Gibil in Sumerian mythology is the god of fire, variously of the son of An and Ki, An and Shala or of Ishkur and Shala. He later developed into the Akkadian god Gerra, the Babylonian and Akkadian god of fire.
In some versions of the Enûma Eliš Gibil is said to maintain the sharp point of weapons, have broad wisdom, and that his mind is “so vast that all the gods, all of them, cannot fathom it”. Some versions state Gibil, as lord of the fire and the forge, also possesses wisdom of metallurgy.
Nusku was the name of the light and fire-god in Babylonia and Assyria, indistinguishable from Girra – formerly Gibil. Nusku is the symbol of the heavenly as well as of the terrestrial fire. As the former he is the son of Anu, the god of heaven, but he is likewise associated with Enlil of Nippur as the god of the earth and regarded as his first-born son.
A centre of his cult in Assyria was in Harran, where, because of the predominance of the moon-cult, he is viewed as the son of the moongod Sin, though Nusku was with Enlil when Sin wasn’t born yet, and Enlil hadn’t married Ninlil – Sin’s mother.
Nusku is by the side of Ea, the god of water, the great purifier. It is he, therefore, who is called upon to cleanse the sick and suffering from disease, which, induced by the demons, was looked upon as a species of impurity affecting the body.
The fire-god is also viewed as the patron of the arts and the god of civilization in general, because of the natural association of all human progress with the discovery and use of fire. As among other nations, the fire-god was in the third instance looked upon as the protector of the family. He becomes the mediator between humanity and the gods, since it is through the fire on the altar that the offering is brought into the presence of the gods.
While temples and sanctuaries to Nusku-Girru are found in Babylonia and Assyria, he is worshipped more in symbolical form than the other gods.
For the very reason that his presence is common and universal he is not localized to the same extent as his fellow-deities, and, while always enumerated in a list of the great gods, his place in the systematized pantheon is more or less vague.
The conceptions connected with Nusku are of distinctly popular origin, as is shown by his prominence in incantations, which represent the popular element in the cult, and it is significant that in the astro-theological system of the Babylonian priests Nusku-Girru is not assigned to any particular place in the heavens.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus, known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind, is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization, a theme that recurs in many world mythologies.
According to some versions of the story, Prometheus thought the gods were being cruel to withhold fire so that they could keep those little humans warm, cook their food and keep wild animals from eating them up, so he disobeyed the Olympian injunction. And according to some stories, Prometheus brought more than fire to humans – he taught them writing, mathematics and craft.
This made Zeus, king of the gods, cross, because fire was one of the gods’ secrets, along with lightning and thunder and stuff. The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft is a major theme of his mythology, and is a popular subject of both ancient and modern art. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression.
The immortal Prometheus, in eternal punishment, was bound to a rock, in the Caucasus, Kazbek Mountain, a dormant stratovolcano and one of the major mountains of the Caucasus located in the Kazbegi District of Georgia and North Ossetia (Russia), where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back to be eaten again the next day due to his immortality.
It is the third highest mountain in Georgia (after Mount Shkhara and Janga) and the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains. The summit lies directly to the west of the town of Stepantsminda and is the most prominent geographic feature of the area. Mt. Kazbek is the highest peak of Eastern Georgia. The name in Georgian, Mkinvartsveri, translates to “glacier”. The Vainakh name Bashlam translated as Molten Mount.
Haplogroup J-M172 is found mainly in the Fertile Crescent, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Balkans, Italy, the Mediterranean littoral, and the Iranian plateau. The highest reported frequency of J-M172 ever was 87.4%, among Ingush in Malgobek.
J-M172 – Associated with Mediterranean, South Caucasian and Fertile Crescent populations, with its peaks at 87.4% in Ingushetia and 72% in Georgia’s Kazbegi region (near Mount Kazbek). In the North Caucasus, the largest frequencies are those of Nakh peoples (Chechens (56.7%) and Ingush (88.8%).
Other notable values were found among North Caucasian Turkic peoples (Kumyks (25%) and Balkars(24%). It is notable that according to both Nasidze’s study in 2004 and then a later study on Dagestani peoples by Yunusbaev in 2006, J-M172 suddenly collapses as one enters the territory of non-Nakh Northeast Caucasian peoples, dropping to very low values among Dagestani peoples.
The overwhelming bulk of Chechen J-M172 is of the subclade J-M67), of which the highest frequencies by far are found among Nakh peoples- Chechens were 55.2% according to the Balanovsky study, while Ingush were 87.4%.
