermore, Hydra had been a landmark as it had straddled the celestial equator in antiquity. Corvus and Crater also featured in the iconography of Mithraism, which is thought to have been of middle-eastern origin before spreading into Ancient Greece and Rome.

Corvus is associated with the myth of Apollo and his lover Coronis the Lapith. Coronis had been unfaithful to Apollo; when he learned this information from a pure white crow, he turned its feathers black in a fit of rage.

The constellation Corvus represents the raven (or crow), Apollo’s sacred bird in Greek mythology. According to the myth, the raven originally had white feathers. In one story, Apollo told the bird to watch over Coronis, one of his lovers, who was pregnant at the time.

Coronis gradually lost interest in Apollo and fell in love with a mortal man, Ischys. When the raven reported the affair to Apollo, the god was so enraged that the bird did nothing to stop it that he flung a curse on it, scorching the raven’s feathers. That, the legend goes, is why all ravens are black.

Apollo then sent his sister Artemis to kill Coronis. Before Coronis’ body was burned, the unborn child, Asclepius, was cut out of her womb and given to the centaur Chiron, who raised him. Asclepius grew up to be a famous healer and is represented by the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer.

Another legend associated with Corvus is that a crow stopped on his way to fetch water for Apollo, to eat figs. Instead of telling the truth to Apollo, he lied and said that a snake, Hydra, kept him from the water, while holding a snake in his talons as proof.

Apollo, realizing this was a lie, flung the crow (Corvus), cup (Crater), and snake (Hydra) into the sky. He further punished the wayward bird by ensuring it would forever be thirsty, both in real life and in the heavens, where the Cup is just out of reach.

Tammuz (Aries) – Inanna (Pisces)

Ninshubur (Virgo) – Geshtinanna (Libra)

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito («She of the Grain”, as the giver of food or grain, and Thesmophoros (thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; phoros: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer”, as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.

Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious tradition that predated the Olympian pantheon, and which may have its roots in the Mycenaean period c. 1400–1200 BC.

In Greek mythology, Persephone, also called Kore (the maiden”), is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable, majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. She becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld.

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

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. Alongside her twin brother Utu (who was later known as Shamash in East Semitic languages), the god of the sun and justice, Inanna was the enforcer of divine justice.

She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center.

She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star. Her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became the male deity Papsukkal). Much like Iris or Hermes, identified with the Roman god Mercury, in later Greek mythology, Ninshubur served as a messenger to the other gods.

Dumuzid, later known by the alternate form Tammuz, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar). Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

In the Sumerian King List, Dumuzid is listed as an antediluvian king of the city of Bad-tibira and also an early king of the city of Uruk. Dumuzid’s sister was Geshtinanna, the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation.

In Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, Dumuzid fails to mourn Inanna’s death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement.

Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology. 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 ancient Sumerian mythology, Ereshkigal is the queen of the Underworld. She is the older sister of the goddess, Inanna. Inanna and Ereshkigal represent polar opposites. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven, but Ereshkigal is the queen of Irkalla. In later East Semitic myths, she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal, who over time developed from a war god to a god of the underworld.

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”.

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.

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’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.

Gemini is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for “twins,” and it is associated with the two Dioscuri or heavenly twins Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology. The Aśvins, or Ashwini Kumaras (“horse possessors”; also spelled Ashvins), are twin Vedic gods of medicine in Hindu mythology. Associated with the dawn, they are described as youthful divine twin horsemen in the Rigveda, travelling in a chariot drawn by horses that are never weary.

They are an instance of the Proto-Indo-European divine horse twins. Their cognates in other Indo-European mythologies include the Baltic Ašvieniai, the Greek Castor and Polux; and possibly the English Hengist and Horsa, and the Welsh Bran and Manawydan. The first mention of the Nasatya twins is from the Mitanni documents of the second millennium BCE,

In Babylonian astronomy, 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.

Adad and Shala

The constellation of the Furrow is the precursor of our modern-day Virgo. The Babylonian figure is represented among the stars as the goddess Šala who holds the familiar ear of barley in her hands. As a seasonal symbol she represents the autumn seeding season when farmers use the seed plough to plant seed in the newly prepared fields.

Shala was an ancient Sumerian goddess of grain and the emotion of compassion. The symbols of grain and compassion combine to reflect the importance of agriculture in the mythology of Sumer, and the belief that an abundant harvest was an act of compassion from the deities.

The image of a barley sheaf actually appears in the cuneiform writing system as the sign known as Nidaba; it is occasionally used to write ‘grain’, but is more often used with a divine determinative to signify Nisaba, the ancient goddess of grain. Yet despite Nisaba’s importance in Mesopotamian culture, all available star-lists record the regent of the Furrowas Šala, a little known goddess who originated in the Hurrian pantheon.

Šala was best known as the wife of Adad, the fecund god of the storm, who was the regent of the nearby constellation of the Raven. Her barley stalk and Adad’s lightning bolt are sometimes depicted together on entitlement stones. Their proximity on the star-map and their marriage symbolise the newly seeded fields made fertile by rain and flood.

As Šala and Adad are both Hurrian deities, they are unlikely to have been assimilated into the Mesopotamian pantheon any earlier than the last centuries of the 3rd millennium when the Hurrian peoples first appear on the historical horizon. Their incorporation into Babylonian star-lore can be best understood as an attempt to integrate the Hurrians into the wider Mesopotamian world.

Traditions identify Shala as wife of the fertility god Dagon, or consort of the storm god Hadad’ also called Ishkur. Hadad was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods. Hadad is usually written with the logogram dIM – the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub.

The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

In ancient depictions, Shala carries a double-headed mace or scimitar embellished with lion heads. Sometimes she is depicted as being borne atop one or two lionesses. From very early times, she is associated with the constellation Virgo and vestiges of symbolism associated with her have persisted in representations of the constellation to current times, such as the ear of grain, even as the deity name changed from culture to culture.

Ninurta and Nintinugga

Ninurta, also known as Ninĝirsu, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, healing, hunting, law, scribes, and war who was first worshipped in early Sumer. His major symbols were a perched bird and a plow.

He was regarded as the son of the chief god Enlil. In Lugal-e, his mother is identified as the goddess Ninmah, whom he renames Ninhursag, but, in Angim dimma, his mother is instead the goddess Ninlil.

In the earliest records, he is a god of agriculture and healing, who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons. In later times, as Mesopotamia grew more militarized, he became a warrior deity, though he retained many of his earlier agricultural attributes. Later, Ninurta became beloved by the Assyrians as a formidable warrior.

The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (ruled 883–859 BC) built a massive temple for him at Kalhu, which became his most important cult center from then on. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Ninurta’s statues were torn down and his temples abandoned because he had become too closely associated with the Assyrian regime, which many conquered peoples saw as tyrannical and oppressive.

In a poem sometimes referred to as the “Sumerian Georgica”, written sometime between 1700 and 1500 BC, Ninurta delivers detailed advice on agricultural matters to farmers, including how to plant, tend, and harvest crops, how to prepare fields for planting, and even how to drive birds away from the crops. The poem covers nearly every aspect of farm life throughout the course of the year.

Though the poem starts out seeming as though the advice is being given from a father to his son, at the end, it concludes with the words: “These are the instructions of Ninurta, son of Enlil. O Ninurta, trustworthy farmer of Enlil, your praise is good.” The “father” at the beginning of the poem is thereby revealed to be Ninurta himself.

Under the name Ninurta, his wife is usually the goddess Gula, but, as Ninĝirsu, his wife is the goddess Bau. Gula was the goddess of healing and medicine and she was sometimes alternately said to be the wife of the god Pabilsaĝ or the minor vegetation god Abu. Bau was worshipped “almost exclusively in Lagash” and was sometimes alternately identified as the wife of the god Zababa.

In artistic representations, Ninurta is shown as a warrior, carrying a bow and arrow and clutching Sharur, his magic talking mace. He sometimes has a set of wings, raised upright, ready to attack. In Babylonian art, he is often shown standing on the back of or riding a beast with the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion.

Ninurta remained closely associated with agricultural symbolism as late as the middle of the second millennium BC. On kudurrus from the Kassite Period (c. 1600 — c. 1155 BC), a plough is captioned as a symbol of Ninĝirsu. The plough also appears in Neo-Assyrian art, possibly as a symbol of Ninurta. A perched bird is also used as a symbol of Ninurta during the Neo-Assyrian Period.

One speculative hypothesis holds that the winged disc originally symbolized Ninurta during the ninth century BC, but was later transferred to Aššur and the sun-god Shamash. This idea is based on some early representations in which the god on the winged disc appears to have the tail of a bird. Most scholars have rejected this suggestion as unfounded.

Astronomers of the eighth and seventh centuries BC identified Ninurta (or Pabilsaĝ) with the constellation Sagittarius. Alternatively, others identified him with the star Sirius, which was known in Akkadian as šukūdu, meaning “arrow”.

The constellation of Canis Major, of which Sirius is the most visible star, was known as qaštu, meaning “bow”, after the bow and arrow Ninurta was believed to carry. In Babylonian times, Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn.

Nintinugga was a Babylonian goddess of healing, the consort of Ninurta. She is identical with the goddess of Akkadian mythology, known as Bau or Baba though it would seem that the two were originally independent. She is later known as Gula and in medical incantations, Bēlet or Balāti, also as the Azugallatu the “great healer”, the same as her son Damu, a god of vegetation and rebirth in Sumerian mythology.

Damu, in Mesopotamian religion, Sumerian deity, city god of Girsu, east of Ur in the southern orchards region. Damu, son of Enki, was a vegetation god, especially of the vernal flowing of the sap of trees and plants. The cult of Damu influenced and later blended with the similar cult of Tammuz the Shepherd, a Sumerian deity.

His name means “The Child,” and his cult—apparently celebrated primarily by women—centred on the lamentation and search for Damu, who had lain under the bark of his nurse, the cedar tree, and had disappeared. The search finally ended when the god reappeared out of the river.

Damu is a healing deity credited both as asû “healer” and āšipu (“exorcist”) which says as much about the close link between the two professions as about the deity’s capabilities. Accordingly, Damu accompanies his mother Gula/Ninkarrak in incantations but is also credited as a healer in his own right.

Other names borne by this goddess are Nin-Karrak, Nin Ezen, Ga-tum-dug and Nm-din-dug. Her epithets are “great healer of the land” and “great healer of the black-headed ones”, a “herb grower”, “the lady who makes the broken up whole again”, and “creates life in the land”, making her a vegetation/fertility goddess endowed with regenerative power. She was the daughter of An and a wife of Ninurta. She had seven daughters, including Hegir-Nuna (Gangir).

The name Bau is more common in the oldest period and gives way to Gula after the First Babylonian dynasty. Since it is probable that Ninib has absorbed the cults of minor sun-deities, the two names may represent consorts of different gods. However this may be, the qualities of both are alike, and the two occur as synonymous designations of Ninib’s female consort. She was known as a patron deity of Lagash, where Gudea built her a temple.

After the Great Flood, she helped “breathe life” back into mankind. The designation well emphasizes the chief trait of Bau-Gula which is that of healer. She is often spoken of as “the great physician,” and accordingly plays a specially prominent role in incantations and incantation rituals intended to relieve those suffering from disease.

She is, however, also invoked to curse those who trample upon the rights of rulers or those who do wrong with poisonous potions. As in the case of Ninib, the cult of Bau-Gula was prominent in Shirgulla and in Nippur. While generally in close association with her consort, she was also invoked alone, giving her more dominance than most of the goddesses of Babylonia and Assyria.

In the Neo-Babylonian period, she also had an oneiric quality. She had sometimes violent nature as the “queen whose ‘tempest’, like a raging storm, makes heaven tremble, makes earth quake”. She was a source for blasphemous remarks where Gula and her dogs are mentioned in formulae of a curse.

She appears in a prominent position on the designs accompanying the Kudurrus boundary-stone monuments of Babylonia, being represented by a portrait, when other gods and goddesses are merely pictured by their shrines, by sacred animals or by weapons. In neo-Babylonian days her cult continues to occupy a prominent position, and Nebuchadrezzar II speaks of no less than three chapels or shrines within the sacred precincts of E-Zida in the city of Borsippa, besides a temple in her honour at Babylon.

Thor and Sif

The myth of the Slain Heroes is alluded to in many texts, but is never preserved in full. In this myth, Ninurta must fight a variety of opponents. Black and Green describe these opponents as “bizarre minor deities”; they include the six-headed Wild Ram, the Palm Tree King, and the seven-headed serpent.

Some of these foes are inanimate objects, such as the Magillum Boat, which carries the souls of the dead to the Underworld, and the strong copper, which represents a metal that was conceived as precious. This story of successive trials and victories may have been the source for the Greek legend of the Twelve Labors of Heracles.

Tacitus records a special affinity of the Germanic peoples for Hercules. In chapter 3 of his Germania, Tacitus states: “… they say that Hercules, too, once visited them; and when going into battle, they sang of him first of all heroes. They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of this barditus as they call it, they rouse their courage, while from the note they augur the result of the approaching conflict. For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm.”

Some have taken this as Tacitus equating the Germanic Þunraz with Hercules by way of interpretatio romana. In the Roman era Hercules’ Club amulets appear from the 2nd to 3rd century, distributed over the empire (including Roman Britain, c.f. Cool 1986), mostly made of gold, shaped like wooden clubs. A specimen found in Köln-Nippes bears the inscription “DEO HER[culi]”, confirming the association with Hercules.

In the 5th to 7th centuries, during the Migration Period, the amulet is theorized to have rapidly spread from the Elbe Germanic area across Europe. These Germanic “Donar’s Clubs” were made from deer antler, bone or wood, more rarely also from bronze or precious metals.

They are found exclusively in female graves, apparently worn either as a belt pendant, or as an ear pendant. The amulet type is replaced by the Viking Age Thor’s hammer pendants in the course of the Christianization of Scandinavia from the 8th to 9th century.

In Norse mythology, Sif is a goddess associated with earth. Sif is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the poetry of skalds. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Sif is the wife of the thunder god Thor and is known for her golden hair.

Scholars have proposed that Sif’s hair may represent fields of golden wheat, that she may be associated with fertility, family, wedlock and/or that she is connected to rowan, and that there may be an allusion to her role or possibly her name in the Old English poem Beowulf.

The name Sif is the singular form of the plural Old Norse word sifjar. Sifjar only appears in singular form when referring to the goddess as a proper noun. Sifjar is cognate to the Old English sibb and modern English sib (meaning “affinity, connection, by marriage”) and in other Germanic languages: Gothic (sibja), Old High German sippa, and modern German Sippe.

Sifjar appears not only in ancient poetry and records of law, but also in compounds (byggja sifjar means “to marry”). Using this etymology, scholar John Lindow gives the meanings “in-law-relationship”, scholar Andy Orchard provides “relation”, and scholar Rudolf Simek gives “relation by marriage”.

Grimm connects Eddic references to Sif’s golden hair (gold is referred to as Sifjar haddr; Sif’s hair) with the herb name haddr Sifjar (Polytrichum aureum). Grimm says that “expositors see in this the golden fruits of the Earth burnt up by fire and growing again, they liken Sif to Ceres”, and Grimm says that “with it agrees the fact that Old Slavic.

Siva is a gloss on Ceres dea frumenti” but cites etymological problems between the potential cognate. Grimm says that Thor’s mother was the earth, and not his wife, yet “we do find the simple Sif standing for earth.”

Grimm adds that he is inconclusive regarding Sif and that, “we ought to have fuller details about Sif, and these are wholly wanting in our mythology. Nowhere amongst us is the mystic relation of the seed-corn of Demeter, whose poignant grief for her daughter threatens to bring famine on mankind (Hymn to Cer. 305–306), nor anything like it, recorded.”

Scholar H. R. Ellis Davidson states that Sif may have been an ancient fertility goddess, agreeing with a link between her lustrous hair and fields of golden wheat. Regarding Sif, Thor, and fertility, Davidson says:

“The cult of Thor was linked up with men’s habitation and possessions, and with well-being of the family and community. This included the fruitfulness of the fields, and Thor, although pictured primarily as a storm god in the myths, was also concerned with the fertility and preservation of the seasonal round. In our own times, little stone axes from the distant past have been used as fertility symbols and placed by the farmer in the holes made by the drill to receive the first seed of spring.

Thor’s marriage with Sif of the golden hair, about which we hear little in the myths, seems to be a memory of the ancient symbol of divine marriage between sky god and earth goddess, when he comes to earth in the thunderstorm and the storm brings the rain which makes the fields fertile. In this way Thor, as well as Odin, may be seen to continue the cult of the sky god which was known in the Bronze Age.”

Furrow and Frond

The constellation of Virgo in Hipparchus corresponds to two Babylonian constellations: the “Furrow” in the eastern sector of Virgo and the “Frond of Erua” in the western sector. The Frond of Erua, also known as Sarpanit, was depicted as a goddess holding a palm-frond – a motif that still occasionally appears in much later depictions of Virgo.

The origins of Virgo can be traced back to the Babylonian constellation called the Furrow. It would actually be more accurate to regard the modernimage of the Virgin as a combination of two independent Babylonian constellations – the Furrow and the Frond, which occupy the eastern and western sectors of Virgo respectively.

Like the familiar Greek image, the Furrow was portrayed as a goddess bearing an oversize ear of barley. She symbolised the barley fields in early autumn when they are about to be seeded, and as may be expected her star was used in astrology to predict the success or failure of the coming harvest: ‘If the Furrow is dark: the barley will fall short of its predicted yield, a shortage of barley and straw will befall the land’.

The autumnal abundance of the earth is symbolised by the two-fold goddesses of the Frond and the Furrow, which respectively represent the two principle cultivated foodstuffs of Babylonia – dates and barley. Dates are especially valuable as they provide a rich source of nourishment that is easily preserved for future use.

The constellation of the Frond, which depicts, makes its annual appearance in the heavens as the dates start to ripen on the frond. The Frond, which stands immediately behind the Lion, was depicted as the goddess Erua with a branch or frond of the date palm – this attribute has, in fact, been retained in many images of Virgo, where she bears her barley stalk in one hand and a date palm frond in the other.

It is debated that when the ecliptic constellations were formulated into 12 zodiac signs the independent symbolism of the Furrow and Frond were combined into a single unified figure, which now represented two of the mainstays of the Babylonian diet – unleavened barley bread and dates.

It is notable that the Babylonian foods have been retained in her imagery, all the more so, as Greek agriculture was dominated by wheat and olives. The end result of combining these two Babylonian constellations into the figure of Virgo is that she is now one of the largest constellations in the sky. She is positioned rather uncomfortably, lying prone along the ecliptic with her head ungraciously set below Leo’s tail.

When Greek star-lore was transmitted to Arabia Virgo’s constellation image was modified again. Her barley-stalk, a meaningless symbol to the desert- dwelling Arabs, was omitted altogether and she suffered the further indignity of having one arm cut off above the elbow and stuck onto her thigh – such brutality being necessary to squeeze her oversize image onto the star-map.

Akitu

Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: EZEN Á.KI.TUM, akiti-šekinku, Á.KI.TI.ŠE.GUR.KU, lit. “the barley-cutting”,[citation needed] akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu or rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.

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

In the religion of ancient Babylon, Tiamat (Akkadian: DTI.AMAT or DTAM.TUM, Greek: Θαλάττη Thaláttē)[3] is a primordial goddess of the salt sea, mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water, to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is referred to as a woman, and described as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

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

In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, correctly assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed.

Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon. She is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopotamian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”. Marduk then forms the heavens and the Earth from her divided body.

Serpanit

In Babylonian religion, Serpanit is a mother goddess and the consort of the chief god, Marduk. Her name means “the shining one”, and she is sometimes associated with the planet Venus. By a play on words her name was interpreted as zēr-bānītu, or “creatress of seed”, and is thereby associated with the goddess Aruru, also known as Ninhursag, who, according to Babylonian myth, created mankind.

Her marriage with Marduk was celebrated annually at New Year in Babylon. She was worshipped via the rising moon, and was often depicted as being pregnant. She is She may be the same as Gamsu, Ishtar, and/or Bêlit.

Bêlit is a form of the Akkadian language word beltu or beltum (meaning “lady”, “mistress”) as used in noun compounds; it appears in titles of goddesses, such as bêlit-ili “lady of the gods”, an Akkadian title of Ninhursag. The word bêlit appears in Greek form as Beltis, considered to be the name of the wife of the god Bêl.

Belet-Seri (also spelled Beletseri, Belit-Sheri, Belit-Tseri) in Babylonian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld goddess. The recorder of the dead entering the underworld, she is known as the “Scribe of the Earth”. It is Belet-seri who keeps the records of human activities so she can advise the queen of the dead, Erishkigal, on their final judgement. Married to Amurru, the God of Nomads, she’s known as ‘Queen of the Desert.’

Gestinanna

Beginning in the Old Babylonian Period, Belet-Seri was identified with the goddess Gestinanna, the ancient Sumerian goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation, the so-called “heavenly grape-vine”. She was viewed as a mother goddess and was closely associated with the interpretation of dreams. Like her brother Dumuzid, she was also a rural deity, associated with the countryside and open fields.

Gestinanna is the sister of Dumuzid, later known by the alternate form Tammuz, an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar), and consort of Ningisida. She is also the daughter of Enki and Ninhursag.

She shelters her brother when he is being pursued by galla demons and mourns his death after the demons drag him to Kur. She eventually agrees to take his place in Kur for half the year, allowing him to return to Heaven to be with Inanna. The Sumerians believed that, while Geshtinanna was in Heaven and Dumuzid in Kur, the earth became dry and barren, thus causing the season of summer.

Ninhursag

Ninḫursaĝ, also known as Damgalnuna or Ninmah, was the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

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

The mother goddess had many epithets including shassuru or ‘womb goddess’, tabsut ili ‘midwife of the gods’, ‘mother of all children’ and ‘mother of the gods’. In this role she is identified with Ki in the Enuma Elish. She had shrines in both Eridu and Kish.

She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian). Possibly included among the original mother goddesses was Damgalnuna (great wife of the prince) or Damkina (true wife), the consort of the god Enki.

Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”. According to legend, her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains.

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

Uttu, on her ancestress Ninhursag’s advice buried Enki’s seed in the earth, whereupon eight plants (the very first) sprung up. Enki, seeing the plants, ate them, and became ill in eight organs of his body. Ninhursag cured him, taking the plants into her body and giving birth to eight deities: Abu, Nintulla (Nintul), Ninsutu, Ninkasi, Nanshe, Azimua, Ninti, and Enshag (Enshagag).

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

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

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

Demeter and Persephone

Early Greek astronomy associated the Babylonian constellation with their goddess of wheat and agriculture, Demeter, mother of Persephone, the goddess of the harvest. The Romans associated it with their goddess Ceres, mother of Proserpina. Demeter’s emblem is the poppy, a bright red flower that grows among the barley.

In epic poetry and Hesiod’s Theogony, Demeter is the Corn-Mother, the goddess of cereals who provides grain for bread and blesses its harvesters. This was her main function at Eleusis, and became panhellenic. In Cyprus, “grain-harvesting” was damatrizein. The main theme in the Eleusinian mysteries was the reunion of Persephone with her mother Demeter, when new crops were reunited with the old seed, a form of eternity.

According to the Athenian rhetorician Isocrates, Demeter’s greatest gifts to humankind were agriculture, particularly of cereals, and the Mysteries which give the initiate higher hopes in this life and the afterlife. These two gifts were intimately connected in Demeter’s myths and mystery cults. In Hesiod, prayers to Zeus-Chthonios (chthonic Zeus) and Demeter help the crops grow full and strong.

Another figure who is associated with the constellation Virgo was the spring goddess Persephone, also called Kore (“the maiden”), the daughter of Zeus and Demeter who had married Hades and resided in the Underworld during summer. In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina.

Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable, majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. She becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld.

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

In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the process of being carried off by Hades.

In the myth Pluto abducts Persephone to be his wife and the queen of his realm (this is the myth which explains their marriage). Pluto (Ploutōn) was a name for the ruler of the underworld; the god was also known as Hades, a name for the underworld itself.

The name Pluton was conflated with that of Ploutos (Ploutos, “wealth”), a god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because Pluto as a chthonic god ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest. Plouton is lord of the dead, but as Persephone’s husband he has serious claims to the powers of fertility.

Both Homer and Hesiod, writing c. 700 BC, described the agricultural hero Iasion as a consort of Demeter. According to Hesiod, they had intercourse in a ploughed furrow. Demeter subsequently gave birth to two sons, Philomelus and Ploutos (Ploutos, lit. “wealth”), the Greek god of wealth.

This union seems to be a reference to a hieros gamos (ritual copulation) to ensure the earth’s fertility. This ritual copulation appears in Minoan Crete, in many Near Eastern agricultural societies, and also in the Anthesteria.

In the theology of the Eleusinian Mysteries Ploutos is regarded as the “Divine Child.” Among the Eleusinian figures painted on Greek ceramics, regardless of whether he is depicted as child or youthful ephebe, a Greek term for a male adolescent, or for a social status reserved for that age, in Antiquity, Plutus can be identified as the one bearing the cornucopia, the horn of plenty.

Philomelus was a minor Greek demi-god, patron of Husbandry, Tillage/Ploughing and Agriculture, the son of Demeter and Iasion, and the brother of Plutus. Plutus was very wealthy, but would share none of his riches to his brother.

Out of necessity, Philomenus bought two oxen, invented the wagon or plough, and supported himself by ploughing his fields and cultivating crops. His mother, admiring him for this, put him in the heavens as the constellation Boötes, his wagon or plough being the constellation Ursa Major.

The original cult of Ploutos (or Pluto) in Eleusis was similar with the Minoan cult of the “divine child”, who died in order to be reborn. The child was abandoned by his mother and then it was brought up by the powers of nature. Similar myths appear in the cults of Hyakinthos (Amyklai), Erichthonios (Athens), and later in the cult of Dionysos.

The Greek version of the abduction myth is related to grain – important and rare in the Greek environment – and the return (ascent) of Persephone was celebrated at the autumn sowing. Pluto (Ploutos) represents the wealth of the grain that was stored in underground silos or ceramic jars (pithoi), during summer months. Similar subterranean pithoi were used in ancient times for burials and Pluto is fused with Hades, the King of the realm of the dead.

During summer months, the Greek grain-Maiden (Kore) is lying in the grain of the underground silos in the realm of Hades, and she is fused with Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. At the beginning of the autumn, when the seeds of the old crop are laid on the fields, she ascends and is reunited with her mother Demeter, for at that time the old crop and the new meet each other. For the initiated, this union was the symbol of the eternity of human life that flows from the generations which spring from each other.

Parthenos

Another association is with the myth of Parthenos (meaning virgin in Greek), which explains how the actual constellation Virgo came to be. In the Poeticon Astronomicon by Hyginus (1st century BC), Parthenos is the daughter of Apollo and Chrysothemis, who died a maiden and was placed among the stars as the constellation.

Diodorus Siculus has an alternative account, according to which Parthenos was the daughter of Staphylus and Chrysothemis, sister of Rhoeo and Molpadia (Hemithea). After a suicide attempt she and Hemithea were carried by Apollo to Chersonesus, where she became a local goddess. Strabo also mentions a goddess named Parthenos worshipped throughout Chersonesus.

Astraea

The symbol of the maiden is based on Iustitia or Astraea ( “star-maiden” or “starry night”), a daughter of Astraeus and Eos holding the scales of justice in her hand (that now are separated as the constellation Libra). She is the virgin goddess of justice, innocence, purity and precision. She is closely associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike (daughter of Zeus and Themis).

Astraea, the celestial virgin, was the last of the immortals to live with humans during the Golden Age, one of the old Greek religion’s five deteriorating Ages of Man. According to Ovid, Astraea was the last immortal to abandon Earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with Earth. According to legend, Astraea will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.

Fleeing from the new wickedness of humanity, she ascended to heaven to become the constellation Virgo. The nearby constellation Libra reflected her symbolic association with Dike, who in Latin culture as Justitia is said to preside over the constellation. In the Tarot, the 8th card, Justice, with a figure of Justitia, can thus be considered related to the figure of Astraea on historical iconographic grounds.

Erigone

Another Greek myth from later, Classical times, identifies Virgo as Erigone, the daughter of Icarius of Athens. Icarius, who had been favored by Dionysus and was killed by his shepherds while they were intoxicated after which Erigone hanged herself in grief; in versions of this myth, Dionysus is said to have placed the father and daughter in the stars as Boötes and Virgo respectively.

Kanya

The month of Kanyā, called Purattasi in the Tamil Hindu calendar, is one of the twelve months in the Indian solar calendar. Kanya, the sixth sign of the zodiac, corresponds to the zodiacal sign of Virgo, and overlaps with about the second half of September and about the first half of October in the Gregorian calendar. Kanya marks the start of harvests and festival season across the Indian subcontinent.

The solar month of Kanya overlaps with its lunar month Ashvin, also Ashwin or Ashwan, also known as Aswayuja, in Hindu lunisolar calendars. The Indian solar month names are significant in epigraphical studies of South Asia. For example, Kanya month, along with other solar months, are found inscribed in medieval era Hindu temples.

Kanya is preceded by the solar month of Siṃha, and followed by the solar month of Tulā. In Vedic texts the Simha month is called Nabhas and the Tula month is called Issa, but in these ancient texts they dont have any zodiacal associations. The solar month of Simha overlaps with its lunar month Bhadrapada while the solar month of Tula overlaps with its lunar month Kartik, in Hindu lunisolar calendars.

Simha corresponds to the zodiacal sign of Leo, and overlaps with about the second half of August and about the first half of September while Tulā corresponds to the zodiacal sign of Libra, and overlaps with about the second half of October and about the first half of November in the Gregorian calendar.

Kanya (Virgo) is a feminine, earthy and a common sign. It has a very special significance in the manifestative process. It represents consciousness-in-bondage, but with an understanding that the shackles can be cast away.

It represents that Divine discontent which impels the aspirant onto the path of discipleship where mass is converted into energy and matter is subjugated to Spirit. It contains within itself those finer forces of Nature which express ideals and strive for perfection; it is that energy which suffers for the growth and fruition of a child’s desire. It arouses conscience and suffering for a noble cause.

Kanya produces intense activity in the realm of the intellect and psychic consciousness, where there is no place for personal pleasure and enjoyment. Kanya is indeed very difficult to comprehend, and the way it influences the individual is difficult to describe.

There is little of merriment produced by this sign, but for the attainment of siddhis there is no other sign which can be so helpful. It is the only sign in the zodiac symbolized by a single human figure and its mystic nature is enhanced by the fact that it is a maiden, not a married female adult.

Yavanacharya described Kanya as holding fire in one hand — the significance of this statement becomes clear only when one pursues the symbolism of fire. There is not a thing or a particle in the universe which does not contain some land of latent fire. It holds within itself the power which enables everything to grow.

Just as a mother tenderly guides the growth of her child, even suffering for her child, so it cares for the manifest universe. Moving in the current of manifestative flow, the creative potential moves to provide food and sustenance for its children. This is a sign of great sensitivity. It represents energy concealed in matter.

On the superficial level of existence, Kanya produces suffering, disquiet, and movement of an undesirable nature. But for inner quietude and tranquility, the grace of the World Mother whom this sign represents is essential. The maiden is shown seated in a boat, holding a chaff of grain hi one hand and fire in the other. The maiden is Kanya’s primary symbol; the boat, the fire, and the handful of freshly cut grain are secondary.

Kanya is owned by Budha graha, a Sanskrit word that connotes the planet Mercury which is also in its exaltation here. Shukra (Venus) is debilitated in this sign. Hindu scriptures link it with Prithivi (the Earth) or Aditi (Celestial Space).  It symbolizes the Female Power (shakti).

Budha

Budha, in puranic Hindu mythology, is in addition to be a planet also a deity. He is also known as Soumya (lit. “Son of the Moon”), Rauhineya and Tunga. Budha has been linguistically related to Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, though this is controversial.

Budha is part of the Navagraha in Hindu zodiac system, considered benevolent, associated with an agile mind and memory. The zodiac and naming system of Hindu astrology, with Budha as Mercury, likely developed in the centuries after the arrival of Greek astrology with Alexander the Great, their zodiac signs being nearly identical.

Budha is the root of the word ‘Budhavara’ or Wednesday in the Hindu calendar. Budha is also the root for name for the week day in many other Indian languages. The word “Wednesday” in the Greco-Roman and other Indo-European calendars is also dedicated to planet Mercury (“day of Woden or Oden”).

One of the earliest mentions of Budha as a celestial body appears in the Vedic text Pancavimsa Brahmana, a collection of ancient Indian texts with commentaries on the hymns of the four Vedas, and it appears in other ancient texts such as the Shatapatha Brahmana (“Brāhmaṇa of one hundred parts”), a prose text describing Vedic rituals, history and mythology associated with the Śukla Yajurveda, as well.

