The Snake is a universal symbol of immortality and creativity in myth through out the ages and in virtually all lands inhabited by humans. Many snakes shed their skin at various times, revealing a shiny new skin underneath. Thus snakes have become symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. Traveling west around the world we find images representing the power of the Snake. The snake symbolizes everything from the Devil to the highest order of angels.
“The alchemical process of kindling and elevating it is accomplished in the spinal cord where the SALT, SULPHUR, MERCURY and AZOTH are found. It is raised to incandescence by high and noble thought, by meditation upon spiritual subjects, and by altruism expressed in the daily life. The second half of the creative energy thus drawn upward through the spinal canal is a SPINAL SPIRIT-FIRE, the serpent of wisdom. Gradually it is raised higher and higher and when it reaches the pituitary body and the pineal gland in the brain, it sets them to vibrating, opening up the spiritual worlds and enabling man to commune with the gods. Then this fire radiates in all directions and permeates the whole body and its auric atmosphere, and man has become a LIVING STONE, whose luster surpasses that of the diamond or the ruby. HE IS THEN THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE.”
“The Basics of Kabbalah and the Tree of Life”
“On penetrating into the sanctuary of the Kabalah one is seized with admiration in the presence of a doctrine so logical, so simple and at the same time so absolute. The essential union of ideas and signs; the consecration of the most fundamental realities by primitive characters; the trinity of words, letters and numbers; a philosophy simple as the alphabet, profound and infinite as the Word; theorems more complete and luminous than those of Pythagoras; a theology which may be summed up on the fingers; an infinite which can be held in the hollow of an infant’s hand; ten figures and twenty-two letters, a triangle, a square and a circle: such are the elements of the Kabalah. Such also are the component principles of the written Word, reflection of that spoken Word which created the world! All truly dogmatic religions have issued from the Kabalah and return therein.”
“Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie”
(Part I: The Doctrine of Transcendental Magic, Introduction, Rowe pg. 11-12)
The Kabbalah, hermeticism, makalesi, tarot meanings and the tree of life
Running through this universe from bottom to top, holding it all together and linking the three worlds of heaven, earth, and underworld, was a great ash tree called Yggdrasill. Its branches spread over the heavens, and its roots stretched into all three worlds. Springs rose from these roots. One, the Well of Urd, was guarded by the Norns, the three goddesses of fate. A serpent or dragon named Nidhogg gnawed endlessly at the Yggdrasill’s roots, and an eagle perched on its topmost branch. Goats, deer, and other animals ate the tree’s shoots and lived in it, and a squirrel named Ratatosk ran up and down its trunk, carrying messages and insults between the eagle and Nidhogg.
Inanna and the huluppu tree
Since Inanna embodies the traits of independence, self-determination, and strength in an otherwise patriarchal Sumerian pantheon, she has become the subject of feminist theory.
Indeed, in one analysis of “Inanna and the huluppu tree”, the author points out how she was implicitly “tamed and controlled”, even “demoted”, implying her prior importance as a female role model. Another modern work explores the idea that Inanna was once regarded in parts of Sumer as the mother of all humanity.
Ancient cuneiform texts consisting of “Hymns to Inanna” have been cited as early examples of the archetype of a powerful, sexual female displaying dominating behaviors and forcing Gods and men into submission to her.
Archaeologist and historian Anne O Nomis notes that Inanna’s rituals included cross-dressing of cult personnel, and rituals “imbued with pain and ecstasy, bringing about initiation and journeys of altered consciousness; punishment, moaning, ecstasy, lament and song, participants exhausting themselves with weeping and grief.”
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 BC. “Tablet XII” is not part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, but is a later Assyrian Akkadian translation of the latter part of the Sumerian poem of Bilgames and the Netherworld. The ki-sikil-lil-la-ke is associated with a serpent and a zu bird.
Anzû, before misread as Zû (Sumerian: AN.ZUD2, AN.ZUD, AN.IM.DUGUD.MUŠEN; cuneiform: an.zud.mušen), also known as Imdugud, is a lesser divinity or monster in several Mesopotamian religions. He was conceived by the pure waters of the Apsu and the wide Earth, or as son of the bird goddess Siris. Both Anzû and Siris are seen as massive birds who can breathe fire and water, although Anzû is alternately seen as a lion-headed eagle (like a reverse griffin).
Anzû was a servant of the chief sky god Enlil, guard of the throne in Enlil’s sanctuary, (possibly previously a symbol of Anu), from whom Anzû stole the Tablet of Destinies, so hoping to determine the fate of all things.
In one version of the legend the gods sent Lugalbanda to retrieve the tablets, and Lugalbanda killed Anzû. In another, Ea and Belet-Ili conceived Ninurta for the purpose of retrieving the tablets. In a third legend, found in The Hymn of Ashurbanipal, Marduk is said to have killed Anzû.
In Bilgames and the Netherworld, a huluppu tree (willow) 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.
Bilgames/Gilgamesh is said to have smitten 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 ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith is stated in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1999). According to a new source from Late Antiquity the Lilith(s) appear(s) in a Mandaic magic story where she (they) is (are) considered to represent the branch(es) of a tree with other demonic figures that form other parts of the tree.
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.
The old Old Norse word Hel derives from Proto-Germanic *haljō, which means “one who covers up or hides something”, which itself derives from Proto-Indo-European *kel-, meaning “conceal”. The cognate in English is the word Hell which is from the Old English forms hel and helle. Related terms are Old Frisian, helle, German Hölle and Gothic halja. Other words more distantly related include hole, hollow, hall, helmet and cell, all from the aforementioned Indo-European root *kel-.
Hel in Norse mythology, originally the name of the world of the dead; Helheim (Hel-Home), it later came to mean the goddess of death. Hel was one of the three “strange children” of the trickster god Loki and the Giantess Angurboda; the other two were Fenris and Jormungand, and her kingdom was said to lie downward and northward. It was called Niflheim, or the World of Darkness, and appears to have been divided into several sections, one of which was Náströnd, the shore of corpses.
Most of us will remember Mother Holle (or Frau Holle in German) from the Grimm’s fairy tales. She is the old woman who lives in a world at the bottom of a well and whose feather beds when shaken make snow fall on Earth. It is said that anyone who enters her realm will be rewarded exactly with what they deserve, be it good or bad. She is described as having ugly big teeth, a big nose and a flat foot. The latter shows her love for weaving or spinning, another sacred act associated with the Goddess: She is the Life Weaver, the Spinner of Destiny and Fate.
The Scandinavian Goddess Hel is probably the most widely known version of Mother Holle as Goddess, although by the time the Indo-European Norse wrote down their religious beliefs, Hel was no longer the benevolent Regeneratrix of the Neolithic. She had become the dreaded Queen of the Dead.
The three Moirai
In Hurrian mythology, the Hutena are goddesses of fate. They are similar to the Norns of Norse mythology or the Moirai of ancient Greece. They are called the Gul Ses (Gul-Shesh; Gulshesh; Gul-ashshesh) in Hittite mythology.
In Greek mythology, the Moirai (“apportioners”, Latinized as Moerae), often known in English as the Fates, were the white-robed incarnations of destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcae, euphemistically the “sparing ones”, the female personifications of destiny, or Fata; also analogous to the Germanic Norns, female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men). Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable).
They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. They were independent, at the helm of necessity, directed fate, and watched that the fate assigned to every being by eternal laws might take its course without obstruction.
The gods and men had to submit to them, although Zeus’s relationship with them is a matter of debate: some sources say he is the only one who can command them (the Zeus Moiragetes), yet others suggest he was also bound to the Moirai’s dictates.
In the Homeric poems Moira or Aisa is related with the limit and end of life and Zeus appears as the guider of destiny. In the Theogony of Hesiod, the three Moirai are personified, and are acting over the gods. Later they are daughters of Zeus and Themis, who was the embodiment of divine order and law. In Plato’s Republic the Three Fates are daughters of Ananke (necessity), the personification of destiny, necessity and fate, depicted as holding a spindle.
In Greek mythology, Ananke, also spelled Anangke, Anance, or Anagke (from the common noun “force, constraint, necessity”), was the personification of destiny, necessity and fate, depicted as holding a spindle. She marks the beginning of the cosmos, along with Chronos.
She was seen as the most powerful dictator of all fate and circumstance which meant that mortals, as well as the Gods, respected her and paid homage. Considered as the mother of the Fates according to one version, she is the only one to have control over their decisions (except, according to some sources, also Zeus).
According to the ancient Greek traveller Pausanias, there was a temple in ancient Corinth where the goddesses Ananke and Bia (meaning violence or violent haste) were worshipped together in the same shrine. Her Roman counterpart was Necessitas (“necessity”).
“Ananke” is derived from the common Ancient Greek noun anankaiē, meaning “force, constraint or necessity.” The common noun itself is of uncertain etymology. Homer uses the word meaning necessity (“It is necessary to fight”) or force (“by force”).
In Ancient Greek literature the word is also used meaning “fate” or “destiny” (“fate by the daemons or by the gods”), and by extension “compulsion or torture by a superior.” The word is often personified in poetry, as Simonides does: “Even the gods don’t fight against ananke“. In the philosophical sense it means “necessity,” “logical necessity,” or “laws of nature.”
It seems that Moira is related with Tekmor (proof, ordinance) and with Ananke (destiny, necessity), who were primeval goddesses in mythical cosmogonies. The ancient Greek writers might call this power Moira or Ananke, and even the gods could not alter what was ordained.
The concept of a universal principle of natural order has been compared to similar concepts in other cultures like the Vedic Rta (“that which is properly joined; order, rule; truth”, the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it), the Avestan Asha/Arta (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta), the Avestan language term for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine, and the Egyptian Maat, the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice.
The earliest surviving records indicating that Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).
Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth and their attributes are the similar. In other accounts, Thoth was paired off with Seshat, goddess of writing and measure, who is a lesser known deity.
After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls (also called the weighing of the heart) that took place in the underworld, Duat. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.
In earliest Greek philosophy, the cosmogony of Anaximander is based on these mythical beliefs. The goddess Dike (justice, divine retribution), the goddess of justice and the spirit of moral order and fair judgement based on immemorial custom, in the sense of socially enforced norms and conventional rules, keeps the order and sets a limit to any actions.
According to Hesiod, she was fathered by Zeus upon his second consort, Themis. She and her mother were both personifications of justice. She is depicted as a young slender woman carrying a physical balance scale and wearing a laurel wreath while her Roman counterpart (Justitia) appears in a similar fashion but blind-folded.She is represented in the constellation Libra which is named for the Latin name of her symbol (Scales).
She is often associated with Astraea, the goddess of innocence and purity. Astraea is also one of her epithets referring to her appearance in the nearby constellation Virgo which is said to represent Astraea. This reflects her symbolic association with Astraea, who too has a similar iconography.
Kismet, the predetermined course of events in the Muslim traditions, seems to have a similar etymology and function as Moira: Arabic qisma.t “lot” <qasama, “to divide, allot” developed to mean Fate or destiny. As a loanword, qesmat ‘fate’ appears in Persian, whence in Urdu language, and eventually in English Kismet.
Enyo was a goddess of war and destruction in Greek mythology, the companion and lover of the war god Ares, the Greek god of war. In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent and untamed aspect of war, in contrast to the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and generalship.
His sons Fear (Phobos) and Terror (Deimos) and his lover, or sister, Discord (Enyo) accompanied him on his war chariot. The counterpart of Ares among the Roman gods is Mars, who as a father of the Roman people was given a more important and dignified place in ancient Roman religion as a guardian deity.
She is also identified as his sister, and daughter of Zeus and Hera, in a role closely resembling that of Eris; with Homer in particular representing the two as the same goddess. She is also accredited as the mother of the war god Enyalius, by Ares. However, the name Enyalius or Enyalios can also be used as a title for Ares himself.
As goddess of war, Enyo is responsible for orchestrating the destruction of cities, often accompanying Ares into battle, and depicted “as supreme in war”. During the fall of Troy, Enyo inflicted terror and bloodshed in the war, along with Eris (“Strife”), and Phobos (“Fear”) and Deimos (“Dread”), the two sons of Ares. She, Eris, and the two sons of Ares are depicted on Achilles’s shield.
The Romans identified Enyo with Bellona, and she also has similarities with the Anatolian goddess Ma, a local goddess at Ma or Comana and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele. Enyo was also the name of one of the Graeae, three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth among them, along with Deino (“Dread”) and Pemphredo (“Alarm”).
Loki the trickster
“Tricksters preside over moments of passage, rupture and transformation.”
Dr. R. S. Tannen
In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behavior.
It is suggested by Hansen (2001) that the term “Trickster” was probably first used in this context by Daniel G. Brinton in 1885.
The trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously (for example, Loki, a god or jötunn (or both) in Norse mythology) but usually with ultimately positive effects (though the trickster’s initial intentions may have been either positive or negative).
Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks (e.g. Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, strife and discord) or thievery. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks.
An example of this is the sacred Iktomi, a spider-trickster spirit, and a culture hero for the Lakota people, whose role is to play tricks and games and by doing so raises awareness and acts as an equalizer.
In several cultures, (as may be seen in Greek, Norse, or Slavic folktales, along with Native American/First Nations lore), the trickster and the culture hero are often combined.
To illustrate: Prometheus, in Greek mythology, stole fire from the gods to give to humans. He is more of a culture hero than a trickster. In many Native American and First Nations mythologies, the coyote (Southwestern United States) or raven (Pacific Northwest and Russian Far East) stole fire from the gods (stars, moon, and/or sun) and are more tricksters than culture heroes. This is primarily because of other stories involving these spirits: Prometheus was a titan, whereas the Coyote spirit and Raven spirit are usually seen as jokesters and pranksters.
Frequently the Trickster figure exhibits gender and form variability, changing gender roles and even occasionally engaging in same-sex practices. Such figures appear in Native American and First Nations mythologies, where they are said to have a two-spirit nature.
Loki, the Norse trickster, also exhibits gender variability, in one case even becoming pregnant. He shares the ability to change genders with Odin, the chief Norse deity who also possesses many characteristics of the Trickster.
In the case of Loki’s pregnancy, he was forced by the Gods to stop a giant from erecting a wall for them before seven days passed; he solved the problem by transforming into a mare and drawing the giant’s magical horse away from its work. He returned some time later with a child he had given birth to—the eight-legged horse Sleipnir, who served as Odin’s steed.
In some cultures, there are dualistic myths, featuring two demiurges creating the world, or two culture heroes arranging the world — in a complementary manner.
Dualistic cosmologies are present in all inhabited continents and show great diversity: they may feature culture heroes, but also demiurges (exemplifying a dualistic creation myth in the latter case), or other beings; the two heroes may compete or collaborate; they may be conceived as neutral or contrasted as good versus evil; be of the same importance or distinguished as powerful versus weak; be brothers (even twins) or not be relatives at all.
Psychopomps (from the Greek word psuchopompos, literally meaning the “guide of souls”) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife.
Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply to provide safe passage. Frequently depicted on funerary art, psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, whip-poor-wills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos, and harts. Classical examples of a psychopomp in Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology are Charon, Hermes, Mercury and Anubis.
In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal.
In many cultures, the shaman also fulfills the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn child’s soul to the world. This also accounts for the contemporary title of “midwife to the dying”, or “End of Life Doula” which is another form of psychopomp work.
The spirits of ancestors and other dead loved ones function as psychopomps in Filipino culture. When the moribund call out the names of dead relations, the spirits of those named are said to be visible to the dying person. These spirits are believed to be waiting at the foot of the deathbed, ready to fetch (Tagalog: sundô) the soul of the newly-deceased and escort them into the afterlife.
Examples of Tricksters
Examples of Tricksters in the world mythologies are given by Hansen (2001), who lists Mercurius in Roman mythology, Hermes, an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, Eshu in Yoruba mythology and Wakdjunga in Winnebago mythology as examples of the Trickster archetype. Hansen makes the observation that the Trickster is nearly always a male figure.
Hermes is second youngest of the Olympian gods. He is a god of transitions and boundaries. He is quick and cunning, and moves freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, as emissary and messenger of the gods, intercessor between mortals and the divine, and conductor of souls into the afterlife. He is protector and patron of travelers, herdsmen, thieves, orators and wit, literature and poets, athletics and sports, invention and trade.
In some myths he is a trickster, and outwits other gods for his own satisfaction or the sake of humankind. His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster and the tortoise, purse or pouch, winged sandals, winged cap, and his main symbol is the herald’s staff, the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus which consisted of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff.
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.
Hermes Trismegistus may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. Both Thoth and Hermes were gods of writing and of magic in their respective cultures. Thus, the Greek god of interpretive communication was combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom as a patron of astrology and alchemy. In addition, both gods were psychopomps, guiding souls to the afterlife.
In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognised the congruence of their god Hermes with Thoth. Subsequently the two gods were worshipped as one in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis.
The Egyptian Priest and Polymath Imhotep had been deified long after his death and therefore assimilated to Thoth in the classical and Hellenistic period. The renowned scribe Amenhotep and a wise man named Teôs were equally deified as gods of wisdom, science and medicine and thus placed alongside Imhotep in shrines dedicated to Thoth-Hermes during the Ptolemaic period.
Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-greatest Hermes”; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus) is the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism.
The Hermetica is a category of papyri containing spells and initiatory induction procedures. The Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetica, writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which survive.
In the dialogue called the Asclepius (after the Greek god of healing) the art of imprisoning the souls of demons or of angels in statues with the help of herbs, gems and odors, is described, such that the statue could speak and engage in prophecy.
In other papyri, there are recipes for constructing such images and animating them, such as when images are to be fashioned hollow so as to enclose a magic name inscribed on gold leaf.
During the Renaissance it was accepted that Hermes Trismegistus was a contemporary of Moses, however after Casaubon’s dating of the Hermetic writings as no earlier than the second or third century CE, the whole of Renaissance Hermeticism collapsed.
Thoth was in art often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at. His chief temple was located in the city of Khmun, later called Hermopolis Magna during the Greco-Roman era (in reference to him through the Greeks’ interpretation that he was the same as their god Hermes) and Shmounein in the Coptic rendering.
In that city, he led the Ogdoad pantheon of eight principal deities. In the Ogdoad cosmogony, Thoth gave birth to Ra, Atum, Nefertum, and Khepri by laying an egg while in the form of an ibis, or later as a goose laying a golden egg.
He also had numerous shrines within the cities of Abydos, Hesert, Urit, Per-Ab, Rekhui, Ta-ur, Sep, Hat, Pselket, Talmsis, Antcha-Mutet, Bah, Amen-heri-ab, and Ta-kens.
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 boat.
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 a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (i.e. hieroglyphs) themselves.
In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, A’an, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased’s heart against the feather, representing the principle of Ma’at, 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 said to direct the motions of the heavenly bodies. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them. Without his words, the Egyptians believed, the gods would not exist. His power was unlimited in the Underworld and rivaled that of Ra and Osiris. Compare this to how his feminine counterpart, Ma’at was the force which maintained the Universe.
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, land 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.
It is also considered that Thoth was a record keeper and the scribe of the gods rather than a divine messenger. In the Papyrus of Ani, a papyrus manuscript with cursive hieroglyphs and color illustrations created circa 1250 BCE, in the 19th dynasty of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead the scribe proclaims:
“I am thy writing palette, O Thoth, and I have brought unto thee thine ink-jar. I am not of those who work iniquity in their secret places; let not evil happen unto me.”