The location of the imprisonment of Amirani later became the site of an Orthodox hermitage located in a cave called “Betlemi” (Bethlehem) at around the 4000 meter level. According to legends, this cave housed many sacred relics, including Abraham’s tent and the manger of the infant Jesus.
In ancient Greece, the liver was thought to be the seat of human emotions. The liver is also a regenerative organ. In some stories, Prometheus is freed at last by the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules), which slays the eagle and frees Prometheus from his chains because he needed his cunning mind to help him steal apples from the Gardens of the Hesperides.
The precise region of origin for haplogroup J-M172 remains a topic of discussion. However, at least within a European context, Anatolia and the Aegean seem to be source regions, with Hg J2 having perhaps arisen in the Levant (Di Giacomo 2004) / Middle East (Semino 2004) with the development of agriculture.
As to the timing of its spread into Europe, Di Giacomo points to events which post-date the Neolithic, in particular the demographic floruit associated with the rise of the Ancient Greek world.
Semino et al. derived older age estimates for overall J2 (having used the Zhivitovksy method c.f. Di Giacomo), postulating its initial spread with Neolithic farmers from the Near East.
However, its subclade distribution, showing localized peaks in the Southern Balkans, southern Italy, north/ central Italy and the Caucasus, does not conform to a single ‘wave-of-advance’ scenario, betraying a number of still poorly understood post-Neolithic processes which created its current pattern. Like Di Giacomo, the Bronze Age southern Balkans was suggested to have been an important vector of spread.
In Georgian mythology, Amirani is a culture hero who challenged the chief god, and like Prometheus was chained on the Caucasian mountains where birds would eat his organs.
In Georgian mythology, Amirani is a hero, the son of the goddess Dali, a Caucasian goddess of the hunt, and a mortal hunter, but he was removed prematurely from her womb and raised by a hunter Sulkalmah and his wife Darejan, alongside the latter’s two natural sons Badri and Usup.
According to the Svan version, the hunter’s wife learned about her husband’s affair with Dali and killed her by cutting her hair while she was asleep.
At Dali’s death, the hunter extracted from her womb a boy whom he called Amirani. The child had marks of his semi-divine origins with symbols of the Sun and the Moon on his shoulder-blades and a golden tooth.
Georgian myths describe the rise of the titan Amirani, who fights devis (ogres), challenges the gods, kidnaps Kamar (the daughter of gods), and teaches metallurgy to humans.
Together with Badri and Usup, Amirani fought evil spirits and defeated a three-headed giant whose several heads metamorphosed into snakes. Amirani battles with dragons. He is swallowed by the Black Dragon. Amirani cuts the dragon’s belly and comes out.
While battling other evil spirits in his search for a bride, his two mortal brothers were killed, and Amirani attempted suicide, but discovered to his dismay that he returned to life. Thereafter, Amirani abandoned his search for a bride, and empowered by the highest God, Ghmerti (later the name of the Christian deity), he took on another giant, and then Ghmerti himself.
In response for this insolence, Ghmerti punished him in three stages: he fastened Amirani to a post driven deep in the earth; second, Ghmerti buried him in chains under a mountain pass, which formed a cave-like dome over him; and third, for one night each year, the mountain opened to reveal Amirani suspended in air where a human attempted in vain to release him, and the mountain closed again in consequence of the excessive talk of a woman.
As in the myth Amirani defies God by introducing to the human kind the use of metal, and just like with Prometheus, the gods (in some versions, Jesus Christ) punish him by chaining him on a cliff in the Caucasus Mountains (or an iron pole) with his cursed dog Kursha, where the titan continues to defy the gods and struggles to break the chains. Similar to the Prometheus myth, an eagle eats his liver in the day, but it heals itself every night.
Amirani’s loyal dog, meantime, licks the chain to thin it out, but every year, on Thursday or in some versions the day before Christmas, the gods send smiths to repair it. In some versions, every seven years the cave where Amirani is chained can be seen in the Caucasus.
In some parts of Caucasian Iberia, the alternative account as reflected in the Greek myth, in which the hero is attacked daily by an eagle sent by the deity, was for a long time commemorated by the destruction of eagles nests, as the enemies of Amirani. The Svan version of the myth represents Amirani’s story most precisely and clearly.
Various versions of the myth reveal a process through which the myth was transformed over time, but scholars agree that this folk epic about Amirani must have been formed in the third millennium BCE, and later went through numerous transformation, the most important of them being morphing pagan and Christian elements after the spread of Christianity.