However, he is not mentioned in the context of astrology. In the ancient texts, Budha is linked to three steps of the Hindu god Vishnu, mentioned in the several hymns of the Rigveda that repeat the mighty deed of Vishnu called the Trivikrama, which is one of the lasting mythologies in Hinduism since the Vedic times.

Trivikrama refers to the celebrated three steps or “three strides” of Vishnu. Starting as a small insignificant looking being, Vishnu undertakes a herculean task of establishing his reach and form, then with his first step covers the earth, with second the ether, and the third entire heaven.

Budha appears as a deity in Indian texts, including the Purana, often as the son of the moon god Soma, also known as Chandra (lit. “shining” or “moon”), and Taraka or Tārā, the Hindu goddess of felicity and sanguineness, who is also mentioned as the second consort of Hindu god Brihaspati, the god of the planet Jupiter.

Soma connotes the Moon as well as a medicinal deity in post-Vedic Hindu mythology. In Puranic mythology, Soma is a moon deity, but the name is sometimes also used to refer to Vishnu, Shiva (as Somanatha), Yama and Kubera. In some Indian texts, Soma is the name of an Apsara; alternatively it is the name of any medicinal concoction, or rice-water gruel, or heaven and sky, as well as the name of certain places of pilgrimage.

The Soma Mandala in the Rigveda mentions Soma as a ritual drink as being of importance among the early Indo-Iranians. Soma is synonymous with Chandra, however, in Buddhist sources, Soma and Chandra (Pali: Candimā) appear to be separate entities.

Chandra is a lunar deity and is also one of the nine planets (Navagraha) in Hinduism. Chandra is synonymous to as Soma. Other names include Indu (bright drop), Atrisuta (son of Atri), Sachin (marked by hare), Tārādhipa (lord of stars) and Nishakara (the night maker).

Chandra, who is also known as Soma and Indu, is the basis of Somvaar, which is Hindi, and Induvaasaram, which is Sanskrit, for Monday in the Hindu calendar. He is described as young and beautiful, two-armed and carrying a club and a lotus.

Bṛhaspati appears in the Rigveda (pre-1000 BCE), such as in the dedications to him in the hymn 50 of Book 4; he is described as a sage born from the first great light, the one who drove away darkness, is bright and pure, and carries a special bow whose string is Rta or “cosmic order” (basis of dharma). His knowledge and character is revered, and he is considered Guru (teacher) by all the Devas.

In the Vedic literature and other ancient texts, sage Brihaspati is also called by other names such as Bramanaspati, Purohita, Angirasa (son of Angiras) and Vyasa; he is sometimes identified with god Agni (fire). In the Mahabharata, the son of Brihaspati named Bharadvaja is the counsellor of the Pandavas.

In medieval mythologies, Brihaspati was married to Tara, a goddess who personifies the stars in the sky, was abducted by Chandra. Tara bore a son, Budha. According to the Puranas, Tara sired or mothered a child named Budha through Chandra.

In medieval mythologies particularly those associated with Hindu astrology, Brihaspati has a second meaning and refers to Jupiter. It became the root of the word ‘Brihaspativara’ or Thursday in the Hindu calendar. The word “Thursday” in the Greco-Roman and other Indo-European calendars is also dedicated to planet Jupiter (god of sky and thunder).

Brihaspati as Jupiter is part of the Navagraha in Hindu zodiac system, considered auspicious and benevolent. The zodiac and naming system of Hindu astrology, including Brihaspati as Jupiter, likely developed in the centuries after the arrival of Greek astrology with Alexander the Great, their zodiac signs being nearly identical.

However, the mythology of Budha is not consistent in Hindu Puranas, and he alternatively is described as the son of goddess Rohini, a daughter of the god Soma and Daksha (lit. “able, dexterous, or honest one”), according to Hindu mythology one of the sons of Lord Brahma, who, after creating the ten Manas Putras, created Daksha, Dharma, Kamadeva and Agni from his right thumb, chest, heart and eyebrows respectively.

Dakṣa was a great Brahmin king. Pictures show him as a rotund and obese man with a stocky body, protruding belly, and muscular with the head of an ibex-like creature with spiral horns. One of the daughters of Daksha (often said to be the youngest) was Sati (Dakshayani), who had always wished to marry Shiva. Daksha forbade it, but Sati disobeyed him and did so anyway, finding in Shiva a doting and loving husband.

Daksha Yagna, also called Daksha-Yajna-Nasha (“destruction of Daksha’s sacrifice), was an important turning point in the creation and development of sects in Hinduism. In Hindu mythology, is an important event, which is narrated in various Hindu scriptures. It refers to a yajna (sacrifice) organized by Daksha, where his daughter Sati immolated herself. The wrath of god Shiva, Sati’s husband, thereafter destroyed the sacrifice.

The story forms the basis of the establishment of the Stala Purana (“Origin story of Temples”) of Shakti Peethas, temples of the Hindu Divine Mother. It is also becomes a prelude to the story of Parvati, Sati’s reincarnation, who later marries Shiva. The story replaced goddess Sati by Shree Parvati as Shiva’s consort, and lead to the story of Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya.

In classical Hindu scriptures (Mahabharata, Harivamsa), the creation of the nakshatras, the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology and Indian Astronomy, is attributed to Daksha. They are personified as daughters of Daksha and as wives of Chandra who reluctantly married the 26 other nakshatra’s on Daksha’s request even though he was only interested to marry Rohini, or alternatively the daughters of Kashyapa, a revered Vedic sage of Hinduism and the brother of Daksha.

The starting point for the nakshatras according to Vedas is “Krittika” (it has been argued because the Pleiades may have started the year at the time the Vedas were compiled, presumably at the vernal equinox), but, in more recent compilations, the start of the nakshatras list is the point on the ecliptic directly opposite to the star Spica, designated α Virginis (Latinised to Alpha Virginis, abbreviated Alpha Vir, α Vir), the brightest object in the constellation Virgo, called Chitrā in Sanskrit.

This would be Ashvinī, an asterism that is part of the modern constellation Aries, and these compilations therefore may have been compiled during the centuries when the sun was passing through the area of the constellation Aries at the time of the vernal equinox. This version may have been called Meshādi or the “start of Aries”.

Ashvini is the first nakshatra (lunar mansion) in Hindu astrology having a spread from 0°-0′-0″ to 13°-20′, corresponding to the head of Aries, including the stars β and γ Arietis. The name aśvinī is used by Varahamihira (6th century). The older name of the asterism, found in the Atharvaveda (AVS 19.7; in the dual) and in Panini (4.3.36), was aśvayúj, (“harnessing horses”).

Ashvini is ruled by Ketu, the descending lunar node. In electional astrology, Asvini is classified as a small constellation, meaning that it is believed to be advantageous to begin works of a precise or delicate nature while the moon is in Ashvini. Asvini is ruled by the Ashvins, the heavenly twins who served as physicians to the gods. Personified, Asvini is considered to be the wife of the Asvini Kumaras. Ashvini is represented either by the head of a horse, or by honey and the bee hive.

By his spouse Ila, an androgyne deity in Hindu mythology known for their sex changes – as a man he is known as Sudyumna and as a woman is called Ilā – Budha had a son, king Pururavas, the first king of the Aila dynasty (“descendants of Ilā”), also known as the chandravamsha, the Somavaṃśa or the Lunar dynasty, one of the principal houses of the Kshatriya varna, or warrior–ruling caste.

This legendary Lunar dynasty of Indian kings was said to be descended from moon-related deities (Soma or Chandra). According to the Vedas, Pururavas is a mythological entity associated with Surya (the sun) and Usha (the dawn), and is believed to reside in the middle region of the cosmos.

The Rig Veda (X.95.18) states that Pururavas was a son of Ilā and was a pious king. However, the Mahabharata states that Ila was both his mother and his father. According to the Vishnu Purana, his father was Budha, and he was ancestor of the tribe of Pururavas, from whom descended the Kauravas and Pandavas.

Prithvi 

Prithvi (“the Vast One”) or Prithvi Mata (“Earth mother”) is the Sanskrit name for the earth as well as the name of a devi (goddess) in Hinduism and some branches of Buddhism. She is the primordial goddess of the Rigveda.She is also known as Bhūmi, also known as Bhudevi, Bhūmī-Devī or Padmavati, the Hindu avatar of goddess Prithvi representing Mother Earth.

Prithvi represented the female principle of fertility, and she was frequently praised by Vedic texts in this supportive capacity. She is the source of all vegetation, and thereby responsible for agricultural bounties. In her associations with such gifts, she was commonly symbolized as a cow. Prithu, an incarnation of Viṣṇu, milked her in cow’s form.

The Vedic cult also seems to have commemorated her nurturance in at least one ritual wherein a cake made of newly harvested barley or rice mixed with clarified butter was offered to the Sky father and mother earth. The offering may also have consisted exclusively of clarified butter, as this was considered the sap of the heaven and earth.

Hymns dedicated to Prithvi in the Vedas praise her for her sustaining fecudity as well as her incredible stability. The most significant of these hymns is that found in Atharva-veda 12.1, which emphasizes her nourishing dispensations and also identifies male sky or rain gods such as Indra, Parjanya, Prajapati and Viśvakarma as her protectors and/or consorts.

One of the oldest Aryan dieties, Prithvi shares many common traits with other Indo-European earth goddesses such as the Greek Gaia, in that she is personified as a mother and is closely paired with a fatherly sky god as her consort.

In fact, Prithvi is consort of both Vishnu and Dyaus Pita (“Father Sky”). As Pṛthvī Mātā (“Mother Earth”) Prithvi is complementary to Dyaus Pita. In the Rigveda, Earth and Sky are primarily addressed in the dual as Dyavapṛthivi, probably expressing the idea that earth and sky exist as complementary half-shells.

Rg Veda 6.70 suggests that eventually the two were seperated by the decree of Varuna (from the Sanskrit root vr, meaning “to surround”), a Vedic solar god who, in Hindu mythology, presided over the celestial ocean surrounding the earth. In ancient India, he enjoyed supremacy over the Vedic pantheon as the god of the universal law/moral order (rta), though he was eventually usurped by Indra, the god of storms.

Ancient Hinduism differentiated deities into two classes: asuras and devas. Originally, the asuras were elevated to the rank of sovereign gods and classified as Adityas, or sons of Aditi (“infinity”). Varuna was the most prominent of these gods.

As time progressed, other members of the Vedic pantheon, the subordinate devas such as Indra, Agni and Soma, would eventually eclipse Varuna in importance. The eventual rise of the devas to prominence lead the asuras to be seen as demonic.

Prthivi and Dyaus are considered the creators of the various living creatures, and together they also sired many divine children who became the progenitors of the rest of the Hindu pantheon.

Enumerated among their children is Indra, who eventually overthrew his father to become the supreme sky god. According to legend, when Indra killed Dyaus, Prithvi applauded his deed and then married him. Prthivi was also the mother of Agni, the god of fire. It is said that when Agni was born, Prithvi and Dyaus fled away from the fiery deity in fear.

In Buddhist texts and visual representations, Pṛthvī is described as both protecting Gautama Buddha and as being his witness for his enlightenment. Prithvi appears in Early Buddhism in the Pāli Canon, dispelling the temptation figure Mara by attesting to Gautama Buddha’s worthiness to attain enlightenment.

The Buddha is frequently depicted performing the bhūmisparśa or “earth-touching” mudrā as a symbolic invocation of the goddess. The bhūmisparśa or “earth witness” mudra of Gautama Buddha is one of the most common iconic images of Buddhism. Other names include “Buddha calling the earth to witness”, and “earth-touching”.

It depicts the story from Buddhist legend of the moment when Buddha achieved complete enlightenment, with Buddha sitting in meditation with his left hand, palm upright, in his lap, and his right hand touching the earth.

In the story the Buddha was challenged by the demon Mara, who asked him for a witness to attest his right to achieve it. In reply he touched the ground, asking Pṛthivi, the devi of the earth, that she witness his enlightenment, which she did.

Bhumi

Bhumi is the daughter of Prajapati (Prajāpati-Rajjan or Rajanya; “lord of creation and protector”), a Vedic deity of Hinduism, and the consort of the Hindu boar god Varaha (‘boar’), an Avatar of Vishnu. She is also considered one of the two divine wives of Vishnu himself along with Lakshmi; accordingly, Bhumi and related goddesses representing or personifying the earth often accompany incarnations of Vishnu.

She is known by various names such as Bhuma-Devi, Bhuvati, Bhuvaani, Bhuvaneshwari, Avni, Prithvi, Varahi ,Dharti, Dhaatri, Dharani, Vasudha, Vasundhara, Vaishnavi, Kashyapi, Urvi, Ira, Mahi, Ela, Vasumati, Dhanshika, Hema, and Hiranmaya; all of which refer to her sustaining beneficence as “that which holds everything.”

She is worshipped in patala and is depicted as seated on a platform which rests on the back of four elephants, representing the four directions of the world. She is usually depicted with four arms, respectively holding a pomegranate, a water vessel, a bowl containing healing herbs, and another bowl containing vegetables.

She is also sometimes depicted with two hands, the right hand holding a blue lotus known as Kumuda or Utpala, the night lotus, while the left hand may be in the Abhaya Mudra, the fearlessness or the Lolahasta Mudra, which is an aesthetic pose meant to mimic the tail of a horse.

With Varaha, Bhudevi bore a son by the name of Narakasura, who grew to become a powerful demon king, due in large part to a boon he received from Lord Brahma dictating that he could be killed by no being save for his mother.

With this capacity, Narakasura mistreated the gods and accumulated a harem of women numbering in the tens of thousands. His tyrannical reign lasted many eons, and eventually Vishnu took birth again in order to save the universe at the request of the gods, this time incarnated as Krishna.

Krishna took Satyabhama as his third wife, and she has subsequently been identified as an avatar of Bhudevi. When Satyabhama heard of the Narakasuara’s mistreatment of women, particularly the godly matriarch Aditi, she became enraged.

Krishna not only granted her his permission to fight the demonic despot, but he lent her Garuda as a mount to aid in her imminent battle. Satyabhama journeyed to the capital of Naraksura’s kingdom along with her husband and initiated a battle with the son she had birthed in her previous life.

She proved no match for his martial training, however. With Satyabhama pacified, Narakasura turned his attention to Krishna, wounding him with a surprise attack. Krishna fainted, reinvigorating the fury of Satyabhama.

She assaulted her son with increased ferocity and finally debilitated him with a mortal blow. As Narakasura took his last breaths, he made one final request of his mother: that his death be commemorated annually with a display colourful lights. Thus, this mythological event is celebrated each year during Diwali, the festival of lights.

Bhudevi continues the lineage of the earth goddess which has been a persistent element of Indo-European mythology as well as that of the entire world. Elements of Bhudevi have been present since Vedic times in the figure of Prthvi, and have continued on with other popular female figures such as Sita, Satyabhama, and Lakshmi, all of whom inherit characteristics of the earth goddess.

Aspects of this mytheme have also been associated with venerable Hindu women throughout history. For example, Andal, a tenth century Tamil saint and the only female included among the Alvars, is herself considered to be a manifestation of Bhudevi; accordingly, her hagiographies credit her birth to the soil underneath a Basil plant.

Varaha

Bhūmi is the consort of the boar god Varaha, also known as Yajna-varaha (‘sacrificial boar’), Varaha-deva (‘Divine Boar’), Dharani-Varaha (‘Boar that holds or maintains’), and Adivaraha (‘the first boar’). Varaha was originally described as a form of Brahma, but later on evolved into an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Varaha takes the form of a boar as the embodiment of sacrifice and is commonly associated with the legend of lifting the earth. Varaha is listed as third in the Dashavatara, the ten principal avatars of Vishnu.

In Hindu mythology, when the demon Hiranyaksha tormented the earth (personified as the goddess Bhudevi) and its inhabitants, Bhudevi was sank into the primordial waters. Vishnu took the form of the Varaha, descended into the depths of the oceans to rescue her. Varaha slew the demon and retrieved the Earth from the ocean, lifting Bhudevi on his tusks, thereby restoring her place in the universe.

Varaha may be depicted completely as a boar or in an anthropomorphic form, with a boar’s head and human body. The rescued earth lifted by Varaha is often depicted as a young woman called Bhudevi. The earth may be depicted as a mass of land balanced on his tusk.

In the story of their pairing, Bhudevi takes on the role of the earth in its most literal, elemental form, while Varaha assumes the form of a boar. When mother earth is carried off by asuras and submerged under the vast ocean by the orders of the demon Hiranyaksha, Varaha comes to her aid, diving deep down into the great waters.

At ocean’s bottom he kills Hiranyaksha and steadies Bhudevi on his snout, carrying her above the water once again. He then maps the geography of the earth as it is known today, sculpting mountains and valleys, and dividing it into the continents.

In the Vishnu Purana, Varaha represents yajna (sacrifice), as the eternal upholder of the earth. Thus, states Vishnu Purana, the Varaha is the embodiment of the Supreme Being who brings order amidst chaos in the world by his sacrifice. Varaha symbolizes the resurrection of the earth. Roshen Dalal describes the symbolism of his iconography, in this text as follows:

“His feet represent the Vedas (scriptures). His tusks represent sacrificial stakes. His teeth are offerings. His mouth is the altar, tongue is the sacrificial fire. The hair on his head denotes the sacrificial grass. The eyes represent the day and the night. The head represents the seat of all. The mane represents the hymns of the Vedas. His nostrils are the oblation. His joints represent the various ceremonies. The ears are said to indicate rites (voluntary and obligatory).”

This mythological pairing of Bhudevi and Varaha is consistent with a common motif during the Puranic period which linked earth goddesses and the avatars of Vishnu. Other examples of this trend include Sita, wife of Vishnu’s incarnation Rama, and the divine couple Lakshmi (fittingly a goddess of fertility and plenty) and Vishnu himself.

The general storyline in these legends involves the despair of the incarnation’s earth-personifying consort as a result of her mistreatment by the powers of evil—the earth’s call for help subsequently triggers the descent of the sky god to restore dharma. This is hardly a surprising development, considering the typical associations made in Vedic mythology between earth goddess with the sky god.

A different interpretation of the Varaha iconography is one that describes the role of warrior king, rescuing goddess earth (kingdom) from a demon who kidnaps her, torments her and the inhabitants. It is a symbolism for the battle between right versus wrong, good versus evil, and of someone willing to go to the depths and do what is necessary to rescue the good, the right, the dharma.

He is the protector of the innocent goddess and the weak who have been imprisoned by the demonic forces. The sculpture typically show the symbolic scene of the return of Varaha after he had successfully killed the oppressive demon Hiranyaksha, found and rescued goddess earth (Prithivi, Bhudevi), and the goddess is back safely.

Whether in the zoomorphic form or the anthropomorphic form, the victorious hero Varaha is accompanied by sages and saints of Hinduism, all gods including Shiva and Brahma. This symbolizes that just warriors must protect the weak and the bearers of all forms of knowledge and that the gods approve of and cheer on the rescue.

Prajapati

Bhumi is the daughter of Prajapati. In classical and medieval era literature, Prajapati is equated to the metaphysical concept called Brahman as Prajapati-Brahman (Svayambhu Brahman), or alternatively Brahman is described as one who existed before Prajapati.

Prajapati is a compound of “praja” (creation, procreative powers) and “pati” (lord, master). The term means “lord of creatures”, or “lord of all born beings”. Prajapati is younger than Savitr, and the word was originally an epithet for the sun.

Savitṛ (Sanskrit: stem savitṛ-, nominative singular savitā) in Vedic mythology is an Aditya i.e. off-spring of the Vedic primeval mother goddess Aditi. His name in Vedic Sanskrit connotes “impeller, rouser, vivifier.”

He is sometimes associated with – and at other times distinguished from – Surya, “the Sun”. When considered distinct from the Sun proper, he is conceived of as the divine influence or vivifying power of the Sun.

The Sun before sunrise is called Savitr, and after sunrise until sunset it is called Sūrya. Savitr is celebrated in eleven whole hymns of the Rig Veda and in parts of many others, his name being mentioned about 170 times in aggregate.

Savitr disappeared as an independent deity from the Hindu pantheon after the end of the Vedic period, but in modern Hinduism his name occurs in the well-known Gayatri mantra (taken from book three of the Rigveda; RV 3.62.10), which is therefore also known as the Sāvitrī.

In the later Vedic texts, Prajapati is a distinct Vedic deity, but whose significance diminishes. Later, the term is synonymous with other gods, particularly Brahma or Vishnu or Shiva. Still later, the term evolves to mean any divine, semi-divine or human sages who create something new.

The origins of Prajapati are unclear. He appears late in the Vedic layer of texts, and the hymns that mention him provide different cosmological theories in different chapters. He is missing from the Samhita layer of Vedic literature, conceived in the Brahmana layer, states Jan Gonda.

His profile gradually rises in the Vedas, peaking within the Brahmanas. It has been posited that Prajapati originated as an abstract or semi-abstract deity in the later Vedic milieu as speculations evolved from the archaic to more learned speculations.

A possible connection between Prajapati (and related figures in Indian tradition) and the Prōtogonos (lit. “first-born”) of the Greek Orphic tradition has been proposed. Protogonos is the Orphic equivalent of Vedic Prajapati in several ways: he is the first god born from a cosmic egg, he is the creator of the universe, and in the figure of Dionysus – a direct descendant of Protogonos – worshippers participate in his death and rebirth.

The name of /PRA-JĀ[N]-pati/ (‘progeny-potentate’) is etymologically equivalent to that of the oracular god at Colophon, namely /prōtogonos/. The cosmic egg concept linked to Prajapati and Protogonos is common in many parts of the world, which appears in later Orphic cult in Greece.

In the medieval era texts of Hinduism, Prajapati refers to legendary agents of creation, working as gods or sages, who appear in every cycle of creation-maintenance-destruction (manvantara). Their numbers vary between 7, 10, 16 or 21.

Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity, fortune, luck, royalty, fertility and the embodiment of beauty. She is also known as the consort and active energy of Vishnu (the preserver god in the Hindu Trinity) and is particularly prominent in Sri-Vaishnavism, a devotional school of Hinduism, as well as in the Pancaratra, in which she is worshiped as the supreme creator.

She is also considered as the daughter of Durga in Bengali Hindu culture. In eastern India, Lakshmi is seen as a Devi. Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Parvati are typically conceptualised as distinct in most of India, but in states such as West Bengal and Odisha, they are regionally believed to be forms of Durga.

Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments. In Buddhist sects of Tibet, Nepal and southeast Asia, goddess Vasundhara mirrors the characteristics and attributes of Hindu goddess Lakshmi, with minor iconographic differences.

Lakshmi is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering golden-coloured woman with an owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life, her ability to move, work and prevail in confusing darkness. She typically stands or sits like a yogin on a lotus pedestal and holds lotus in her hand, a symbolism for fortune, self-knowledge and spiritual liberation.

Her iconography shows her with four hands, which represent the four goals of human life considered important to the Hindu way of life: dharma, kāma, artha and moksha. She is often depicted as part of the trinity (Tridevi) consisting of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati.

Also known as Shri or Thirumagal, because she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities, or gunas, and is the divine strength of Vishnu, Lakshmi is physically depicted as a radiant goddess dressed in exquisite garments and precious jewels. Her expression is consistently calm and loving. She is often depicted seated or standing upon a lotus representing purity and beauty.

Shri, also transliterated as Shree, Sri, or Sree, is an Indian word denoting wealth and prosperity, primarily used as a honorific. Sriman means one who has Sri, i.e., the virtues or presence of beauty (material or non material), or whom Goddess Laxmi has not deserted. Hindus use a popular “yantra”, or mystical diagram, called Shri Yantra, to worship the goddess of wealth.

Lakshmi is also an important deity in Jainism and found in Jain temples. Lakshmi has also been a goddess of abundance and fortune for Buddhists, and was represented on the oldest surviving stupas and cave temples of Buddhism. In Buddhist sects of Tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia, goddess Vasudhara mirrors the characteristics and attributes of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi with minor iconographic differences.

In Hindu religion, she was born from the churning of the primordial ocean (Samudra manthan) and she chose Vishnu as her eternal consort. When Vishnu descended on the Earth as the avatars Rama and Krishna, Lakshmi descended as his respective consort as Sita, Radha and Rukmini, the first and chief consort of Lord Krishna.

Krishna, the prince of Dwaraka, heroically kidnapped Rukmini and eloped with her to prevent an unwanted marriage at her request and saved her from evil Shishupala (described in the Bhagavata Purana). According to traditional accounts she is believed to have been born on Vaishakha 11 (Vaishakh Ekadashi).

In the ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage and relationship between Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband is the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings. Lakshmi is considered another aspect of the same supreme goddess principle in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism.

In some depictions, Lakshmi is present in two forms, Bhudevi and Sridevi, which sit on either side of Vishnu. Bhudevi is her personification of fertility (Mother Earth), while Sridevi is her personification of wealth and knowledge. In pictures or sculptures of the Lakshmi-Narayana variety, Narayana (an epithet of Vishnu) is seated with a dramatically smaller version of the goddess on his left thigh.

There are a number of festivals that place specific focus upon Lakshmi in her relation to Vishnu. Lakshmi and Vishnu are celebrated as the archetypal figures of marital bliss, and Lakshmi is recognized in her role as a devoted wife.

She represents marital fidelity, longevity of the marital partner, fertility of crops, and acquisition or preservation of wealth. Considering the importance of these boons, and her reliable reputation for granting good luck, Lakshmi has established herself as one of the most widely worshiped Hindu deities.

In some circles, Lakshmi has been venerated to the rank of supremacy among the Hindu gods and goddesses. In the Pancaratra, an early school of Hinduism, Lakshmi is paramount in the creation of the universe, since she represents the shakti, or creative energy, of Vishnu. She is considered the sole active participant in creation, while Vishnu himself is relatively lax.

With this in mind, Lakshmi has come to embody the Pancharatra conception of the divine creator and ultimately the supreme divine principle. As such, she dominates the Pancaratra conception of the Absolute, and is the focus of their worship. In the Lakshmi-tantra, a popular Pancharatra devotional text, it is solely she, and not Vishnu, who bestows grace upon devotees.

Lakshmi’s traditionally accepted vehicle is the owl, a bird that sleeps through the day and prowls during the night. Lakshmi is also commonly pictured in the presence of one or more elephants, a symbol of royal authority. Sometimes, these elephants shower Lakshmi with water, which may serve to suggest the fertilizing power of rain.

It is also as common to see Lakshmi depicted beside Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. This is not surprising as Ganesha is comparable to Lakshmi in his ability to remove obstacles, bestow blessings of material wealth, and provide worshipers with good luck. Further, this association is consistent with Lakshmi’s prevalent connection to elephants.

Hindus worship Lakshmi most feverishly during Diwali, the festival of lights. Diwali is a time in which people pray for material prosperity. Many Hindus, particularly businessmen, can be seen worshiping their account books.

Meanwhile, farmers may offer sacrifices of goats and sheep in hopes of a bountiful harvest. They also sometimes pay visits to dunghills collected for the purpose of fertilizing future crops, where they genuflect before it in the hopes of ensuring abundant crops in the future.

Over the course of Diwali, clay images of the goddess along with those of Ganesha are worshiped throughout Northern India, in hopes of inheriting some of the good luck meted out by each deity. People also put small candles outside their homes in the hope that Lakshmi will stop by to bless them.

Additionally, Some Hindus believe that ghosts walk the earth at this time of the year and Bali emerges from the underworld so he can rule for a span of three days. During the festival Lakshmi is invoked so as to mitigate the effects of the demon king’s rule.

By lighting lamps and creating a cacophonous clatter of pots and pans, Hindus believe that they are assisting Lakshmi as she banishes another demon, her older sister Alakshmi, associate with misfortune.

There are a number of festivals that place specific focus upon Lakshmi in her relation to Vishnu. Lakshmi and Vishnu are celebrated as the archetypal figures of marital bliss, and Lakshmi is recognized in her role as a devoted wife.

During another festival involving the divine couple, Vishnu is said to leave his home in order to take on another consort for a brief period of time. In response, Lakshmi plays the role of a jealous wife, breaking Vishnu’s vehicle and temporarily locking him out of their home.

Lakshmi is worshiped during the Kaumudi-purnima festival where women venerate her on a mound of new grain, recounting a story of Lakshmi’s disappearance resulting in the subsequent deterioration of crops.

With her return comes the return of abundance, and so the women who carry out these rituals acknowledge Lakshmi’s ability to renew vigor in the crops. Likewise, Lakshmi is praised for this fecund ability during the Durga-Puja festival.

Apart from these festivals, Lakshmi is also a consistent focal point of vratas, religious vows made regularly by devotees asking for the blessing of the goddess while promising to undertake some act of devotion to her in return.

The boons requested or Lakshmi most commonly are marital fidelity, longevity of the marital partner, fertility of crops, and acquisition or preservation of wealth. Considering the importance of these boons, and her reliable reputation for granting good luck, Lakshmi has established herself as one of the most widely worshiped Hindu deities.

The Goddess, Kishijoten (lit. “Auspicious Heavens”), of Japan corresponds to Lakshmi. Kishijoten is the goddess of fortune and prosperity. Kishijoten is considered the sister of the deity Bishamon, also known as Tamon or Bishamon-ten; Bishamon protects human life, fights evil, and brings good fortune.

In ancient and medieval Japan, Kishijoten was the goddess worshiped for luck and prosperity, particularly on behalf of children. Kishijoten was also the guardian goddess of Geishas. While Bishamon and Kishijoten are found in ancient Chinese and Japanese Buddhist literature, their roots have been traced to deities in Hinduism.

Sita

Sita, the wife of the titular character Rama of the Ramayana (400 B.C.E.-400 AD), is the central female character and one of the central figures in the Hindu epic, Ramayana and its other versions. Sita is known for her dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity.

Hindu tradition reveres Sita. She is described as the daughter of the earth goddess, Bhūmi, the Hindu avatar of goddess Prithvi representing Mother Earth, and the adopted daughter of King Janaka of Videha and his wife, Queen Sunaina. She has a younger sister, Urmila, and the female cousins Mandavi and Shrutakirti.

She has been portrayed as an ideal daughter, an ideal wife and an ideal mother in various texts, stories, illustrations, movies, and modern media. Sita is the ideal of a woman in India and worshiped as God incarnate. Sita is typical of India – the idealized India. Sita was a true Indian by nature, one who never returned injury.

The actions, reactions, and instincts manifested by Sita at every juncture in a long and arduous life are deemed exemplary. Her story has been portrayed in the book Sitayanam. The values that she enshrined and adhered to at every point in the course of a demanding life are the values of womanly virtue held sacred by countless generations of Indians.

Sita is often worshipped with Rama or Ram, also known as Ramachandra, a major deity of Hinduism, as his consort. Rama is considered the type of the Absolute and Sita that of Power. The occasion of her marriage to Rama is celebrated as Vivaha Panchami. Rama is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, one of his most popular incarnations along with Krishna and Gautama Buddha. In Rama-centric traditions of Hinduism, he is considered the Supreme Being.

According to Ramayana, Sita was discovered in a furrow when Janaka was ploughing as a part of a yagna and adopted her.  Since Janaka was a king, it is likely that ploughing was part of a royal ritual to ensure fertility of the land.

The word Sīta was a poetic term, its imagery redolent of fecundity and the many blessings coming from settled agriculture. Sita is considered to be a child of Mother Earth, produced by union between the king and the land. Sita is a personification of Earth’s fertility, abundance, and well-being.

A female deity of agricultural fertility by the name Sita, derived from the Sanskrit word sīta, furrow, was known before Valmiki’s Ramayana, but was overshadowed by better-known goddesses associated with fertility.

The Sita of the Ramayana may have been named after a more ancient Vedic goddess Sita, who is mentioned once in the Rigveda as an earth goddess who blesses the land with good crops. In the Vedic period, she was one of the goddesses associated with fertility.

She is closely associated (if not identified) with Bhudevi. Sita’s name itself derives from the Sanskrit word sītā, or “the line made by the plow,” an obvious reference to her miraculous origin from a field in the Balakanda the first book of the epic. Hence, Sita is born not from the womb of a woman but rather from the womb of the earth itself, and for that reason she has been regarded as a daughter of Bhudevi.

Throughout the story, however, she becomes something of an earth goddess herself and therefore a representation of Bhudevi in her own right; after all, she is also identified in the Balakanda as an incarnation of Sri-Lakshmi, who herself has been related to the bounty of the earth and Bhudevi.

Sita, in the tradition of Bhudevi, continues this mytheme of the fertile, feminine earth, which is fructified by the masculine sky incarnate in the person of Rama. Considering that the Balakanda, along with its pointed divinization of its main characters, is widely agreed to be a later addition to the Ramayana, this suggests that these characteristics of the earth goddess were intentionally foisted upon Sita rather than aspects of her original character.