Chapter XXXb (Budge) of the Book of the Dead is by the oldest tradition said to be the work of Thoth himself.
Egyptians compiled an individualized book for certain people upon their death, called the Book of Going Forth by Day, more commonly known as the Book of the Dead, typically containing declarations and spells to help the deceased in their afterlife. The Papyrus of Ani is the manuscript compiled for the Theban scribe Ani.
Anubis was the Greek name of a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion. Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts.
Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer, the art and science of preserving human remains by treating them (in its modern form with chemicals) to forestall decomposition. By the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 – 1650 BC), Anubis was replaced by Osiris in his role as Lord of the underworld.
One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart,” in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead.
Despite being one of the most ancient and “one of the most frequently depicted and mentioned gods” in the Egyptian pantheon, however, Anubis played almost no role in Egyptian myths.
In the Ptolemaic period (350–30 BC), when Egypt became a Hellenistic kingdom ruled by Greek pharaohs, Anubis, because of their similar responsibilities as conductors of souls, merged with the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis.
Anpu (or Hermanubis) was viewed as the messenger of the gods, as he travelled in and out of the Underworld and presented himself to the gods and to humans. He was a god who combined Hermes (Greek mythology) with Anubis. He is the son of Set and Nephthys.
He was popular during the period of Roman domination over Egypt. Depicted as having a human body and jackal head, with the sacred caduceus that belonged to the Greek god Hermes, he represented the Egyptian priesthood, engaged in the investigation of truth.
The divine name is known from a handful of epigraphic and literary sources, mostly of the Roman period. Plutarch cites the name as a designation of Anubis in his underworldly aspect, while Porphyry refers to Hermanubis as a “composite” and “half-Greek”.
Although it was not common in traditional Greek religion to combine the names of two gods in this manner, the double determination of Hermanubis has some formal parallels in the earlier period.
The most obvious is the god Hermaphroditus, attested from the fourth century BC onwards, but his name implies the paradoxical union of two different gods (Hermes and Aphrodite) rather than an assimilation in the manner of Hermanubis.
Mercury, considered the son of Maia and Jupiter in Roman mythology, is a major Roman god, being one of the Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the patron god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages/communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he is also the guide of souls to the underworld.
From the beginning, Mercury had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, wearing winged shoes (talaria) and a winged hat (petasos), and carrying the caduceus, a herald’s staff with two entwined snakes that was Apollo’s gift to Hermes. He was often accompanied by a cockerel, herald of the new day, a ram or goat, symbolizing fertility, and a tortoise, referring to Mercury’s legendary invention of the lyre from a tortoise shell.
Like Hermes, he was also a god of messages, eloquence and of trade, particularly of the grain trade. Mercury was also considered a god of abundance and commercial success, particularly in Gaul, where he was said to have been particularly revered.
He was also, like Hermes, the Romans’ psychopomp, leading newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Additionally, Ovid wrote that Mercury carried Morpheus’ dreams from the valley of Somnus to sleeping humans.
Archeological evidence from Pompeii suggests that Mercury was among the most popular of Roman gods. The god of commerce was depicted on two early bronze coins of the Roman Republic, the Sextans and the Semuncia.
His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx (“merchandise”; compare merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for “boundary, border” (cf. Old English “mearc”, Old Norse “mark” and Latin “margō”) and Greek οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), as the “keeper of boundaries,” referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds.
In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms, both of which share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Mercury reminds Aeneas of his mission to found the city of Rome.
In Ovid’s Fasti, Mercury is assigned to escort the nymph Larunda to the underworld. Mercury, however, fell in love with Larunda and made love to her on the way. Larunda thereby became mother to two children, referred to as the Lares, invisible household gods.
Mercury has influenced the name of many things in a variety of scientific fields, such as the planet Mercury, and the element mercury. The word mercurial is commonly used to refer to something or someone erratic, volatile or unstable, derived from Mercury’s swift flights from place to place. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand.
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.
In Celtic areas, Mercury was sometimes portrayed with three heads or faces, and at Tongeren, Belgium, a statuette of Mercury with three phalli was found, with the extra two protruding from his head and replacing his nose; this was probably because the number 3 was considered magical, making such statues good luck and fertility charms. The Romans also made widespread use of small statues of Mercury, probably drawing from the ancient Greek tradition of hermae markers.
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.
Julius Caesar (de bello Gallico, 6.17.1) mentions Mercury as the chief god of Celtic religion. However, most of our sources concerning Celtic Lugus are Insular Celtic, while sources discussing Gaulish Lugus are rare, although his importance is manifest from the numerous toponyms containing the name (Lugdunum etc.).
Lucanus mentions three Celtic gods: Teutates, Esus, and Taranis. Teutates is identified with Mars or Mercury, and he receives as human sacrifices drowned captives and fallen warriors. Esus is also identified with Mercury but also with Mars, and he accepts as human sacrifices prisoners who are hanged on trees and then dismembered. Taranis is identified with Jupiter, as a warlord and a sky god. Human sacrifices to Taranis are made by burning prisoners in wooden casks. The Celtic priests administering the human sacrifices were the Vates. Lugus is not mentioned by Lucanus at all.
The suggestion of Rübekeil (2003:38), in view of his hypothesis of a Celtic origin of the Germanic god discussed above, is that Lugus refers to the trinity Teutates–Esus–Taranis considered as a single god.
An etymological reflex of Celtic Lugus is possibly found in Loki (a Germanic god described as a “hypostasis of Odin” by Folke Ström). A likely context of the diffusion of elements of Celtic ritual into Germanic culture are tribes such as the Chatti, who lived at the Celtic-Germanic boundary in Hesse during the final centuries BC. (The Chatti are traditionally considered a Germanic tribe, but many of their leaders and their settlements had Celtic names.)
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. Parallels between Odin and Lugus have often been pointed out: both are intellectual gods commanding magic and poetry, and both have ravens and a spear as their attributes.
Less is known about the role of Wodan as receiver of the dead among the more southern Germanic tribes. The Roman historian Tacitus probably refers to Odin when he talks of Mercury. The reason is that, like Mercury, Odin was regarded as Psychopompos, “the leader of souls”.
Wōđanaz or Wōđinaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of a god of Germanic paganism, known as Óðinn in Norse mythology, Wōden in Old English, Wuotan, Wotan or Wodan in Old High German and Guodan or Godan in Lombardic. The name may be written with an asterisk in front, to indicate that the form is not directly attested, but reconstructed.
Wōdanaz is associated with poetic or mantic qualities, his name being connected with the concept of *wōðuz, “furor poeticus” (poetic fury), and is thus the god of poets and seers. He is a shapechanger and healer, and thus a god of magicians and leeches. He is associated with the Wild Hunt of dead, and thus a death deity. He is also a god of war and bringer of victory.
Odin was a compulsive seeker of wisdom, consumed by his passion for knowledge, to the extent that he sacrificed one of his eyes to Mímir (Old Norse “The rememberer, the wise one”), a figure in Norse mythology renowned for his knowledge and wisdom who is beheaded during the Æsir-Vanir War, in exchange for a drink from the waters of wisdom in Mímir’s well. Afterward, the god Odin carries around Mímir’s head and it recites secret knowledge and counsel to him.
The name Wednesday continues Middle English Wednesdei. Old English still had wōdnesdæg, which would be continued as *Wodnesday (but Old Frisian has an attested wednesdei). By the early 13th century, the i-mutated form was introduced unetymologically.
The name is a calque of the Latin dies Mercurii “day of Mercury”, reflecting the fact that the Germanic god Woden (Wodanaz or Odin) during the Roman era was interpreted as “Germanic Mercury”.
The Latin name dates to the late 2nd or early 3rd century. It is a calque of Greek ἡμέρα Ἕρμου heméra Hérmou, a term first attested, together with the system of naming the seven weekdays after the seven classical planets, in the Anthologiarum by Vettius Valens (ca. AD 170).
In Japanese, the word Wednesday is sui youbi, meaning ‘water day’ and is associated with suisei: Mercury (the planet), literally meaning “water star”. Similarly, in Korean the word Wednesday is su yo il, also meaning water day.
In most of the languages of India, the word for Wednesday is Budhavãra — vãra meaning day and Budh being the planet Mercury.
The Èr people, also known as Èrsh or (in Georgian works) the Hers, are a little-known ancient people inhabiting Northern modern Armenia, and to an extent, small areas of Northeast Turkey, Southern Georgia, and Northwest Azerbaijan.
Most of their history is constructed based on archaeological and linguistic (primarily based on placenames, with some elements) data, compared to historical trends in the region and historical writings, such as the Georgian Chronicles or the Armenian Chronicles, as well as a couple notes made by Strabo.
They were a constituent of the state of Urartu, which either incorporated or conquered them during the 8th century BCE. Their relation to the main Urartians (who were probably ethnically separate from them, judging from place names) is unknown. Linguistically, based on placenames, they are thought to have been a Nakh people.
Nakh peoples are a group of historical and modern ethnic groups speaking (or historically speaking) Nakh languages and sharing certain cultural traits. In modern days, they reside almost completely in the eastern parts of North Caucasus, but historically certain areas of the South Caucasus may have also been Nakh.
The only healthy, living branch of the Nakh languages are now the Vainakh languages (spoken by the Vainakh peoples, namely Chechens, Ingush and Kist), due to the extinction of other peoples. The only non-Vainakh modern Nakh people are the Bats people in Northeast Georgia, but they are largely assimilated and their language is highly endangered.
Although the Vainakh are only a branch of Nakh peoples, due to the present day situation where the only well-known Nakh are Vainakh, the words Vainakh and Nakh are frequently confused. Hence the word Vainakh is frequently, but mistakenly applied to historical non-Vainakh peoples.