The myth could have been assimilated by the Greek colonists or travelers and embodied in the corpus of the famous Greek myth of Prometheus. In the Georgian literature and culture, Amirani is often used as a symbol of the Georgian nation, its ordeals and struggle for survival.
In another of his myths, Prometheus establishes the form of animal sacrifice practiced in ancient Greek religion. Evidence of a cult to Prometheus himself is not widespread. He was a focus of religious activity mainly at Athens, where he was linked to Athena and Hephaestus, other Greek deities of creative skills and technology.
In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences.
The myth of Prometheus has been a favorite theme of Western art and literature in the post-renaissance and post-enlightenment tradition, and occasionally in works produced outside the West.
In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy: Mary Shelley, for instance, gave The Modern Prometheus as the subtitle to her novel Frankenstein (1818).
Amirani – Wikipedia
Epic “Amirani” – Georgia: Past, Present, Future
When The Goddess from Anatolia by Mellaart, Hirsch and Balpinar was published in late 1989, the simmering, five-year-long Çatal Hüyük controversy came to a boil. The character of the debate over James Mellaart’s Neolithic Anatolian kilim hypothesis shifted abruptly. It suddenly focused on the credibility of 44 startling new drawings of “reconstructed” wall paintings. Complex issues, such as design diffusion and historical continuity, became irrelevant.
The Çatal Hüyük ruckus that erupted in the rug community in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was impossible to ignore, and I published two related articles in Oriental Rug Review. The Update posted below was the second, written for the December 1992/January 1993 issue (Vol. XIII, No. 2) at the request of the editor. The earlier article, with a detailed examination of questionable “reconstructions,” is posted separately. A few illustrations have been added to each. I want to provide a little background on this dispute and summarize the factors that prompted my involvement in it.
The Goddess from Anatolia
After six generations of Gods, in the Babylonian “Enuma Elish”, in the seventh generation, (Akkadian “shapattu” or sabath), the younger Igigi Gods, the sons and daughters of Enlil and Ninlil, go on strike and refuse their duties of keeping the creation working. Abzu, God of fresh water, co-creator of the cosmos, threatens to destroy the world with his waters, and the Gods gather in terror.
Enki promises to help and puts Abzu to sleep, confining him in irrigation canals and places him in the Kur, beneath his city of Eridu. But then, with the universe still threatened, Tiamat, with the imprisonment of her husband and consort Abzu and at the prompting of her son and vizier Kingu, decides to take back the creation herself.
The Gods gather again in terror and turn to Enki for help, but Enki who harnessed Abzu, Tiamat’s consort, for irrigation refuses to get involved. The gods then seek help elsewhere, and the patriarchal Enlil, their father, God of Nippur, promises to solve the problem if they make him King of the Gods. In the Babylonian tale, Enlil’s role is taken by Marduk, Enki’s son, and in the Assyrian version it is Asshur.
After dispatching Tiamat with the “arrows of his winds” down her throat (similar in some respects to how Elohim moves his breath (ruach) over the “face of the deep” or “Tehom”, in Genesis 1:2) and reconstructing the heavens with the arch of her ribs (i.e. her “life”), Enlil places her tail in the sky as the Milky Way, and her crying eyes become the source of the Tigris and Euphrates.
But there is still the problem of “who will keep the cosmos working”. Enki, who might have otherwise come to their aid, is lying in a deep sleep and fails to hear their cries. His mother Nammu (creatrix also of Abzu and Tiamat) “brings the tears of the gods” before Enki and says
- Oh my son, arise from thy bed, from thy (slumber), work what is wise,
- Fashion servants for the Gods, may they produce their (bread?).
Enki then advises that they create a servant of the Gods, humankind, out of clay and blood. Against Enki’s wish the Gods decide to slay Kingu, and Enki finally consents to use Kingu’s blood to make the first human, with whom Enki always later has a close relationship, the first of the seven sages, seven wise men or “Abgallu” (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = Man), also known as Adapa. Enki assembles a team of divinities to help him, creating a host of “good and princely fashioners”. He tells his mother
- Oh my mother, the creature whose name thou has uttered, it exists,
- Bind upon it the (will?) of the Gods;
- Mix the heart of clay that is over the Abyss,
- The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay
- Thou, do thou bring the limbs into existence;
- Ninmah (the Earth-mother goddess (Ninhursag, his wife and consort) will work above thee
- (Nintu?) (goddess of birth) will stand by thy fashioning;
- Oh my mother, decree thou its (the new born’s) fate.