Sita, in her youth, chooses Rama, the prince of Ayodhya as her husband in a swayamvara — bride choosing the best from a crowd of suitors after a contest, where Rama proves his heroism and valor and martial power and “defeats” the other seekers for Seeta’s hand in marriage.

After the swayamvara, she accompanies her husband to his kingdom, but later chooses to accompany her husband, along with her brother-in-law Lakshmana, in his exile. While in exile, the trio settles in the Dandaka forest from where she is abducted by Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka. She is imprisoned in Ashoka Vatika in Lanka until she is rescued by Rama, who slays her captor.

After the war, in some versions of the epic, Rama asks Sita to undergo Agni Pariksha (an ordeal of fire) by which she proves her purity before she is accepted by Rama, which for the first time makes his brother Lakshmana get angry at him.

In some versions of the epic, the fire-god Agni creates Maya Sita, who takes Sita’s place and is abducted by Ravana and suffers his captivity, while the real Sita hides in the fire. During the Agni Pariksha, Maya Sita and the real Sita exchange places again. While some texts say that Maya Sita is destroyed in the flames of Agni Pariksha, others narrate how she is blessed and reborn as the epic heroine Draupadi or the goddess Padmavati.

Some scriptures also mention her previous birth being Vedavati, a woman Ravana tries to molest. After proving her purity, Rama and Sita return to Ayodhya, where they are crowned as king and queen. After a few months, Sita becomes pregnant, to which a washerman makes insensitive comments on Sita to his wife, which Rama in disguise hears. Rama then sends Sita away on exile.

Lakshmana is the one who leaves Sita in the forests near sage Valmiki’s ashram. Years later, Sita returns to the womb of her mother, the Earth, for release from a cruel world as a testimony of her purity after she reunites her two sons Kusha and Lava with their father Rama.

In the Uttara-Kanda, the final book of (and another later addition to) Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama banishes Sita to the forest due to unsubstantiated public suspicions that she compromised her chastity under captivity of the demon-king Ravana.

Rama insists upon having Sita go through with the exile in spite of the fact that she has already survived the Agni pariksha – the harrowing task of walking through fire – in order to prove her chastity to him.

Later on Rama realizes the error of his ways and eventually seeks out Sita in the forest, begging for her return to Ayodhya. At this point Sita requests that Bhudevi take her back, and she is promptly swallowed into a cleft in the soil, never to be seen again.

Not only does this deus ex machina provide Sita with some measure of justice in the face of the intense suffering she has experienced, but it also reaffirms her inextricable connection with the earth mother.

Radha

The Goddess Radha, also called Radhika, Radharani, Radhe, Shyama, and Priya, was born on the eighth day of this month. The Sanskrit term Rādhā means “prosperity, success”. It is a common word and name found in various contexts in the ancient and medieval texts of India.

Radha is a goddess popular in Hinduism, especially in the Vaishnavism tradition. Radha is worshipped in some regions of India, particularly by Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Vaishnavas in West Bengal, Bangladesh Manipur, and Odisha. Elsewhere, she is revered in the Nimbarka Sampradaya and movements linked to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

She was born in Rawal and then moved to Barsana. She is said to be the head of the milkmaids as Pradhan Gopika (chief amongst all gopis) (also called the gopis or Braj Gopikas) who resided in Braj Dham. She is also called Vrindavaneshwari (Queen of the Sri Vrindavan Dham). She appeared as queen of milkmaids and queen of Vrindavan-Barsana.

Radha is an important goddess in the Vaishnavism traditions of Hinduism. Her traits, manifestations, descriptions, and roles vary by region. Since the earliest times, she has been associated with the cowherd Krishna, who is the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita. She is Shri Krishna’s first chief and eternal consort.

She is the personification of pure devotional service unto Sri Krishna (Bhakti Devi). She is thought of as the supreme Goddess in her own right and celebrated on the festive day of Radhastami. She and her consort Krishna are collectively known as Radha Krishna, the combined form of feminine as well as the masculine realities of God. Lord Krishna enacts leelas with Her.

She taught selfless love and surrender to Bhagavan Shri Krishna. She is the supreme goddess in Vaishnavism. Rasik sants have mentioned her as a descension of the Supreme Goddess, Source of the Infinite Lakshmi and the original form of Yogamaya and hladini Shakti (Power of Divine Love) which is main power of the Godhead Shree Krishna.

Shrimati Radharani is considered by some as a metaphor for the human spirit (aatma), her love and longing for Prabhu Shree Krishna is theologically viewed as symbolic of the human quest for spiritual growth and union with the divine. She has inspired numerous literary works, and her Rasa lila dance with Krishna has inspired many types of performance arts. She is said to be incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and Krishna is her husband Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as per some texts.

Rukmini

Rukmini (or Rukmani) is the first and chief consort of Lord Krishna, worshipped as the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu and also as the supreme God in his own right, the prince of Dwaraka. Krishna heroically kidnapped her and eloped with her to prevent an unwanted marriage at her request and saved her from evil Shishupala (described in the Bhagavata Purana).

According to traditional accounts, princess Rukmini is believed to have been born on Vaishakha 11 (Vaishakh Ekadashi). Rukmini was the daughter of Bhishmaka, the king of Vidarbha. Bhismaka was the vassal of King Jarasandha of Magadha.

She fell in love with and longed for Krishna, whose virtue, character, charm and greatness she had heard much of. Although born of an earthly king, her position as an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi is described throughout Puranic literature.

Diwali

Diwali, Divali, or Deepawali is the Hindu festival of lights, typically lasting five days and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. The festival is widely associated with Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, but regional traditions connect it to Sita and Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Durga, Kali, Dhanvantari, or Vishvakarman.

The religious significance of Diwali varies regionally within India. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories, but nonetheless the festival represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

Mythical tales shared on Diwali vary widely depending on region and even within Hindu tradition, yet all share a common focus on righteousness, self-inquiry and the importance of knowledge, which is the path to overcoming the “darkness of ignorance”. The telling of these myths are a reminder of the Hindu belief that good ultimately triumphs over evil.

The festival is associated with a diversity of deities, traditions, and symbolism. These variations, states Constance Jones, may reflect diverse local autumn harvest festivals that fused into one pan-Hindu festival with a shared spiritual significance and ritual grammar while retaining local traditions.

One tradition links the festival to legends in the Hindu epic Ramayana, where Diwali is the day Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman reached Ayodhya after a period in exile and Rama’s army of good defeated demon king Ravana’s army of evil.

As per another popular tradition, in the Dwapara Yuga Period, Vishnu as incarnation of Krishna killed the Demon Narakasura, who was evil king of Pragjyotishapura, near present-day Assam and released 16000 girls captivated by Narakasura.

Diwali was celebrated as a significance of triumph of good over evil after Krishna’s Victory over Narakasura. The day before Diwali is remembered as Naraka Chaturdasi, the day on which Narakasura was killed by Krishna.

Many Hindus associate the festival with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of Vishnu. Along with Lakshmi, who is representative of Vaishnavism, Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Parvati and Shiva of Shaivism tradition, is remembered as one who symbolises ethical beginnings and the remover of obstacles.

According to Pintchman, the start of the 5-day Diwali festival is stated in some popular contemporary sources as the day Goddess Lakshmi was born from Samudra manthan, the churning of the cosmic ocean of milk by the Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons) – a Vedic legend that is also found in several Puranas such as the Padma Purana, while the night of Diwali is when Lakshmi chose and wed Vishnu.

Hindus of eastern India associate the festival with the goddess Durga, or her fierce avatar Kali (Shaktism), who symbolises the victory of good over evil. Hindus from the Braj region in northern India, parts of Assam, as well as southern Tamil and Telugu communities view Diwali as the day the god Krishna overcame and destroyed the evil demon king Narakasura, in yet another symbolic victory of knowledge and good over ignorance and evil.

Trade and merchant families and others also offer prayers to Saraswati, who embodies music, literature and learning and Kubera, who symbolises book-keeping, treasury and wealth management. In western states such as Gujarat, and certain northern Hindu communities of India, the festival of Diwali signifies the start of a new year.

In the lead-up to Diwali, celebrants will prepare by cleaning, renovating, and decorating their homes and workplaces. During the climax, revellers adorn themselves in their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas (oil lamps or candles), offer puja (worship) to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai (sweets) and gifts are shared.

Dhanteras (from Dhan meaning “wealth” and teras meaning “thirteenth”) marks the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha (“Dark Fortnight”) in the Vikram Samvat Hindu calendar month of Kartik and is the first day that marks the festival of Diwali in India.

Dhanteras is a symbol of annual renewal, cleansing and an auspicious beginning for the next year. The term “Dhan” for this day also alludes to the Ayurvedic icon Dhanvantari, the god of health and healing, who is believed to have emerged from the “churning of cosmic ocean” on the same day as Lakshmi.

Dhanvantari, the god of health, who is also worshipped on the occasion of Dhanteras, is considered the God of Ayurveda who imparted the wisdom of Ayurveda for the betterment of mankind, and to help rid it of the suffering of disease.

On this day, many Hindus clean their homes and business premises. The day also marks a major shopping day to purchase new utensils, home equipment, jewellery, firecrackers, and other items.

Vasubaras marks the beginning of the celebration of Diwali festival. On Vasubaras, the Cow and her calf are worshipped. The Cow holds a very sacred place in the Vedic Mythology. Referred to as “Gau Mata”, she is worshipped and nurtured with the utmost respect. “Gau Mata” and her Prasad “Pancha Gavya”, or “Panchamrut”, are frequently used in all Hindu celebrations. Vasubaras is followed by Dhanteras.

They install diyas, small earthen oil-filled lamps that they light up for the next five days, near Lakshmi and Ganesha iconography. On the evening of Dhanteras, families offer prayers (puja) to Lakshmi and Ganesha, and lay offerings of puffed rice, candy toys, rice cakes and batashas (hollow sugar cakes).

Women and children decorate doorways within homes and offices with rangoli, colourful designs made from rice flour, flower petals and coloured sand, while the boys and men decorate the roofs and walls of family homes, markets, and temples.

On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari. On this night, the lights are set out every night both in the sky lamps and as offerings at the base of a Tulsi plant and also in the form of diyas, which are placed in front of the doorways of homes.

This light is an offering to Yama, the Host of Death, to avert untimely death during the time of the Diwali festival. This day is a celebration aimed at increasing wealth and prosperity. Dhanteras engages themes of cleansing, renewal, and the securing of auspiciousness in the form of Lakshmi.

Aditi

Aditi (“limitless” or “boundless”) is a Vedic goddess in Hinduism, the personification of the infinite. She is the goddess of the sky, consciousness, the past, the future and fertility. She is the mother of the celestial deities, the Adityas, and is referred to as the mother of many gods including Vishnu and Agni.

The name is mentioned in Vedas as the mother of Surya (Sun) and other celestial bodies or gods, Âdityas (“sons of Aditi”). The first mention of Aditi is found in Rigveda, which is estimated to have been composed roughly during 1700-1100 BC.

In the Rigveda, Aditi is one of the most important figures of all. As a mothering presence, Aditi is often asked to guard the one who petitions her (Mandala 1.106.7; Mandala 8.18.6) or to provide him or her with wealth, safety, and abundance (Mandala 10.100; 1.94.15).

Aditi is usually mentioned in the Rigveda along with other gods and goddesses. There is no one hymn addressed exclusively to her, unlike other Vedic gods. She is perhaps not related to a particular natural phenomenon like other gods. Compared to Ushas and Prithvi, Aditi can be defined as the cosmic creator.

Aditi means Freedom. The name Aditi includes the root “da” (to bind or fetter) and suggests another attribute of her character. As A-diti, she is an unbound, free soul and it is evident in the hymns to her that she is often called to free the petitioner from different hindrances, especially sin and sickness (Mandala 2.27.14).

In one hymn, she is asked to free a petitioner who has been tied up like a thief (Mandala 8.67.14). As one who unbinds, her role is similar to her son Varuna’s as guardian of Rta, cosmic moral order. She is called the supporter of creatures (Mandala 1.136). It also means ‘one of its kind’ or ‘unique.’

Aditi challenges the modern idea that the Vedic peoples were patriarchal. Aditi was attributed the status of first deity by the Vedic culture, although she is not the only one attributed this status in the Vedas. She is addressed, in the Rigveda as “Mighty”.

Most prehistoric civilizations venerated a dual principle, Sky Father and Earth Mother, which appears to be borrowed from the concept of Prithvi and Dyaus Pita. Aditi was regarded as both the sky goddess, and earth goddess, which is very rare for a prehistoric civilization.

Like many other Hindu gods and goddesses, Aditi has a savari (a mount). Aditi flies across the boundless sky on a phoenix. The phoenix symbolizes strength and honour. Her weapons include the famous Trishula and a sword.

As celestial mother of every existing form and being, the synthesis of all things, she is associated with space (akasa) and with mystic speech (Vāc). She may be seen as a feminized form of Brahma and associated with the primal substance (mulaprakriti) in Vedanta. She is mentioned nearly 80 times in the Rigveda.

Aditi is a daughter of Daksha and Panchajani, the mother of kings (Mandala 2.27) and the mother of many gods and goddesses (Mandala 1.113.19). The verse “Daksha sprang from Aditi and Aditi from Daksha” is seen by Theosophists as a reference to “the eternal cyclic re-birth of the same divine Essence” and divine wisdom.

In the Vedas, Aditi is Devamata (mother of the celestial gods) as from and in her cosmic matrix all the heavenly bodies were born. She is preeminently the mother of 12 Âdityas, whose names include Vivasvān, Aryamā, Pūṣā, Tvaṣṭā, Savitar, Bhaga, Dhātā, Varuṇa, Mitra, Śakra, and Vishnu (Lord Vishnu was born in his Vamana avatar to her).

The Puranas, such as the Shiva Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, suggest that Aditi is wife of Rishi Kashyapa (“turtle”), the most ancient rishi or revered Vedic sage listed in the colophon verse in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Together they gave birth to the Adityas such as Indra, Surya, a Sanskrit word that means the Sun, and Vamana. Aditi with sage Kashyapa had 33 sons, out of which twelve are called Âdityas including Surya, eleven are called Rudras and eight are called Vasus.

She is also the mother of the Vamana (lit. “dwarf”), the fifth avatar of Hindu god Vishnu. Accordingly, Lord Vishnu was born in his Vamana avatar as the son of Aditi in the month of Shravana (fifth month of the Hindu Calendar, also called Avani) under the star Shravana. Many auspicious signs appeared in the heavens, foretelling the good fortune of this child.

Aditi is said to be the mother of the great god Indra, who is 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, river flows, and war. Indra is the most referred to deity in the Rigveda.

Indra, as the Vedic Dyáuṣ Pitṛ́, is the central element of the Pancha Bhoota. His mythologies and powers are similar, though not identical, to other Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perun, Perkūnas, Taranis, Zeus, and Thor, that are hypothesized to be variants of the Proto-Indo-European Sky fathers (Dyēus Phter).

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.

His importance diminishes in the post-Vedic Indian literature where he is depicted as a powerful hero but one who is getting in trouble with his drunken, hedonistic and adulterous ways, and the god who disturbs Hindu monks as they meditate because he fears self-realized human beings may become more powerful than him.

Indra’s iconography shows him wielding a lightning thunderbolt known as Vajra, riding on a white elephant known as Airavata. In Buddhist iconography the elephant sometimes features three heads, while Jaina icons sometimes show the elephant with five heads. Sometimes a single elephant is shown with four symbolic tusks. Indra’s heavenly home is on or near Mount Meru (also called Sumeru).

Kashyapa is mentioned in numerous Hindu texts such as the Puranas and the Hindu Epics. These stories are widely inconsistent, and many are considered allegorical. For example, in the Ramayana, he is married to the eight daughters of Daksha, while in the Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana he is described as married to thirteen daughters.

Bhadra

In Vedic texts, the Kanya month is called Nabhasya, but in these ancient texts it has no zodiacal associations. In Vedic Jyotisha or Jyotishya (from Sanskrit jyotiṣa, from jyóti- “light, heavenly body”), the traditional Hindu system of astrology, also known as Hindu astrology, and more recently Vedic astrology, Bhadra begins with the Sun’s entry into Virgo, and is usually the sixth month of the year.

Bhadro is the fifth month in the Bengali calendar. It is named after the star Purbobhadropod. Bhadro marks the beginning of Autumn. According to the modified calendar developed by the Bangla Academy, the month of Bhadro has 31 days. Bhadro spans from mid August to mid September in the Gregorian Calendar.

In India’s national civil calendar (Shaka calendar), Bhadra is the sixth month of the year, beginning on 23 August and ending on 22 September. Bhadra, also Bhadrapada, Bhaado or Bhadraba, is a month of the Hindu calendar that corresponds to August/September in the Gregorian calendar. In lunar religious calendars, Bhadra begins on the new moon in August/September and is the sixth month of the year.

The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi, celebrating the birthday of Ganesha, is observed from the 4-10 Bhadrapada in the bright fortnight and is the main holiday of the year in Maharashtra. Per Shaka calendar, the dark fortnight of Bhadrapada is reserved for the veneration of the dead. This period is known as Pitru Paksha.

According to the Vaishnava, Hrishikesh, another name of Hindu God Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, governs this month. The Goddess Radha was born on the eighth day of the month of Bhadrapada.

Puruttasi

Purattasi Sani or Tirumala Shanivara is a Hindu festival celebrated in some parts of South India including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Hindu deity, Venkateswara, is worshiped during this festival. It is celebrated during the Tamil month of Purattasi, which generally falls in the months of September and October of the Gregorian calendar.

Puratasi Masam is of great importance as it is believed that Lord Venkateswara, also known as Śrīnivāsa, Bālājī, Vēṅkaṭa, Venkata Ramana, Vēṅkaṭāchalapati, Tirupati Timmappa and Govindha, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu, appeared on the earth in this month.

Lord Vishnu devotees consider this as the ideal month for thanking Lord Vishnu for preserving the Universe at the end of Kali Yuga. All the Saturdays of this month are treated as holy days and Devotees gather in large number at Lord Vishnu temples and special prayers are offered.

Particularly the Odd Saturdays first, third, fifth are of more importance. Tirumala Annual Navarathri Brahmotsavam were also observed during this month where Tirumala will be flooded with lakhs of devotees. Some people will take only vegetarian food during this month.

Vaishnavas, one of the major traditions within Hinduism that reveres Vishnu as the Supreme Being, and some Shivites, who reveres Shiva as the Supreme Being, fast during the whole month of “Purattasi” in Tamil Nadu and visit Vaishnav temples on Saturday.

Ganesha Chaturthi

Ganesha, also known as Ganapati, Vinayaka, or by numerous other names, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. Hindu denominations worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains and Buddhists.

Ganesha likely emerged as a deity as early as the 2nd century CE, but most certainly by the 4th and 5th centuries CE, during the Gupta period, although he inherited traits from Vedic and pre-Vedic precursors.

Hindu mythology identifies him as the restored son of Parvati and Shiva of the Shaivism tradition, but he is a pan-Hindu god found in its various traditions. In the Ganapatya tradition of Hinduism, Ganesha is the supreme deity.

The principal texts on Ganesha include the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana, and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa. Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana are other two Puranic genre encyclopaedic texts that deal with Ganesha.

Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha’s elephant head makes him easy to identify. He is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom.

As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. He is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits.

Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the birthday of Ganesha, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi (Vināyaka Chaturthī), is a Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of Ganesha to earth from ‘Kailash Parvat’ with his mother goddess Parvati/Gauri. The festival is observed from the 4-10 Bhadrapada in the bright fortnight.

The festival is marked with the installation of Ganesha clay idols privately in homes, or publicly on elaborate pandals (temporary stages). Observations include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as, prayers and brata (fasting). Offerings and prasadam from the daily prayers, that are distributed from the pandal to the community, include sweets such as modaka as it is believed to be a favorite of Lord Ganesh.

The festival ends on the tenth day after start, when the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting, then immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river or sea. Thereafter the clay idol dissolves and Ganesha is believed to return to Mount Kailash to Parvati and Shiva.

The festival celebrates Lord Ganesha as the God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles as well as the god of wisdom and intelligence and is observed throughout India. In Goa, Ganesh Chaturthi is known as Chavath in Konkani and Parab or Parva (“auspicious celebration”); it begins on the third day of the lunar month of Bhadrapada. On this day Parvati and Shiva are worshiped by women, who fast.

Pitru Paksha

Per Shaka calendar, the dark fortnight of Bhadrapada is reserved for the veneration of the dead. This period is known as Pitru Paksha, also spelt as Pitri paksha, Pitr Paksha (literally “fortnight of the ancestors”).

Pitru Paksha is a 16–lunar day period in Hindu calendar when Hindus pay homage to their ancestor (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. The period is also known as Pitru Pakshya, Pitri Pokkho, Sola Shraddha (“sixteen shraddhas”), Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya Paksha and Apara paksha.

Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha or Tarpan. In southern and western India, it falls in the 2nd paksha (fortnight) Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada (September) and follows the fortnight immediately after Ganesh Utsav.

It begins on the Pratipada (first day of the fortnight) ending with the no moon day known as Sarvapitri amavasya, Pitru Amavasya, Peddala Amavasya, Mahalaya amavasya or simply Mahalaya. Most years, the autumnal equinox falls within this period, i.e. the Sun transitions from the northern to the southern hemisphere during this period.

In North India and Nepal, and cultures following the purnimanta calendar or the solar calendar, this period may correspond to the waning fortnight of the luni-solar month Ashvin, instead of Bhadrapada. At the end of Pitru Paksha Devi Paksha begins.

According to Hinduism, the souls of three preceding generations of one’s ancestor reside in Pitru–loka, a realm between heaven and earth. This realm is governed by Yama, the god of death, who takes the soul of a dying man from earth to Pitru–loka.

When a person of the next generation dies, the first generation shifts to heaven and unites with God, so Shraddha offerings are not given. Thus, only the three generations in Pitru–loka are given Shraddha rites, in which Yama plays a significant role.

According to the sacred Hindu epics, at the beginning of Pitru Paksha, the sun enters the zodiac sign of Virgo (Kanya). Coinciding with this moment, it is believed that the spirits leave Pitru–loka and reside in their descendants’ homes for a month until the sun enters the next zodiac – Scorpio (Vrischika) – and there is a full moon. Hindus are expected to propitiate the ancestors in the first half, during the dark fortnight.

When the legendary donor Karna died in the epic Mahabharata war, his soul transcended to heaven, where he was offered gold and jewels as food. However, Karna needed real food to eat and asked Indra, the lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food.

Indra told Karna that he had donated gold all his life, but had never donated food to his ancestors in Shraddha. Karna said that since he was unaware of his ancestors, he never donated anything in their memory.

To make amends, Karna was permitted to return to earth for a 15–day period, so that he could perform Shraddha and donate food and water in their memory. This period is now known as Pitru Paksha. In some legends, Yama replaces Indra.

Ashvin

Ashvin is the seventh month of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, the Vikram Samvat, which is the official solar calendar of modern-day Nepal and India, and the sixth month in the solar Bengali calendar and seventh in the lunar Indian national calendar of the Deccan Plateau.

It falls in the season of Shôrot, (Hindi Sharad) or Autumn. In Vedic Jyotish, Ashwin begins with the Sun’s enter in Virgo. It overlaps September and October of the Gregorian calendar and is the month preceding Diwali or Tihar the festival of lights. In lunar religious calendars, Ashwin begins on the new moon after the autumn equinox. Ashwin is known as aipasi in Tamil and begins when the sun enters Libra in October.

Ashvini is the first star that appears in the evening sky. In the Indian astrology it is the head of Aries, or the first of the 27 Nakshatra. Ashvin also stands for the divine twins, the Ashvins, the gods of vision, Ayurvedic medicine, the glow of sunrise and sunset, and averting misfortune and sickness in Hindu mythology. Asawin is the Thai variant of Ashvin and stands for the warrior. The term is often translated into English as “knight”.

Kartika

The Hindu Lunisolar month Karthikai, Kartika, Karthika or Kartik or Kartika maasam is a month in Hindu calendar that typically overlaps with mid-October and mid-November of the Gregorian calendar. The name of the month is derived from the name of the star Krittika, sometimes known as Kārtikā.  It marks the start of the dry season.

In the reformed Indian national civil calendar it is the eighth month of the year. It corresponds with the months of October/November in the Gregorian Calendar. It is the seventh month of the Bengali Calendar and in the Bikram Sambat calendar of Nepal, which is also that country’s official calendar. It begins in mid-October of the Gregorian calendar.

It is the eighth month of the Tamil calendar used by Tamils across the world. It corresponds to November/December in the Gregorian calendar. It begins when the sun enters the sign of Scorpio. Many festivals, such as Karthikai Deepam, are celebrated in this month.

Vishnu

Vishnu is one of the principal deities of Hinduism, and is notable for adopting various incarnations (avatars such as Rama and Krishna) to preserve and protect dharmic principles whenever the world is threatened with evil, chaos, and destructive forces.

He is seen as the “preserver” in the Hindu triad (Trimurti), the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Shiva. In the Smarta Tradition of Hinduism Vishnu is also one of the five equivalent deities worshipped in Panchayatana puja.

In Vaishnavism, also called Vishnuism, one of the major Hindu denominations along with Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism, Vishnu is revered as the supreme being, identical to the metaphysical concept of Brahman (Atman, the self, or unchanging ultimate reality).

Vaishnavism is notable for its avatar doctrine, wherein Vishnu is revered in one of many distinct incarnations or avatars to preserve and protect dharmic principles whenever the world is threatened with evil, chaos, and destructive forces. Rama, Krishna, Narayana, Kalki, Hari, Vithoba, Kesava, Madhava, Govinda, Srinathji and Jagannath are among the popular names used for the same supreme being.

The tradition has traceable roots to the 1st millennium BCE, as Bhagavatism, also called Krishnaism. Later developments led by Ramananda created a Rama-oriented movement, now the largest monastic group in Asia. The Vaishnava tradition has many sampradayas (denominations, sub-schools) ranging from the medieval era Dvaita school of Madhvacharya to Vishishtadvaita school of Ramanuja.

The tradition is known for the loving devotion to an avatar of Vishnu (often Krishna), and it has been key to the spread of the Bhakti movement in South Asia in the 2nd millennium CE. Key texts in Vaishnavism include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pancaratra (Agama) texts and the Bhagavata Purana.

Shiva

Shiva (Sanskrit: Śiva, lit. the auspicious one) also known as Mahadeva (lit. the great god) is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. Shiva is a pan-Hindu deity, revered widely by Hindus, in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. He is one of the five equivalent deities in Panchayatana puja of the Smarta tradition of Hinduism.

The “The Destroyer” in the Hindu triad (Trimurti), Shiva is revered as the supreme being in Shaivism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism. In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is one of the supreme beings who creates, protects and transforms the universe.  It considers both the Vedas and the Agama texts as important sources of theology.

In the Shaktism tradition (Sanskrit: Śāktaḥ, lit., “doctrine of energy, power, the eternal Goddess”), a major tradition of Hinduism, wherein the metaphysical reality is considered metaphorically feminine and Adi Parashakti is supreme, the Goddess, or Devi, is described as one of the supreme, yet Shiva is revered along with Vishnu and Brahma.

Shaktism is a major tradition of Hinduism, wherein the metaphysical reality is considered metaphorically feminine and Adi Parashakti is supreme. It includes a variety of Goddesses, all considered aspects of the same supreme Goddess. Shaktism has different sub-traditions, ranging from those focused on gracious Gauri to fierce Kali, and some Shakti sub-traditions associate their Goddess with Shiva or Brahma or Vishnu.

Shaktism’s ideas have influenced Vaishnavism and Shaivism traditions, with the Goddess considered the Shakti of Vishnu and Shiva respectively, and revered prominently in numerous Hindu temples and festivals. A goddess is stated to be the energy and creative power (Shakti) of each, with Lakshmi the equal complementary partner of Vishnu and Parvati (Sati) the equal complementary partner of Shiva.

Ishvara is a concept in Hinduism, with a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, depending on the context, Ishvara can mean supreme soul, ruler, lord, king, queen or husband. In medieval era Hindu texts, depending on the school of Hinduism, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self.

In Shaivism, Ishvara is synonymous with “Shiva”, sometimes as Maheshvara or Parameshvara meaning the “Supreme lord”, or as an Ishta-deva (personal god). Similarly for Vaishnavists it is synonymous with Vishnu. In traditional Bhakti movements, Ishvara is one or more deities of an individual’s preference from Hinduism’s polytheistic canon of deities. In Yoga school of Hinduism, it is any “personal deity” or “spiritual inspiration”.

There are many both benevolent and fearsome depictions of Shiva. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash as well as a householder with wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya. In his fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also known as Adiyogi Shiva, regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts.

The iconographical attributes of Shiva are the serpent around his neck, the adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the third eye on his forehead, the trishula or trident, as his weapon, and the damaru drum. He is usually worshipped in the aniconic form of Lingam.

Shaivism theology ranges from Shiva being the creator, preserver, and destroyer to being the same as the Atman (self, soul) within oneself and every living being. According to the Shaivism sect, the highest form of Ishvar or Supreme being is formless, limitless, transcendent and unchanging absolute Brahman, and the primal Atman (soul, self) of the universe.

The Shaiva have many sub-traditions ranging from devotional dualistic theism such as Shaiva Siddhanta to yoga-oriented monistic non-theism such as Kashmiri Shaivism. It is closely related to Shaktism, and some Shaiva worship in Shiva and Shakti temples. It is the Hindu tradition that most accepts ascetic life and emphasizes yoga, and like other Hindu traditions encourages an individual to discover and be one with Shiva within.

Shaivism has ancient roots, traceable in the Vedic literature of 2nd millennium BCE, but this is in the form of the Vedic deity Rudra. The ancient text Shvetashvatara Upanishad dated to late 1st millennium BCE mentions terms such as Rudra, Shiva and Maheshwaram, but its interpretation as a theistic or monistic text of Shaivism is disputed.

In the early centuries of the common era is the first clear evidence of Pāśupata Shaivism. Both devotional and monistic Shaivism became popular in the 1st millennium CE, rapidly becoming the dominant religious tradition of many Hindu kingdoms. It arrived in Southeast Asia shortly thereafter, leading to the construction of thousands of Shaiva temples on the islands of Indonesia as well as Cambodia and Vietnam, co-evolving with Buddhism in these regions.

Krishna

Krishna is a major deity in Hinduism. He is worshipped as the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu and also as the supreme God in his own right. He is the god of compassion, tenderness, and love in Hinduism, and is one of the most popular and widely revered among Indian divinities.

Krishna’s birthday is celebrated every year by Hindus on Krishna Janmashtami according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar, which falls in late August or early September of the Gregorian calendar. Krishna is usually depicted with a flute in his hand.

The anecdotes and narratives of Krishna’s life are generally titled as Krishna Leela. He is a central character in the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavad Gita, and is mentioned in many Hindu philosophical, theological, and mythological texts.

They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, and as the universal supreme being. His iconography reflects these legends, and shows him in different stages of his life, such as an infant eating butter, a young boy playing a flute, a young boy with Radha or surrounded by women devotees, or a friendly charioteer giving counsel to Arjuna.

The Ficus religiosa tree is considered sacred by the followers of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “I am the Peepul tree among the trees, Narada among the sages, Chitraaratha among the Gandharvas, And sage Kapila among the Siddhas.”

Ficus religiosa

Ficus religiosa or sacred fig is a species of fig native to the Indian subcontinent and Indochina that belongs to Moraceae, the fig or mulberry family. It is also known as the bodhi tree, pippala tree, peepul tree, peepal tree or ashwattha tree (in India and Nepal).

Ficus religiosa is a large dry season-deciduous or semi-evergreen tree up to 30 metres (98 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 3 metres (9.8 ft). The leaves are cordate in shape with a distinctive extended drip tip; they look like representing the female genitale, the vagina, also known as the vulva, or a leaf from the tree of life.

The leaves are 10–17 centimetres (3.9–6.7 in) long and 8–12 centimetres (3.1–4.7 in) broad, with a 6–10 centimetres (2.4–3.9 in) petiole. The fruits are small figs 1–1.5 centimetres (0.39–0.59 in) in diameter, green ripening to purple.

F. religiosa is a tree having a very long lifespan, with an average life ranging between 900–1,500 years. At some of its native habitats, it has been reportedly found living for over 3,000 years. Some trees have been reported to be more than 2,000 years old, like the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a peepal tree in the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka which is estimated to be more than 2,250 years old and is regarded as the “Oldest historical tree in the world with religious importance”.

The sacred fig is considered to have a religious significance in three major religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Hindu and Jain ascetics consider the tree to be sacred and often meditate under them and this is the tree under which Gautama Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment.

Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment (bodhi) while meditating underneath a Ficus religiosa. The site is in present-day Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India. The original tree was destroyed, and has been replaced several times. A branch of the original tree was rooted in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in 288 BCE and is known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi; it is the oldest living human-planted flowering plant (angiosperm) in the world.

In Theravada Buddhist Southeast Asia, the tree’s massive trunk is often the site of Buddhist or animist shrines. Not all Ficus religiosa can be called a Bodhi Tree. A Bodhi Tree must be able to trace its parent to another Bodhi Tree and the line goes on until the first Bodhi Tree under which Gautama is said to have gained enlightenment.

Sadhus (Hindu ascetics) still meditate beneath sacred fig trees, and Hindus do pradakshina (circumambulation, or meditative pacing) around the sacred fig tree as a mark of worship. Usually seven pradakshinas are done around the tree in the morning time chanting “vriksha rajaya namah”, meaning “salutation to the king of trees.”

It claimed that the 27 stars (constellations) constituting 12 houses (rasis) and 9 planets are specifically represented precisely by 27 trees—one for each star. The Bodhi Tree is said to represent Pushya (Western star name γ, δ and θ Cancri in the Cancer constellation).

Plaksa is a possible Sanskrit term for Ficus religiosa. However, according to Macdonell and Keith (1912), it denotes the wavy-leaved fig tree (Ficus infectoria) instead. In Hindu texts, the Plaksa tree is associated with the source of the Sarasvati River.

The Skanda Purana states that the Sarasvati originates from the water pot of Brahma flows from Plaksa on the Himalayas. According to Vamana Purana 32.1-4, the Sarasvati was rising from the Plaksa tree (Pipal tree). Plaksa Pra-sravana denotes the place where the Sarasvati appears. In the Rigveda Sutras, Plaksa Pra-sravana refers to the source of the Sarasvati.

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The Hindu Calendar

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 23, 2019

The term Hindu astrology has been in use as the English equivalent of Jyotiṣa since the early 19th century, whereas Vedic astrology is a relatively recent term, entering common usage in the 1970s with self-help publications on Āyurveda or yoga.

Vedanga Jyotishya is one of the earliest texts about astronomy within the Vedas. However, some authors have claimed that the horoscopic astrology practiced in the Indian subcontinent came from Hellenistic influences, post-dating the Vedic period.

Some authors argue that in the mythologies Ramayana and Mahabharata, only electional astrology, omens, dreams and physiognomy are used but there have been several articles and blogs published which cites multiple references in those books about rashi (zodiac sign) based astrology.

Time keeping was important to Vedic rituals, and Jyotisha was the Vedic era field of tracking and predicting the movements of astronomical bodies in order to keep time, in order to fix the day and time of these rituals.

This study was one of the six ancient Vedangas, or ancillary science connected with the Vedas – the scriptures of Vedic Sanatan Sanskriti. The ancient Indian culture developed a sophisticated time keeping methodology and calendars for Vedic rituals.

David Pingree has proposed that the field of timekeeping in Jyotisha may have been “derived from Mesopotamia during the Achaemenid period”, but Yukio Ohashi considers this proposal as “definitely wrong”. Ohashi states that this Vedanga field developed from actual astronomical studies in ancient India.

Timekeeping as well as the nature of solar and moon movements are mentioned in Vedic texts. For example, Kaushitaki Brahmana chapter 19.3 mentions the shift in the relative location of the sun towards north for 6 months, and south for 6 months.

The texts of Vedic Jyotisha sciences were translated into the Chinese language in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, and the Rigvedic passages on astronomy are found in the works of Zhu Jiangyan and Zhi Qian.

Hindu Calendar

Hindu calendar is a collective term for the various lunisolar calendars traditionally used in the Indian subcontinent. They adopt a similar underlying concept for timekeeping, but differ in their relative emphasis to moon cycle or the sun cycle and the names of months and when they consider the New Year to start. The Hindu calendar is also important to the practice of Hindu astrology and zodiac system.

Of the various regional calendars, the most studied and known Hindu calendars are the Shalivahana Shaka found in South India, Vikram Samvat (Bikrami) found in North and Central regions of India, Tamil calendar used in Tamil Nadu, and the Bengali calendar used in the Bengal – all of which emphasize the lunar cycle.

Their new year starts in spring. In contrast, in regions such as Kerala, the solar cycle is emphasized and this is called the Malayalam calendar, their new year starts in autumn, and these have origins in the second half of the 1st millennium CE. A Hindu calendar is sometimes referred to as Panchanga.

The ancient Hindu calendar conceptual design is also found in the Jewish calendar, but different from the Gregorian calendar. Unlike Gregorian calendar which adds additional days to lunar month to adjust for the mismatch between twelve lunar cycles (354 lunar days) and nearly 365 solar days, the Hindu calendar maintains the integrity of the lunar month, but insert an extra full month by complex rules, every few years, to ensure that the festivals and crop-related rituals fall in the appropriate season.

The Hindu calendars have been in use in the Indian subcontinent since ancient times, and remains in use by the Hindus in India and Nepal particularly to set the Hindu festival dates such as Holi, Saraswati Puja, Maha Shivaratri, Vaisakhi, Rath Yatra, Navratri, Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Puja, Pongal, Onam, Krishna Janmashtami, Durga Puja, Laxmi Puja, Ram Navami, Pana Sankranti, Vishu and Diwali.

Early Buddhist communities of India adopted the ancient Indian calendar, later Vikrami calendar and then local Buddhist calendars. Buddhist festivals continue to be scheduled according to a lunar system. The Buddhist calendar and the traditional lunisolar calendars of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand are also based on an older version of the Hindu calendar.

Similarly, the ancient Jain traditions have followed the same lunisolar system as the Hindu calendar for festivals, texts and inscriptions. However, the Buddhist and Jain timekeeping systems have attempted to use the Buddha and the Mahavira’s lifetimes as their reference points.

Regional calendars used in the Indian subcontinent have two aspects: lunar and solar. Lunar months begin with Chaitra and solar months start with Vaisakha Sankranti, which means the transmigration of the Sun from one Rāshi (constellation of the zodiac in Indian astronomy) to the next. Hence, there are 12 Sankrantis in a year.

Each Sankranti is marked as the beginning of a month in the sidereal solar calendars followed in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab, Gujarat and Nepal. On the other hand, in the sidereal solar Bengali calendar and Assamese calendar, a Sankranti is marked as the end of each month and the day following as the beginning of a new month.

However, regional calendars mark when the official new year is celebrated. In regions such as Maharashtra which begin the official new year with the commencement of the lunar year, the solar year is marked by celebrating Vaisakha Sankranti.

Conversely, regions starting the new year with Vaisakha Sankranti, give prominence to the start of the lunar year in Chaitra. In Vedic calendar, it is called Madhav, and in Vaishnav calendar, it is called Madhushudan month.

Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into Makara rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. It is also called as Uttarayana – the day on which the sun begins its six-month northward journey.

The traditional Indian calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. The of Makar Sankranti remains constant over a long term, 14 January or occasionally, 15 January as the Sun begins to rise in Makara Rashi.

The term Uttarāyaṇa or Uttarayan is derived from two different Sanskrit words “uttara” (North) and “ayana” (movement) thus indicating a semantic of the northward movement of the Earth on the celestial sphere.

This movement begins to occur a day after the winter solstice in December which occurs around 22 December and continues for a six-month period through to the summer solstice around June 21 (dates vary ).

This difference is because the solstices are continually precessing at a rate of 50 arcseconds / year due to the precession of the equinoxes, i.e. this difference is the difference between the sidereal and tropical zodiacs. The Surya Siddhanta bridges this difference by juxtaposing the four solstitial and equinotial points with four of the twelve boundaries of the rashis.

The complement of Uttarayana is Dakshinayana, i.e. the period between Karka sankranti and Makara Sankranti as per the sidereal zodiac and between the Summer solstice and Winter solstice as per the tropical zodiac.

The Surya Siddhanta defines Uttarayana as the period between the Makara Sankranti (which currently occurs around January 14) and Karka Sankranti (which currently occurs around July 16).

Bal Gangadhar Tilak proposes an alternative, early vedic definition of Uttarayana as starting from Vernal Equinox and ending with Autumnal Equinox. This definition interprets the term “Uttara Ayana” as “northern movement” instead of “northward movement”, i.e. as the movement of the Earth in the region North of the Equator.

In support of this proposal, he points to another tradition that the Uttarayana is considered the daytime of the Gods residing at the North Pole which tradition makes sense only if we define Uttarayana as the period between the Vernal and Autumnal equinoxes (when there is Midnight Sun at the North Pole).

Conversely, Dakshinaya is defined as the period between the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes, when there is midnight sun at the South Pole. This period is also referred to as Pitrayana (with the Pitrus (i.e. ancestors) being placed at the South Pole).

Uttarayana is referred to as the day of new good healthy wealthy beginning. According to Kauravas and Pandavas, in Mahabharata on this day Bheeshma Pitamaha, chose to leave for his heavenly abode. As per the boon granted to Devavrata (young Bheeshma), he could choose his time of death chose this day, when the sun starts on its course towards the northern hemisphere.

According to Hindu tradition the six months of Uttarayana are a single day of the Gods; the six months of Dakshinayana are a single night of the Gods. Thus a year of twelve months is single Nychthemeron of the Gods.

This festival is currently celebrated on 14 or 15 January but due to axial precession of the earth it will continue to shift away from the actual season. The season occurs based on tropical sun (without ayanamsha). The earth revolves around sun with a tilt of 23.44 degrees. When the tilt is facing the sun we get summer and when the tilt is away from the sun we get winter. That is the reason when there is summer north of the equator, it will be winter south of the equator.

Because of this tilt it appears that the sun travels north and south of the equator. This motion of the sun going from south to north is called Uttarayana – the sun is moving towards north and when it reaches north it starts moving south and it is called Dakshinayana – the sun is moving towards south. This causes seasons which are dependent on equinoxes and solstices.

There is a common misconception that Makar Sankranti is the Uttarayana. This is because at one point in time Sayana and Nirayana zodiac were the same. Every year equinoxes slide by 50 seconds due to precession of equinoxes, giving birth to Ayanamsha and causing Makar Sankranti to slide further.

As a result, if you think Makar Sankranti is Uttarayana then as it is sliding, it will come in June after 9000 years. However Makar Sankranti still holds importance in Hindu rituals. All Drika Panchanga makers like mypanchang.com, datepanchang, janmabhumi panchang, rashtriya panchang  and Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika use the position of the tropical sun to determine Uttarayana and Dakshinayana.

Also when Uttarayana starts, it is a start of winter. When equinox slides it will increase ayanamsha and Makar Sankranti will also slide. In 1000 AD, Makar Sankranti was on Dec 31 and now it falls on January 14; in 272 BC Sankranti was on Dec 21; after 9000 years Makar Sankranti will be in June.

It would seem absurd to have Uttarayana in June when sun is about to begin its ascent upwards —Dakshinayana. This misconception continues as there is not much difference between actual Uttarayana date which occurs a day after winter solstice (of Dec 21) when the sun makes the northward journey, and January 14. However, the difference will be significant as equinoxes slide further.

Mesha Sankranti marks the beginning of the New Year in the traditional Hindu Solar Calendar. On this day, the sun enters the sidereal Aries, or Mesha rashi. It generally falls on 14/15 April. Regional New Year festivals also take place on this day. Vaisakhi in the Punjab region, Pana Sankranti in Odisha and on the day after Mesha Sankranti, is Pohela Boishakh in Bengal and Bohag Bihu in Assam.

Mithuna Sankranti is celebrated as annual menstruating phase of Mother Earth as Raja Parba or Ambubachi Mela in Eastern and North Eastern provinces of India. Dhanu Sankranti: celebrated on the first day of the solar month.

Karka Sankranti on July 16 marks the transition of the Sun into Karka rashi (Cancer). This also marks the end of the six-month Uttarayana period of Hindu calendar, and the beginning of Dakshinayana, which itself end at Makar Sankranti.

Chaitra

In the standard Hindu calendar and India’s national civil calendar, Chaitra is the first month of the year. It is the last month in the Bengali calendar, where it is called Choitro. Chaitra or Chait is also the last month in the Nepali calendar (the Vikram Samvat), where it commences in mid-March.

Chithirai is the first month in the Tamil calendar. In Sindhi calendar, this month is referred to as Chet and is marked by the celebration of the Cheti Chand (birth of Jhulelal, an incarnation of Vishnu). In the Vaishnava calendar, Vishnu governs this month.

The month of Chaitra is also associated with the coming of Spring. Holi, the spring festival of colour, is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) of Phalguna month before Chaitra. Exactly 6 days after which the festival of Chaiti observed.

Holi is a popular ancient Hindu festival, originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is celebrated predominantly in India and Nepal, but has also spread to other areas of Asia and parts of the Western world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. Holi is popularly known as the Indian “festival of spring”, the “festival of colours”, or the “festival of love”.

The festival signifies the arrival of spring, the end of winter, the blossoming of love, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. The festival also celebrates the beginning of a good spring harvest season.

It lasts for a night and a day, starting on the evening of the Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Vikram Samvat Calendar, in the Hindu calendar month of Phalgun, which falls around middle of March in the Gregorian calendar.

Chhath is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival historically native to the Indian subcontinent, more specifically, the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and the Madhesh region of Nepal.

The Chhath Puja is dedicated to the Sun and his sister Shashti devi mother of Kartikeya(Chhathi Maiya) in order to thank them for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. This festival is observed by Nepalese and Indian people, along with their diaspora.

The festival doesn’t involve idolatry and is dedicated to worship the sun God Surya and Dawn Goddess Ushas and the rituals are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks.

In lunar religious calendars, Chaitra begins with the new moon in March/April and is the first month of the year. The first of Chaitra – is celebrated as New Year’s Day, known as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Chaitrai Vishu or Puthandu in Tamil Nadu and Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Other important festivals in the month are; Chaitra Navratri, Ram Navami – the birth anniversary of Lord Ram celebrated on the 9th day of Chaitra, and Hanuman Jayanti that falls on the last day (Purnima) of Chaitra. In Bengal people celebrate Charak Puja.The world-famous “chithirai Thiruvizha” which is held on the banks of Vaigai is held during this month in Madurai.

In the Tamil calendar, Chitterai begins with the Sun’s entry into Aries in mid-April, and is the first month of the year. The full moon day of Chaitra is known as “chithira pournami” in Tamil which is an auspicious day for Amman. Chaitra is considered to be a very auspicious month in which the creation of the universe was started. “Chaitra” can also be used as a name, with the meaning of “Spring” or “Aries Sign”.

According to the Sloka Chaturvarga Chintamani, the god Bramha created the universe on the first day of Shukla paksha (first fortnight / first half of the month) in the month of Chaitra. He also gradually included planets, stars, ruthu (seasons), years and lords of years. In this month, the fifteen days in Shukla paksha are dedicated to fifteen deities. Each day of the month is dedicated to a different god.[citation needed]

In the more traditional reckoning, the first month commences in March or April of the Gregorian Calendar, depending upon whether the Purushottam Maas (extra month for alignment of lunar or solar calendar) was observed in the year. There is no fixed date in Gregorian calendar for the 1st day of Chaitra, i.e., the beginning of the Hindu New Year.

Vaisakha

Vaisakha is a month of the Hindu calendar that corresponds to the second half of April and the first half of May in the Gregorian Calendar. It is the first month of the Vikram Samvat calendar, Nepali calendar, Odia calendar, Punjabi calendar, Assamese calendar (where it is called Bohag) and the Bengali calendar (where it is called Boishakh).

The Vikram calendar is the historical Hindu calendar on the Indian subcontinent and the official calendar of Nepal. The Vikram calendar uses lunar months and solar sidereal years and is also used in several Indian states. A number of ancient and medieval inscriptions used the Vikram Samvat.

Although it was reportedly named after the legendary king Vikramaditya, the term “Vikrama Samvat” does not appear in the historical record before the 9th century; the same calendar system is found with other names, such as Krita and Malava.

In the Indian national calendar, the Hindu lunar calendar and the Tamil solar calendar, Vaisakha is the second month of the year. The name of the month is derived from the position of the moon near the star Vishakha on full moon day. In the Vaishnava calendar, Madhusudana governs this month.

The month of Boishakh also marks the official start of Summer. The month is notorious for the afternoon storms called Kalboishakhi (Nor’wester). The storms usually start with strong gusts from the north-western direction at the end of a hot day and cause widespread destruction.

The first day of Baishakh is celebrated as the Pôhela Boishak or Bangla New Year’s Day. The day is observed with cultural programs, festivals and carnivals all around the country. The day of is also the beginning of all business activities in Bangladesh and neighboring Indian state of West Bengal.

The harvest festival of Vaisakhi is celebrated on in this month which marks the Punjabi new year according to the Punjabi calendar. Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on the Punjabi New year day. Vaisakha Purnima is celebrated as Buddha Purnima or the birthday of Gautama Buddha amongst Buddhists. Purnima refers to the Full Moon. Known in Sinhalese as Vesak, it is observed in the full moon of May.

Vaishakha Purnima is known as “vaikasi vishakam” in Tamil Nadu which is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Murugan. Vaisakha sukla chaturdasi is celebrated as Narasimha Jayanthi Festival in Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamivari Temple at Simhachalam.

 

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Shassuru, the ‘womb goddess’

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 16, 2019

Image may contain: text

The “Frog” in history

History of the Mother goddess

Fertility and religion

List of fertility deities

Far before the words ‘vagina’ and ‘clitoris’ had to be spoken in hushed tones—or worse, euphemized out of existence—everyone knew how to find a clitoris. No, not just find it. Worship it. We now live in a culture where female genitalia is politicized, yet hidden. It’s hard to believe that it was ever revered and celebrated. But there is a long history of vagina and clit worship.

The word ‘vagina’ didn’t appear in English until 1682. However, non-English speaking cultures revered the vagina for a variety of reasons. Considering the vagina’s role in producing life, it comes to no surprise that in Hindu philosophy, the vagina symbolizes formation of humanity.

In traditional Hindu culture, the embodiment of life itself is distinctly female. The Hindu goddess Shakti represents the divine and cosmic energy from which we are all created. Certain texts like the Kama Sutra refer to the vagina or the “yoni” as a “sacred area, an occult religion worthy of reverence,” and “a symbol of the cosmic mysteries.”

While they value femininity in all of its diversity, texts like the Kama Sutra have been subject to many rewritings and reinterpretations that have muddled their true meaning.

But it’s not just the vagina as a force, the physical vagina and vulva has often had its own distinct influence. To understand just how willing we once were to embrace the vagina, it helps to look at the goddess Ishtar. As far back as 3500 BCE Ishtar was recognized as the Mesopotamian goddess of  love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and politics—a formidable figure indeed.

To celebrate the festival of Thesmophoria, honey and sesame cakes, a triangular shape called “mylloi”, representing Ishtar’s vagina, were given out freely. Vagina cakes were just a part of the celebration. And it wasn’t just a symbolic embracing. The gesture of ana suromai or anasyrmaliterally meaning to lift up your skirt and display your genitals – was thought to be able to ward off evil in ancient Greece and other cultures.

But the practice didn’t end with antiquity. Another unrestrained expression of vagina worship came in the form of Sheela Na Gigs, which were popular carvings also meant to keep evil at bay. These carving were of female figures showing off their vulva—often exaggerated far beyond its actual size.

They are believed to have originated in 11th century France and Spain, but the practice spread to other areas of Europe. The idea of vaginas being a force against evil really stuck—even as late as the 17th century, we find drinking mugs portraying Satan cowering before a vagina.

The vagina has had obvious connotations of fertility—both in humans and in agriculture. In fact, in Hawaiian mythology Kapo, the goddess of fertility, was able to confound a persistent half-man, half-pig by detaching her vagina and tossing it his way. Not only did it distract him, he then chased the vagina to the end of the earth—an interesting statement about women’s power over their suitors.

Midwifery guru Ina May Gaskin put forward an interesting theory about the relationships between the symbolism of the Sheela Na Gig and other illustrations of the vagina to the more practical sides of fertility in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth:

“My idea is that this figure [the naked Sheela Na Gig] was probably meant to reassure young women about the capabilities of their bodies in birth. As you can see the vulva of the crouching figure is open enough to accommodate her own head.” With childbirth looming, it’s easy to see why women would want the reassurance.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy in art covers any artistic work that portrays pregnancy. In art as in life, it is often unclear whether an actual state of pregnancy is intended to be shown. A common visual indication is the gesture of the woman placing a protective open hand on her abdomen.

Historically, married women were at some stage of pregnancy for much of their life until the menopause, but the depiction of this in art is relatively uncommon, and generally restricted to some specific contexts.

There are two subjects often depicted in Western narrative art, or history painting, where pregnancy is an important part of the story. These are the unhappy scene usually called Diana and Callisto, showing the moment of discovery of Callisto’s forbidden pregnancy, and the biblical scene of the Visitation. Gradually, portraits of pregnant women began to appear, with a particular fashion for “pregnancy portraits” in elite portraiture of the years around 1600.

Depictions of Mary were by far the most frequent images featuring a pregnant woman in post-classical Western art, and probably remain so to the modern day. The moment of Mary’s conception of Jesus, called the Annunciation, is one of the most common subjects in traditional Christian art, but depictions from later in her pregnancy are also common.

Unlike many other kinds of depictions of pregnancy, there is usually no ambiguity as to whether Mary is intended to be shown while pregnant, even where the pregnancy is not clearly visualized.

The Visitation, a meeting between two pregnant women, Mary and Elizabeth, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke Luke 1:39–56, was very often depicted, but their pregnancy is usually not emphasized visually, at least until Early Netherlandish painting of the 15th century. Medieval thinking held that Elizabeth was about seven months pregnant at the meeting, and Mary about one.

Images of pregnant women, especially small figurines, were made in traditional cultures in many places and periods, though it is rarely one of the most common types of image. These include ceramic figures from some Pre-Columbian cultures, and a few figures from most of the ancient Mediterranean cultures. 

Many of these seem to be connected with fertility. Identifying whether such figures are actually meant to show pregnancy is often a problem, as well as understanding their role in the culture concerned.

Among the oldest surviving examples of the depiction of pregnancy are prehistoric figurines found across much of Eurasia and collectively known as Venus figurines. The best known is the Venus of Willendorf, an oolitic limestone figurine of a woman whose breasts and hips have been exaggerated to emphasise her fertility.

These figurines exaggerate the abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, or vulva of the subject, but the degree to which the figures appear to be pregnant varies considerably, and most are not noticeably pregnant at all.

Some kinds of art have been designed with pregnant women especially in mind, though these are perhaps less common than art intended for women wanting to become pregnant (discussed in art history using the term “fertility”).

One of the many contexts and uses speculated for Venus figurines is that they were held in the hand during childbirth, for which their rather consistent size and shape seems well suited. However, there are a variety of other explanations.

Pregnancy as a fertility god was not used in the Bronze Age period and really only comes up in the Iron Age I levels at Tell Beit Mirsim, an archaeological site in Israel, on the border between the Shfela and Mount Hebron. Even after that, pregnant women are not represented in the Middle East except for these terracotta figures.

Tell Beit Mirsim has “a town plan characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah that is also known from other sites” including, Beit Shemesh, Tell en-Nasbeh, Khirbet Qeiyafa and Beersheba. “A casemate wall was built at all of these sites and the city’s houses next to it incorporated the casemates as one of the dwelling’s rooms. This model is not known from any Canaanite, Philistine or Kingdom of Israel site.”

Vulva

The vagina and vulva have been depicted in art from prehistory to the contemporary art era of the 21st century. Visual art forms representing the female genitals encompass two-dimensional (e.g. paintings) and three-dimensional (e.g. statuettes).

As long ago as 35,000 years ago, people sculpted Venus figurines that exaggerated the abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, or vulva. In 1866, Gustave Courbet painted a picture of a nude woman which depicted the female genitals, entitled “The Origin of the World”.

Various perceptions of the vagina have existed throughout history, including the belief it is the center of sexual desire, a metaphor for life via birth, inferior to the penis, visually unappealing, inherently unpleasant to smell, or otherwise vulgar. The vagina has been known by many names, including the ancient vulgarism “cunt”, euphemisms (“lady garden”), slang (“pussy”), and derogatory epithets.

Some cultures view the vulva as something shameful that should be hidden. For example, the term pudendum, the Latin term used in medical English for the external genitalia, literally means “shameful thing”. Positive views of the vagina use it to represent female sexuality, spirituality, or life, e.g. as a “powerful symbol of womanliness, openness, acceptance, and receptivity … the inner valley spirit”.

Hinduism has given the world the symbol of the yoni, and this may indicate the value that Hindu society has given female sexuality and the vagina’s ability to birth life. Other ancient cultures celebrated and even worshipped the vulva, for example in some ancient Middle Eastern religions and the paleolithic artworks dubbed “Old Europe” by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas.

Two-dimensional and three-dimensional representations of the vulva, i.e. paintings and figurines, exist from tens of millennia ago. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art. The cave of Chufín located in the town of Riclones in Cantabria (Spain) has prehistoric rock art which may be a depiction of the vulva.

The cave was occupied at different periods, the oldest being around 20,000 years ago. Aside from schematic engravings and paintings of animals, there are also many symbols, such as a those known as “sticks”. There is also a large number of drawings using points (puntillaje), including one which has been interpreted as a representation of a vulva.

A Venus figurine is an Upper Paleolithic statuette portraying a woman. Most have been unearthed in Europe, but others have been found as far away as Siberia, extending their distribution across much of Eurasia.

Most of them date from the Gravettian period (28,000–22,000 years ago), but examples exist as early as the Venus of Hohle Fels, which dates back at least 35,000 years to the Aurignacian, and as late as the Venus of Monruz, from about 11,000 years ago in the Magdalenian.

These figurines were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired. The latter are among the oldest ceramics known. In total, over a hundred such figurines are known; virtually all of modest size, between 4 cm and 25 cm in height.

Most of them have small heads, wide hips, and legs that taper to a point. Various figurines exaggerate the abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, or vulva. In contrast, arms and feet are often absent, and the head is usually small and faceless.

The ancient Sumerians regarded the vulva as sacred and a vast number of Sumerian poems praising the vulva of the goddess Inanna have survived. In Sumerian religion, the goddess Nin-imma is the divine personification of female genitalia. Her name literally means “lady female genitals”.

She appears in one version of the myth of Enki and Ninsikila in which she is the daughter of Enki and Ninkurra. Enki rapes her and causes her to give birth to Uttu, the goddess of weaving and vegetation.

Vaginal fluid is always described in Sumerian texts as tasting “sweet” and, in a Sumerian Bridal Hymn, a young maiden rejoices that her vulva has grown hair. Clay models of vulvae were discovered in the temple of Inanna at Ashur; these models likely served as some form of amulets, possibly to protect against impotency.

Aurignacian vulvar representations 

The Abri Castanet is a collapsed rockshelter located in the Vallon de Castel-Merle, 9 km downstream from Montignac-Lascaux in the Vézère Valley of southwestern France. Since early excavations in 1911–1913 and 1924–1925, it has been known as one of a half-dozen key sites in Eurasia with respect to the Paleolithic origins of European parietal and portable art and personal adornment.

Scientific understanding of the origins and early evolution of graphic and plastic imagery underwent a revolution in the 1990s and 2000s with the discovery and dating of Aurignacian wall images in the Grotte Chauvet and the Grotte d’Aldène, new ivory sculptures from southwestern Germany, and painted limestone blocks from Fumane, Italy.

Although a rich corpus of Aurignacian (40,000–28,000 BC) wall painting, engraving, and bas-relief sculpture had been recognized and studied since before World War I in the Vézère Valley of southwestern France, our understanding of the chronological and cultural context of that early-discovered symbolic record has been limited by the crude archaeological methods and anecdotal descriptions of that pioneering era.

Aurignacian vulvar imagery from Castanet, Blanchard, and other sites such as La Ferrassie and Abri Cellier in the Vézère Valley inspired debate and interpretation from the moment that the Abbé Henri Breuil first read engravings from Abri Blanchard as “Pudendum muliebre” in 1911. A century after the discovery of Aurignacian engraved and painted representations on limestone blocks, we now have the modern-quality recovery of one of these artifacts.

This discovery confirms that some of these representations were executed on the shelter ceiling 2 m above the occupational surface. Moreover, radiometric dates for the archaeological level corresponds to the ceiling representations, showing this early imagery to be as old or older than the oldest of the Chauvet paintings and those from the less-publicized site of Aldène in the Hérault region of southeastern France.

Archaeologists have dated an engraving of a vulva found on a one-and-a-half-ton limestone block at Abri Castanet, , Commune de Sergeac, Dordogne, a collapsed rock shelter in France, to about 37,000 years ago. That figure, however, is only a minimum age for the rock carving. The date actually corresponds to the approximate time when the rock shelter’s roof, of which the engraved block was once a part, collapsed.

The engraving is thus one of the earliest examples of European wall art, likely older than the elaborate paintings 200 miles east in Chauvet Cave. The block was found directly above a surface containing hundreds of artifacts from the early Aurignacian culture, the earliest modern humans in Europe.

The clearest engraving observable on the ceiling fragment fits morphologically into the category of vulvar images, many examples of which were recovered during excavations at the beginning of the 20th century at Abri Castanet and the adjacent site of Abri Blanchard. This new discovery from Castanet provides an age estimate for those earlier finds. 

The fact that the most recognizable image on the newly discovered surface falls broadly within the range of ovoid forms traditionally interpreted as vulva leads us to suppose that the above dates apply to other such images from Castanet, many of which were located within a few meters of the engraving described here. The vulvar tradition in the Vézère Valley seems to constitute a distinct regional variant within a mosaic of graphic and plastic expression across Europe in the Early Aurignacian.

The most obvious interpretation is that of oval-shaped female genitals. However the figure is difficult to interpret because of a strongly underscored curved line at the base. This could represent a vulval opening but the volume used casts doubt on this interpretation. A last, more debatable suggestion would be that it illustrates a male sexual organ, which is a known theme during these early Aurignacian phases.

Vagina cakes

The cult of Tammuz was particularly associated with women, who were the ones responsible for mourning his death. The custom of planting miniature gardens with fast-growing plants such as lettuce and fennel, which would then be placed out in the hot sun to sprout before withering in the heat, was a well-attested custom in ancient Greece associated with the festival of Adonia in honor of Adonis, the Greek version of Tammuz; some scholars have argued based on references in the Hebrew Bible that this custom may have been a continuation of an earlier oriental practice.

The same women who mourned the death of Tammuz also prepared cakes for his consort Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven. These cakes would be baked in ashes[26] and several clay cake molds discovered at Mari, Syria reveal that they were also at least sometimes shaped like naked women.

Purim is celebrated among Jews by exchanging gifts of food and drink, donating charity to the poor, eating a celebratory meal, reading of the megillah of the Book of Esther, usually in synagogue, and reciting additions to the daily prayers and the grace after meals, known as Al HaNissim.

Central to the holiday is a reading of the Book of Esther. Many scholars believe this book is a fable rather than a recounting of actual events. The details really make no historical sense so it is an open question what happen and why there is a Book of Esther.

Other customs include wearing masks and costumes, public celebration and parades (Adloyada), and eating hamantaschen (“Haman’s ear”); sometimes adults are encouraged to drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage.

Purim has been called “the Jewish Halloween.” In its origins, however, it was more like Carnival. On Purim Jews in various countries dress up in costumes, get drunk, put on plays, sing, parade, burn effigies of Haman (the traditional enemy), and eat little triangular filled cakes.

That was the 6th Century BCE, when the Hebrews were captive in Babylon. The Hebrews, naturally, adopted many Babylonian customs. The Babylonian calendar was easily accepted and is still used for religious observances.

Their New Year celebration was more of a threat, for the Hebrew priests. It consisted of a ten-day carnival, during which the people drank, feasted, staged processions, and had sex with people other than their spouses. The king, during this festival, was stripped of his insignia and humiliated, to remind him that he ruled by the grace of Ishtar, the Great Goddess.

Some of the exiles must have joined the party and assimilated. Eventually, the Hebrew priests came up with a solution: they gave a two-day holiday in place of a ten-day carnival; they gave the human Queen Esther instead of Ishtar, her uncle Mordechai instead of the Babylonian god Marduk.

They commanded the people to drink themselves silly, but not pour libations to foreign gods. Fornication remained a no-no. And the little cakes filled with poppy seeds or fruit preserves was made. Little vulva-shaped cakes.

Nowadays we are taught to call those cakes hamantaschen (Yiddish, Haman’s pockets) or oznei Haman (Hebrew, Haman’s ears), but they don’t look like pockets or ears. They’re still goddess images, stuffed with symbols of fertility and fruitfulness.

Purim is a joyful festival, and eating “the food of Ishtar” was reserved for happy occasions. Since the baking of cakes was also characteristic of the Ishtar festivals, we may conclude that the Jewish women’s cakes, either by shape or form or impressions, indicated the fertility-character of the festival.