Their language was a Nakh language. The Urartian fortress Erebuni was named after them. Buni is a Nakh root, meaning shelter or home, the same root which gave rise to the modern Chechen word bun (pronounced /bʊn/), meaning a cabin, or small house. Hence, Erebuni meant “the home of the Èrs”. It corresponds to modern Yerevan (van is a common Armenian rendering for the root /bun/).
In the Georgian Chronicles, Leonti Mroveli refers to Lake Sevan as “Lake Ereta”. The name of the Arax River is also attributed to the Èrs. It is also called the Yeraskhi. The Armenian name is “Yeraskhadzor” (which Jaimoukha identifies as Èr + khi a Nakh water body suffix + Armenian dzor gorge).
Interestingly, in close proximity to the South is the “Nakhchradzor” gorge, perhaps an old home of the Dzurdzuks. During the time of the kingdom of Urartu, there was a northern region near the Yerashkhadzor gorge and a little northwest of Erebuni called “Eriaki”.
Nothing is really known about the people of Eriaki prior to their conquest or interpretation by Urartu, but the probably had lived separately before that. Urartu was originally situated around the Lake Van, but expanded in all directions, including North, probably eventually incorporating or conquering the Èrs.
The Urartians themselves were probably distantly related to the Èrs, in the very least by language, and probably more than just that. They were part of the same language family, the Northeast Caucasian family, and although they were of different branches, the Nakh branch is thought to be the closest to the Hurro-Urartian branch to which Urartian belongs.
Although all historians agree they were closely related, there is a wide variety of views on the nature of the relationship
According to ethnic Circassian Caucasus specialist Amjad Jaimoukha, at least “It is certain that the Nakh constituted an important component of the Hurrian-Urartian tribes in the Trans-Caucasus and played a role in the development of their influential cultures.”
It has been noted that at many points, Urartu in fact extended through Kakheti into the North Caucasus. Jaimoukha notes in his book: “The kingdom of Urartu, which was made up of several small states, flourished in the ninth and seventh centuries BCE, and extended into the North Caucasus at the peaks of its power.”
But the period of Urartian dominance was not to last in the constant power shifts in the northern Middle East region, and this had a disastrous effect on its inhabitants, as the state’s power hollowed out and collapsed.
As the Urartian state crumbled due to internal rotting and over-extension of territory paired with attacks by nomadic and non-nomadic invaders (including Cimmerians, the state of Assyria, the state of Taos, and the Armens), the Nakh peoples living on its Northern periphery, including the Èrs (and the Dzurdzuks, their neighbors, although they had probably fled earlier, fleeing the advance of the Medes toward the Urmia Lake near around which they lived), worried about their fate if they stayed, one by one packed up and tested fate by trying to flee and settle elsewhere, often in the mountains, where fellow Nakh peoples lived.
Greek historians, such as Strabo, reported the flight of “Gargareans” (root linked to gergara or kin, Chechen, the most prominent modern Nakh language) from Urartu as the state collapsed and “returning” back into the Caucasus Mountains.
Leonti Mroveli also stated that “many Urartians [i.e. inhabitants of Urartu], as their state collapsed, returned to the Transcauscasus, which had mostly now become a Kartlian [i.e. Kartli, the center of the Georgian Iberian state] domain”.
Some authors posit that Nakh nations had a close connection of some sort to the Hurrian and Urartian civilizations in modern day Armenia and Kurdistan, largely due to linguistic similarities (Nakh shares the most roots with known Hurrian and Urartian)- either that the Nakhs were descended from Hurrian tribes, that they were Hurrians who fled north, or that they were closely related and possibly included at points in the state.
The Georgian chronicles of Leonti Mroveli state that the Urartians “returned” to their homeland (i.e. Kakheti) in the Trans-Caucasus, which had become by then “Kartlian domain”, after they were defeated.
Apparently, Xenophon visited Urartu in 401 BCE, and rather than finding Urartians, he only found pockets of Urartians, surrounded by Armenians. These Urartians, as modern scholars infer, were undergoing a process of assimilation to Armenian language and culture.
The Armenian Highland have the earliest signs of agricultural societies and the first man made structure in human history being Gobleki Tepe, also known as Portasar.
The IE homeland could have been on the Pontic steppes, but this is a fairly barren region in comparison to other regions and no signs of historic civilizations like in Armenian Highland, where the earliest agricultural societies developed, and where domestication of animals and invention of metals took place.
However, wherever the IE languages developed, and I find it most plausible to be in the Armenian Highland, the culture (kurgan etc) and haplogroup (r1b) are from the Armenian Highland, and is linked to the Ubaid culture, the Kura Araxes and Maykop cultures. Armenian is a mixed language (Hurro-Urartian), but are mostly similar to Greek and Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan), which is also similar to each other.
What a quincidence if this is not a result of west and east migration from the Armenian Highland, especially when thinking about that the Anatolian languages is counted as the first IE language family and that Tocharian, the next oldest language, seems to have Caucasian haplogroup background. Armenian is in it self seemed to be the third oldest IE language.
The belt consisting of Greek-Armenian-Sanskrit also count as Agriculture cultures, while other IE cultures seems to be more based on Semi-Pastoralism. While the Armenians continued their presence on the Armenian Highland other people crossed the Caucasus and melted together with the haplogroup r1a on the Pontic steppes.
The loans from Iranian languages initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. The distinctness of Armenian was only recognized when Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian loans from the older Armenian vocabulary.
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 and the absence of inherited long vowels. However, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies), the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy) is not necessarily considered evidence of a period of common isolated development.
Soviet linguist Igor Diakonov (1985) noted the presence in Old Armenian of what he calls a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages.
Noting that the Hurro-Urartian 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. 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.
In 1981, Hopper proposed to divide all Indo-European languages into Decem and Taihun groups, according to the pronunciation of the numeral ’10’, by analogy with the Centum-Satem isogloss, which is based on the pronunciation of the numeral ‘100’.
The Armenian, Germanic, Anatolian, and Tocharian subfamilies belong to the Taihun group because the numeral ’10’ begins with a voiceless t there. All other Indo-European languages belong to the Decem group because the numeral 10 begins with a voiced d in them. The question then can be framed as which, if either, of these groups reflects the original state of things, and which is an innovation.
The terms Centum versus Satem are derived from the words for the number “one hundred” in a traditional representative language of each group: Latin centum and Avestan satəm. The centum group includes Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic and Tocharian. The satem languages (which have the sibilant where centum equivalents have the velar) include Baltic, Slavic, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.
The Centum–Satem isogloss is now understood to be a chronological development of Proto-Indo-European. Centumization removed the palatovelars from the language, leaving none to satemize. In addition there is residual evidence of various sorts in satem languages of a former distinction between velar and labiovelar consonants, indicating the earlier centum state. It is therefore clear that centumization was followed by satemization. However the evidence of Anatolian indicates that centum was not the original state of Proto-Indo-European.
The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat, based on the Glottalic theory suggests that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken during the 4th millennium BC in the Armenian Highland. It is an Indo-Hittite model and does not include the Anatolian languages in its scenario.
The phonological peculiarities proposed in the Glottalic theory would be best preserved in the Armenian language and the Germanic languages, the former assuming the role of the dialect which remained in situ, implied to be particularly archaic in spite of its late attestation.
The Proto-Greek language would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek and date to the 17th century BC, closely associating Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (viz., Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).
Armenia, traditionally believed to be one of the possible locations of the Garden of Eden, lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan, translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name of the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya (ha-ià) and the Iranian suffix ‘-stan’ (“land”).
The earliest forms of the word Hayastan, an ethonym the Armenians (Hayer) use to designate their country, come from Hittite sources of the Late Bronze Age, such as the kingdom of Hayasa-Azzi.
The historical enemy of Hayk (the legendary ruler of Armenia), Hayastan, was Bel, or in other words Baal (Akkadian cognate Bēlu). The word “Bel” is named in the Bible at Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 50:2 and 51:44.
The name Armenia was given to the country by the surrounding states, and it is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik’s great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians).
The name Armenian was firstly recorded on an inscription which mentions Armani together with Ibla, from territories conquered by Naram-Sin (2300 BC) identified with an Akkadian colony in the current region of Diyarbekir. To this day the Assyrians still refer to the Armenians by the name Armani.
Another record mentioned by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”. The word is also thought to be related to the Mannaeans and to the biblical Minni.
Because of its strategic location at the intersection of Asia and Europe, Anatolia has been the center of several civilizations since prehistoric times. Neolithic settlements include Portasar (Göbekli Tepe), Nevali Cori, Çayönü, Hacilar, Çatalhöyük and Mersin.
The Armenian Highland shows traces of settlement from the Neolithic era. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 have resulted in the discovery of the world’s earliest known leather shoe (3,500 BC), straw skirt (3,900 BC), and wine-making facility (4,000 BC) at the Areni-1 cave complex.
Signs of Neolithic culture, and the transition from foraging and hunting to agriculture and stockraising, are found from at least the beginning of the 6th millennium BC. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture of the central Transcaucasus region, on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands, is one of the earliest known prehistoric cultures in the area, carbon-dated to roughly 6000 – 4000 BC.
In the 5th millennium BC, the Kura (Mtkvari) basin also became stably populated, and settlements such as those at Tsopi, Aruchlo, and Sadakhlo along the Kura are distinguished by a long lasting cultural tradition, distinctive architecture, and considerable skill in stoneworking.
Most of these sites relate to the flourishing late Neolithic/Eneolithic archaeological complex known as the Shulaveri-Shomu culture. Radiocarbon dating at Shulaveri sites indicates that the earliest settlements there date from the late sixth − early fifth millennium BC.