Adapa, the first man fashioned, later goes and acts as the advisor to the King of Eridu, when in the Sumerian Kinglist, the “Me” of “kingship descends on Eridu”.
Samuel Noah Kramer, believes that behind this myth of Enki’s confinement of Abzu lies an older one of the struggle between Enki and the Dragon Kur (the underworld).
Enki, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology, 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.
Enki 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).
Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for “40,” occasionally referred to as his “sacred number.” The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk) was in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.
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.
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”. 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.
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 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. He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, very similar to 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.
Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.
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) (see below).
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. He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system.
Adapa, the first of the Mesopotamian seven sages, was a mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. He was a mortal man from a godly lineage, a son of Ea (Enki in Sumerian), the god of wisdom and of the ancient city of Eridu, who brought the arts of civilization to that city (from Dilmun, according to some versions).
Adapa broke the wings of Ninlil the South Wind, who had overturned his fishing boat, and was called to account before Anu. Ea, his patron god, warned him to apologize humbly for his actions, but not to partake of food or drink while he was in heaven, as it would be the food of death. Anu, impressed by Adapa’s sincerity, offered instead the food of immortality, but Adapa heeded Ea’s advice, refused, and thus missed the chance for immortality that would have been his.
The story is first attested in the Kassite period (14th century BCE), in fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna, and from Assur, of the late second millennium BCE.
Adapa is often identified as advisor to the mythical first (antediluvian) king of Eridu, Alulim. In addition to his advisory duties, he served as a priest and exorcist, and upon his death took his place among the Seven Sages or Apkallū, sage.
The word Abgallu comes from Sumerian AB.GAL.LU (Ab=water, Gal=Great, Lu=Man), a reference to Adapa, the first sage’s association with water. The word survived into Nabatean times, around the time of Christ, as apkallum, used to describe the profession of a certain kind of priest.
Mesopotamian myth tells of seven antediluvian sages, who were sent by Ea, the wise god of Eridu, to bring the arts of civilisation to humankind. The first of these, Adapa, also known as Uan, the name given as Oannes by Berossus, introduced the practice of the correct rites of religious observance as priest of the E’Apsu temple, at Eridu.
The sages are described in Mesopotamian literature as ‘pure parādu-fish, probably carp, whose bones are found associated with the earliest shrine, and still kept as a holy duty in the precincts of Near Eastern mosques and monasteries. Adapa as a fisherman was iconographically portrayed as a fish-man composite.
Vague parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining death. Parallels are also apparent (to an even greater degree) with the story of Persephone visiting Hades, who was warned to take nothing from that kingdom.
Oannes (Hovhannes in Armenian) was the name given by the Babylonian writer Berossus in the 3rd century BCE to a mythical being who taught mankind wisdom. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man. He is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences.
The name “Oannes” was once conjectured to be derived from that of the ancient Babylonian god Ea, but it is now known that the name is the Greek form of the Babylonian Uanna (or Uan) a name used for Adapa in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal. The Assyrian texts attempt to connect the word to the Akkadian for a craftsman ummanu but this is merely a pun.
In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is ‘creatrix’, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.
Although there are no early precedents for it, some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon. In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; she later makes war upon them and is killed by the storm-god Marduk. The heavens and the earth are formed from her divided body.
Tiamat was later known as Thalattē (as a variant of thalassa, the Greek word for “sea”) in the Hellenistic Babylonian Berossus’ first volume of universal history. It is thought that the name of Tiamat was dropped in secondary translations of the original religious texts (written in the East Semitic Akkadian language) because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word for “sea” for Tiamat, since the two names had become essentially the same, due to association.
Though Tiamat is often described by modern authors as a sea serpent or dragon, no ancient texts exist in which there is a clear association with those kinds of creatures, and the identification is debated.
The Enûma Elish specifically states that Tiamat did give birth to dragons and serpents, but they are included among a larger and more general list of monsters including scorpion men and merpeople, none of which imply that any of the children resemble the mother or are even limited to aquatic creatures.
In the Enûma Elish her physical description includes a tail, a thigh, “lower parts” (which shake together), a belly, an udder, ribs, a neck, a head, a skull, eyes, nostrils, a mouth, and lips. She has insides (possibly “entrails”), a heart, arteries, and blood.
Hattusha Yazilikaya. A relief carving depicting God Teshub and King Tudhaliya IV from the rock cut chambers of Yazilikaya, Hattusha. Tudhaliya IV is believed to be the king who gave the chambers their final shape.