The present day Jewish custom of baking and eating the “Hamantaschen” at the Purim festival may give some indication of what these cakes looked like. The “Hamantaschen” are triangular pastries filled with ground poppy seeds (sometimes with prunes); the common belief is that their shape resembles the three cornered hat of Haman, villain of the book of Esther, hence the name “Hainan’s pockets.”

Now, Purim is celebrated in remembrance of the vindication of Esther, and Esther is the Persian version of Ishtar, i.e., the queen of heaven. Very likely, therefore, “Hamantaschen” have nothing to do with Haman. The name may be a corruption of the German “Mohntaschen” (poppy-seed pockets). What these cakes with their triangle-shape and poppy seed filling indicated was the pubic mound of Ishtar.

Women across the ancient Near East worshipped Ishtar by dedicating to her cakes baked in ashes (known as kamān tumri). A dedication of this type is described in an Akkadian hymn. Several clay cake molds discovered at Mari are shaped like naked women with large hips clutching their breasts. Some scholars have suggested that the cakes made from these molds were intended as representations of Ishtar herself.

Purim

Purim, a Jewish holiday, falls at the full moon preceding the Passover, which was set by the full moon in Aries, which follows Pisces. The story of the birth of Christ is said to be a result of the spring equinox entering into the Pisces, as the Savior of the World appeared as the Fisher of Men. This parallels the entering into the Age of Pisces.

Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries. Ēostre or Ostara is a Germanic goddess who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages.

Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Ēostre’s honour, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend.

Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 inscriptions from the 2nd century CE referring to the matronae Austriahenae.

Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed. Ēostre and Ostara are sometimes referenced in modern popular culture and are venerated in some forms of Germanic neopaganism.

Book of Esther

Purim («from the word pur ‘fate’, related to Akkadian: pūru) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman (Hebrew: Hâmân; also known as Haman the Agagite or Haman the evil, who was planning to kill all the Jews in the empire, as recounted in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester in Hebrew; usually dated to the 4th century BC).

Haman is the main antagonist in the Book of Esther. According to the Hebrew Bible he was the royal vizier, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official, in the Persian empire under King Ahasuerus, traditionally identified as Xerxes I or Artaxerxes I of Persia, “Khshayarsha” and “Artakhsher” in Old Persian respectively, who died 465 BC.

As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, a people who were wiped out in certain areas by King Saul and David. According to the Bible, Amalek was the son of Eliphaz (himself the son of Esau, ancestor of the Edomites) and Eliphaz’ concubine Timna. Timna was a Horite and sister of Lotan.

Amalek is described as the “chief of Amalek” among the “chiefs of the sons of Esau”, from which it is surmised that he ruled a clan or territory named after him. The Amalekite people were considered to be Amalek’s descendants through the genealogy of Esau. In the chant of Balaam, Amalek was called the ‘first of the nations’.

Esau (Arabic: ‘Īsaw; meaning “hairy” or “rough”), in the Hebrew Bible, is the older son of Isaac. He is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, and by the prophets Obadiah and Malachi. The New Testament alludes to him in the Epistle to the Romans and in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Esau is the progenitor of the Edomites and the elder brother of Jacob, the patriarch of the Israelites. Esau and Jacob were the sons of Isaac and Rebekah, and the grandsons of Abraham and Sarah. Of the twins, Esau was the first to be born with Jacob following, holding his heel. Isaac was sixty years old when the boys were born.

Esau, a “man of the field”, became a hunter who had “rough” qualities that distinguished him from his twin brother. Among these qualities were his red hair and noticeable hairiness. Jacob was a shy or simple man, depending on the translation of the Hebrew word tam (which also means “relatively perfect man”). Throughout Genesis, Esau is frequently shown as being supplanted by his younger twin, Jacob (Israel).

Edom (Edomite: ’Edām; Hebrew: ʼÉḏōm, lit.: “red”; Akkadian: Uduma‎) was an ancient kingdom in Transjordan located between Moab to the northeast, the Arabah to the west and the Arabian Desert to the south and east.

Most of its former territory is now divided between Israel and Jordan. Edom appears in written sources relating to the late Bronze Age and to the Iron Age in the Levant, such as the Hebrew Bible and Egyptian and Mesopotamian records. In classical antiquity, the cognate name Idumea was used for a smaller area in the same general region.

Edom and Idumea are two related but distinct terms which are both related to a historically-contiguous population but two separate, if adjacent, territories which were occupied by the Edomites/Idumeans in different periods of their history.

The Edomites first established a kingdom (“Edom”) in the southern area of modern-day Jordan and later migrated into the southern parts of the Kingdom of Judah (“Idumea”, or modern-day southern Israel/Negev) when Judah was first weakened and then destroyed by the Babylonians, in the 6th century BCE.

Edom is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and it is also mentioned in a list of the Egyptian pharaoh Seti I from c. 1215 BC as well as in the chronicle of a campaign by Ramesses III (r. 1186–1155 BC). The Edomites, who have been archaeologically identified, were a Semitic people who probably arrived in the region around the 14th century BCE.

Archaeological investigation showed that the country flourished between the 13th and the 8th century BC and was destroyed after a period of decline in the 6th century BC by the Babylonians.

After the loss of the kingdom, the Edomites were pushed westward towards southern Judah by nomadic tribes coming from the east; among them were the Nabataeans, who first appeared in the historical annals of the 4th century BC and already established their own kingdom in what used to be Edom, by the first half of the 2nd century BC.

More recent excavations show that the process of Edomite settlement in the southern parts of the Kingdom of Judah and parts of the Negev down to Timna had started already before the destruction of the kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar II in 587/86 BCE, both by peaceful penetration and by military means and taking advantage of the already-weakened state of Judah.

Once pushed out of their territory, the Edomites settled during the Persian period in an area comprising the southern hills of Judea down to the area north of Be’er Sheva. The people appear under a Greek form of their old name, as Idumeans or Idumaeans, and their new territory was called Idumea or Idumaea (Greek: Ἰδουμαία, Idoumaía; Latin: Idūmaea), a term that was used in New Testament times.

One modern scholar believes this attests to Amalek’s high antiquity, while traditional commentator Rashi states: “He came before all of them to make war with Israel”. First-century Roman-Jewish scholar and historian Flavius Josephus refers to Amalek as a ‘bastard’ in a derogatory sense.

According to the Bible, the Amalekites inhabited the Negev. They appear to have lived a nomadic or seminomadic lifestyle along the fringes of southern Canaan’s agricultural zone. This is probably based on the association of this tribal group with the steppe region of ancient Israel and the area of Kadesh (Genesis 14:7). As a people, the Amalekites were identified as a recurrent enemy of the Israelites.

Amalek is a nation described in the Hebrew Bible as enemies of the Israelites. The name “Amalek” can refer to the nation’s founder, a grandson of Esau; his descendants, the Amalekites; or the territories of Amalek which they inhabited.

Although Egyptian and Assyrian monumental inscriptions and records of the period survive which list various tribes and peoples of the area, no reference has ever been found to Amalek or the Amalekites. Therefore, the archaeologist and historian Hugo Winckler suggested in 1895 that there were never any such people and the Biblical stories concerning them are entirely mythological and ahistorical.

While considerable knowledge about nomadic Arabs has been recovered through archeological research, no specific artifacts or sites have been linked to Amalek with any certainty. However, it is possible that some of the fortified settlements in the Negev highlands and even Tel Masos (near Beer-sheba) have Amalek connections.

Easton claims that the Babylonian inscription Sute and the Egyptian term Sittiu refer to the Amalekites. Easton also claims that the Amarna tablets refer to the Amalekites under the general name Khabbatti, or “plunderers”.

In Judaism, the Amalekites came to represent the archetypal enemy of the Jews. In Jewish folklore the Amalekites are considered to be the symbol of evil. It is suggested that Amalekites have come to represent an “eternally irreconcilable enemy” that wants to murder Jews, and that Jews in post-biblical times sometimes associate contemporary enemies with Haman or Amalekites, and that some Jews believe that pre-emptive violence is acceptable against such enemies.

Agag is a Northwest Semitic name or title applied to a biblical king. It has been suggested that “Agag” was a dynastic name of the kings of Amalek, just as Pharaoh was used as a dynastic name for the ancient Egyptians. The etymology is uncertain, according to John L. McKenzie (1995), while Cox (1884) suggested “High.”

In the Torah, the expression “higher than Agag, and his kingdom will be exalted” was uttered by Balaam in Numbers 24:7, in his third prophetic utterance, to describe a king of Israel who would be higher than the king of Amalek.

This is understood to mean that Israel’s king would take a higher position than even Amalek himself, and would exercise a wider authority. The writer uses an allusion to the literal significance of the word “Agag”, meaning “high”, to convey that the king of Israel would be “higher than High”. A characteristic trait of biblical poetry is to use puns.

In the Hebrew Bible, Agag is also referred to as the king of Amalek who was defeated by King Saul in fulfillment of a decree by Yahweh. However, Saul failed to execute Agag and allowed the people to keep some of the spoil, and this resulted in Samuel’s pronouncement of God’s rejection of Saul as king. Agag was then executed by Samuel, who told him: “Just as your sword has bereaved women of children, in that way your mother will be most bereaved of children among women.”

According to the Book of Esther his plan to kill all the Jews in the empire were foiled by Mordecai and Esther his cousin and adopted daughter, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. According to the Scroll of Esther, “they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”

Puruli

Puruli (EZEN Puruliyas) was a Hattian spring festival, held at Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna, who is married to a new king. Ḫannaḫanna (from Hittite ḫanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the Sumerian goddess Inanna.

Christopher Siren reports that Ḫannaḫanna is associated with the Gulses (Gul-Shesh; Gulshesh; Gul-ashshesh); they were called the Hutena (the three goddesses of fate ) in the Hurrian mythology. The Hutena always appeared in plural, never alone.

A possible translation of their names are the “Scribes” or “Determiners of Fate”. They dispenses good and evil, life and death to each human kind.They are similar to the Norns of Norse mythology, and the Moirai of ancient Greece.

Ḫannaḫanna was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat. Ḫebat, also transcribed, Khepat or Eva, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also called «Queen of the deities», «Mother of all living» and «Queen of the deities». The mother goddess is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele.

Akitu

The corresponding Assyrian festival to Puruli is the Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: EZEN Á.KI.TUM, akiti-šekinku, Á.KI.TI.ŠE.GUR₁₀.KU₅, lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu or rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) of the Enuma Elish, a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia. Also compared are the Canaanite Poem of Baal and Psalms 93 and 29.

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

In the religion of ancient Babylon, Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the salt sea, mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water, to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is referred to as a woman, and described as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

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

Demeter and Persephone

Demeter, the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over grains and the fertility of the earth, and her daughter Persephone, also called Kore (“the maiden”), the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, were often worshiped together and were often referred to by joint cultic titles.

In their cult at Eleusis, they were referred to simply as “the goddesses”, often distinguished as “the older” and “the younger”; In Rhodes and Sparta, they were worshiped as “the Demeters”; in the Thesmophoria, they were known as “the thesmophoroi” (“the legislators”). In Arcadia they were known as “the Great Goddesses” and “the mistresses”. In Mycenaean Pylos, Demeter and Persephone were probably called the “queens” (wa-na-ssoi).

The epithets of Persephone reveal her double function as chthonic (underworld) and vegetation goddess. The surnames given to her by the poets refer to her character as Queen of the lower world and the dead, or her symbolic meaning of the power that shoots forth and withdraws into the earth. Her common name as a vegetation goddess is Kore, and in Arcadia she was worshipped under the title Despoina, “the mistress”, a very old chthonic divinity.

Plutarch writes that Persephone was identified with the spring season and Cicero calls her the seed of the fruits of the fields. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, her return from the underworld each spring is a symbol of immortality, and hence she was frequently represented on sarcophagi.

In the religions of the Orphics and the Platonists, Kore is described as the all-pervading goddess of nature who both produces and destroys everything, and she is therefore mentioned along with or identified as other such divinities including Isis, Rhea, Ge, Hestia, Pandora, Artemis, and Hecate. The Orphic Persephone is said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus, Zagreus, and the little-attested Melinoe.

Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable, majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. She becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld.

In the myth Pluto abducts Persephone to be his wife and the queen of his realm (this is the myth which explains their marriage). Pluto (Ploutōn) was a name for the ruler of the underworld; the god was also known as Hades, a name for the underworld itself.

The name Pluton was conflated with that of Ploutos (Ploutos, “wealth”), a god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because Pluto as a chthonic god ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest. Plouton is lord of the dead, but as Persephone’s husband he has serious claims to the powers of fertility.

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

The Greek version of the abduction myth is related to grain – important and rare in the Greek environment – and the return (ascent) of Persephone was celebrated at the autumn sowing. Pluto (Ploutos) represents the wealth of the grain that was stored in underground silos or ceramic jars (pithoi), during summer months.

Similar subterranean pithoi were used in ancient times for burials and Pluto is fused with Hades, the King of the realm of the dead. During summer months, the Greek grain-Maiden (Kore) is lying in the grain of the underground silos in the realm of Hades, and she is fused with Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld.

At the beginning of the autumn, when the seeds of the old crop are laid on the fields, she ascends and is reunited with her mother Demeter, for at that time the old crop and the new meet each other. For the initiated, this union was the symbol of the eternity of human life that flows from the generations which spring from each other.

She is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. She was commonly worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries. To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion.

In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the process of being carried off by Hades.

Demeter’s emblem is the poppy, a bright red flower that grows among the barley. However, though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death.

Her cult titles include Sito (“she of the Grain”), as the giver of food or grain, and Thesmophoros (thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; phoros: bringer, bearer; “Law-Bringer”), as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.

Wanax (wa-na-ka) was her male companion (Greek: Paredros) in Mycenaean cult. The Arcadian cult links her to the god Poseidon, who probably substituted the male companion of the Great Goddess ; Demeter may therefore be related to a Minoan Great Goddess (Cybele).

The earliest recorded worship of a deity possibly equivalent to Demeter is found in Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of c. 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos. The tablets describe worship of the “two queens and the king”, which may be related to Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon.

Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for “the Two Queens and Poseidon” (“to the Two Queens and the King” :wa-na-ssoi, wa-na-ka-te). The “Two Queens” may be related with Demeter and Persephone, or their precursors, goddesses who were no longer associated with Poseidon in later periods.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiations held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. They are the “most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece”. Their basis was an old agrarian cult, and there is some evidence that they were derived from the religious practices of the Mycenean period.

The mysteries represented the myth of the abduction of Persephone from her mother Demeter by the king of the underworld Hades, in a cycle with three phases: the descent (loss), the search, and the ascent, with the main theme being the ascent of Persephone and the reunion with her mother. It was a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spread to Rome. Similar religious rites appear in the agricultural societies of Near East and in Minoan Crete.

The rites, ceremonies, and beliefs were kept secret and consistently preserved from antiquity. For the initiated, the rebirth of Persephone symbolized the eternity of life which flows from generation to generation, and they believed that they would have a reward in the afterlife.

There are many paintings and pieces of pottery that depict various aspects of the Mysteries. Since the Mysteries involved visions and conjuring of an afterlife, some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a consistent set of rites, ceremonies and experiences that spanned two millennia, came from psychedelic drugs. The name of the town, Eleusís, seems to be Pre-Greek and it is probably a counterpart with Elysium and the goddess Eileithyia.

Some scholars argued that the Eleusinian cult was a continuation of a Minoan cult, and that Demeter was a poppy goddess who brought the poppy from Crete to Eleusis. Some useful information from the Mycenean period can be taken from the study of the cult of Despoina, (the precursor goddess of Persephone), and the cult of Eileithyia who was the goddess of childbirth.

The megaron of Despoina at Lycosura is quite similar with the Telesterion of Eleusis, and Demeter is united with the god Poseidon, bearing a daughter, the unnamable Despoina (the mistress). In the cave of Amnisos at Crete, the goddess Eileithyia is related with the annual birth of the divine child, and she is connected with Enesidaon (The Earth Shaker), who is the chthonic aspect of Poseidon.

In the Theogony of Hesiod, Demeter was united with the hero Iasion in Crete and she bore Ploutos. This union seems to be a reference to a hieros gamos (ritual copulation) to ensure the earth’s fertility. This ritual copulation appears in Minoan Crete, in many Near Eastern agricultural societies, and also in the Anthesteria.

Nilsson believes that the original cult of Ploutos (or Pluto) in Eleusis was similar with the Minoan cult of the “divine child”, who died in order to be reborn. The child was abandoned by his mother and then it was brought up by the powers of nature. Similar myths appear in the cults of Hyakinthos (Amyklai), Erichthonios (Athens), and later in the cult of Dionysos.

Thesmophoria

The Thesmophoria was an ancient Greek religious festival, held in honor of the goddess Demeter  and her daughter Persephone. It was celebrated in order to promote fertility, both human and agricultural. It was held annually, mostly around the time that seeds were sown in late autumn – though in some places it was associated with the harvest instead – and celebrated human and agricultural fertility.

The festival was one of the most widely-celebrated in the Greek world. It was restricted to adult women, and the rites practised during the festival were kept secret. Men were forbidden to see or hear about the rites. It is not certain whether all free women took part in the celebration, or whether this was restricted to aristocratic women; whichever was the case, non-citizen and unmarried women appear not to have taken part.

The fact that it was celebrated across the Greek world suggests that it dates back to before the Greek settlement in Ionia in the eleventh century BCE. The best evidence for the Thesmophoria concern its practice in Athens, but there is also information from elsewhere in the Greek world, including Sicily and Eretria.

In Athens, the Thesmophoria took place over three days, from the eleventh to the thirteenth of Pyanepsion. This corresponds to late October in the Gregorian calendar, and was the time of the Greek year when seeds were sown.

The Thesmophoria may have taken place in this month in other cities, though in some places – for instance Delos and Thebes – the festival seems to have taken place in the summer, and been associated with the harvest, instead. In other places the festival lasted for longer – in Syracuse, Sicily, the Thesmophoria was a ten-day long event.

The most extensive sources on the festival are a comment in a scholion on Lucian’s Dialogues of the Courtesans, explaining the festival, and Aristophanes’ play Thesmophoriazusae, which parodies the festival. However, Aristophanes’ portrayal of the festival mixes authentically Thesmophoric elements with elements from other Greek religious practice, especially the worship of Dionysus.

According to the scholiast on Lucian, during the Thesmophoria pigs were sacrificed, and their remains were put into pits called megara. An inscription from Delos shows that part of the cost of the Thesmophoria there went towards paying for a ritual butcher to perform the sacrifices for the festival; literary evidence suggests that in other places, however, the sacrifices may have been made by the women themselves.

Some time later, the rotten remains of these sacrifices were retrieved from the pits by “bailers” – women who were required to spend three days in a state of ritual purity before descending into the megara. These were placed on altars to Persephone and Demeter, along with cakes baked in the shape of snakes and phalluses.

These remains were then scattered on fields when seeds were sown, in the belief that this would ensure a good harvest. According to Walter Burkert, this practice was “the clearest example in Greek religion of agrarian magic”.

It is not certain how long the remains of the pigs were left in the megara. The fact that they had decomposed by the time that they were retrieved shows that they had been left in the pits for some time. Possibly they were thrown in during one festival and retrieved the next year. However, if they were thrown in during the Thesmophoria and retrieved in time for the sowing of seeds that year, then they may have only been left for a few weeks before being taken out again.

The first day of the Thesmophoria at Athens was known as anodos (“ascent”). This is usually thought to be because on this day the women celebrating the festival ascended to the shrine called the Thesmophorion.

Preparations for the rest of the festival were made on this day: two women were elected to oversee the celebrations. Women also set up tents on this day; they would spend the rest of the festival staying in these rather than at home.

Matthew Dillon argues that the name anodos is more likely to relate to the ascent of Persephone from the underworld, which was celebrated at the festival. Dillon suggests that a sacrifice to celebrate this ascent was performed on the first day of the festival.

The second day of the festival was called the nesteia. This was a day of fasting, imitating Demeter’s mourning for the loss of her daughter. On this day, the women at the festival sat on the ground on seats made of plants which were believed to be anaphrodisiac.

Angeliki Tzanetou says that ritual obscenity was a feature of the second day of the festival; however, Dillon says that the ritual obscenity would have taken place on another day, not than the subdued second day, and Radek Chlup argues that it took place on the third day of the festival.

The third day of the Thesmophoria was kalligeneia, or “beautiful birth”. On this day, women called upon the goddess Kalligeneia, praying for their own fertility. Plutarch notes that in Eretria the women did not call upon Kalligeneia during the Thesmophoria.

Mylloi

To celebrate the festival of Thesmophoria, honey and sesame cakes, a triangular shape called “mylloi”, representing Ishtar’s vagina, were given out freely. Muliebra is the Latin word for the external female genitalia. In Sicily, there was the ‘myllos’ in the shape of the female genitals offered to Demeter and Persephone, representing Ishtar’s vagina, were given out freely. Vagina cakes were just a part of the celebration.

Heraclides of Syracuse in his ‘The customs of Syracuse’ says that at the Panteleia, which is a part of the celebration of the Thesmophoria, cakes in the shape of the female genitalia were made with sesame seeds and honey, and were called mylloi throughout Sicily, and were carried in procession in honour of the Goddesses.

Anasyrma

The origin of that custom might go back to the myth, related in the Orphic version of the rape of Kore, according to which the grieving Mother Demeter, in search of her lost daughter Persephone, was made to laugh when she is received by a woman named Baubo, a crone who makes her laugh by exposing herself, in a ritual gesture called anasyrma.

Anasyrma (composed of ana “up, against, back”, and syrma “skirt”; plural: anasyrmata), also called anasyrmos, is the gesture of lifting the skirt or kilt. It is used in connection with certain religious rituals, eroticism, and lewd jokes. The term is used in describing corresponding works of art. Many historical references suggest that anasyrma had dramatic or supernatural effect—positive or negative.

Anasyrma differs from “flashing”, a physically similar gesture as an act of exhibitionism, in that an exhibitionist has an implied purpose of his/her own sexual arousal, while anasyrma is done only for the effect on the onlookers.

Anasyrma is effectively “the exposing of the genitals”. This is a form of exhibitionism found in religion or artwork, rather than a display for arousal, and it always refers to the act of a woman exposing herself. In several cultures, there is a myth of anasyrma used for emotional healing.

The act of lifting up one’s skirt to display the genitals can be an apotropaic device; it can, in circumstances of war, evoke the fear of the enemy. It can also be an act that evokes surprise and subsequent laughter and a letting go of sadness. What is significant about anasyrma is that it reflects the numinous quality of the female genitals and the genital region through which birth ensues.

Anasyrma may be a deliberately provocative self-exposing of one’s naked genitals or buttocks. The famous example of the latter case is Aphrodite Kallipygos (“Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks”). In many traditions, this gesture also has an apotropaic character, as a mockery or means to ward off a supernatural enemy, analogous to mooning.

Ritual jesting and intimate exposure were common in the cults of Demeter and Dionysus, and figure in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries associated with these divinities. The mythographer Apollodorus says that Iambe’s jesting was the reason for the practice of ritual jesting at the Thesmophoria, a festival celebrated in honor of Demeter and Persephone.

A set of statuettes from Priene, a Greek city on the west coast of Asia Minor, are usually identified as “Baubo” figurines, representing the female body as the face conflated with the lower part of the abdomen. These appeared as counterparts to the phalluses decorated with eyes, mouth, and sometimes legs, that appeared on vase paintings and were made as statuettes.

Terracotta hermaphrodite figurines in the so-called anasyromenos pose, with female breasts and a long garment lifted to reveal male genitals have been found from Sicily to Lesbos, dating back to the late Classical and early Hellenistic period. The anasyromenos pose, however, was not invented in the 4th century BCE, figures of this type drew on a much earlier eastern iconographic tradition employed for female divinities.

Ancient literature suggests that the figures represent the androgynous Cypriot deity Aphroditus (possibly a form of Astarte), whose cult was introduced into mainland Greece between the 5th–4th century BCE. The revealed phallus was believed to have apotropaic magical powers, averting the evil eye or invidia and bestowing good luck.

Mulissu

Mullissu is a goddess who is the wife of the Assyrian god Ashur (also, Assur, Aššur; dAš-šur). Mullissu may be identical with the Mesopotamian goddess Ninlil, wife of the god Enlil, which would parallel the fact that Ashur himself was modeled on Enlil. Mullissu’s name was written “dNIN.LÍL”. Nonetheless, Mullissu, who was identified with Ishtar of Nineveh in Neo-Assyrian Empire times, is usually identified with Ishtar.

Nonetheless, Mullissu, who was identified with Ishtar of Nineveh in Neo-Assyrian Empire times, is usually identified with Ishtar. Also proposed to be Mullissu is a goddess whom Herodotus called Mylitta and identified with Aphrodite. The name Mylitta may derive from Mulliltu or Mulitta, names related to Mullissu.

Ashur is an East Semitic god, and the head of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion, worshipped mainly in the northern half of Mesopotamia, and parts of north-east Syria and south-east Asia Minor which constituted old Assyria. He may have had a solar iconography.

Aššur was a deified form of the city of Assur, which dates from the mid 3rd millennium BC and was the capital of the Old Assyrian kingdom. As such, Ashur did not originally have a family, but as the cult came under southern Mesopotamian influence, he later came to be regarded as the Assyrian equivalent of Enlil, the chief god of Nippur.

Enlil was the most important god of the southern pantheon from the early 3rd millennium BC until Hammurabi founded an empire based in Babylon in the mid-18th century BC, after which Marduk replaced Enlil as the chief god in the south.

In the north, Ashur absorbed Enlil’s wife Ninlil (as the Assyrian goddess Mullissu) and his sons Ninurta and Zababa—this process began around the 14th century BC and continued down to the 7th century.

Zababa (Sumerian: dza-ba4-ba4) (also Zamama) is a war god who was the tutelary deity of the city of Kish in ancient Mesopotamia. He is connected with the god Ninurta, and the symbol of Zababa − the eagle-headed staff − was often depicted next to Ninurta’s symbol. Inanna and Baba are variously described as his wife. His sanctuary was the E-meteursag.

Several ancient Mesopotamian kings were named in honor of Zababa, including Ur-Zababa of Kish (early patron of Sargon of Akkad, c. 2300 BCE) and Zababa-shuma-iddin (a 12th-century BCE Kassite king of Babylon).

The Hittites applied the name ZABABA to various war gods, using their Akkadian writing conventions. Among these gods were the Hattian Wurunkatte; the Hittite and Luwian Hašamili, Iyarri, and Zappana; and Hurrian Aštabi, Hešui, and Nubadig.

Asherah

The cakes go back much further than the Babylonian captivity, to pagan times when the Hebrews worshipped a goddess, Asherah, in ancient Semitic religion a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. They burned incense to her, danced in her sacred groves, and poured libations.

And baked cakes: in that same 6th Century BCE, the prophet Jeremiah denounces the women for pouring drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and baking cakes in her image. The women retort that they and their husbands would continue to do so, just as their ancestors had.

Asherah appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ašratu(m) (Ashratum), and in Hittite as Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʾAṯiratu (Athirat). The name Dione, which like ʾElat means ‘goddess’, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (ʾElat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit.

Asherah is identified as the queen consort of the Sumerian god Anu, and Ugaritic ʾEl, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons, as well as Yahweh, the god of Israel and Judah. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon. Despite her association with Yahweh in extra-biblical sources, Deuteronomy 12 has Yahweh commanding the destruction of her shrines so as to maintain purity of his worship.

Sources from before 1200 BC almost always credit Athirat with her full title rbt ʾaṯrt ym (or rbt ʾaṯrt). The phrase occurs 12 times in the Baʿal Epic alone. The title rbt is most often vocalised as rabītu, though rabat and rabīti are sometimes used by scholars. Apparently of Akkadian origin, rabītu means “(great) lady”.

She appears to champion her son, Yam, god of the sea, in his struggle against Baʾal. Yam’s ascription as ‘god of’ the sea in the English translation is somewhat incorrect, however, as ‘yām’ is a common western Semitic root that literally means ‘sea’. As a result, one could understand Yam to be the sea itself, deified, as opposed a god who holds dominion over it. Athirat’s title can therefore been translated as “the lady ʾAṯiratu of the sea”, alternatively, “she who walks on the sea”, or even “the Great Lady-who-tramples-Yam”.

Athirat’s name itself is theorised by certain translators and commentators to be from the Ugaritic root ʾaṯr, ‘stride’, a cognate of the Hebrew root ʾšr, of the same meaning. Alternative translations of her title have been tendered that follow this suggested etymology, such as “she who treads on the sea dragon”, or “she who treads on Tyre”.

The former of which appears to be an attempt to grant the Ugaritic texts a type of Chaoskampf. A more recent analysis of this epithet has resulted in the proposition of a radically different translation, namely “Lady Asherah of the day”, or, more simply, “Lady Day”.

The common Semitic root yvm or yôm, meaning ‘day’, appears in several instances in the Masoretic Texts with the second-root letter (-ô-) having been dropped, and in a select few cases, replaced with an A-class vowel of the Niqqud, resulting in the word becoming y(a)m. Such occurrences, as well as the fact that the plural, ‘days’, can be read as both yomîm and yāmîm, gives credence to this alternate translation.

Another primary epithet of Athirat was qnyt ʾilm which may be translated as “the creatrix of the Gods”. In those texts, Athirat is the consort of the god ʾEl; there is one reference to the 70 sons of Athirat, presumably the same as the 70 sons of ʾEl.

Among the Hittites this goddess appears as Asherdu(s) or Asertu(s), the consort of Elkunirsa (‘El, the Creator of Earth’) and mother of either 77 or 88 sons. Among the Amarna letters a King of the Amorites is named Abdi-Ashirta, “Servant of Asherah”.

She is also called ʾElat (‘goddess’), the feminine form of ʾEl (compare Allat) and Qodesh or Qudshu, ‘holiness’. Athirat in Akkadian texts appears as Ashratum (or Antu), the wife of Anu, the god of Heaven. In contrast, ʿAshtart is believed to be linked to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar who is sometimes portrayed as the daughter of Anu while in Ugaritic myth, ʿAshtart is one of the daughters of ʾEl, the West Semitic counterpart of Anu.

Beginning during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, a Semitic goddess named Qudshu (‘Holiness’) appears prominently. Some think this is Athirat/Ashratu under her Ugaritic name. This Qudshu seems not to be either ʿAshtart or ʿAnat as both those goddesses appear under their own names and with quite different iconography and appear in at least one pictorial representation along with Qudshu.

But in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods in Egypt there was a strong tendency of syncretism towards goddesses, and Athirat/Ashratum then seems to have disappeared, at least as a prominent goddess under a recognizable name.

Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel; it was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among the Jews.

Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshipped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel. There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings: Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh (2 Kings 23:14). Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh had erected one such statue (2 Kings 21:7).

Following the Exile, references to polytheism were heavily redacted from the Jewish scriptures. Hosea, for example, lambasts a goddess who is associated with trees but whose name is never mentioned.

The “Queen of Heaven” is likewise anonymous in Jeremiah, despite that she was widely revered. As the women of Jerusalem attested: “We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem” (44:17).

Further evidence for Asherah-worship includes, for example, an 8th-century BC combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and several inscriptions. The inscriptions found refer not only to Yahweh but to ʾEl and Baʿal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.”

The references to Samaria (capital of the kingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom) suggest that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, while raising questions about the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god of Edom. The ‘asherah’ in question is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of ʾEl, is unclear.

It has been suggested that the Israelites may have considered Asherah as the consort of Baʿal, due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic Historians, at the later period of the kingdom.

It has also been suggested by several scholars that there is a relationship between the position of the gĕbîrâ in the royal court and the worship (orthodox or not) of Asherah. In a potsherd inscription of blessings from “Yahweh and his Asherah”, there appears a cow feeding its calf.

Numerous Canaanite amulets depict wearing a bouffant wig similar to the Egyptian Hathor. If Asherah is then to be associated with Hathor/Qudshu, it can then be assumed that the cow is being referred to as Asherah.

William Dever’s book “Did God Have a Wife?” adduces further archaeological evidence—for instance, the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, (known as Pillar-Base Figurines)—as supporting the view that in Israelite folk religion of the monarchical period, Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the queen of heaven, for whose festival the Hebrews baked small cakes.

Dever also points to the discovery of multiple shrines and temples within ancient Israel and Judah. The temple site at Arad is particularly interesting for the presence of two (possibly three) massebot, standing stones representing the presence of deities. This runs contrary to the biblical claim that there was only one temple, in Jerusalem, and it was dedicated to Yahweh.

Although the identity of the deities associated with the massebot is uncertain, Yahweh and Asherah or Asherah and Baal remain strong candidates, as Dever notes: “The only goddess whose name is well attested in the Hebrew Bible (or in ancient Israel generally) is Asherah.”