In the highlands of eastern Anatolia and South Caucasus, the right combination of domesticable animals and sowable grains and legumes made possible the earliest agriculture. In this sense, the region can justly be considered one of the “cradles of civilization”.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture begins after the 8.2 kiloyear event which was a sudden decrease in global temperatures starting ca. 6200 BC and which lasted for about two to four centuries.
In around ca. 6000–4200 B.C the Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes.
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).
Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture and surrounding areas, which is assigned to the period of ca. 4000 – 2200 BC, and had close relation with the middle Bronze Age culture called Trialeti culture (ca. 3000 – 1500 BC). Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.
The entire region is surmised to have been, in the period beginning in the last quarter of the 4th millennium BC, inhabited by people who were possibly ethnically related and of Hurrian (Armenian) stock. The ethnic and cultural unity of these 2,000 years is characterized by some scholars as Chalcolithic or Eneolithic.
The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 and 5500 BCE. 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.
While the period is named after the site of Tell Halaf in north Syria, excavated by Max von Oppenheim between 1911 and 1927, the earliest Halaf period material was excavated by John Garstang in 1908 at the site of Sakce Gözü, then in Syria but now part of Turkey.
Small amounts of Halaf material were also excavated in 1913 by Leonard Woolley at Carchemish, on the Turkish/Syrian border. However, the most important site for the Halaf tradition was the site of Tell Arpachiyah, now located in the suburbs of Mosul, Iraq.
The Halaf period was succeeded by the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (~5500 – 5200 cal. BCE) and then by the Ubaid period (~5200 – 4000 cal. BCE).
The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C.
The Leyla-Tepe culture apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture. The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC) monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.).
The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets. 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.
In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvium although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.
In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.
The Samarran Culture, a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE, was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period. It 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 culture is primarily known for its finely made pottery decorated against dark-fired backgrounds with stylized figures of animals and birds and geometric designs. 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.
From 4,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C., tools and trinkets of copper, bronze and iron were commonly produced in this region and traded in neighboring lands where those metals were less abundant.
In Gilgamesh, the land of Aratta is placed in a geographic space that could be describing the Armenian plateau. Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.
Aratta is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach, and home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk, but is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.
An early Bronze Age culture in the area is the Kura-Araxes culture or Early Transcaucasian culture, assigned to the period of c. 4000 – 2200 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), proceeding westward and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van.
The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.
At some point the culture’s settlements and burial grounds expanded out of lowland river valleys and into highland areas. Although some scholars have suggested that this expansion demonstrates a switch from agriculture to pastoralism, and that it serves as possible proof of a large-scale arrival of Indo-Europeans, facts such as that settlement in the lowlands remained more or less continuous suggest merely that the people of this culture were diversifying their economy to encompass both crop and livestock agriculture.
The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising (especially of cattle and sheep). They grew grain and various orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in its later phases, horses.
In its earliest phase, metal was scant, but it would later display “a precocious metallurgical development which strongly influenced surrounding regions”. They worked copper, arsenic, silver, gold, tin, and bronze.
Their metal goods were widely distributed, recorded in the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets systems in the north, into Syria and Palestine in the south, and west into Anatolia.
Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, 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 for ornamentation. 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.
There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia, as well as Asia Minor. It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region.
They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans. Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found, but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population.
Late in the history of this culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing greatly varying amounts and types of metalwork, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth.
This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.
The Shengavit Settlement is an archaeological site in present day Yerevan, Armenia located on a hill south-east of Lake Yerevan. It was inhabited during a series of settlement phases from approximately 3200 BC cal to 2500 BC cal in the Kura Araxes (Shengavitian) Period of the Early Bronze Age and irregularly re-used in the Middle Bronze Age until 2200 BC cal. Its pottery makes it a type site of the Kura-Araxes or Early Transcaucasian Period and the Shengavitian culture area.
Archaeologists so far have uncovered large cyclopean walls with towers that surrounded the settlement. Within these walls were circular and square multi-dwelling buildings constructed of stone and mud-brick. Inside some of the residential structures were ritual hearths and household pits, while large silos located nearby stored wheat and barley for the residents of the town.
It appears that Shengavit was a societal center for the areas surrounding the town due to its unusual size, evidence of surplus production of grains, and metallurgy, as well as its monumental 4 meter wide stone wall. Four smaller village sites of Moukhannat, Tepe, Khorumbulagh, and Tairov have been identified and were located outside the walls of Shengavit.
During this era, economic stability based on cattle and sheep raising and noticeable cultural development was achieved. The local chieftains appear to have been men of wealth and power. Their burial mounds have yielded finely wrought vessels in gold and silver.
This vast and flourishing culture was in contact with the civilization of Mesopotamia, but went into gradual decline and stagnated c. 2300 BC, being eventually broken up into a number of regional cultures.
At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, there is evidence of considerable economic development and increased commerce among the tribes. In western Georgia, a unique culture known as Colchian developed between 1800 and 700 BC, and in eastern Georgia the kurgan (tumulus) culture of Trialeti named after Trialeti region of Georgia reached its zenith around 1500 BC.
The Trialeti culture is attributed to the first part of the 2nd millennium BC. In the late 3rd millennium BC, settlements of the Kura-Araxes culture began to be replaced by early Trialeti culture sites. The Trialeti culture was a second culture to appear in Georgia, after the Shulaveri-Shomu culture which existed from 6000 to 4000 BC.
The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south, such as probably the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.
The site at Trialeti was originally excavated in 1936–1940 in advance of a hydroelectric scheme, when forty-six barrows were uncovered. A further six barrows were uncovered in 1959–1962.
The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. The elite were interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contained four-wheeled carts.
Also there were many gold objects found in the graves. These gold objects were similar to those found in Iran and Iraq. They also worked tin and arsenic. This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.
In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy.
In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1600–1200 BC).
Between 1500 – 1200 BC, the Hayasa-Azzi existed in the western half of the Armenian Highland, often clashing with the Hittite Empire. Soon after the Hayasa-Azzi much of Armenia was united under a confederation of kingdoms, which Assyrian sources called Nairi (“Land of Rivers” in Assyrian”).
The Armenian Plateau has been called the “epicenter of the Iron Age”, since it appears to be the location of the first appearance of Iron Age metallurgy in the late 2nd millennium BC. In the Early Iron Age, the kingdom of Ararat controlled much of the region.
Then the Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC) successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. The founder of the Urartian Kingdom, Aramé, united all the principalities of the Armenian Highland and gave himself the title “King of Kings”, the traditional title of Urartian Kings. The Urartians established their sovereignty over all of Taron and Vaspurakan. The main rival of Urartu was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
During the reign of Sarduri I (834–828 BC), Urartu had become a strong and organized state, and imposed taxes to neighbouring tribes. Sarduri made Tushpa (modern Van) the capital of Urartu. His son, Ishpuinis, extended the borders of the state by conquering what would later be known as the Tigranocerta area and by reaching Urmia.
Menuas (810–785 BC) extended the Urartian territory up north, by spreading towards the Araratian fields. He left more than 90 inscriptions by using the Mesopotamian cuneiform scriptures in the Urartian language. Argishtis I of Urartu conquered Latakia from the Hittites, and reached Byblos, Phoenicia, and he built the Erebuni Fortress, located in modern-day Yerevan, in 782 BC by using 6600 prisoners of war.
In 714 BC, the Assyrians under Sargon II defeated the Urartian King Rusa I at Lake Urmia and destroyed the holy Urartian temple at Musasir. At the same time, an Indo-European tribe called the Cimmerians attacked Urartu from the northwest region and destroyed the rest of his armies. Under Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC) the boundaries of the Assyrian Empire reached as far as Armenia and the Caucasus Mountains.
The Medes under Cyaxares invaded Assyria later on in 612 BC, and then took over the Urartian capital of Van towards 585 BC, effectively ending the sovereignty of Urartu. According to the Armenian tradition, the Medes helped the Armenians establish the Orontid dynasty.
The Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-`Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.
In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvium although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.
In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period (6100 and 5500 BCE) and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (5500-5200 cal. BCE) and then by the Ubaid period (5200 – 4000 cal. BCE).
The start of the Ubaid period, sometimes called Eridu (5300–4700 BC), a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf.
This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture (5500–4800 BCE), the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period, to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyets.
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.
It appears that this early culture was an amalgam of three distinct cultural influences: peasant farmers, living in wattle and daub or clay brick houses and practicing irrigation agriculture; hunter-fishermen living in woven reed houses and living on floating islands in the marshes (Proto-Sumerians); and Proto-Akkadian nomadic pastoralists, living in black tents.
It is not known whether or not these were the actual Sumerians who are identified with the later Uruk culture (c. 4100–2900 BCE calibrated). However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BCE C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.
It is speculated by some archaeologists that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there. Farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.
Others have suggested a continuity of Sumerians, from the indigenous hunter-fisherfolk traditions, associated with the Arabian bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian littoral. The Sumerians themselves claimed kinship with the people of Dilmun, associated with Bahrein in the Persian Gulf. Professor Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians may have been the people living in the Persian Gulf region before it flooded at the end of the last Ice Age.
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 replacing (after a hiatus) 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.
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.
Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene 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”.
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.
The Ubaid house is a dwelling used by the Ubaid culture of the Neolithic era. The Ubaid house is the predecessor of the Ubaid temple as well as Sumerian domestic and temple architecture. Ubaid culture is characterized by large village settlements, characterized by multi-roomed rectangular mud-brick houses and the appearance of the first temples of public architecture in Mesopotamia.
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 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.
Eridu remained an important religious center when it was gradually surpassed in size by the nearby city of Uruk. The story of the passing of the me (gifts of civilisation) to Inanna, goddess of Uruk and of love and war, by Enki, god of wisdom and chief god of Eridu, may reflect this shift in hegemony.
The Uruk period civilization, exported by Sumerian traders and colonists (like that found at Tell Brak), had an effect on all surrounding peoples, who gradually evolved their own comparable, competing economies and cultures. The cities of Sumer could not maintain remote, long-distance colonies by military force.