The Sky God
The sky has important religious significance. Most polytheistic religions have a deity or deities whose portfolio includes or is even limited to the sky or the heavens. While there are often multiple sky deities, sometimes this position is reserved for a deity who is conceived as reigning over the others, or at least is one of the most powerful.
When the main sky deity was seen as feminine, she often held the title of the “Queen of Heaven.” Ancient sky goddesses who held the title “Queen of Heaven” included Isis, Astarte, Ishtar, and Inanna. (The title was later applied to the Virgin Mary, along with various other features and attributes of ancient pagan goddesses.)
Another common conception is that of a complementary polarity between Earth and sky that may be ascribed genders as a mated pair. In some religions this takes the form of a Sky father and an Earth mother, while in other religions the mated couple are a sky goddess and an earth god. (For example, Nut and Geb in ancient Egypt.) In still other religions, there is a main pair of deities who rule the sky as husband and wife (for example, Zeus and Hera in ancient Greece), while a different pair of deities (e.g., Hades and Persephone) rule the Earth and/or chthonic realms.
Along similar lines, some scholars of religion hold that Jehovah or Yahweh, the monotheistic deity of the Jewish bible, originally had a wife who was most likely the sky goddess Asherah. In some contemporary religions, the divine pair of sky deities are known as the “Heavenly Father” and the “Heavenly Mother.”
The God of Thunder
Polytheistic peoples of many cultures have postulated a Thunder God, the personification or source of the forces of thunder and lightning; a lightning god does not have a typical depiction, and will vary based on the culture.
Sumer and the Semitic forms
Enlil was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets. The name is perhaps pronounced and sometimes rendered in translations as Ellil in later Akkadian, Hittite, and Canaanite literature. In later Akkadian, Enlil is the son of Anshar and Kishar.
Enlil (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Wind”), along with Anu/An, Enki and Ninhursag were gods of the Sumerians. He was considered to be the god of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance). He was also the God of weather.
According to the Sumerians, Enlil helped create the humans, but then got tired of their noise and tried to kill them by sending a flood. A mortal known as Utnapishtim survived the flood through the help of another god, Ea, and he was made immortal by Enlil after Enlil’s initial fury had subsided.
Enlil was known as the inventor of the mattock (a key agricultural pick, hoe, ax or digging tool of the Sumerians) and helped plants to grow.
Enlil is associated with the ancient city of Nippur, sometimes referred to as the cult city of Enlil. His temple was named Ekur, “House of the Mountain.”
In one myth, Enlil gives advice to his son, the god Ninurta, advising him on a strategy to slay the demon Asag. This advice is relayed to Ninurta by way of Sharur, his enchanted talking mace, which had been sent by Ninurta to the realm of the gods to seek counsel from Enlil directly.
One story names his origins as the exhausted breath of An (god of the heavens) and Ki (goddess of the Earth) after sexual union. He is the father of Nisaba the goddess of grain, of Pabilsag who is sometimes equated with Ninurta, and sometimes of Enbilulu. By Ereshkigal Enlil was father of Namtar, considered responsible for diseases and pests.
The myth of Enlil and Ninlil («lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, discusses when Enlil was a young god, he was banished from Dilmun, home of the gods, to Kur, the underworld for raping a goddess named Ninlil.
Ninlil followed him to the underworld where she bore his first child, and of Ninurta, also called Ninurta and Ningirsu, and/or the moon god Nanna/Suen (in Akkadian, Sin). After fathering three more underworld-deities (substitutes for Sin), Enlil was allowed to return to Dilmun.
In Sumerian religion, Ninlil is the consort goddess of Enlil. Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba).
Another source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu. Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu. Theophilus G. Pinches noted that Nnlil or Belit Ilani had seven different names (such as Nintud, Ninhursag, Ninmah, etc.) for seven different localities.
After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.
Ishkur in Sumerian, Adad in Akkadian, and Hadad in Aramaic are the names of the storm-god in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon.
Ishkur, in Mesopotamian religion, Sumerian god of the rain and thunderstorms of spring. He was the city god of Bit Khakhuru (perhaps to be identified with modern Al-Jidr) in the central steppe region.
Ishkur closely resembled Ninhar (Ningubla) and as such was visualized in the form of a great bull. He was the son of Nanna, the moon god. When portrayed in human shape, he often holds his symbol, the lightning fork. Ishkur’s wife was the goddess Shala. In his role as god of rain and thunder, Ishkur corresponded to the Sumerian deities Asalluhe and Ninurta.