The name Asherah appears forty times in the Hebrew Bible, but it is much reduced in English translations. The word ʾăšērâ is translated in Greek as ἄλσος (grove) in every instance apart from Isaiah 17:8; 27:9 and 2 Chronicles 15:16; 24:18, with δένδρα (trees) being used for the former, and, peculiarly, Ἀστάρτη (Astarte) for the latter.

The Vulgate in Latin provided lucus or nemus, a grove or a wood (thus KJV Bible uses grove or groves with the consequent loss of Asherah’s name and knowledge of her existence to English language readers of the Bible over some 400 years).

The association of Asherah with trees in the Hebrew Bible is very strong. For example, she is found under trees (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10) and is made of wood by human beings (1 Kings 14:15, 2 Kings 16:3–4). Trees described as being an asherah or part of an asherah include grapevines, pomegranates, walnuts, myrtles, and willows.

Episodes in the Hebrew Bible show a gender imbalance in Hebrew religion. Asherah was patronized by female royals such as Queen Mother Maacah (1 Kings 15:13). But more commonly, perhaps, Asherah was worshiped within the household, and her offerings were performed by family matriarchs.

As the women of Jerusalem attested, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?” (Jeremiah 44:19).

This passage corroborates a number of archaeological excavations showing altar spaces in Hebrew homes. The “household idols” variously referred to in the Bible may also be linked to the hundreds of female Pillar-Base Figurines which have been discovered.

Popular culture defines Canaanite religion and Hebrew idolatry as sexual “fertility cults,” products of primitive superstition rather than spiritual philosophy. This position is buttressed by the Hebrew Bible, which frequently and graphically associates goddess religions with prostitution. As Jeremiah wrote, “On every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute” (Jeremiah 2:20).

Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in particular blame the goddess religions for making Yahweh “jealous,” and cite his jealousy as the reason Yahweh allowed the destruction of Jerusalem. As for sexual and fertility rites, it is likely that they were once held in honor in Israel, as they were throughout the ancient world.

Although their nature remains uncertain, sexual rites typically revolved around women of power and influence, such as Maacah. The Hebrew term qadishtu, usually translated as “temple prostitutes” or “shrine prostitutes,” literally means priestesses or priests.

Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as “the mother of all living” in Genesis 3:20 through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat.

There is further speculation that the Shekhinah as a feminine aspect of Yahweh may be a cultural memory or devolution of Asherah. In Christian scripture, the Shekhinah, or Holy Spirit, is represented by a dove—a ubiquitous symbol of goddess religions, also found on Hebrew naos shrines.

This interpretation is far from orthodox. Jesus himself dismissed goddesses in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, saying, “Whoever knows the Father and the Mother will be called the child of a whore.”

Goddess symbology nevertheless persists in Christian iconography; Israel Morrow notes that while Christian art typically displays female angels with avian wings, the only biblical reference to such figures comes through Zechariah’s vision of pagan goddesses.

Ugaritic amulets show a miniature “tree of life” growing out of Asherah’s belly. Accordingly, Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible, rendered as palus sacer (sacred poles) in the Latin Vulgate. Asherah poles were prohibited by the Deuteronomic Code which commanded “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God”.

The prohibition, as Dever notes, is also a testament that some people were putting up Asherah poles beside Yahweh’s altars (cf. 2 Kings 21:7). Another significant biblical reference occurs in the legend of Deborah, a female ruler of Israel who held court under a sacred tree (Judges 4:5), which was preserved for many generations.

Morrow further notes that the “funeral pillars of the kings” described by Ezekiel (43:9, variously translated as “funeral offerings” or even “carcasses of the kings”) were likely constructed of sacred wood, since the prophet connects them with “prostitution.”

Like the dove and tree, the lioness made a ubiquitous symbol for goddesses of the ancient Middle East. Lionesses figure prominently in Asherah’s iconography, including the 10th century BC Ta’anach cult stand, which also includes the tree motif. A Hebrew arrowhead from 11th century BC bears the inscription “Servant of the Lion Lady.”

As ‘Athirat’, she was attested in pre-Islamic south Arabia as the consort of the moon-god ‘Amm. A stele, now located at the Louvre, discovered by Charles Huber in 1883 in the ancient oasis of Tema, northwestern Arabia, and believed to date to the time of Nabonidus’s retirement there in 549 BC, bears an inscription in Aramaic which mentions Ṣalm of Maḥram, Shingala, and Ashira as the gods of Tema.

This ‘Ashira’ may be Athirat/Asherah. Due to differences in regional dialects, the Arabic ‘th’ (/θ/; Arabic: ث‎, romanized: ṯāʾ; corresponding to the Ugaritic 𐎘), can occur as either ‘th’ (/θ/; Hebrew: ת) or ‘sh’ (/ʃ/; Hebrew: שׁ).

Additionally, it is widely considered that the Canaanite ‘th’ is equivalent to the ‘sh’ sound in most other Semitic languages, which further complicates matters. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the name would be an Arabian vocalisation of the Ugaritic ʾaṯrt or a later borrowing of the Canaanite ‘Asherah’. We could therefore assert that the root of both names is ʾšrt, and we could infer an etymological connection between Ashira and Athirat.

The Arabic root ʼṯr is similar in meaning to the Hebrew indicating ‘to tread’ used as a basis to explain the name of Ashira as “lady of the sea”, especially as the Arabic root ymm also means ‘sea’. It has also been recently suggested that the goddess name Athirat might be derived from the passive participle form, referring to “one followed by (the gods)”, that is, “pro-genitress or originatress”, corresponding with Asherah’s image as the ‘mother of the gods’ in Ugaritic literature.

Al-Lat

Al-Lat (romanized: Al-Lāt, pronounced [al(i)ˈlaːt(u)]), also spelled Allat, Allatu and Alilat, is a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess worshipped under various associations throughout the entire peninsula, including Mecca where she was worshipped alongside Manat and al-‘Uzza.

The word Allat or Elat has been used to refer to various goddesses in the ancient Near East, including the goddess Asherah-Athirat.Al-Lat was attested in south Arabian inscriptions as Lat and Latan, but she had more prominence in north Arabia and the Hejaz, and her cult reached as far as Syria.

The writers of the Safaitic script frequently invoked al-Lat in their inscriptions. She was also worshipped by the Nabataeans and she was associated with al-‘Uzza. The presence of her cult was attested in both Palmyra and Hatra.

Under Greco-Roman influence, her iconography began to show the attributes of Athena, the Greek goddess of war, as well as her Roman equivalent Minerva.According to Islamic sources, the tribe of Banu Thaqif in Ta’if especially held reverence to her. In Islamic tradition, her worship ended when her temple in Ta’if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad.

There are two possible etymologies of the name al-Lat.[4] Medieval Arab lexicographers derived the name from the verb latta (to mix or knead barley-meal). It has also been associated with the “idol of jealousy” erected in the temple of Jerusalem according to the Book of Ezekiel, which was offered an oblation of barley-meal by the husband who suspected his wife of infidelity.

It can be inferred from al-Kalbi’s Book of Idols that a similar ritual was practiced in the vicinity of the image of al-Lat. Another etymology takes al-Lat to be the feminine form of Allah. She may have been known originally as ʿal-ʿilat, based on Herodotus’ attestation of the goddess as Alilat. Al-Lat was used as a title for the goddess Asherah or Athirat.

The word is akin to Elat, which was the name of the wife of the Semitic deity El. A western Semitic goddess modeled on the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal was known as Allatum, and she was recognized in Carthage as Allatu.

Al-Lat was mentioned as Alilat by the Greek historian Herodotus in his 5th-century BC work Histories, and she was considered the equivalent of Aphrodite (Aphrodite Urania): The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta, the Arabians Alilat and the Persians Mithra.

According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods:They believe in no other gods except Dionysus and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat.

Early Palmyrene depictions of al-Lat share iconographical traits with Atargatis (when seated) and Astarte (when standing). The Lion of Al-Lat that once adorned her temple depicts a lion and a gazelle, the lion representing her consort, and the gazelle representing al-Lat’s tender and loving traits, as bloodshed was not permitted under penalty of al-Lat’s retaliation.

Queen of Heaven

The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “queen of heaven” in Jeremiah 7:16–18 and Jeremiah 44:17–19, 25. Queen of Heaven (Regina Caeli in Latin) is a title given to Mary, mother of Jesus, by Christians mainly of the Catholic Church, and also, to some extent, in Anglicanism, some Lutheran churches such as the Church of Sweden and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Queen of Heaven was a title given to a number of ancient sky goddesses worshipped throughout the ancient Mediterranean and Near East during ancient times. Goddesses known to have been referred to by the title include Inanna, Anat, Isis, Ishtar, Astarte, Astghik and possibly Asherah (by the prophet Jeremiah).

In Greco-Roman times Hera, and her Roman aspect Juno bore this title. Forms and content of worship varied. In modern times, the title “Queen of Heaven” is still used by contemporary pagans to refer to the Great Goddess, while Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglican Christians now apply the ancient title to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The title is a consequence of the First Council of Ephesus in the fifth century, in which Mary was proclaimed “Theotokos”, a title rendered in Latin as Mater Dei, in English “Mother of God”. Theotokos is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations, Dei Genetrix or Deipara (approximately “parent (fem.) of God”), are “Mother of God” or “God-bearer”.

The title has been in use since the 3rd century, in the Syriac tradition in the Liturgy of Mari and Addai (3rd century) and the Liturgy of St James (4th century). The Council of Ephesus in AD 431 decreed that Mary is the Theotokos because her son Jesus is both God and man: one divine person with two natures (divine and human) intimately and hypostatically united.

The Catholic teaching on this subject is expressed in the papal encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, issued by Pope Pius XII. It states that Mary is called Queen of Heaven because her son, Jesus Christ, is the king of Israel and heavenly king of the universe; indeed, the Davidic tradition of Israel recognized the mother of the king as the Queen Mother of Israel.

The title “Queen of Heaven” has long been a Catholic tradition, included in prayers and devotional literature, and seen in Western art in the subject of the Coronation of the Virgin, from the High Middle Ages, long before it was given a formal definition status by the Church.

Mother of all Living

Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as “the mother of all living” in Genesis 3:20 through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat.

“Mother of all living” was also the title of Ninhursag, also means . This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah, who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam – not Enki – walks in the Garden of Paradise.

The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish is named for its incipit: “When above” the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, “the first, the begetter”, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, “she who bore them all”; they were “mixing their waters”.

It is thought that female deities are older than male ones in Mesopotamia and Tiamat may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu, a female principle of a watery creative force, the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki.

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

Hieros Gamos

Hieros gamos or Hierogamy («holy marriage») is a sexual ritual that plays out a marriage between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities. It is thought to have been common in the Ancient Near East between the kings of a Sumerian city-states and the High Priestesses of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and warfare.

Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess.

The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).

Dumuzid, later known by the alternate form Tammuz, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna. In Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, Dumuzid fails to mourn Inanna’s death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement.

Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna, the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation, the so-called “heavenly grape-vine”, stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

Inanna – Tammuz – Ereshkigal – Nergal

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 the ancient Sumerian poem Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld, Ereshkigal is described as Inanna’s older sister. Inanna and Ereshkigal represent polar opposites. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven, but Ereshkigal is the queen of Irkalla, the Underworld. she was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom.

Ereshkigal plays a very prominent and important role in two particular myths. The two main myths involving Ereshkigal are the story of Inanna’s descent into the Underworld and the story of Ereshkigal’s marriage to the god Nergal.

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar.

She was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star.

Her husband was the god Dumuzid (later known as Tammuz), an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became the male deity Papsukkal).

In Sumerian mythology, Dumuzid’s sister was Geshtinanna, the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation. In the Sumerian King List, Dumuzid is listed as an antediluvian king of the city of Bad-tibira and also an early king of the city of Uruk.

In Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, Dumuzid fails to mourn Inanna’s death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement.

Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

Dumuzid was associated with fertility and vegetation and the hot, dry summers of Mesopotamia were believed to be caused by Dumuzid’s yearly death. During the month in midsummer bearing his name, people all across Mesopotamia would engage in public, ritual mourning for him.

Sacred sexual intercourse is thought to have been common in the Ancient Near East as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the kings of a Sumerian city-states and the High Priestesses of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and warfare.

Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess.

The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).

During the Sumerian Akitu festival, kings may have established their legitimacy by taking on the role of Dumuzid and engaging in ritualized sexual intercourse with the high priestess of Inanna as part of a sacred marriage ceremony.

Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Inanna and her twin brother Utu, the god of the sun and justice (who was later known as Shamash in East Semitic languages), were regarded as the dispensers of divine justice, a role which Inanna exemplifies in several of her myths. In Sumerian texts, Inanna and Utu are shown as extremely close; in fact, their relationship frequently borders on incestuous.

Eileithyia

Eileithyia or Ilithyia in Greece, Eleuthyia in Crete, also Eleuthia Elysia in Laconia and Messene, and Eleuthō in literature, was the Greek goddess of childbirth and midwifery.

In the cave of Amnisos (Crete) she was related with the annual birth of the divine child, and her cult is connected with Enesidaon (the earth shaker), who was the chthonic aspect of the god Poseidon.

It is possible that her cult is related with the cult of Eleusis. In his Seventh Nemean Ode, Pindar refers to her as the maid to or seated beside the Moirai (Fates) and responsible for creating offspring.

According to F. Willets, “The links between Eileithyia, an earlier Minoan goddess, and a still earlier Neolithic prototype are, relatively, firm. The continuity of her cult depends upon the unchanging concept of her function.

Eileithyia was the goddess of childbirth; and the divine helper of women in labour has an obvious origin in the human midwife.” To Homer, she is “the goddess of childbirth”. The Iliad pictures Eileithyia alone, or sometimes multiplied, as the Eileithyiai:

Hesiod (c. 700 BC) described Eileithyia as a daughter of Hera by Zeus (Theogony 921) and the Bibliotheca (Roman-era) and Diodorus Siculus (c. 90–27 BC) (5.72.5) agreed. Also, a poem at the Greek Anthology Book 6, mention Eileithyia as Hera’s daughter.

But Pausanias, writing in the 2nd century AD, reported another early source (now lost): “The Lycian Olen, an earlier poet, who composed for the Delians, among other hymns, one to Eileithyia, styles her ‘the clever spinner’, clearly identifying her with Fate, and makes her older than Cronus.”

Later, for the Classical Greeks, “She is closely associated with Artemis and Hera,” Burkert asserts (1985, p 1761), “but develops no character of her own”. In the Orphic Hymn to Prothyraeia, the association of a goddess of childbirth as an epithet of virginal Artemis, making the death-dealing huntress also “she who comes to the aid of women in childbirth,” Thus Aelian in the 3rd century AD could refer to “Artemis of the child-bed” (On Animals 7.15). Vase-painters, when illustrating the birth of Athena from Zeus’ head, may show two assisting Eileithyiai, with their hands raised in the epiphany gesture.

As the primary goddess of childbirth along with Artemis, Eileithyia had numerous shrines in many locations in Greece dating from Neolithic to Roman times, indicating that she was extremely important to pregnant women and their families. People would pray for and leave offerings for aid in fertility, safe childbirth, or thanks for a successful birth.

Archeological evidence of terracotta votives figurines depicting children found at shines and holy sites dedicated to Eileithyia suggest that she was a kourotrophic divinity, whom parents would have prayed to for protection and care of their children.

Midwives had an essential role in ancient Greek society with women of all classes were midwives participating in the profession, with many being slaves with only empirical training or some theoretical training in obstetrics and gynecology. More highly educated midwives, typically from higher classes, were referred to as iatrenes or doctors of women’s diseases and would be respected as physicians.

She was invoked by women in labour, to ease the pain of labour and to further the birth. Callimachus recorded the hymn: “Even so again, Eileithyia, come thou when Kykainis calls, to bless her pains with easy birth; so may thy fragrant shrine have, as now this offering for a girl, some other offering hereafter for a boy.”

Her Egyptian counterpart is Tawaret. She was strongly connected with the goddesses Artemis and Hekate, the latter of whom she shared strong chthonic elements to her cult.

Eileithyia, along with Artemis and Persephone, is often shown carrying torches to bring children out of darkness and into light: in Roman mythology her counterpart in easing labor is Lucina (“of the light”).

The Cave of Eileithyia near Amnisos, the harbor of Knossos, mentioned in the Odyssey (xix.198) in connection with her cult, was accounted the birthplace of Eileithyia. The Cretan cave has stalactites suggestive of the goddess’ double form (Kerenyi 1976 fig. 6), of bringing labor on and of delaying it, and votive offerings to her have been found establishing the continuity of her cult from Neolithic times, with a revival as late as the Roman period.

Here she was probably being worshipped before Zeus arrived in the Aegean, but certainly in Minoan–Mycenaean times (Burkert 1985 p 171; Nilsson 1950:53). The goddess is mentioned as Eleuthia in a Linear B fragment from Knossos, where it is stated that her temple is given an amphora of honey.

In the cave of Amnisos (Crete) the god Enesidaon (the “earth shaker”, who is the chthonic Poseidon) is related with the cult of Eileithyia. She was related with the annual birth of the divine child. The goddess of nature and her companion survived in the Eleusinian cult, where the following words were uttered: “Mighty Potnia bore a strong son.”

In classical times, there were shrines to Eileithyia in the Cretan cities of Lato and Eleutherna and a sacred cave at Inatos. At a sanctuary in Tsoutsouros Inatos, two small terracotta figures, one breastfeeding and the other pregnant, have been dated to the 7th century.

On the Greek mainland, at Olympia, an archaic shrine with an inner cella sacred to the serpent-savior of the city (Sosipolis) and to Eileithyia was seen by the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century AD (Greece vi.20.1–3); in it, a virgin-priestess cared for a serpent that was “fed” on honeyed barley-cakes and water—an offering suited to Demeter.

The shrine memorialized the appearance of a crone with a babe in arms, at a crucial moment when Elians were threatened by forces from Arcadia. The child, placed on the ground between the contending forces, changed into a serpent, driving the Arcadians away in flight, before it disappeared into the hill.

The earliest recorded worship of a deity possibly equivalent to Demeter is found in Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of c. 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos. The tablets describe worship of the “two queens and the king”, which may be related to Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon.

An early name which may refer to Demeter, si-to-po-ti-ni-ja (Sito Potnia), appears in Linear B inscriptions found at Mycenae and Pylos. In Crete, Poseidon was often given the title wa-na-ka (wanax) in Linear B inscriptions, in his role as king of the underworld, and his title E-ne-si-da-o-ne indicates his chthonic nature.

In the cave of Amnisos, Enesidaon is associated with the cult of Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, who was involved with the annual birth of the divine child. During the Bronze Age, a goddess of nature dominated both in Minoan and Mycenean cults, and Wanax (wa-na-ka) was her male companion (paredros) in the Mycenean cult. Elements of this early form of worship survived in the Eleusinian cult, where the following words were uttered: “Mighty Potnia bore a strong son.”

Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for “the Two Queens and Poseidon” (“to the Two Queens and the King” :wa-na-ssoi, wa-na-ka-te). The “Two Queens” may be related with Demeter and Persephone, or their precursors, goddesses who were no longer associated with Poseidon in later periods.

Sheela na gigs

Sheela na gigs are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are architectural grotesques found all over Europe on cathedrals, castles, and other buildings. The highest concentrations can be found in Ireland, Great Britain, France and Spain, sometimes together with male figures.

Ireland has the greatest number of surviving sheela na gig carvings; Joanne McMahon and Jack Roberts cite 101 examples in Ireland and 45 examples in Britain. The carvings may have been used to ward off death, evil and demons.

Other grotesques, such as gargoyles and hunky punks, were frequently part of church decorations all over Europe. It is commonly said that their purpose was to keep evil spirits away. They often are positioned over doors or windows, presumably to protect these openings.

Scholars disagree about the origins of the figures. James Jerman and Anthony Weir believe that the sheela na gigs were first carved in France and Spain in the 11th century; the motif eventually reached Britain and then Ireland in the 12th century.

They argue that their location on churches and the grotesque features of the figures, by medieval standards, suggests that they represented female lust as hideous and sinfully corrupting. The faces of some figures are striated, indicating scarring or tattoos. Weir notes that a close examination of the figures reveals features that do not fit a fertility function.

Another theory, espoused by Joanne McMahon and Jack Roberts, is that the carvings are remnants of a pre-Christian fertility or mother goddess religion. They note what they claim are differences in materials and styles of some sheela na gigs from their surrounding structures, and noting that some are turned on their side, to support the idea that they were incorporated from previous structures into early Christian buildings.

A popular hypothesis is that sheela na gigs represent a pagan goddess, but academics believe the situation was more complex, with multiple interpretations and roles for the female character as spiritual traditions changed over time.

Barbara Freitag suggests that the figures were used in a fertility context and associates them with “birthing stones”. There is folkloric evidence of at least some of the sheela na gigs being used in this manner, with the figures being loaned out to women in labour. Other figures have wedding traditions associated with them.

According to Margaret Murray, the figure in Oxford at the church of St Michael at the North Gate has an associated tradition of being shown to brides on their wedding day. This theory does not cover all the figures: some are thin with their ribs showing and thin breasts, which do not signal fertility. Others are plump and are shown in a sexual context with a partner.

The Encyclopedia of Religion, in its article on yoni, notes the similarity between the positioning of many sheela na gigs above doorways or windows and the wooden female figures carved over the doorways of chiefs’ houses (bai) in the Palauan archipelago. Called dilukai (or dilugai), they are typically shown with legs splayed, revealing a large, black, triangular pubic area; the hands rest upon the thighs.

The writers of the encyclopedia article say: These female figures protect the villagers’ health and ward off all evil spirits as well. They are constructed by ritual specialists according to strict rules, which if broken would result in the specialist’s as well as the chief’s death. It is not coincidental that each example of signs representing the female genitalia used as apotropaic devices are found on gates. The vulva is the primordial gate, the mysterious divide between nonlife and life.

A 2016 book by Starr Goode called the Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power, traces these images throughout history and contributes a discussion of the universality of “female sacred display” in it meanings and functions back to the origins of culture as seen in the Paleolithic cave art through the inclusion of the image in contemporary art, particularly feminist art.

Cailleach

In Gaelic mythology (Irish, Scottish and Manx) the Cailleach is a divine hag, a creator deity, a weather deity, and an ancestor deity. She is also commonly known as the Cailleach Bhéara(ch) or Bheur(ach). In Scotland she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter.

The word literally means “old woman, hag”, and is found with this meaning in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and has been applied to numerous mythological figures in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Cailleach (“old woman” or “hag” in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic) comes from the Old Gaelic Caillech (“veiled one”), an adjectival form of caille (“veil”), an early loan from Latin pallium, “woollen cloak”.

Gearóid Ó Crualaoich attributes twin meanings to the name; the legendary context of cow goddess, or association with horned beasts, and a folklore attribution as a word meaning “sharp, shrill, inimical” – bior(ach) or beur(ach) – and refers to the Cailleach’s association with winter and wilderness.

The plural of cailleach is cailleacha in Irish, cailleachan in Scottish Gaelic and caillaghyn in Manx. The word is found as a component in terms like the Gaelic cailleach-dhubh (“nun”) and cailleach-oidhche (“owl”), as well as the Irish cailleach feasa (“wise woman, fortune-teller”) and cailleach phiseogach (“sorceress, charm-worker”).

Related words include the Gaelic caileag and the Irish cailín (“young woman, girl, colleen”), the diminutive of caile “woman” and the Lowland Scots carline/carlin (“old woman, witch”). A more obscure word that is sometimes interpreted as “hag” is the Irish síle, which has led some to speculate on a connection between the Cailleach and the stonecarvings of Sheela na Gigs.

Lajjā Gaurī

Lajjā Gaurī is a lotus-headed Hindu Goddess associated with abundance, fertility and sexuality, sometimes euphemistically described as Lajja (“modesty”). She is sometimes shown in a birthing posture, but without outward signs of pregnancy.

The Lajja Gauri is an ancient icon that is found in many Devi-related temples across India and one that has been unearthed at several archaeological sites in South Asia. The icon represents yoni but with more context and complexity. It is a fertility icon and symbolizes the procreative and regenerative powers of mother earth, “the elemental source of all life, animal and plant”, the vivifier and “the support of all life”.

According to the Art Historian Carol Bolon, the Lajja Gauri icon evolved over time with increasing complexity and richness. Early depictions of Lajja Gauri in Shaktism cults were found in the Indus Valley seals, though her later depiction dates to the 1st-3rd centuries, and her worship is prevalent in the Deccan, a region of the Indian subcontinent. The majority of the terracotta figurines were carved in the Gupta and post-Gupta periods.

The earliest representations were variants of aniconic pot, the second stage represented it as the three-dimensional artwork with no face or hands but a lotus-head that included yoni, chronologically followed by the third stage that added breasts and arms to the lotus-headed figure.

The last stage was an anthropomorphic figure of a squatting naked goddess holding lotus and motifs of agricultural abundance spread out showing her yoni as if she is giving birth or sexually ready to procreate. According to Bolon, the different aniconic and anthropomorphic representations of Lajja Gauri are symbols for the “yoni of Prithvi (Earth)”, she as womb.

Her fertility aspect is emphasized by symbolic representation of the genitals, Yoni or the Womb, as blooming Lotus flower denoting blooming youth in some cases and in others through a simple yet detailed depiction of an exposed vulva. Added to the fact that she is sitting in a squatting position (malasana) with legs open, as in during childbirth, in some cases, the right foot is placed on a platform to facilitate full opening.

She is invoked for abundant crops (vegetative fertility) and good progeny. A blossoming lotus replaces her head and neck, an icon often used in Tantra. The seven Chakras of human energy anatomy are often depicted as blossoming lotuses.

The Goddess is often depicted in her Sri Yantra as a Yoni, shown as a simplified triangle at the centre. Further, most fertility goddesses of the Ancient world are similarly shown headless, while giving prominent focus to the genitals.

The arms of the goddess are bent upwards, each holding a lotus stem, held at the level of the head again depicted by the matured lotus flower. Owing to an absence of verifiable text in Vedic traditions on the iconography.

She doesn’t seem to hold any exalted position in Hindu pantheon, despite her strong presence throughout India, especially in the tribal region of Bastar in Central India and downwards to the South, suggesting that the goddess had a cult of her own.

The goddess is sometimes called Lajja Gauri, interpreted by some as the Innocent Creatrix, the Creator deity or at times simply “Headless Goddess”, or Aditi Uttanapada by modern archeologist, academicians and Indologists.

Devi, the Great Mother Goddess of Hinduism, in Her form as Lajja Gauri, is also known as Aditi, Adya Shakti; Renuka wife of sage Jamadagni, who is worshipped for fertility as Matangi and Yallamma (everybody’s mother), Kotari, Kotavi (a nude folk goddess), KottaMahika, Kotmai, and many other names. She is the most ancient Goddess form in the religious complex that is today referred to as Hinduism.

Yoni

Yoni, sometimes referred to as pindika, is a Sanskrit word that has been interpreted to literally mean the womb, and the female organs of generation. It also connotes the female sexual organs such as “vagina”, “vulva”, and “uterus”, or alternatively to “origin, abode, or source” of anything in other contexts.

The yoni is conceptualized as nature’s gateway of all births, particularly in the esoteric Kaula and Tantra practices, as well as the Shaktism and Shaivism traditions of Hinduism. For example, the Vedanta text Brahma Sutras metaphorically refers to the metaphysical concept Brahman as the “yoni of the universe”.

The yoni is usually shown with linga – its masculine counterpart. This iconography is found in Shiva temples and archaeological sites of the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, as well in sculptures such as the Lajja Gauri.

Together, they symbolize the merging of microcosmos and macrocosmos, the divine eternal process of creation and regeneration, and the union of the feminine and the masculine that recreates all of existence.

Shakti

Yoni is an aniconic representation of goddess Shakti (lit. “power, ability, strength, effort, energy, capability”), the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism, and especially the major tradition of Hinduism, Shaktism.

Shakti is the concept or personification of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as “The Great Divine Mother” in Hinduism. As a mother, she is known as “Adi Shakti” or “Adi Parashakti”. On the earthly plane, Shakti most actively manifests herself through female embodiment and creativity/fertility, though it is also present in males in its potential, unmanifest form.

Hindus believe that Shakti is both responsible for creation and the agent of all change. Shakti is cosmic existence as well as liberation, its most significant form being the Kundalini Shakti, a mysterious psychospiritual force. In Shaktism, Shakti is worshipped as the Supreme Being. Shakti embodies the active feminine energy of Shiva and is synonymously identified with Tripura Sundari or Parvati.

Shaktism regards Devi (lit., “the Goddess”) as the Supreme Brahman itself with all other forms of divinity considered to be merely Her diverse manifestations. In the details of its philosophy and practice, Shaktism resembles Shaivism.

However, Shaktas practitioners of Shaktism, focus most or all worship on Shakti, as the dynamic feminine aspect of the Supreme Divine. Shiva, the masculine aspect of divinity, is considered solely transcendent, and Shiva’s worship is usually secondary.

Adi Parashakti, whose manifestation is Parvati and Tripura Sundari, is a Hindu concept of the Ultimate Shakti or Mahashakti, the ultimate power inherent in all Creation. This is especially prevalent in the Shakta denomination within Hinduism, which worships the Goddess Devi in all her manifestations.

Her human or Shakti Svarūpa (powerful form), Parvati, was married to Shiva, while her Gyān Svarūpa (knowledge form), Saraswati, weds Brahma and her Dhan Svarūpa (wealth form), Lakshmi, becomes the consort of Vishnu.

One of the oldest representations of the goddess in India is in a triangular form. The Baghor stone, found in a Paleolithic context in the Son River valley and dating to 9,000–8,000 years BCE, is considered an early example of a yantra (literally “machine, contraption”), a mystical diagram, mainly from the Tantric traditions of the Indian religions.

The triangular-shaped stone, which includes triangular engravings on one side, was found daubed in ochre, in what was considered a site related to worship. Worship of goddesses in that region was found to be practiced in a similar manner to the present day. Kenoyer, who was also involved in the excavation, considered it to be associated with Shakti.

Frogs

To the Egyptians, the frog was a symbol of life and fertility, since millions of them were born after the annual flooding of the Nile, which brought fertility to the otherwise barren lands. Consequently, in Egyptian mythology, there began to be a frog-goddess, who represented fertility, named Heqet. Heqet was usually depicted as a frog, or a woman with a frog’s head, or more rarely as a frog on the end of a phallus to explicitly indicate her association with fertility.

A lesser known Egyptian god, Kek, was also sometimes shown in the form of a frog. Texts of the Late Period describe the Ogdoad of Hermepolis, a group of eight “primeval” gods, as having the heads of frogs (male) and serpents (female), and they are often depicted in this way in reliefs of the Greco-Roman period.

Hapi was a deification of the annual flood of the Nile River, in Egyptian mythology, which deposited rich silt on the banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops. In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants, and attended by frogs, present in the region, and symbols of it.

Atargatis

Atargatis or Ataratheh, whom Lucian calls Hera, was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity. Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. Michael Rostovtzeff called her “the great mistress of the North Syrian lands”. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite.

The etymology of the name Atargatis points to a connection with “Astarte” (Ishtar), “Ata” (Anath), and this in turn suggests that Atargatis was a syncretistic figure which incorporated elements of many Near Eastern fertility divinities,

The picture given us by Lucian is characteristic of the worship not only of Astarte-Ishtar, but also of Aphrodite, Cybele, Ashera, Isis, and Caelestis. The representation of Atargatis as half woman/half fish, the emphasis on water (an essential element in the process of fertilization) and the sea, and their common titles “Urania” (“Heavenly”) and “Queen of Heaven,” points to a theology which was shared by many cults of fertility goddesses.

Atargatis is seen as a continuation of Bronze Age goddesses. At Ugarit, cuneiform tablets attest the three great Canaanite goddesses. These shared many traits with each other and may have been worshipped in conjunction or separately during 1500 years of cultural history.

It was Aṭirat, described as a fecund “Lady Goddess of the Sea” (rabbatu ʾat̪iratu yammi) and is identified with Asherah, Anat, the war-like virgin goddess. and Ațtart, the goddess of love, namesake of the Phoenician goddess Aštart, called Astarte in Greek. 

In many cases Atargatis, ‘Ashtart, and other goddesses who once had independent cults and mythologies became fused to such an extent as to be indistinguishable. This fusion is exemplified by the Carnion temple, which is probably identical with the famous temple of ‘Ashtart at Ashtaroth-Karnaim.

In Akkadian, the form one would expect Anat to take would be Antu, earlier Antum. This would also be the normal feminine form that would be taken by Anu, the Akkadian form of An ‘Sky’, the Sumerian god of heaven. Antu appears in Akkadian texts mostly as a rather colorless consort of Anu, the mother of Ishtar in the Gilgamesh story, but is also identified with the northwest Semitic goddess ‘Anat of essentially the same name.