By the time of the Uruk period (c. 4100–2900 BCE calibrated), the volume of trade goods transported along the canals and rivers of southern Mesopotamia facilitated the rise of many large, stratified, temple-centered cities (with populations of over 10,000 people) where centralized administrations employed specialized workers.
It is fairly certain that it was during the Uruk period that Sumerian cities began to make use of slave labor captured from the hill country, and there is ample evidence for captured slaves as workers in the earliest texts. Artifacts, and even colonies of this Uruk civilization have been found over a wide area—from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and as far east as Central Iran.
Tell Zeidan is an archaeological site of the Ubaid culture in northern Syria, from about 5500 to 4000 BC. The dig consists of three large mounds on the east bank of the Balikh River, slightly north of its confluence with the Euphrates River, and is located about 5 km (3.1 mi) east of the modern Syrian city of ar-Raqqah (or Raqqa). This site is included within the historical region known as Mesopotamia and the Tigris-Euphrates river system, often called the Cradle of Civilization.
Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. Most importantly, archaeologists believe that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer.
The origins of urban settlements have 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 archiologists 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.
Archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city and could have emerged before the advent of a written language.
Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.
The evidence at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities—including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development—may have begun earlier than was previously believed.
The discovery of a large city is exciting for archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing compares to the discovery of this size. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.
Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak, ancient Nagar, the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period. The site was occupied between the sixth and second millennia BC.
Eridu (Cuneiform: NUN.KI; Sumerian: eridu; Akkadian: irîtu) is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Located 12 km southwest of Ur, Eridu was the southernmost of a conglomeration of Sumerian cities that grew about temples, almost in sight of one another.
Eridu appears to be the earliest settlement in the region, founded ca. 5400 BC, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River. Because of accumulation of silt at the shoreline over the millennia, the remains of Eridu are now some distance from the gulf at Abu Shahrain in Iraq. Excavation has shown that the city was originally founded on a virgin sand-dune site with no previous occupation.
In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was originally the home of Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian water-god Ea, who was considered to have founded the city. His temple was called E-Abzu, as Enki was believed to live in Abzu, an aquifer from which all life was believed to stem.
Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god, who came to share, according to the later cosmology, with Anu and Enlil, the rule of the cosmos. His kingdom was the waters that surrounded the World and lay below it (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).
The urban nucleus of Eridu was Enki’s temple, called House of the Aquifer (Cuneiform: E.ZU.AB; Sumerian: e-abzu; Akkadian: bītu apsû), which in later history was called House of the Waters (Cuneiform: E.LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: e-engur; Akkadian: bītu engurru). The name refers to Enki’s realm. His consort Ninhursaga had a nearby temple at Ubaid.
According to the Sumerian kinglist Eridu was the first city in the World. The opening line reads, “When kingship from heaven was lowered, the kingship was in Eridu.” In Sumerian mythology, it was said to be one of the five cities built before the Deluge occurred.
Eridu, also transliterated as Eridug, could mean “mighty place” or “guidance place”. In the Sumerian king list, Eridu is named as the city of the first kings. 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.
The king list gave particularly long rules to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred, and shows how the center of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country.
Adapa U-an, elsewhere called the first man, was a half-god, half-man culture hero, called by the title Abgallu (ab=water, gal=big, lu=man) of Eridu. He was considered to have brought civilization to the city from Dilmun, and he served Alulim.
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, mentioned above.
Babylonian texts also talk of the creation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight”. 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.
According to Gwendolyn Leick, Eridu was formed at the confluence of three separate ecosystems, supporting three distinct lifestyles that came to an agreement about access to fresh water in a desert environment.
The oldest agrarian settlement seems to have been based upon intensive subsistence irrigation agriculture derived from the Samarra culture to the north, 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 was the nomadic Semitic pastoralists 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 urban settlement was centered on an impressive temple complex built of mudbrick, within a small depression that allowed water to accumulate.
Jacobsen describes that “Eridu was for all practical purposes abandoned after the Ubaid period”, although it had recovered by Early Dynastic II as there was a Massive Early Dynastic II palace (100 m in each direction) partially excavated there.
By c.2050 BC the city had declined; there is little evidence of occupation after that date. Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the site underlie the unfinished Ziggurat of Amar-Sin (c. 2047 – 2039 BC).
The finding of extensive deposits of fishbones associated with the earliest levels also shows a continuity of the Abzu cult associated later with Enki and Ea. This apparent continuity of occupation and religious observance at Eridu provide convincing evidence for the indigenous origin of Sumerian civilization.
Eridu was abandoned for long periods, before it was finally deserted and allowed to fall into ruin in the 6th century BC. According to Oppenheim, “eventually the entire south lapsed into stagnation, abandoning the political initiative to the rulers of the northern cities,” and the city was abandoned in 600 BC.
The encroachment of neighbouring sand dunes, and the rise of a saline water table, set early limits to its agricultural base so in its later Neo-Babylonian development, Eridu was rebuilt as a purely temple site, in honour of its earliest history.
The Egyptologist David Rohl, has conjectured that Eridu, to the south of Ur, was the original Babel and site of the Tower of Babel, rather than the later city of Babylon, for several reasons.
Aside from Enmerkar of Uruk (as mentioned in the Aratta epics), several later historical Sumerian kings are said in inscriptions found here to have worked on or renewed the e-abzu temple, including Elili of Ur; Ur-Nammu, Shulgi and Amar-Sin of Ur-III, and Nur-Adad of Larsa.
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.
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'”. This may be a reference to Enki’s hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth)
In Sumerian mythology, Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR, also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”) was a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology.
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.
Enki (EN.KI(G)) is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. 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.
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”; it 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.”
He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians.
He was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally “ear”) and creation (Nudimmud: nu, likeness, dim mud, make beer).
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). The planet Mercury was in Sumerian times identified with Enki.
His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He was accompanied by an attendant Isimud (also Isinu; Usmû), a minor god, the messenger of the god Enki, readily identifiable by the fact that he possesses two faces looking in opposite directions.
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 main temple to Enki is called E-abzu, meaning “abzu temple” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu.
A large number of myths about Enki have been collected from many sites, stretching from Southern Iraq to the Levantine coast. He figures in the earliest extant cuneiform inscriptions throughout the region and was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times.
He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.
Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water emanating from his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the ‘Life Essence’, which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.
The Temple of Enki, variously called the E-Abzu or the E-gur, was the first known to have been built in Southern Iraq. Four separate excavations at the site of Eridu have demonstrated the existence of a shrine dating back to the earliest Ubaid period, over 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. P. Steinkeller believes 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 issuing from the twin water flows issuing from the later God Enki, suggesting continuity of these features over a very long period.
These features were found at all subsequent Sumerian temples, suggesting that this temple established the pattern for all subsequent Sumerian temples. “All rules laid down at Eridu were faithfully observed”.
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag or Ninkharsag was a mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian).
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’.
Her hair is sometimes depicted in an omega shape, and she at times wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently 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 symbol, resembling the Greek letter omega Ω has been depicted in art from around 3000 BC, though more generally from the early second millennium. It appears on some boundary stones — on the upper tier, indicating her importance.
The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.
Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”, possibly a reference to the site of her temple, the E-Kur (House of mountain deeps) at Eridu. Her temple, the Esagila (from Sumerian E (temple) + SAG (head) + ILA (lofty)) was located on the KUR of Eridu, although she also had a temple at Kish.
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.
Some of the names above were once associated with independent goddesses (such as Ninmah and Ninmenna), who later became identified and merged with Ninhursag, and myths exist in which the name Ninhursag is not mentioned.
As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife). 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 legend of Enki and Ninhursag, Ninhursag bore a daughter to Enki called Ninsar (“Lady Greenery”). Through Enki, Ninsar bore a daughter Ninkurra. Ninkurra, in turn, bore Enki a daughter named Uttu. Enki then pursued Uttu, who was upset because he didn’t care for her. Uttu, on her ancestress Ninhursag’s advice buried Enki’s seed in the earth, whereupon eight plants (the very first) sprung up.
Enki, seeing the plants, ate them, and became ill in eight organs of his body. Ninhursag cured him, taking the plants into her body and giving birth to eight deities: Abu, Nintulla (Nintul), Ninsutu, Ninkasi, Nanshe (Nazi), 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.
Mami, also known as Belet-ili, or Nintu, 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 amongst themselves and used that god’s blood and flesh, mixed with clay, to create humankind. Alternative forms of her name include Mama and Mammitum.
Creation of life
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.
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, the goddess of weaving and clothing (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, chagrinned they “sit in the dust”. As Enki lacks a womb with 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 given to the later Hurrian goddess Hebat. 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.
In the legend of Enki and Ninhursag, Ninhursag bore a daughter to Enki called Ninsar (“Lady Greenery”). Through Enki, Ninsar bore a daughter Ninkurra. Ninkurra, in turn, bore Enki a daughter named Uttu, which in Sumerian means “the woven” and she was illustrated as a spider in a web. She is a goddess in the pantheon. 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: The eighth being the Ti (Tree of “Life”, associated with the “Rib”). 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 (Nazi), Azimua, Ninti, and Enshag (Enshagag)
In Sumerian mythology, Nanshe was the daughter of Enki (god of wisdom, magic and fresh water) and Ninhursag (earth and mother goddess). Her functions as a goddess were varied. She was a goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility and fishing. Like her father, she was heavily associated with water. She held dominion over the Persian Gulf and all the animals within. Her seat of power was the Sirara temple, located in the city of Nina.
Nanshe’s father, Enki, was later tasked with organizing the world and assigning every god a function. Nanshe was assigned dominion over the Persian Gulf, on which floated her father’s awe inspiring sea shrine.