Ninurta (Nin Ur: God of War) in Sumerian and the Akkadian mythology of Assyria and Babylonia, was the god of Lagash. The cult of Ninurta can be traced back to the oldest period of Sumerian history. He is identified with Ningirsu with whom he may always have been identified. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.
In the inscriptions found at Lagash, an ancient city located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about 22 kilometres (14 mi) east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah, Iraq, he appears under his name Ningirsu, “the lord of Girsu”, Girsu being the name of a city where he was considered the patron deity.
Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East. The ancient site of Surghul/Nina is around 6 miles (9.7 km) away. Nearby Girsu, about 25 km (16 mi) northwest of Al-Hiba, was the religious center of the Lagash state. Lagash’s temple was E-Ninnu, dedicated to the god Ningirsu.
From inscriptions found at Girsu such as the Gudea cylinders, it appears that Lagash was an important Sumerian city in the late 3rd millennium BC. It was at that time ruled by independent kings, Ur-Nanshe (24th century BC) and his successors, who were engaged in contests with the Elamites on the east and the kings of “Kienĝir” and Kish on the north.
Some of the earlier works from before the Akkadian conquest are also extremely interesting, in particular Eannatum’s Stele of the Vultures and Entemena’s great silver vase ornamented with Ningirsu’s sacred animal Anzu: a lion-headed eagle with wings outspread, grasping a lion in each talon.
With the Akkadian conquest Lagash lost its independence, its ruler or ensi becoming a vassal of Sargon of Akkad and his successors; but Lagash continued to be a city of much importance and above all, a centre of artistic development.
In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.
Nippur (Sumerian: Nibru, Akkadian: Nibbur), also known as “Enlil City» was one of the most ancient of all the Sumerian cities. It was the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god Enlil, the “Lord Wind,” ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone. Nippur was located in modern Nuffar in Afak, Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate, Iraq.
Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.
In another legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future.
In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta’s character with that of Nergal, with the main seat of his cult at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity.
Nergal, born by Enlil and Ninlil, “lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”, also called Sud, actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun.
Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.
Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion.
The Akkadian god Adad is cognate in name and functions with northwest Semitic god Hadad. In Akkadian, Adad is also known as Ramman (“Thunderer”) cognate with Aramaic Rimmon which was a byname of the Aramaic Hadad. Ramman was formerly incorrectly taken by many scholars to be an independent Babylonian god later identified with the Amorite god Hadad.
The Sumerian Ishkur appears in the list of gods found at Fara but was of far less importance than the Akkadian Adad later became, probably partly because storms and rain are scarce in southern Babylonia and agriculture there depends on irrigation instead. Also, the gods Enlil and Ninurta also had storm god features which decreased Ishkur’s distinctiveness. He sometimes appears as the assistant or companion of one or the other of the two.
When Enki distributed the destinies, he made Ishkur inspector of the cosmos. In one litany Ishkur is proclaimed again and again as “great radiant bull, your name is heaven” and also called son of An, lord of Karkara; twin-brother of Enki, lord of abundance, lord who rides the storm, lion of heaven.
In other texts Adad/Ishkur is sometimes son of the moon god Nanna/Sin by Ningal and brother of Utu/Shamash and Inana/Ishtar. He is also occasionally son of Enlil.
Adad/Ishkur’s consort (both in early Sumerian and later Assyrian texts) was Shala, a goddess of grain, who is also sometimes associated with the god Dagan. She was also called Gubarra in the earliest texts. The fire god Gibil (named Gerra in Akkadian) is sometimes the son of Ishkur and Shala.
Adad/Ishkur presents two aspects in the hymns, incantations, and votive inscriptions. On the one hand he is the god who, through bringing on the rain in due season, causes the land to become fertile, and, on the other hand, the storms that he sends out bring havoc and destruction.
He is pictured on monuments and cylinder seals (sometimes with a horned helmet) with the lightning and the thunderbolt (sometimes in the form of a spear), and in the hymns the sombre aspects of the god on the whole predominate.
His association with the sun-god, Shamash, due to the natural combination of the two deities who alternate in the control of nature, leads to imbuing him with some of the traits belonging to a solar deity.
Shamash and Adad became in combination the gods of oracles and of divination in general. Whether the will of the gods is determined through the inspection of the liver of the sacrificial animal, through observing the action of oil bubbles in a basin of water or through the observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, it is Shamash and Adad who, in the ritual connected with divination, are invariably invoked.
Similarly in the annals and votive inscriptions of the kings, when oracles are referred to, Shamash and Adad are always named as the gods addressed, and their ordinary designation in such instances is bele biri (“lords of divination”).