It is unknown whether this is an equation of two originally separate goddesses whose names happened to fall together or whether Anat’s cult spread to Mesopotamia, where she came to be worshipped as Anu’s spouse because the Mesopotamian form of her name suggested she was a counterpart to Anu.

It has also been suggested that the parallelism between the names of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, and her West Semitic counterpart, Ishtar, continued in Canaanite tradition as Anath and Astarte, particularly in the poetry of Ugarit.

The two goddesses were invariably linked in Ugaritic scripture and are also known to have formed a triad (known from sculpture) with a third goddess who was given the name/title of Qadesh (meaning “the holy one”).

Ctesias also used the name Derketo for her, and the Romans called her Dea Syria, or in one word Deasura. Primarily she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat (“mistress”) of her city and people, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being.

Her consort is usually Hadad, also known as Adad or Iškur (Sumerian), the storm and rain god in the Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian religions. They are the protecting deities of the community. Atargatis, wearing a mural crown, is the ancestor the royal house, the founder of social and religious life, the goddess of generation and fertility (hence the prevalence of phallic emblems), and the inventor of useful appliances. 

By the conjunction of these many functions, despite originating as a sea deity analogous to Amphitrite, she becomes ultimately a great nature-goddess, analogous to Cybele and Rhea: In one aspect she typifies the protection of water in producing life; in another, the universal of other-earth; in a third (influenced, no doubt, by Chaldean astrology), the power of Destiny. She was also identified with Hera by Lucian in his De Dea Syria.

Hadad is usually written with the logogram dIM – the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. He was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.

The bull was his symbolic animal. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. He was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

As Ataratheh, doves and fish were considered sacred to her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, and fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters. She is sometimes described as a mermaid-goddess, due to identification of her with a fish-bodied goddess at Ascalon. However, there is no evidence that Atargatis was worshipped at Ascalon, and all iconographic evidence shows her as anthropomorphic.

The name Atargatis derives from the Aramaic form ʿAtarʿatheh, which comes in several variants. The name ʿAtarʿatheh is widely held to derive from a compound of the Aramaic form ʿAttar, which is a cognate of ʿAțtart minus its feminine suffix -t, plus ʿAttah or ʿAtā, a cognate of ʿAnat. 

It has also been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados “fish”. For example, the Greek name for “sea monster” or “whale” is the cognate term ketos). So Atar-Gatis may simply mean “the fish-goddess Atar”.

As a consequence of the first half of the name, Atargatis has frequently, though wrongly, been identified as ‘Ashtart. The two deities were probably of common origin and have many features in common, but their cults are historically distinct.

In the 1930s, numerous Nabatean bas-relief busts of Atargatis were identified by Nelson Glueck at Khirbet et-Tannûr, Jordan, in temple ruins of the early first century CE; there the lightly veiled goddess’s lips and eyes had once been painted red, and a pair of fish confronted one another above her head. Her wavy hair, suggesting water to Glueck, was parted in the middle. 

At her temples at Ascalon, Hierapolis Bambyce, and Edessa, there were fish ponds containing fish only her priests might touch. Glueck noted in 1936 that “to this day there is a sacred fish-pond swarming with untouchable fish at Qubbet el-Baeddwī, a dervish monastery three kilometres east of Tripolis, Lebanon.” The fishpond of fish sacred to Atargatis survives at Şanlıurfa, the ancient Edessa, its mythology transferred to Ibrahim.

The legends are numerous and of an astrological character. A rationale for the Syrian dove-worship and abstinence from fish is seen in the story in Athenaeus 8.37, where Atargatis is naively explained to mean “without Gatis”, the name of a queen who is said to have forbidden the eating of fish.

Thus Diodorus Siculus (2.4.2), quoting Ctesias, tells how Derceto fell in love with a youth and became by him the mother of a child and how in shame Derceto flung herself into a lake near Ascalon and her body was changed into the form of a fish though her head remained human.

Derceto’s child grew up to become Semiramis, the Assyrian queen. In another story, told by Hyginus, an egg fell from the sky into the Euphrates, was rolled onto land by fish, doves settled on it and hatched it, and Venus, known as the Syrian goddess, came forth.

The author of Catasterismi explained the constellation of Piscis Austrinus as the parent of the two fish making up the constellation of Pisces; according to that account, it was placed in the heavens in memory of Derceto’s fall into the lake at Hierapolis Bambyce near the Euphrates in Syria, from which she was saved by a large fish — which again is intended to explain the Syrian abstinence from fish.

Ovid in his Metamorphoses (5.331) relates that Venus took the form of a fish to hide from Typhon. In his Fasti (2.459-.474) Ovid instead relates how Dione, by whom Ovid intends Venus/Aphrodite, fleeing from Typhon with her child Cupid/Eros came to the river Euphrates in Syria.

Hearing the wind suddenly rise and fearing that it was Typhon, the goddess begged aid from the river nymphs and leapt into the river with her son. Two fish bore them up and were rewarded by being transformed into the constellation Pisces — and for that reason the Syrians will eat no fish.

During the Roman era, eunuch priests worshipped Atargatis. Similar to the Galli priests of Cybele. At the shrine in Hieropolis founded by Semiramis, eunuch priests served the image of a fish-tailed woman. Rituals to the goddess were accompanied by flute playing and rattle shaking. In one rite, young males castrated themselves to become cross-dressing priests at the temple and thereafter performed tasks usually done by women.

According to a third-century Syriac source, “In Syria and in Urhâi [Edessa] the men used to castrate themselves in honor of Taratha. But when King Abgar became a believer, he commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day to the present no one in Urhâi emasculates himself anymore.”

Abzu

The Abzu or Apsu (Cuneiform: ZU.AB; Sumerian: abzu; Akkadian: apsû), also called engur (Cuneiform: LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru – lit., ab=’water’ zu=’deep’), is the name for fresh water from underground aquifers which was given a religious fertilising quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology.

Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu. In this respect, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology it referred to the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above.

In the city of Eridu, Enki’s temple was known as E-abzu (house of the deep waters) and was located at the edge of a swamp, an abzu. Certain tanks of holy water in Babylonian and Assyrian temple courtyards were also called abzu (apsû). Typical in religious washing, these tanks were similar to Judaism’s mikvot, the washing pools of Islamic mosques, or the baptismal font in Christian churches.

Abzu (apsû) is depicted as a deity only in the Babylonian creation epic, the Enûma Elish, taken from the library of Assurbanipal (c 630 BCE) but which is about 500 years older. In this story, he was a primal being made of fresh water and a lover to another primal deity, Tiamat, a creature of salt water.

The Enuma Elish begins: “When above the heavens (e-nu-ma e-liš) did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, the first, the begetter, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, she who bore them all; they were still mixing their waters, and no pasture land had yet been formed, nor even a reed marsh.”

This resulted in the birth of the younger gods, who later murder Apsu in order to usurp his lordship of the universe. Enraged, Tiamat gives birth to the first dragons, filling their bodies with “venom instead of blood”, and made war upon her treacherous children, only to be slain by Marduk, the god of Storms, who then forms the heavens and earth from her corpse.

Nammu, a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology, was the Goddess sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.

Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions. An indication of her continued relevance may be found in the theophoric name of Ur-Nammu, the founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur.

According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu. Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.

The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans, and Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.

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’.

kourotrophos

Kourotrophos («child nurturer») is the name that was given in ancient Greece to gods and goddesses whose properties included their ability to protect young people. The term kourotrophos (plural kourotrophoi) or the verb kourotrophic is used to describe female figurines depicted with infants, which may depict either mortal women or divinities.

Numerous gods are referred to by the epithet, including, but not limited to, Athena, Apollo, Hermes, Hecate, Aphrodite, Artemis, and Eileithyi. They were usually depicted holding an infant in their arms.

Kourotrophos was a deity of the city of Athens, who was not among the twelve known gods of Olympus. She appeared as the protector of children and young people and a sanctuary built on her name in honor of the cult, the so-called Kourotropheion, a major figure of cult appearing in sacrifice groups connected with fertility and child care.

Cyprus

Cyprus was notable for its production of plank figure Kourotrophos during the Early Cypriot III to the Middle Cypriot I periods (ca. 2000-1800 BCE). There have been at least two Cypriot figures from this period that shown the figure nursing an infant, and two figures that are depicted sitting with the infant on their laps.

The Chalcolithic period did not come to an end at the same time throughout Cyprus, and lingered in the Paphos area until the arrival of the Bronze Age. The new era was introduced by people from Anatolia who came to Cyprus about 2400 BC.

The newcomers are identified archaeologically because of a distinct material culture, known as the Philia Culture. This was the earliest manifestation of the Bronze Age. Philia sites are found in most parts of the island.

The succeeding Early Bronze Age is divided into three general phases (Early Cypriot I – III) – a continuous process of development and population increase. Marki Alonia is the best excavated settlement of this period. The Middle Bronze Age which followed the Early Bronze Age (1900–1600 BC) is a relatively short period and its earlier part is marked by peaceful development.

Cyprus was known as Alasiya, also known as the Kingdom of Alashiya, a state which existed in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, and was situated somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was a major source of goods, especially copper, for Ancient Egypt and other states in the Ancient Near East. The name is preserved in Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian, Ugaritic documents.

Most kourotrophoi from this era stand 20 to 30 cm tall and were fashioned in a variety of materials, such as limestone and terracotta. They hold infants, who are typically within cradleboards, to their left shoulder.

There is evidence that cradleboarding was used on Cyprus during the Bronze Age, with signs of incidental skull shaping occurring in the Early and Middle Bronze Age and deliberate skull shaping during the Late Bronze Age, aligning with the time period for these figures depicting cradleboarded infants.

Maternal figurines waned in popularity on Cyprus during the Late Bronze despite being a uniquely popular subject in comparison to other surrounding cultures since the Neolithic Age, as contact with the foreign cultures led to cultural shifts. It may be argued that the importance of women as life givers decreased during this time period. 

The creation of kourotrophic figures continued, however, they were given bird faces with notable beaks and were depicted as significantly more voluptuous than previous plank figures, likely being inspired by similar figures that where already produced in the Near East. 

It has been proposed that these figures do not represent ordinary women but deities. Interest in maternal figures increased again in Cyprus during the Archaic Age. The reason for the creation of kourotrophic figures is debated, as the figures being representations of a great goddess, fertility charms, childbirth charms/aids, or companions to the dead have all been proposed.

Currently, all kourotrophic figures where the location of artifact was found is known have been found in tombs, however, this does not mean they were exclusively used to represent death/afterlife, as most figures do not have data on where they were found. 

Dea Gravida

Kourotrophos is similar to the Dea Gravida, or Dea Tyria Gravida, a major goddess of procreation and fertility in the Phoenician circle of influence in Cyprus from the 8th to the 5th century BC. Not much is known about her but her image has been spread throughout the Mediterranean in the form of votive terracotta statues. 

The most numerous and finest come from Phoenician tombs near Akhziv near ancient Tyre which is why the name Tyra is also added to the name. That is specifically from the six to the fourth century.

The term gravida comes from the Latin word gravidus. Gravida is used to describe a woman who is pregnant and is also a medical term for the total number of pregnancies a woman has had. For example, primigravida is meant to describe a women who is pregnant with her first child.

Atef – Hedjet

Dea Gravida has sometimes been found together with a statue of a bearded male wearing an Atef crown, the specific feathered white crown of the ancient Egyptian deity Osiris, who wears the Atef crown as a symbol of the ruler of the underworld. Together they formed a divine couple. It’s not clear exactly why they were together.

The Atef combines the Hedjet (Ancient Egyptian: ḥḏt “White One”), the white crown of pharaonic Upper Egypt, with curly red ostrich feathers on each side of the crown for the Osiris cult. The Atef crown is similar, save for the feathers, to the plain white crown (Hedjet) used in the Predynastic Period and later as a symbol for pharaonic Upper Egypt.

The Atef crown identifies Osiris in ancient Egyptian painting. The tall bulbous white piece in the center of the crown is between two ostrich feathers. The feathers are identified as ostrich from their curl or curve at the upper ends, with a slight flare toward the base. They may be compared with the falcon tail feathers in two-feather crowns, such as those of Amun which are more narrow and straight without curve. 

The feathers represent truth and justice. They may be compared with the falcon tail feathers in two-feather crowns, such as those of Amun, who was attested from the Old Kingdom together with his wife Amaunet. which are more narrow and straight without curve.

They are the same feather as (singly) worn by Maat or Maʽat, the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Her ideological opposite was Isfet (Egyptian jzft), meaning injustice, chaos, violence or to do evil. 

Maat was also the goddess who personified these concepts, and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who had brought order from chaos at the moment of creation. 

The crown is also worn by Sobek, who above all else is an aggressive and animalistic deity who lives up to the vicious reputation of his patron animal, the large and violent Nile crocodile/West African crocodile. However, he also displays grand benevolence in more than one celebrated myth.

Pscent

After the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, it was combined with the deshret, the red crown of Lower Egypt, to form the pschent, the double crown of Egypt. The symbol sometimes used for the white crown was the vulture goddess Nekhbet shown next to the head of the cobra goddess Wadjet, the uraeus on the pschent.

The pschent was the double crown worn by rulers in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians generally referred to it as sekhemty (sḫm.ty), the Two Powerful Ones. It combined the White Hedjet Crown of Upper Egypt and the Red Deshret Crown of Lower Egypt. The Pschent represented the pharaoh’s power over all of unified Egypt.

The pschent bore two animal emblems: an Egyptian cobra, known as the uraeus, ready to strike, which symbolized the Lower Egyptian goddess Wadjet; and an Egyptian vulture representing the Upper Egyptian tutelary goddess Nekhbet. The two ladies were responsible for establishing the laws, protecting the rulers and the Egyptian country, and promoting peace.

After the unification, the image of Nekhbet joined Wadjet on the uraeus, thereafter, they were shown together as part of the crowns of Egypt. These were fastened to the front of the Pschent and referred to as the Two Ladies. Later, the vulture head sometimes was replaced by a second cobra.

As is the case with the Deshret and the Hedjet Crowns, no Pschent has survived. It is known only from statuary, depictions, inscriptions, and ancient tales. Among the deities sometimes depicted wearing the Double Crown are Horus and Atum or Ra both representing the pharaoh or having a special relationship to the pharaoh.

Deshret

Deshret, from Ancient Egyptian, was the formal name for the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and for the desert Red Land on either side of Kemet (Black Land), the fertile Nile river basin. When combined with the Hedjet (White Crown) of Upper Egypt, it forms the Pschent (Double Crown), in Ancient Egyptian called the sekhemti.

The Red Crown in Egyptian language hieroglyphs eventually was used as the vertical letter “n” . The original “n” hieroglyph from the Predynastic Period, and the Old Kingdom was the sign depicting ripples of water.

In mythology, the earth deity Geb, original ruler of Egypt, invested Horus with the rule over Lower Egypt. The Egyptian pharaohs, who saw themselves as successors of Horus, wore the deshret to symbolize their authority over Lower Egypt. Other deities wore the deshret too, or were identified with it, such as the protective serpent goddess Wadjet and the creator-goddess of Sais, Neith, who often is shown wearing the Red Crown.

The Red Crown would later be combined with the White Crown of Upper Egypt to form the Double Crown, symbolizing the rule over the whole country, “The Two Lands” as the Egyptians expressed it.

As concerns deshret, the Red Land which comprised the deserts and foreign lands surrounding Egypt, Seth was its lord. It was considered a region of chaos, without law and full of dangers. Records No red crown has been found. Several ancient representations indicate it was woven like a basket from plant fiber such as grass, straw, flax, palm leaf, or reed.

The Red Crown frequently is mentioned in texts and depicted in reliefs and statues. An early example is the depiction of the victorious pharaoh wearing the deshret on the Narmer Palette. A label from the reign of Djer records a royal visit to the shrine of the Deshret which may have been located at Buto in the Nile delta.

The fact that no crown has ever been found buried with any of the pharaohs, even in relatively intact tombs, might suggest that it was passed from one regent to the next, much as in present-day monarchies.

Wadjet

Wadjet (Ancient Egyptian: wꜢḏyt “Green One”), known to the Greek world as Uto or Buto among other names including Wedjat, Uadjet, and Udjo. She was said to be the patron and protector of Lower Egypt, and upon unification with Upper Egypt, the joint protector and patron of all of Egypt “goddess” of Upper Egypt.

She was originally the ancient local goddess of the city of Dep, which became part of the city that the Egyptians named Per-Wadjet (“House of Wadjet”) and the Greeks called Buto (now Desouk). The city was an important site in prehistoric Egypt and the cultural developments of the Paleolithic.

The image of Wadjet with the sun disk is called the uraeus, and it was the emblem on the crown of the rulers of Lower Egypt. She was also the protector of kings and of women in childbirth. She was said to be the nurse of the infant god Horus. With the help of his mother Isis, they protected Horus from his treacherous uncle, Set, when they took refuge in the swamps of the Nile Delta.

Wadjet was closely associated in ancient Egyptian religion with the Eye of Ra, a powerful protective deity. The hieroglyph for her eye is shown below; sometimes two are shown in the sky of religious images. Per-Wadjet also contained a sanctuary of Horus, the child of the sun deity who would be interpreted to represent the pharaoh. Much later, Wadjet became associated with Isis as well as with many other deities.

Egypt

The invention of the Pschent is generally attributed to the First Dynasty pharaoh Menes, but the first one to wear a Double Crown was the First Dynasty pharaoh Djet: a rock inscription shows his Horus wearing it.

The First Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty I) covers the first series of Egyptian kings to rule over a unified Egypt. It immediately follows the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, possibly by Narmer, and marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, a time at which power was centered at Thinis.

The date of this period is subject to scholarly debate about the Egyptian chronology. It falls within the early Bronze Age and is variously estimated to have begun anywhere between the 34th and the 30th centuries BC. In a 2013 study based on radiocarbon dates, the beginning of the First Dynasty—the accession of Hor-Aha—was placed at 3100 BC give or take a century (3218–3035, with 95% confidence).

Menes (fl. c. 3200–3000 BC; Ancient Egyptian: mnj, probably pronounced */maˈnij/) was a pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt credited by classical tradition with having united Upper and Lower Egypt and as the founder of the First Dynasty.

The identity of Menes is the subject of ongoing debate, although mainstream Egyptological consensus identifies Menes with the Naqada III ruler Narmer (most likely) or First Dynasty pharaoh Hor-Aha. Both pharaohs are credited with the unification of Egypt to different degrees by various authorities.

Djet, also known as Wadj, Zet, and Uadji (in Greek possibly the pharaoh known as Uenephes or possibly Atothis), was the fourth pharaoh of the First Dynasty. Djet’s Horus name means “Horus Cobra” or “Serpent of Horus”.

Egypt-Mesopotamia relations

Naqada III is the last phase of the Naqada culture of ancient Egyptian prehistory, dating approximately from 3200 to 3000 BC. It is the period during which the process of state formation, which had begun to take place in Naqada II, became highly visible, with named kings heading powerful polities.

The Amratian culture, also called Naqada I, was a culture of prehistoric Upper Egypt. It lasted approximately from 4000 to 3500 BC. The Amratian culture is named after the archaeological site of el-Amra, located around 120 km (75 mi) south of Badari in Upper Egypt.

El-Amra was the first site where this culture group was found without being mingled with the later Gerzeh culture (Naqada II). However, this period is better attested at the Nagada site, thus it also is referred to as the Naqada I culture.

Gerzeh (also Girza or Jirzah), a prehistoric Egyptian cemetery located along the west bank of the Nile, is situated only several miles due east of the oasis of Faiyum. Distinctly foreign objects and art forms entered Egypt during this period, indicating contacts with several parts of Asia.

Some symbols on Gerzeh pottery resemble traditional Egyptian hieroglyphs, which were contemporaneous with the proto-cuneiform script of Sumer. The figurine of a woman is a distinctive design considered characteristic of the culture.

The Gerzeh culture was followed by the Naqada III (“protodynastic” or “Semainian culture”). Naqada III is often referred to as Dynasty 0 or the Protodynastic Period to reflect the presence of kings at the head of influential states.

Egypt-Mesopotamia relations seem to have developed from the 4th millennium BCE, starting in the Uruk period for Mesopotamia and the Gerzean culture of pre-literate Prehistoric Egypt (circa 3500-3200 BCE).

Influences can be seen in the visual arts of Egypt, in imported products, and also in the possible transfer of writing from Mesopotamia to Egypt, and generated “deep-seated” parallels in the early stages of both cultures.

There was generally a high-level of trade between Ancient Egypt and the Near-East throughout the Pre-dynastic period of Egypt, during the Naqada II (3600-3350 BCE) and Naqada III (3350-2950 BCE) phases. These were contemporary with the Late Uruk (3500-3100 BCE) and Jemdet Nasr (3100-2900 BCE) periods in Mesopotamia.

The main period of cultural exchange, particularly consisting in the transfer of Mesopotamian imagery and symbols to Egypt, is considered to have lasted about 250 years, during the Naqada II to Dynasty I periods. These early contacts probably acted as a sort of catalyst for the development of Egyptian culture, particularly in respect to the inception of writing, and the codification of royal and vernacular imagery.

Although there are many examples of Mesopotamian influence in Egypt in the 4th millennium BCE, the reverse is not true, and there are no traces of Egyptian influence in Mesopotamia at that time. Only very few Egyptian Naqada period object have been found beyond Egypt.

It is generally thought that Egyptian hieroglyphs “came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and, probably were invented under the influence of the latter”, and that it is “probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia”. The two writing systems are in fact quite similar in their initial stages, relying heavily on pictographic forms and then evolving a parallel system for the expression of phonetic sounds.

A recent 2017 study of the mitochondrial DNA composition of Egyptian mummies has shown a high level of affinity with the DNA of the populations of the Near East. The study was made on a mummies of Abusir el-Meleq, near El Fayum, which was inhabited from at least 3250 BCE until about 700 CE.

A shared drift and mixture analysis of the DNA of these ancient Egyptian mummies shows that the connection is strongest with ancient populations from the Levant, the Near East and Anatolia, and to a lesser extent modern populations from the Near East and the Levant.

In particular the study finds “that ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations”. These connections date back to Prehistory and occurred at a variety of scales, including overland and maritime commerce, diplomacy, immigration, invasion and deportation”

The designs that were emulated by Egyptian artists are numerous: the Uruk “priest-king” with his tunique and brimmed hat in the posture of the Master of animals, the serpopards or sepo-felines, winged griffins, snakes around rosettes, boats with high prows, all characteristic of Mesopotamian art of the Late Uruk (Uruk IV, c. 3350–3200 BCE) period.

In addition, Egyptian objects were created which clearly mimic Mesopotamian forms, although not slavishly. The first man/animal composite creatures in Egypt were directly copied from Mesopotamian designs.

It is also considered as certain that the Egyptians adopted from Mesopotamia the practice of marking the sealing of jars with engraved cylinder seals for informational purposes. Spouted jars of Mesopotamian design start to appear in Egypt in the Naqada II period.

Various Uruk pottery vases and containers have been found in Egypt in Naqada contexts, confirming that Mesopotamian finished goods were imported into Egypt, although the past content of the jars has not been determined yet. Scientifc analysis of ancient wine jars in Abydos has shown there was some high-volume wine trade with the Levant during this period.

Cylinder seals appear in Egypt, as well as recessed paneling architecture, the Egyptian reliefs on cosmetic palettes are clearly made in the same style as the contemporary Mesopotamian Uruk culture, and the ceremonial mace heads which turn up from the late Gerzean and early Semainean are crafted in the Mesopotamian “pear-shaped” style, instead of the Egyptian native style.

Egyptian architecture also was influenced, as it adopted element of Mesopotamian Temple and civic architecture. Recessed niches in particular, which are characteristic of Mesopotamian architecture, were adopted for the tombs of the First Dynasty and Second Dynasty.

The route of this trade is difficult to determine, but contact with Canaan does not predate the early dynastic, so it is usually assumed to have been by sea trade. It was theorized that Uruk sailors circumnavigated Arabia, but a Mediterranean route, probably by middlemen through Byblos, is more likely, as evidenced by the presence of Byblian objects in Egypt.

Glyptic art also seems to have played a key role, through the circulation of decorated cylinder seals across the Levant, a common hinterland of both empire. The intensity of the exchanges suggest however that the contacts between Egypt and Mesopotamia were often direct, rather than merely through middlemen or through trade.

Uruk had known colonial outposts of as far as Habuba Kabira, in modern Syria, insuring they presence in the Levant. Numerous Uruk cylinder seals have also been uncovered there. There were suggestions that Uruk may have had an outpost and a form of colonial presence in northern Egypt. The site of Buto in particular was suggested, but it has been rejected as a possible candidate.

The fact that so many Gerzean sites are at the mouths of wadis which lead to the Red Sea may indicate some amount of trade via the Red Sea (though Byblian trade potentially could have crossed the Sinai and then be taken to the Red Sea). Also, it is considered unlikely that something as complicated as recessed panel architecture could have worked its way into Egypt by proxy, and at least a small contingent of migrants is often suspected.

Sobek

Sobek (in Greek, Suchos and from Latin Suchus «crocodile») was an ancient Egyptian deity with a complex and fluid nature. He is associated with the Nile crocodile or the West African crocodile and is represented either in its form or as a human with a crocodile head.

Sobek was also associated with pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess, but served additionally as a protective deity with apotropaic qualities, invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile.

Sobek is, above all else, an aggressive and animalistic deity who lives up to the vicious reputation of his patron animal, the large and violent Nile crocodile/West African crocodile. The origin of his name, Sbk in Egyptian, is debated among scholars, but many believe that it is derived from a causative of the verb “to impregnate”.

Though Sobek was worshipped in the Old Kingdom, he truly gained prominence in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BCE), most notably under the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh, Amenemhat III.

Amenemhat III had taken a particular interest in the Faiyum of Egypt, a region heavily associated with Sobek. Amenemhat and many of his dynastic contemporaries engaged in building projects to promote Sobek – projects that were often executed in the Faiyum.

In this period, Sobek also underwent an important change: he was often fused with the falcon-headed god of divine kingship, Horus. The fusion added a finer level of complexity to the god’s nature, as he was adopted into the divine triad of Horus and his two parents: Osiris and Isis.

Sobek first acquired a role as a solar deity through his connection to Horus, but this was further strengthened in later periods with the emergence of Sobek-Ra, a fusion of Sobek and Egypt’s primary sun god, Ra.

The entire Faiyum region – the “Land of the Lake” in Egyptian (specifically referring to Lake Moeris) – served as a cult center of Sobek. Sobek Shedety, the patron of the Faiyum’s centrally located capital, Crocodilopolis (or Egyptian “Shedet”), was the most prominent form of the god.

Specialized priests in the main temple at Shedet functioned solely to serve Sobek, boasting titles like “prophet of the crocodile-gods” and “one who buries of the bodies of the crocodile-gods of the Land of the Lake”.

After his association with Horus and consequent adoption into the Osirian triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus in the Middle Kingdom, Sobek became associated with Isis as a healer of the deceased Osiris (following his violent murder by Set in the central Osiris myth).

In fact, though many scholars believe that the name of Sobek, Sbk, is derived from s-bAk, “to impregnate”, others postulate that it is a participial form of the verb sbq, an alternative writing of sAq, “to unite”, thereby meaning Sbk could roughly translate to “he who unites (the dismembered limbs of Osiris)”. It is from this association with healing that Sobek was considered a protective deity.

His fierceness was able to ward off evil while simultaneously defending the innocent. He was thus made a subject of personal piety and a common recipient of votive offerings, particularly in the later periods of ancient Egyptian history. It was not uncommon, particularly in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, for crocodiles to be preserved as mummies in order to present at Sobek’s cultic centers.

Sobek was also offered mummified crocodile eggs, meant to emphasize the cyclical nature of his solar attributes as Sobek-Ra. Likewise, crocodiles were raised on religious grounds as living incarnations of Sobek.

Upon their deaths, they were mummified in a grand ritual display as sacred, but earthly, manifestations of their patron god. This practice was executed specifically at the main temple of Crocodilopolis.

These mummified crocodiles have been found with baby crocodiles in their mouths and on their backs. The crocodile – one of the few reptiles that diligently care for their young – often transports its offspring in this manner.

The practice of preserving this aspect of the animal’s behavior via mummification is likely intended to emphasize the protective and nurturing aspects of the fierce Sobek, as he protects the Egyptian people in the same manner that the crocodile protects its young.

In Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, a local monograph called the Book of the Faiyum centered on Sobek with a considerable portion devoted to the journey made by Sobek-Ra each day with the movement of the sun through the sky.

The text also focuses heavily on Sobek’s central role in creation as a manifestation of Ra, as he is said to have risen from the primal waters of Lake Moeris, not unlike the Ogdoad in the traditional creation myth of Hermopolis.

Astarte

Small terracotta votives are found of Dea Gravida which have an association with a seated pregnant Astarte, the Hellenized form of the Middle Eastern goddess Astoreth (Northwest Semitic), a form of Ishtar (East Semitic), worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity.

The name is particularly associated with her worship in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians. She was also celebrated in Egypt following the importation of Levantine cults there.

Astarte is one of a number of names associated with the chief goddess or female divinity of those peoples. She is recorded in Akkadian as As-dar-tu, the masculine form of Ishtar. The Etruscan Pyrgi Tablets record the name Uni-Astre.

Astarte was connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle indicating the planet Venus. Pictorial representations often show her naked. She has been known as the deified morning and/or evening star.

The deity takes on many names and forms among different cultures, and according to Canaanite mythology, is one and the same as the Assyro-Babylonian goddess Ištar, taken from the third millennium BC Sumerian goddess Inanna, the first and primordial goddess of the planet Venus.

Some scholars claim that the cult of the Minoan snake goddess who is identified with Ariadne (the “utterly pure”) was similar to the cult of Astarte. Her cult as Aphrodite was transmitted to Cythera and then to Greece.

Herodotus wrote that the religious community of Aphrodite originated in Phoenicia and came to Greeks from there. He also wrote about the world’s largest temple of Aphrodite, in one of the Phoenician cities.

Tanit

Astarte was worshipped alongside and was equivalent to the goddess Tanit, also called Tinnit, Tannou, or Ta-ngu meaning “The Sun” and Ta-ngo (meaning the land of lions), a Punic and Phoenician goddess, the chief deity of Carthage alongside her consort Baal-Hamon. Tanit is sometimes depicted with a lion’s head, showing her warrior quality

Her shrine excavated at Sarepta in southern Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon) revealed an inscription that has been speculated, but as of yet not proven, to identify her for the first time in her homeland and related her securely to the Phoenician goddess Astarte (Ishtar).

Tanit was also adopted by the Berber people. In modern-day Tunisian Arabic, it is customary to invoke Omek Tannou or Oumouk Tangou (‘Mother Tannou’ or ‘Mother Tangou’, depending on the region), in years of drought to bring rain. Similarly, Tunisian and many other spoken forms of Arabic refer to “Baali farming” to refer to non-irrigated agriculture.

 Tanit was worshiped in Punic contexts in the Western Mediterranean, from Malta to Gades into Hellenistic times, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Dea Caelestis, Juno Caelestis, or simply Caelestis.

From the fifth century BCE onwards, Tanit’s worship is associated with that of Baal Hammon. She is given the epithet pene baal (‘face of Baal’) and the title rabat, the female form of rab (‘chief’). In North Africa, where the inscriptions and material remains are more plentiful, she was, as well as a consort of Baal-hamon, a heavenly goddess of war, a virginal” (unmarried) mother goddess and nurse, and, less specifically, a symbol of fertility, as are most female forms. 

In Egyptian, her name means ‘Land of Neith’, Neith being a war goddess. Her symbol (the sign of Tanit), found on many ancient stone carvings, appears as a trapezium closed by a horizontal line at the top and surmounted in the middle by a circle; the horizontal arm is often terminated either by two short upright lines at right angles to it or by hooks.  Later, the trapezium was frequently replaced by an isosceles triangle. The symbol is interpreted as a woman raising her hands.

Taweret

There is a connection between Dea Gravida and Taweret (also spelled Taurt, Tuat, Taouris, Tuart, Ta-weret, Tawaret, Twert, Thoeris and Taueret, and in Greek Thouéris and Toeris), in Ancient Egyptian religion a protective hippopotamus goddess of pregnancy, childbirth and fertility.

She commonly bears the epithets “Lady of Heaven”, “Mistress of the Horizon”, “She Who Removes Water”, “Mistress of Pure Water”, and “Lady of the Birth House”. The name “Taweret” (Tȝ-wrt) means “she who is great” or simply “great one”, a common pacificatory address to dangerous deities.

Taweret bears physical aspects of both a fertility goddess and a fearsome protective deity. She is typically depicted as a bipedal female hippopotamus with feline attributes, pendulous female human breasts, and the back of a Nile crocodile. 