As a secondary function, she was to ensure than shipments of fish reached the mainland. When heading onto the mainland, she sailed by barge from the Gulf. She had a strong connection with wildlife, especially birds and bats. In one hymn, she converses with ravens and pelicans, among other species.
Nanshe had the ability to give oracular messages and determine the future through dream interpretation (Oneiromancy). Her priests were also granted these abilities after conducting a ritual that represented death and resurrection. Despite the ritual, Nanshe is not depicted as life-death-rebirth deity in any known hymns or myths.
Nanshe has two major symbols, both of which are also seen in Christian folklore. The fish represents her original role as a water and fishing goddess. The pelican, said in folklore to rip open its own chest to feed its young, represents her role as a protector and caregiver.
On the first day of the new year, a festival was held at her temple. People came from all over the land to seek her wisdom and aid. Visitors were cleansed in the river of ordeals and then, if worthy, given an audience with the goddess. Nanshe settled disputes and handled court cases amongst mortals.
Holding a higher ranking in the pantheon during this era, Nanshe sometimes shared the same tasks as Utu, the traditional god of justice. She sat on the holy thrones with the other prominent gods, and was seen as a goddess of protection. Hendursag, the god of law in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Akkadian mythology, and Haia were her assistants. Nisaba, sometimes portrayed as Nanshe’s sister, was her chief scribe.
Nabu (in Biblical Hebrew Nebo) is the Assyrian and Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, worshipped by Babylonians as the son of Marduk and his consort, Sarpanitum, and as the grandson of Ea. Nabu’s consort was Tashmetum.
The etymology of his name is disputed. It could be derived from the root nb´ for “to call or announce”, meaning something like “He who has called”. His power over human existence is immense because Nabu engraves the destiny of each person, as the gods have decided, on the tablets of sacred record. Thus, He has the power to increase or diminish, at will, the length of human life.
Nabu is mentioned in the Nevi’im of the Tanakh as Nebo in Isaiah 46:1. A statue of Nabu from Calah, erected during the reign of the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser III is on display in the British Museum.
In late Babylonian astrology, Nabu was connected with the planet Mercury. As the god of wisdom and writing, he was equated by the Greeks to either Apollo or Hermes, the latter identified by the Romans with their own god Mercury.
Sarpanitum 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, a surname of the Sumerian earth and fertility goddess 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 also known as Erua. She may be the same as Gamsu, Ishtar, and/or Beltis.
Tashmetum and Nabu both shared a temple in the city of Borsippa, in which they were patron deities. Tashmetum’s name means “the lady who listens”. She is also known as Tashmit and Tashmetu, and she was known by the epithets Lady of Hearing and Lady of Favor. She is called upon to listen to prayers and to grant requests.
Originally, Nabu was a West Semitic deity introduced by the Amorites into Mesopotamia, probably at the same time as Marduk shortly after 2000 BCE. While Marduk became Babylon’s main deity, Nabu resided in nearby Borsippa in his temple E-zida.
He was first called the “scribe and minister of Marduk”, later assimilated as Marduk’s beloved son from Sarpanitum. During the Babylonian New Year Festival, the cult statue of Nabu was transported from Borsippa to Babylon in order to commune with his father Marduk.
Nabu later became one of the principal gods in Assyria and Assyrians addressed many prayers and inscriptions to Nabu and named children after him. Nabu was the god of writing and scribes and was the keeper of the Tablets of Destiny, in which the fate of humankind was recorded. He was also sometimes worshiped as a fertility god and as a god of water.
His symbols are the clay writing tablet with the writing stylus. He wears a horned cap, and stands with hands clasped, in the ancient gesture of priesthood. He rides on a winged dragon (mušhuššu, also known as Sirrush), initially Marduk’s.
The mušḫuššu (formerly also read as sirrušu, sirrush) is a creature depicted on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, dating to the 6th century B.C. As depicted, it is a mythological hybrid: a scaly dragon with hind legs resembling the talons of an eagle, feline forelegs, a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snake-like tongue, and a crest.
The form mušḫuššu is the Akkadian nominative of the Sumerian MUŠ.ḪUS, lit. “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, an ancient Sumerian (and later Akkadian) city and city-state in central Mesopotamia, and likely identical with the Hurrian god “Teshup”.
The constellation Hydra was known in Babylonian astronomical texts as MUL.dMUŠ, “the serpent (with divine and star determinatives)”. It was depicted as a snake drawn out long with the forepaws of a lion, no hind-legs, with wings, and with a head comparable to the mušḫuššu dragon. This monstrous serpent may have inspired the Lernaean Hydra of Greek mythology and ultimately the modern Hydra constellation.
Bel and the Dragon, a deuterocanonical Biblical text, relates a story that Koldewey thought involved a mušḫuššu/sirrush. In a temple dedicated to Bel (Nebuchadnezzar’s god), priests had a “great dragon or serpent, which they of Babylon worshipped.”
Daniel, the protagonist of the Book of Daniel, was confronted with this creature by the priests in the apocryphal text. They challenged him to match his invisible God against their living god. Eventually, Daniel poisoned the creature.
Nabu is accorded the office of patron of the scribes, taking over from the Sumerian goddess Nanibgal (NANIBGAL), also Nisaba or Nidaba (NÍDABA, NIDABA), the Sumerian goddess of writing, learning, and the harvest.
Nisaba is considered the teacher of both mortal scribes and other divine deities. She keeps records, chronicles events, and performs various other bookwork related duties for the gods. She is also in charge of marking regional borders.
The god of wisdom, Enki, organized the world after creation and gave each deity a role in the world order. Nisaba was named the scribe of the gods, and Enki then built her a school of learning so that she could better serve those in need.
The goddess of writing and teaching, she was often praised by Sumerian scribes. Many clay-tablets end with the phrase (DINGIR.NAGA.ZAG.SAL; nisaba za-mi), “Nisaba be praised” to honor the goddess.
Nidaba reflects fundamental developments in the creation of Mesopotamian culture, those which take us from agriculture to accounting, to a very fine literary tradition. She was originally an agricultural deity, more specifically a goddess of grain.
The intricate connection between agriculture and accounting/writing implied that it was not long before Nidaba became the goddess of writing. From then on her main role was to be the patron of scribes.
In the Babylonian period, she was eventually replaced in that function by the god Nabu, who took over her functions. In some instances, Nisaba was his instructor or wife before he replaced her.
As the goddess of knowledge, she is related to many other facets of intellectual study and other gods may turn to her for advice or aid. Some of these traits are shared with her sister Ninsina. She is also associate with grain, reflecting her association with an earth goddess mother.
Her sanctuaries were E-zagin at Eresh and at Umma. On a depiction found in Lagash, she appears with flowing hair, crowned with horned tiara bearing supporting ears of grain and a crescent moon. Her dense hair is evoked in comparison in the description of similarly hairy Enkidu (EN.KI.DU “Enki’s creation”), a central figure in the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh.
As with many Sumerian deities, Nisaba’s exact place in the pantheon and her heritage appears somewhat ambiguous. She appears on separate occasions as the daughter of Enlil, of Uraš, of Ea, and of Anu.
Uraš or Urash, in Sumerian mythology is a goddess of earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god Anu. She is the mother of the goddess Ninsun and a grandmother of the hero Gilgamesh.
However, Uras may only have been another name for Antum, Anu’s wife. The name Uras even became applied to Anu himself, and acquired the meaning “heaven”. Ninurta also was apparently called Uras in later times.
From Sumerian texts, the language used to describe Urash is very similar to the language used to describe Ninhursag. Therefore, the two goddesses may be one and the same. Nisaba is the sister of Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh.
Nidaba’s spouse is Haya, goddess of grain and scribes, known both as a “door-keeper” and associated with the scribal arts, and together they have a daughter, Sud/Ninlil, and by extension, the mother-in-law of Enlil. Two myths describe the marriage of Sud/Ninlil with Enlil. This implies that Nidaba could be at once the daughter and the mother-in-law of Enlil.
Nidaba is also the sister of Ninsumun, the mother of Gilgameš. Nidaba is frequently mentioned together with the goddess Nanibgal who also appears as an epithet of Nidaba, although most god lists treat her as a distinct goddess.
In a debate between Nidaba and Grain, Nidaba is syncretised with Ereshkigal as “Mistress of the Underworld”. Nidaba is also identified with the goddess of grain Ašnan, and with Nanibgal/Nidaba-ursag/Geme-Dukuga, the throne bearer of Ninlil and wife of Ennugi, throne bearer of Enlil.
If Urash and Ninhursag are the same goddess, then Nisaba is also the half sister of Nanshe and (in some versions) Ninurta. She is the chief scribe of Nanshe. 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 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.
Haya is also characterised, beyond being the spouse of Nidaba/Nissaba, as an “agrig”-official of the god Enlil. The god-list AN = Anu ša amēli (lines 97-98) designates him as “the Nissaba of wealth”, as opposed to his wife, who is the “Nissaba of Wisdom”.
Nisaba’ name is first attested in the Ur archaic texts as NAGA (in later times ŠE.NAGA). The Akkadian reading of this name is uncertain. The readings Nis(s)aba (traditional) and Nidaba are primarily based on Akkadian pronunciation columns in lexical texts where writings such as ni-is-sà-ba/ni-da-ba are encountered.
Unicode 5.0 encodes the NAGA sign at U+12240 (Borger 2003 nr. 293). AN.NAGA is read as NANIBGAL, and AN.ŠE.NAGA as NÁNIBGAL. NAGA is read as NÍDABA or NÍSABA, and ŠE.NAGA as NIDABA or NISABA.
The inverted (turned upside down) variant is at U+12241 (TEME), and the combination of these, that is the calligraphic arrangement NAGA-(inverted NAGA), read as DALḪAMUN7 “whirlwind”, at U+12243. DALḪAMUN is the arrangement AN.NAGA-(inverted AN.NAGA), and DALḪAMUN is the arrangement of four instances of AN.NAGA in the shape of a cross.