Adad/Ishkur’s special animal is the bull. He is naturally identified with the Anatolian storm-god Teshub. Occasionally Adad/Ishkur is identified with the god Amurru, the god of the Amorites.
Hadad, also known as Haddu, is a Northwest Semitic storm and rain god, cognate in name and origin with the earlier attested East Semitic Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian) god Adad. Hadad was also called “Pidar”, “Rapiu”, “Baal-Zephon”, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.
The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Anatolian storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Set; the Greek god Zeus; and the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus.
In religious texts, Ba‘al/Hadad is the lord of the sky who governs the rain and thus the germination of plants with the power of his desire that they be fertile. He is the protector of life and growth to the agricultural people of the region. The absence of Ba‘al causes dry spells, starvation, death, and chaos.
Amurru and Martu are names given in Akkadian and Sumerian texts to the god of the Amorite/Amurru people, often forming part of personal names. He is sometimes called Ilu Amurru (MAR.TU). He was the patron god of the Mesopotamian city of Ninab, whose exact location is unknown.
Amurru/Martu was probably a western Semitic god originally. He is sometimes described as a ‘shepherd’ or as a storm god, and as a son of the sky-god Anu. He is sometimes called bêlu šadī or bêl šadê, ‘lord of the mountain’; dúr-hur-sag-gá sikil-a-ke, ‘He who dwells on the pure mountain’; and kur-za-gan ti-[la], ‘who inhabits the shining mountain’. In Cappadocian Zinčirli inscriptions he is called ì-li a-bi-a, ‘the god of my father’.
Accordingly, it has been suggested by L. R. Bailey (1968) and Jean Ouelette (1969), that this Bêl Šadê might be the same as the Biblical ’Ēl Šaddāi who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the “Priestly source” of narrative, according to the documentary hypothesis. Bêl Šadê could have been the fertility-god ‘Ba’al’, possibly adopted by the Canaanites, a rival and enemy of the Hebrew God YHWH, and famously combatted by the Hebrew prophet Elijah.
Amurru also has storm-god features. Like Adad, Amurru bears the epithet ramān ‘thunderer’, and he is even called bāriqu ‘hurler of the thunderbolt’ and Adad ša a-bu-be ‘Adad of the deluge’. Yet his iconography is distinct from that of Adad, and he sometimes appears alongside Adad with a baton of power or throwstick, while Adad bears a conventional thunderbolt.
Amurru’s wife is sometimes the goddess Ašratum (see Asherah) who in northwest Semitic tradition and Hittite tradition appears as wife of the god Ēl which suggests that Amurru may indeed have been a variation of that god. If Amurru was identical with Ēl, it would explain why so few Amorite names are compounded with the name Amurru, but so many are compounded with Il; that is, with Ēl.
Another tradition about Amurru’s wife (or one of Amurru’s wives) gives her name as Belit-Sheri, ‘Lady of the Desert’.
A third tradition appears in a Sumerian poem in pastoral style, which relates how the god Martu came to marry Adg̃ar-kidug the daughter of the god Numushda of the city of Inab. It contains a speech expressing urbanite Sumerian disgust at uncivilized, nomadic Amurru life which Adg̃ar-kidug ignores, responding only: “I will marry Martu!”.
Set, or Seth, is a god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. Set is not however a god to be ignored or avoided, he has a positive role where he is employed by Ra on his solar boat to repel the serpent of Chaos Apep. Set had a vital role as a reconciled combatant. He was lord of the red (desert) land where he was the balance to Horus’ role as lord of the black (soil) land.
In Egyptian mythology, Set is portrayed as the usurper who killed and mutilated his own brother Osiris. Osiris’ wife Isis reassembled Osiris’ corpse and resurrected him long enough to conceive his son and heir Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set, and the myths describe their conflicts. The death of Osiris and the battle between Horus and Set is a popular theme in Egyptian mythology.
In art, Set is mostly depicted as a fabulous creature, referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal or Typhonic beast. The earliest representations of what may be the Set animal comes from a tomb dating to the Naqada I phase of the Predynastic Period (3790 BC–3500 BC), though this identification is uncertain. If these are ruled out, then the earliest Set-animal appears on a mace head of the King Scorpion, a protodynastic ruler. The head and the forked tail of the Set animal are clearly present.