In the New Kingdom Taweret’s image was frequently used to represent a northern constellation in zodiacs. This image is attested in several astronomical tomb paintings. The image of this astral Taweret appears almost exclusively next to the Setian foreleg of a bull. The latter image represents the Big Dipper and is associated with the Egyptian god of chaos, Seth.

The relationship between the two images is discussed in the Book of Day and Night (a cosmically focused mythological text from the Twentieth Dynasty, c. 1186–1069 BCE) as follows: “As to this foreleg of Seth, it is in the northern sky, tied down to two mooring posts of flint by a chain of gold. It is entrusted to Isis as a hippopotamus guarding it.”

Although the hippopotamus goddess is identified in this text as Isis, not Taweret, this phenomenon is not uncommon in later periods of Egyptian history. When assuming a protective role, powerful goddesses like Isis, Hathor, and Mut assumed the form of Taweret, effectively becoming a manifestation of this goddess. Likewise, Taweret gradually absorbed qualities of these goddesses and is commonly seen wearing the Hathoric sun disc that is ichnographically associated with both Hathor and Isis.

This cosmic image continues to be seen in later periods, although the tendency was to show such divine astral bodies more abstractly. One example can be found in the late Ptolemaic or early Roman Book of the Faiyum, a local monograph dedicated to the Faiyum and its patron gods, namely Sobek-Re.

Taweret is depicted in her standard form with a crocodile on her back and a small upright crocodile in her right hand. She is shown in the section of the papyrus that is meant to depict the Faiyum’s central Lake Moeris.

The papyrus depicts the solar journey of Re with Lake Moeris as the place into which the sun god descends for his nightly journey, traditionally thought of as the underworldly realm of the Amduat.

Taweret appears here as a well known constellation to demonstrate the celestial and otherworldly properties of Lake Moeris. She also serves as a fine protective divine mother to Sobek-Re during his precarious journey. In this respect, she fulfills the role of Neith, the primary divine mother of Sobek.

This Taweret figure is labeled as “Neith the Great, who protects her son”, demonstrating the malleability of the hippopotamus goddess form. When in the role of a protective mother, it is not uncommon that other goddesses would appear in the form of Taweret.

Taweret was featured in other myths as well during these later periods. In the famed Metternich Stela, Isis tells Horus that he was reared by a “sow and a dwarf”, almost certainly referring to Taweret and her fellow apotropaic demon-god Bes, respectively.

Although the date of this stela is relatively late, the central role of Taweret in the successful raising of children is still being stressed, showing the continuity of her character. She is also mentioned in Plutarch’s notes on the central myth of Isis and Osiris. She joined the forces of order and helped Horus to defeat Set.

Taweret is featured in some versions of a popular and widespread myth in which the Eye of Ra becomes angry with her father and retreats to Nubia in the form of a lioness. Upon the Eye of Re’s eventual return to Egypt, she assumes the form of a hippopotamus (presumably Taweret) and consequently brings the flooding of the Nile.

This myth demonstrates Taweret’s primary function as a goddess of fertility and rejuvenation. Some scholars feel that her role in the Nile inundation is one of the reasons she was given the epithet “Mistress of Pure Water”.

However, her similar role in the rejuvenation of the dead also cannot be overlooked with regards to this epithet – just as she provided life for the living through physical birth and the inundation, she also cleansed and purified the dead so they could pass safely into the afterlife. Images of protective deities like Taweret and Bes were placed on the outer walls of Ptolemaic temples in order to keep evil forces at bay. Edfu, Egypt.

In the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (c. 332 BCE – 390 CE), Taweret maintained a central role in daily Egyptian life. In either the latter half of the Late Period (c. 664–332 BCE) or the early Ptolemaic period, a temple dedicated to Ipet was built at Karnak.

This enigmatic temple was thought to witness the daily birth of the sun god from the hippopotamus goddesses that dwelled there. The sun god (Amun-Re) was conceived of as having multiple divine mothers, and by this later period in Egyptian history, Taweret and the other hippopotamus goddesses were included in this body of solar mothers.

Taweret’s image also appeared on the outside of temples dedicated to other deities due to her apotropaic ability to ward off malevolent forces. Outside of temple settings, the household cult of the goddesses remained strong, and amulets bearing their likenesses peaked in popularity during these years.

She is also often seen with features from other predatory creatures, most notably being the tail of a Nile crocodile and the paws of a lioness. These features directly parallel those of other ferocious protective ancient Egyptian deities, most notably the crocodile god Sobek and the lioness goddess Sekhmet or Sachmis, a warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians.

Sekhmet was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare. Upon death, she continued to protect them, bearing them to the afterlife. She is also a solar deity, sometimes called the daughter of Ra and often associated with the goddesses Hathor and Bastet. She bears the Uraeus, which associates her with Wadjet and royalty, and the solar disk. It was said that her breath formed the desert.

Sekhmet’s name comes from the Ancient Egyptian word sḫm, which means “power or might”. Sekhmet’s name (Ancient Egyptian: sḫmt) is thus translated as “the (one who is) powerful or mighty”. She also was given titles such as the “(One) Before Whom Evil Trembles”, “Mistress of Dread”, “Lady of Slaughter” and “She Who Mauls”.

These violent theriomorphic deities take on some of the aspects of the animals that they represent – both to the benefit and detriment of humans. Taweret’s predatory form allows her to ward away evil from the innocent.

Likewise, Taweret’s nurturing aspects are also reinforced in her iconography, as she frequently is shown with a bloated pregnant belly, and pendulous human breasts. These breasts are shared by the god of the Nile inundation, Hapi, and signify regenerative powers. Taweret’s riverine form allows her to participate in that which annually revives the Nile Valley: the inundation personified by Hapi.

It is partly due to her role in this event that may share this iconographic feature with Hapy. She frequently is seen holding the sa hieroglyphic sign (Gardiner V17), which literally means “protection”.

Hippopotamus

Taweret takes the form of a female hippopotamus, a highly deadly creature. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that hippopotamuses inhabited the Nile well before the dawn of Early Dynastic Period (before 3000 BCE). The violent and aggressive behavior of these creatures intrigued the people that inhabited the region, leading the ancient Egyptians both to persecute and to venerate them.

From a very early date, male hippopotami were thought to be manifestations of chaos; consequently, they were overcome in royal hunting campaigns, intended to demonstrate the divine power of the king. However, female hippopotami were revered as manifestations of apotropaic deities, as they studiously protect their young from harm.

Protective amulets bearing the likenesses of female hippopotami have been found dating as far back the Predynastic period (c. 3000–2686 BCE). Evidence for the cult of hippopotamus goddesses exists from the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – 2181 BCE) in the corpus of ancient Egyptian funerary texts entitled the Pyramid Texts. The tradition of making and wearing these amulets continued throughout the history of Egypt into the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Roman period (c. 332 BCE – 390 CE). 

From her ideological conception, Taweret was closely grouped with (and is often indistinguishable from) several other protective hippopotamus goddesses: Ipet, Reret, and Hedjet. Some scholars even interpret these goddesses as aspects of the same deity, considering their universally shared role as protective household goddesses. 

The other hippopotamus goddesses have names that bear very specific meanings, much like Taweret, whose name is formed as a pacificatory address intended to calm the ferocity of the goddess. Ipet’s name (“the Nurse”) demonstrates her connection to birth, child rearing, and general caretaking, and Reret’s name (“the Sow”) is derived from the Egyptians’ classification of hippopotami as water pigs. 

However, the origin of Hedjet’s name (“the White One”) is not as clear and could justly be debated. Spell 269 in the Pyramid Texts mentions Ipet and succinctly demonstrates her nurturing role; the spell announces that the deceased king will suck on the goddess’s “white, dazzling, sweet milk” when he ascends to the heavens.

It was not until the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2055–1650 BCE) that Taweret became featured more prominently as a figure of religious devotion. Her image adorns magical objects, the most notable of which being a common type of “wand” or “knife” carved from hippopotamus ivory that was likely used in rituals associated with birth and the protection of infants.

Similar images appear also on children’s feeding cups, once again demonstrating Taweret’s integral role as the patron goddess of child rearing. Quite contrarily, she also took on the role of a funerary deity in this period, evidenced by the commonplace practice of placing hippopotami decorated with marsh flora in tombs and temples.

Some scholars believe that this practice demonstrates that hippopotamus goddesses facilitated the process of rebirth after death, just as they aided in earthly births. These statues, then, assisted the deceased’s passing into the afterlife.

As maternal deities, these goddesses served to nurture and protect the Egyptian people, both royal (as seen in the Pyramid Texts) and non-royal. With the rise of popular piety in the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1069 BCE), household deities like Taweret gained even more importance. 

Taweret’s image has been found on an array of household objects, demonstrating her central role in the home. Her role as a funerary deity was strengthened, as her powers became considered not only life-giving, but regenerative as well. Various myths demonstrate her role in facilitating the afterlives of the deceased as the nurturing and purifying “Mistress of Pure Water”.

However, Taweret and her fellow hippopotamus goddesses of fertility should not be confused with Ammit, another composite hippopotamus goddess who gained prominence in the New Kingdom. Ammit was responsible for devouring the unjust before passing into the afterlife. Unlike Ammit, the other hippopotamus goddesses were responsible for nourishment and aid, not destruction.

Although Ipet (aka Apet) is mentioned in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts, and Taweret is seen frequently on Middle Kingdom ritual objects, hippopotamus goddesses did not gain a significant role in Egyptian mythology until the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1069 BCE).

Reret

Reret is depicted as a bipedal hippopotamus in a fashion virtually identical to Ipy or Tawaret, from whom she is distinguished by her astral associations. Reret is also often depicted bearing a crocodile on her back. Although she is always depicted as a hippopotamus, Reret’s name apparently means ‘the Sow’.

Reret is linked to two different sets of stars, but primarily to a constellation in the north sky corresponding to our Draco. This constellation, in turn, is linked in Egyptian thought to another constellation, corresponding to our Big Dipper, which Egyptians saw as having the shape of the foreleg of a quadruped and was known to Egyptians as the Meskhet, the Foreleg.

The constellation was usually depicted as a bull’s foreleg, connected by a tether to a mooring post held by Reret. The Meskhet was regarded sometimes as the foreleg of seth, and was then spoken of as the foreleg of a donkey or dog, but is never depicted in this fashion (note that Seth’s foreleg is already spoken of in PT utterance 61, though not in connection to a constellation).

Seth’s foreleg is tied to the mooring post guarded by Reret “so that it [the Foreleg] cannot travel among the Gods”. In texts from the temple of Esna, however, Reret is said to tether the Foreleg in the northern sky “in order not to let it [the Foreleg] go upside down into the Duat, the netherworld. In these texts there is no suggestion that the Foreleg is associated with Seth.

A similar concept of these stars and their relation to Reret seems to be expressed on the lid of a bull sarcophagus from Abû Yâsîn, which attributes the Foreleg to Osiris: “Hail Osiris … bull of the sky are you … the stars of the northern sky are your Foreleg. They never set in the west of the sky like the decanal stars but they travel, going upside down in the night as in the day. They are in the following of Reret the Great of the northern sky”.

There was also a Reret, similarly with a mooring post, among the hour stars, located near or in the decanal belt, south of and near the ecliptic. Reret is depicted with her front feet resting on the mooring post, or one on the mooring post and one on a small vertical crocodile. Sometimes a tether or chain runs from the mooring post to the Foreleg.

Opet

Opet (Apet, Ipet, Ipy) was a benign hippopotamus goddess known as a protective and nourishing deity. Her name seems to mean ‘harem’ or ‘favored place’. Our first reference to her comes from the PT, where the king asks that he may nurse at her breast so that he would “neither thirst nor hunger…forever”.

Afterwards, she is called “mistress of magical protection” in funerary papyri. Under the epithet ‘the great Opet’, she is fused to some extent with Tawaret, ‘the great one’, but she never completely losses all of her independent characteristics, irregardless of the fact that many modern texts completely assimilate her with Taweret.

She appears to have had a very strong connection with the Theban area and might have even been considered a personification of that city. In the theology of Thebes, she was thought to be the mother of Osiris and therefore her afterlife associations are clear in the funerary texts in which she appears.

Though dating to the Pyramid Age prior to the rise of Thebes as an important Egyptian city, she was particularly venerated in that city where her temple just west of the temple of Khonsu was an integral part of the Karnak complex, even though it was a fairly late addition.

In fact, it was on the ground that her temple sits, according to Theban beliefs, that she rested after giving birth to Osiris. Interestingly, while she even appears as a protective figure on the back of a statue of a 17th Dynasty ruler, in most areas of Egypt there appear to be no cult centers associated with the goddess.

Opet was usually depicted as some sort of combination of hippopotamus, crocodile, human and lion, though her hippopotamus aspect is dominant. She was represented as a female hippopotamus, usually standing upright on legs which have the feet of a lion. In this guise, her arms are usually human in appearance though they generally terminate in leonine paws.

Sometimes she was depicted with the swollen belly of a pregnant woman and with large pendent human breasts. Her back and tail were those of a crocodile and sometimes this aspect was emphasized by a complete crocodile stretched over her back.

Opet was only one of several goddesses, including Taweret, Reret and Heqet, who could take the form of a hippopotamus. All of these goddesses were associated with pregnancy and protection, and they were often difficult to distinguish from each other, not only in their form but also in their characteristics.

Sometimes her depictions appear to be apotropaic in nature, and the vignettes of funerary papyri such as Spell 137 of the Book of the Dead, the goddess is shown holding a torch and lighting incense cones to provide light and heat for the deceased.

Hapi

Hapi was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. The flood deposited rich silt (fertile soil) on the river’s banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops. Some of the titles of Hapi were “Lord of the Fish and Birds of the Marshes” and “Lord of the River Bringing Vegetation”.

He often was pictured carrying offerings of food or pouring water from an amphora, but also, very rarely, was depicted as a hippopotamus. The annual flooding of the Nile occasionally was said to be the Arrival of Hapi. Since this flooding provided fertile soil in an area that was otherwise desert, Hapi symbolised fertility.

Due to his fertile nature he was sometimes considered the “father of the gods”, and was considered to be a caring father who helped to maintain the balance of the cosmos, the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system.

Although male and wearing the false beard, Hapi was pictured with pendulous breasts because he was said to bring a rich and nourishing harvest and a large stomach, as representations of the fertility of the Nile. He also was usually given blue or green skin, representing water. Other attributes varied, depending upon the region of Egypt in which the depictions exist.

In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants and attended by frogs, present in the region, and symbols of it. Whereas in Upper Egypt, it was the lotus and crocodiles which were more present in the Nile, thus these were the symbols of the region, and those associated with Hapi there.

During the Nineteenth Dynasty Hapi is often depicted as a pair of figures, each holding and tying together the long stem of two plants representing Upper and Lower Egypt, symbolically binding the two halves of the country around a hieroglyph meaning “union”.

Khnum

Khnum was one of the earliest-known Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile. He later was described as having moulded the other deities, and he had the titles “Divine Potter” and “Lord of created things from himself”.

Since the annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and its water brought life to its surroundings, he was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter’s wheel, from clay, and placed in their mothers’ wombs.

In art, Khnum was usually depicted as a ram-headed man at a potter’s wheel, with recently created children’s bodies standing on the wheel. He was also shown holding a jar from which flowed a stream of water.

The worship of Khnum centered on two principal riverside sites, Elephantine and Esna, which were regarded as sacred sites. At Elephantine, he was worshipped alongside Satis and Anuket. At Esna, he was worshipped alongside Menhit, Nebtu, Neith and Heka.

In other locations, such as Herwer (Tuna el-Gebel perhaps), as the moulder and creator of the human body, he was sometimes regarded as the consort of Heket, or of Meskhenet, whose responsibility was breathing life into children at the moment of birth, as the (“ka”).

Satis

Satis (Ancient Egyptian: Sṯt or Sṯı͗t, lit. “Pourer” or “Shooter”), also known by numerous related names, was an Upper Egyptian goddess who, along with Khnum and Anuket, formed part of the Elephantine Triad. A protective deity of Egypt’s southern border with Nubia, she came to personify the former annual flooding of the Nile and to serve as a war, hunting, and fertility goddess.

Her name is derived from sṯ, meaning “eject”, “shoot”, “pour”, or “throw”, and can be variously translated as “She who Shoots”, thought to refer to the flowing river current, or “She who Pours” depending on which of her roles is being emphasized.

She was sometimes conflated with Isis and Sopdet, goddess of the bright star Sirius, which the Egyptians connected with the onset of the Nile flooding. Under the interpretatio graeca, she was conflated with Hera and Juno.

Her principal center of worship was at Abu (Elephantine), an island near Aswan on the southern edge of Egypt. Her temple there occupied an early predynastic site shown by Wells to be aligned with the star Sirius.

As a war goddess, Satis protected Egypt’s southern Nubian frontier by killing the enemies of the pharaoh with her sharp arrows. As a fertility goddess, she was thought to grant the wishes of those who sought love.

She seems to have originally been paired with the Theban god Montu, a falcon-god of war in ancient Egyptian religion, an embodiment of the conquering vitality of the pharaoh, but later replaced Heket as the consort of Khnum, guardian of the source of the Nile.

By Khnum, her child was Anuket, goddess of the Nile. After Khnum was conflated with Ra, she sometimes became an Eye of Ra in place of Hathor. Together Khnum, Anuket, and Satis formed the Elephantine Triad.

Satis was usually pictured as a woman in a sheath dress wearing the hedjet, the conical crown of Upper Egypt, with antelope horns. She is sometimes depicted with bow and arrows; holding an ankh or scepter; or offering jars of purifying water. She also appears in the form of an antelope. Her symbols were the arrow and the running river.

Heqet

Heqet (Egyptian ḥqt, also ḥqtyt “Heqtit”) is an Egyptian goddess of fertility, identified with Hathor, represented as a frog. To the Egyptians, the frog was an ancient symbol of fertility, related to the annual flooding of the Nile. Early frog statuettes are often thought to be depictions of her.

The name is written as ḥqt with the determinative “frog”. The phonetic spelling may use the biliteral ḥq hieroglyph (S38) in place of uniliteral ḥ (V28). The alternative form ḥqtyt adds an explicit feminine ending, used alongside the “egg” determinative (H8) to emphasize the deity’s femininity.

Heqet was originally the female counterpart of Khnum, or the wife of Khnum by whom she became the mother of Her-ur. It has been proposed that her name is the origin of the name of Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft. The Middle Egyptian pronunciation of the name may have been close to /ħaˈqaːtat/, which has been proposed (among other possibilities) as the origin of the name of Greek Hecate.

In the Osiris myth, it was Heqet who breathed life into the new body of Horus at birth, as she was a goddess of the last moments of birth. As the birth of Horus became more intimately associated with the resurrection of Osiris, so Heqet’s role became one more closely associated with resurrection. Eventually, this association led to her amulets gaining the phrase I am the resurrection in the Christian era along with cross and lamb symbolism.

As a fertility goddess, associated explicitly with the last stages of the flooding of the Nile, and so with the germination of corn, she became associated with the final stages of childbirth. This association, which appears to have arisen during the Middle Kingdom, gained her the title She who hastens the birth (cf. the role of Heqet in the story of The Birth of the Royal Children from the Westcar Papyrus).

Even though no ancient Egyptian term for “midwife” is known for certain—midwives often called themselves the Servants of Heqet. Women often wore amulets of her during childbirth, which depicted Heqet as a frog, sitting in a lotus.

The ancient Egyptian Egg hieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed no. H8, is a portrayal of an oval-shaped egg, tilted at an angle, within the Gardiner signs for parts of birds. It is an Egyptian language hieroglyph determinative used for the Egyptian word swht, “egg”. It is also used for the names of goddesses. Goddess Isis uses the egg in her hieroglyphic block.

Ninhursag

Ninḫursaĝ, also known as Damgalnuna (great wife of the prince) or Damkina (true wife), the consort of the god Enki, was the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer.

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

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

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

The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor (Ancient Egyptian: ḥwt-ḥr “House of Horus”, Greek: Hathōr), and may represent a stylized womb. The symbol appears on very early imagery from Ancient Egypt. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.

She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”), Nintu (“Lady of Birth”), Mamma or Mami (mother), Aruru, and Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian). The mother goddess had many epithets including shassuru or ‘womb goddess’, tabsut ili ‘midwife of the gods’, ‘mother of all children’ and ‘mother of the gods’. In this role she is identified with Ki in the Enuma Elish. She had shrines in both Eridu and Kish.

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

As Nintu legends states she pinched off fourteen pieces of primordial clay which she formed into womb deities, seven on the left and seven on the right with a brick between them, who produced the first seven pairs of human embryos.

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

In the legend of Enki and Ninhursag, Ninhursag bore a daughter to Enki called Ninsar (“Lady Greenery”). Through Enki, Ninsar bore a daughter Ninkurra (“Lady of the Pasture”). Ninkurra, in turn, bore Enki a daughter named Uttu.

Enki then pursued Uttu, who was upset because he didn’t care for her. Uttu, on her ancestress Ninhursag’s advice buried Enki’s seed in the earth, whereupon eight plants (the very first) sprung up.

Enki, seeing the plants, ate them, and became ill in eight organs of his body. Ninhursag cured him, taking the plants into her body and giving birth to eight deities: Abu, Nintulla (Nintul), Ninsutu, Ninkasi, Nanshe, Azimua, Ninti, and Enshag (Enshagag).

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

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

The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records. Ma was a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele.

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

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

Hursag

According to legend, her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple.

Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG, a Sumerian term variously translated as meaning “mountain”, “hill”, “foothills” or “piedmont”. Thorkild Jacobsen extrapolated the translation in his later career to mean literally, “head of the valleys”. 

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

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

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

Hathor 

Hathor  was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion who took many forms and appeared in a wide variety of roles. The Egyptologist Robyn Gillam suggests that these diverse forms emerged when the royal goddess promoted by the Old Kingdom court subsumed many local goddesses worshipped by the general populace, who were then treated as manifestations of her.

Egyptian texts often speak of the manifestations of the goddess as “Seven Hathors” or, less commonly, of many more Hathors—as many as 362. For these reasons, Gillam calls her “a type of deity rather than a single entity”. Hathor’s diversity reflects the diversity of traits that the Egyptians associated with goddesses. More than any other deity, she exemplifies the Egyptian perception of femininity.

She was considered the mother of various child deities. As suggested by her name, she was often thought of as both Horus’s mother and consort. As both the king’s wife and his heir’s mother, Hathor was the mythic counterpart of human queens. Hathor also crossed boundaries between worlds, helping deceased souls in the transition to the afterlife.

Isis and Osiris were considered Horus’s parents in the Osiris myth as far back as the late Old Kingdom, but the relationship between Horus and Hathor may be older still. If so, Horus only came to be linked with Isis and Osiris as the Osiris myth emerged during the Old Kingdom. Even after Isis was firmly established as Horus’s mother, Hathor continued to appear in this role, especially when nursing the pharaoh.

Images of the Hathor-cow with a child in a papyrus thicket represented her mythological upbringing in a secluded marsh. Goddesses’ milk was a sign of divinity and royal status. Thus, images in which Hathor nurses the pharaoh represent his right to rule.

Hathor’s relationship with Horus gave a healing aspect to her character, as she was said to have restored Horus’s missing eye or eyes after Set attacked him. In the version of this episode in “The Contendings of Horus and Set”, Hathor finds Horus with his eyes torn out and heals the wounds with gazelle’s milk.

Beginning in the Late Period (664–323 BC), temples focused on the worship of a divine family: an adult male deity, his wife, and their immature son. Hathor was the mother in many of these local triads of gods. Satellite buildings, known as mammisis, were built in celebration of the birth of the local child deity. The child god represented the cyclical renewal of the cosmos and an archetypal heir to the kingship.

In the Fourth Dynasty, Hathor rose rapidly to prominence. She supplanted an early crocodile god who was worshipped at Dendera in Upper Egypt to become Dendera’s patron deity, and she increasingly absorbed the cult of Bat in the neighboring region of Hu, so that in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC) the two deities fused into one.

The theology surrounding the pharaoh in the Old Kingdom, unlike that of earlier times, focused heavily on the sun god Ra as king of the gods and father and patron of the earthly king. Hathor ascended with Ra and became his mythological wife, and thus divine mother of the pharaoh.

At Dendera, the mature Horus of Edfu was the father and Hathor the mother, while their child was Ihy, a god whose name meant “sistrum-player” and who personified the jubilation associated with the instrument. At Kom Ombo, Hathor’s local form, Tasenetnofret, was mother to Horus’s son Panebtawy. Other children of Hathor included a minor deity from the town of Hu, named Neferhotep, and several child forms of Horus.

The version from Hathor’s temple at Dendera emphasizes that she, as a female solar deity, was the first being to emerge from the primordial waters that preceded creation, and her life-giving light and milk nourished all living things.

Hathor’s maternal aspects can be compared with those of Isis and Mut, yet there are many contrasts between them. Isis’s devotion to her husband and care for their child represented a more socially acceptable form of love than Hathor’s uninhibited sexuality, and Mut’s character was more authoritative than sexual. The text of the first century AD Papyrus Insinger likens a faithful wife, the mistress of a household, to Mut, while comparing Hathor to a strange woman who tempts a married man.

Her beneficent side represented music, dance, joy, love, sexuality and maternal care, and she acted as the consort of several male deities and the mother of their sons. These two aspects of the goddess exemplified the Egyptian conception of femininity.

The Ka (soul)

In Ancient Egyptian mythology, Meskhenet, (also spelt Mesenet, Meskhent, and Meshkent) was the goddess of childbirth, and the creator of each child’s Ka, a part of their soul, which she breathed into them at the moment of birth. She was worshipped from the earliest of times by Egyptians.

In ancient Egypt, women delivered babies while squatting on a pair of bricks, known as birth bricks, and Meskhenet was the goddess associated with this form of delivery. Consequently, in art, she was sometimes depicted as a brick with a woman’s head, wearing a cow’s uterus upon it. At other times she was depicted as a woman with a symbolic cow’s uterus on her headdress

Since she was responsible for creating the Ka, she was associated with fate. Thus later she was sometimes said to be paired with Shai, who became a god of destiny after the deity evolved out of an abstract concept.

Meskhenet features prominently in the last of the folktales in the Westcar Papyrus. The story tells of the birth of Userkaf, Sahure, and Neferirkare Kakai, the first three kings of the Fifth Dynasty, who in the story are said to be triplets. Just after each child is born, Meskhenet appears and prophesies that he will become king of Egypt.

Like Meskhenet, Hathor was connected with shai, the Egyptian concept of fate, particularly when she took the form of the Seven Hathors. In two New Kingdom works of fiction, “The Tale of Two Brothers” and “The Tale of the Doomed Prince”, the Hathors appear at the births of major characters and foretell the manner of their deaths.

Cow goddess

Hathor was often depicted as a cow, symbolizing her maternal and celestial aspect, although her most common form was a woman wearing a headdress of cow horns and a sun disk. She could also be represented as a lioness, cobra, or sycamore tree.

Images of cattle appear frequently in the artwork of Predynastic Egypt (before c. 3100 BC), as do images of women with upraised, curved arms reminiscent of the shape of bovine horns.

Both types of imagery may represent goddesses connected with cattle. Cows are venerated in many cultures, including ancient Egypt, as symbols of motherhood and nourishment, because they care for their calves and supply humans with milk.

The Gerzeh Palette, a stone palette from the Naqada II period of prehistory (c. 3500–3200 BC), shows the silhouette of a cow’s head with inward-curving horns surrounded by stars. The palette suggests that this cow was also linked with the sky, as were several goddesses from later times who were represented in this form: Hathor, Mehet-Weret, and Nut.

Despite these early precedents, Hathor is not unambiguously mentioned or depicted until the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2613–2494 BC) of the Old Kingdom, although several artifacts that refer to her may date to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC).

When Hathor does clearly appear, her horns curve outward, rather than inward like those in Predynastic art. A bovine deity with inward-curving horns appears on the Narmer Palette from near the start of Egyptian history, both atop the palette and on the belt or apron of the king, Narmer.

The Egyptologist Henry George Fischer suggested this deity may be Bat, a goddess who was later depicted with a woman’s face and inward-curling antennae, seemingly reflecting the curve of the cow horns.

The Egyptologist Lana Troy, however, identifies a passage in the Pyramid Texts from the late Old Kingdom that connects Hathor with the “apron” of the king, reminiscent of the goddess on Narmer’s garments, and suggests the goddess on the Narmer Palette is Hathor rather than Bat.

The milky sap of the sycamore tree, which the Egyptians regarded as a symbol of life, became one of her symbols. The milk was equated with water of the Nile inundation and thus fertility. In the late Ptolemaic and Roman Periods, many temples contained a creation myth that adapted long-standing ideas about creation.

Mistress of the sky

As a sky deity, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, and thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs.

Hathor was given the epithets “mistress of the sky” and “mistress of the stars”, and was said to dwell in the sky with Ra and other sun deities. Egyptians thought of the sky as a body of water through which the sun god sailed, and they connected it with the waters from which, according to their creation myths, the sun emerged at the beginning of time.

This cosmic mother goddess was often represented as a cow. Hathor and Mehet-Weret were both thought of as the cow who birthed the sun god and placed him between her horns. Like Nut, Hathor was said to give birth to the sun god each dawn.

Hathor’s Egyptian name was ḥwt-ḥrw or ḥwt-ḥr. It is typically translated “house of Horus” but can also be rendered as “my house is the sky”. The falcon god Horus represented, among other things, the sun and sky. The “house” referred to may be the sky in which Horus lives, or the goddess’s womb from which he, as a sun god, is born each day.

Eye of Ra

Hathor was a solar deity, a feminine counterpart to sun gods such as Horus and Ra, and was a member of the divine entourage that accompanied Ra as he sailed through the sky in his barque. She was commonly called the “Golden One”, referring to the radiance of the sun, and texts from her temple at Dendera say “her rays illuminate the whole earth.”

She was sometimes fused with another goddess, Nebethetepet, whose name can mean “Lady of the Offering”, “Lady of Contentment”, or “Lady of the Vulva”. At Ra’s cult center of Heliopolis, Hathor-Nebethetepet was worshipped as his consort, and the Egyptologist Rudolf Anthes argued that Hathor’s name referred to a mythical “house of Horus” at Heliopolis that was connected with the ideology of kingship.

She was one of several goddesses to take the role of the Eye of Ra, Ra’s feminine counterpart, a feminine personification of the disk of the sun and an extension of Ra’s own power, and in this form she had a vengeful aspect that protected him from his enemies.

The Eye of Ra protected the sun god from his enemies and was often represented as a uraeus, or rearing cobra, or as a lioness. A form of the Eye of Ra known as “Hathor of the Four Faces”, represented by a set of four cobras, was said to face in each of the cardinal directions to watch for threats to the sun god.

Ra was sometimes portrayed inside the disk, which Troy interprets as meaning that the Eye goddess was thought of as a womb from which the sun god was born. Hathor’s seemingly contradictory roles as mother, wife, and daughter of Ra reflected the daily cycle of the sun.

At sunset the god entered the body of the goddess, impregnating her and fathering the deities born from her womb at sunrise: himself and the Eye goddess, who would later give birth to him. Ra gave rise to his daughter, the Eye goddess, who in turn gave rise to him, her son, in a cycle of constant regeneration

The Mistress of Animals

The Mistress of Animals is a widespread motif in ancient art from the Mediterranean world and the Ancient Near East, showing a central human, or human-like, female figure who grasps two animals, one to each side.

The oldest such depiction, the Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük is a clay sculpture from Çatalhöyük in modern Turkey, made c 6,000 BC. This motif is more common in later Near Eastern and Mesopotamian art with a male figure, called the Master of Animals.

Although the connections between images and concepts in the various ancient cultures concerned remain very unclear, such images are often referred to as of Potnia Theron (“Mistress of Animals”), a term first used once by Homer (Iliad 21. 470) 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. Homer’s mention of potnia theron is thought to refer to Artemis, in the ancient Greek religion and myth the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity. Walter Burkert describes this mention as “a well established formula”.

An Artemis type deity, a ‘Mistress of the Animals’, is often assumed to have existed in prehistorical religion and often referred to as Potnia Theron, with some scholars positing a relationship between Artemis and goddesses depicted in Minoan art and Potnia Theron has become a generic term for any female associated with animals.”

Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo, the Greek god shown as “Master of Animals”. She was the patron and protector of young girls, and was believed to bring disease upon women and relieve them of it.

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities and her temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. She was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery along with Eileithyia. Much like Athena and Hestia, Artemis preferred to remain a maiden and is sworn never to marry.

Her symbols included a bow and arrow, a quiver and hunting knives and the deer and the cypress were sacred to her. The goddess Diana is her Roman equivalent worshipped on the Aventine Hill near Lake Nemi and in Campania.

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