In Babylonian mythology, Sarpanit (alternately Sarpanitu, Zarpanit, Zarpandit, Zerpanitum, Zerbanitu, or Zirbanit) 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, a surname of the Sumerian earth and fertility goddess 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 also known as Erua. She may be the same as Gamsu, Ishtar, and/or Beltis.
Nāga is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very great snake—specifically the king cobra, found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. A female Nāga is a nāgī or nāgiṇī.
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-.
“lord of the sacred/giving tree”
The “libation vase of Gudea” with the dragon Mushussu,
dedicated to Ningishzida (21st century BC short chronology).
The caduceus is interpreted as depicting the god himself.
Ningishzida was a Mesopotamian deity, worshiped in the city of Gishbanda which lay near Ur in the orchards of the Fertile Crescent. It seems that he was originally a tree god (the name Ningishzida means “lord of the sacred/giving tree” in Sumerian, the first known written language), but he became associated with fertility, the underworld, and the healing force of nature.
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.
The Adapa myth mentions Ningizzida and Tammuz (Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”), the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia, and refers to the serpent god as male.
Ningishzida is sometimes the son of Ninazu and Ningiridda, even though the myth Ningishzidda’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, while his sister is Amashilama. 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.
Ningishzida is the earliest known symbol of snakes twining around an axial rod. It predates the Caduceus of Hermes, the Rod of Asclepius and the biblical Nehushtan of Moses by more than a millennium. One Greek myth on origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tieresias, who found two snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff.
Although Wadjet, “the Green One”, the serpent goddess of Lower Egypt from the Pre-dynastic period demonstrates the earliest known representation of a single serpent entwined around a pole – in this case a papyrus reed (refer to first glyph): Wadjet Hieroglyph.
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar. The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.
Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.
Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year. In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Locations associated in antiquity with the site of his death include both Harran and Byblos, among others.
Remnants of the worship of Tammuz continue today in the form of the so-called Christian “Cross” worship & its subsidiary the “hot cross buns” and the ‘cross’ symbol cut into the top of the dough. Images of Tammuz prominently feature the cross image. The original symbol of Tammuz was a cross in the form of a capital Latin “T” (Greek alphabet Tαυ), and the “plus sign” seen on images of the idol of Tammuz.
According to some scholars, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave that was originally a shrine to Adonis-Tammuz. The Church Father Jerome, who died in Bethlehem in 420, reports in addition that the holy cave was at one point consecrated by the heathen to the worship of Adonis, and a pleasant sacred grove planted before it, to wipe out the memory of Jesus.
Some modern mythologists, however, reverse the supposition, insisting that the cult of Adonis-Tammuz originated the shrine and that it was the Christians who took it over, substituting the worship of their own God.
Tammuz is the tenth month of the civil year and the fourth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a boreal summer month of 29 days, which occurs on the Gregorian calendar around June-July.
The name of the month was adopted from the Assyrian-Babylonian calendar, in which the month was named after one of the main Mesopotamian gods, Tammuz. This is referred to in Ezekiel 8:14. Tammuz is also the name for the month of July in the Gregorian calendar in Arabic, Syriac and Turkish (“Temmuz”), and in the modern Assyrian calendar of the ethnic Assyrian Christians.
The festival for the deity Tammuz was held throughout the month of Tammuz in midsummer, and celebrated his death and resurrection. The first day of the month of Tammuz was the day of the new moon of the summer solstice. On the second day of the month, there was lamentation over the death of Tammuz, on the 9th, 16th and 17th days torchlit processions, and on the last three days, an image of Tammuz was buried.
CANCER – June 22nd – July 22nd
Cancer (♋) is the fourth astrological sign, which is associated with the constellation Cancer. It spans the 90-120th degree of the zodiac, between 90 and 125.25 degree of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between June 21 and July 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the Sun transits this area between approximately July 16 and August 15.
A person under this sign is called a Moon child.The symbol of the crab is based on the Karkinos, a giant crab that harassed Hercules during his fight with the Hydra. The Cancer-Leo cusp lasts from July 21 to July 27.
The story of Cancer the Crab is said to be connected to Hercules. Some storytellers say that during Hercules’s fight with Lernaean Hydra, Hera, sent a crab to snap at Hercules’s toes because Hera had sworn to kill Hercules. Hercules was able to kill the crab by smashing its shell with his foot. As a reward for its efforts serving her, Hera placed the crab in the sky and it became Cancer.
In Chinese star lore, Cancer is in the 23rd of the 28 mansions or xiu. This mansion is called Gui which roughly translates to “ghosts”. The Chinese divided the sky into four quarters, each with its own direction, season, and mythical creature. Cancer exists in the Red (Vermillion) Bird of the south. It is associated with summer.
Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology. 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. An astronomical tablet from Boghazkoi in Anatolia identifies Ningishzida with Nabu-Mercury.
Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini and Virgo, which means that it tends to be the most obvious and enforced in those signs, and is exalted in the latter; it is the only planet with rulership and exaltation both in the same sign (Virgo). It exalts in Libra and Pisces. It is a bit weakened and alienated in Taurus, and to a lesser extent in Cancer and Scorpio.
In Roman mythology, Mercury is the messenger of the gods, noted for his speed and swiftness. Echoing this, the scorching, airless world Mercury circles the Sun on the fastest orbit of any planet.
Mercury takes only 88 days to orbit the Sun, spending about 7.33 days in each sign of the zodiac. Mercury is so close to the Sun that only a brief period exists after the Sun has set where it can be seen with the naked eye, before following the Sun beyond the horizon.
Astrologically, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, rationality and reasoning and adaptability and variability. The 1st-century poet Manilius described Mercury as an inconstant, vivacious and curious planet.
Mercury governs schooling and education, the immediate environment of neighbors, siblings and cousins, transport over short distances, messages and forms of communication such as post, email and telephone, newspapers, journalism and writing, information gathering skills and physical dexterity.
In medicine, Mercury is associated with the nervous system, the brain, the respiratory system, the thyroid and the sense organs. It is traditionally held to be essentially cold and dry, according to its placement in the zodiac and in any aspects to other planets. It is linked to the animal spirits.
Today, Mercury is regarded as the ruler of the third and sixth houses; traditionally, it had the joy in the first house. Mercury is the messenger of the gods in mythology. It is the planet of day-to-day expression and relationships. Mercury’s action is to take things apart and put them back together again. It is an opportunistic planet, decidedly unemotional and curious.
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). Dante Alighieri associated Mercury with the liberal art of dialectic.
In Indian astrology, Mercury is called Budha, a word related to Buddhi (“intelligence”) and represents communication. Budha means “awakening, clever, intelligent, wise, learned man, wise man, or sage.”
In Chinese astrology, Mercury represents Water, the fourth element, therefore symbolizing communication, intelligence and elegance. The Chinese linkage of Mercury with Water is alien to Western astrology, but this combination shares the water themes, much of what is coined “mercurial” in Western thought, such as intellect, reason and communication.
May 21 and June 21
Gemini (♊) is the third astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between May 21 and June 21. Its name is Latin for “twins,” and it is associated with the twins Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology.
The symbol of the twins is based on the Dioscuri, two mortals, the twin brothers Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces that were granted shared godhood after death in Greek and Roman mythology, together known as the Dioskouri.
Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, and Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.
In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini or Castores. When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation Gemini.
The pair was regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo’s fire, and were also associated with horsemanship. They are sometimes called the Tyndaridae or Tyndarids, later seen as a reference to their father and stepfather Tyndareus.
The heavenly twins appear also in the Indo-European tradition as the effulgent Vedic brother-horsemen the Ashvins, the Lithuanian Ašvieniai, and the Germanic Alcis.
Aśvaḥ is the Sanskrit word for a horse, one of the significant animals finding references in the Vedas as well as later Hindu scriptures. The corresponding Avestan term is aspa. The word is cognate to Latin equus, Greek hippos, Germanic *ehwaz and Baltic *ašvā all from PIE *hek’wos.
August 23 and September 22
Virgo is the second-largest constellation. It spans the 150-180th degree of the zodiac, between 152.75 and 180 degree of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Virgo from September 17 to October 17.
Virgo (♍) is the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Virgos or Virgoans.
The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea (“star-maiden”). She was the last immortal to abandon earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with earth.
In Greek mythology, Astraea or Astrea, not to be confused with Asteria, the goddess of the stars and the daughter of Coeus and Phoebe, was a daughter of Astraeus and Eos. She was the virgin goddess of Innocence and purity and is always associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike (daughter of Zeus and Themis and the personification of just judgement).
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 abandoned the earth during the Iron Age. 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.
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.
For some astrologers Ceres is the ruling planet of Virgo. 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 nature motherhood should be.
In mythology, Ceres is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Demeter, and is the goddess of agriculture. 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.
Ceres, as the Goddess who has control over nature’s resources and cycles, may astrologically be considered the planet of the environment. Returning to mythology, an early environmental villain is the figure of Erysichthon, the tearer up of the earth, who cut down trees in a grove sacred to Ceres-Demeter, for which he was punished by the goddess with fearful hunger.
In this sense Ceres became an emerging archetype in the awareness of recent climate change, and is entering our collective consciousness as a need to take care of our natural and irreplaceable resources in the 21st century. Ceres represents a leap towards a future of ecological responsibility and knowledge. As an indicator for environmental or community activism, Ceres would represent for some astrologers the wave of the future.
The status of Ceres is unknown at the moment in astrology. The possibility exists that Ceres is not involved with any sign, but it has been strongly suggested as the ruler of Virgo. As in all cases of newer discoveries, Ceres will likely never be used in horoscopes by traditionalist astrologers.