Set was depicted standing on the prow of Ra’s night barque spearing Apep in the form of a serpent, turtle, or other dangerous water animals. In some Late Period representations, such as in the Persian Period temple at Hibis in the Khargah Oasis, Set was represented in this role with a falcon’s head, taking on the guise of Horus. In the Amduat
Set is described as having a key role in overcoming Apep, an evil god in ancient Egyptian religion depicted as a snake/serpent and a dragon, the deification of darkness and chaos, and thus opponent of light and Ma’at (order/truth), whose existence was believed from the 8th Dynasty (mentioned at Moalla) onwards.
During the Second Intermediate Period, a group of Asiatic foreign chiefs known as the Hyksos (literally, “rulers of foreign lands”) gained the rulership of Egypt, and ruled the Nile Delta, from Avaris. They chose Set, originally Upper Egypt’s chief god, the god of foreigners and the god they found most similar to their own chief god, as their patron, and then Set became worshiped as the chief god once again.
The power of Seth’s cult in the mighty (yet outlying) city of Avaris from the Second Intermediate Period through the Ramesside Period cannot be denied. There he reigned supreme as a deity both at odds and in league with threatening foreign powers, and in this case, his chief consort-goddesses were the Phoenicians Anat and Astarte, with Nephthys merely one of the harem.
Set also became associated with foreign gods during the New Kingdom, particularly in the Delta. Set was also identified by the Egyptians with the Hittite deity Teshub, who was a storm god like Set.
Herman te Velde dates the demonization of Set to after Egypt’s conquest by several foreign nations in the Third Intermediate and Late Periods. Set, who had traditionally been the god of foreigners, thus also became associated with foreign oppressors, including the Assyrian and Persian empires.
It was during the time that Set was particularly vilified, and his defeat by Horus widely celebrated. Nevertheless, throughout this period, in some outlying regions of Egypt Set was still regarded as the heroic chief deity.
Set’s negative aspects were emphasized during this period. Set was the killer of Osiris, having hacked Osiris’ body into pieces and dispersed it so that he could not be resurrected. The Greeks later linked Set with Typhon because both were evil forces, storm deities, and sons of the Earth that attacked the main gods.
Teshub (also written Teshup or Tešup) was the Hurrian god of sky and storm. His Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun (with variant stem forms Tarhunt, Tarhuwant, Tarhunta), although this name is from the Hittite root *tarh- “to defeat, conquer”.
Teshub is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs.
In the Hurrian myth of Teshub’s origin he was conceived when the god Kumarbi bit off and swallowed his father Anu’s genitals, as such it most likely shares a Proto-Indo-European cognate with the Greek story of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus, which is recounted in Hesiod’s Theogony. Teshub’s brothers are Tigris (personification of the river), Ullikummi (stone giant) and Tashmishu.
In the Hurrian schema, Teshub was paired with Hebat the mother goddess; in the Hittite, with the sun goddess Arinniti of Arinna – a cultus of great antiquity which has similarities with the venerated bulls and mothers at Çatalhöyük in the Neolithic era. His son was called Sarruma, the mountain god.
Ḫaldi (also known as Khaldi or Hayk) was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). He is portrayed as a man with or without a beard, standing on a lion. His shrine was at Ardini. His wife was the goddess Arubani, the Urartian’s goddess of fertility and art.
Theispas (also known as Teisheba or Teišeba) of Kumenu was the Araratian (Urartian) weather-god, notably the god of storms and thunder. He was also sometimes the god of war. His shrine was at Kumenu. He was often depicted as a man standing on a bull, holding a handful of thunderbolts. His wife was the goddess Huba, who was the counterpart of the Hurrian goddess Hebat. He is a counterpart to the Assyrian god Adad, and the Hurrian god, Teshub.
Shivini or Artinis (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day) was a solar god in the mythology of the Urartu. His shrine was at Tushpa. He is the third god in a triad with Khaldi and Theispas and is cognate with the triad in Hinduism called Shivam. The Assyrian god Shamash is a counterpart to Shivini.
In Indo-European cultures, the Thunder God is frequently known as the chief or king of the gods, e.g. Indra in Hinduism, Zeus in Greek mythology, and Perun in ancient Slavic religion; or a close relation thereof, e.g. Thor, son of Odin, in Norse mythology.
In Greek mythology, The Elysian Fields, or the Elysian Plains, the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous, evolved from a designation of a place or person struck by lightning, enelysion, enelysios. This could be a reference to Zeus, the god of lightning/Jupiter, so “lightning-struck” could be saying that the person was blessed (struck) by Zeus (/lightning/fortune).
Egyptologist Jan Assmann has also suggested that Greek Elysion may have instead been derived from the Egyptian term ialu (older iaru), meaning “reeds,” with specific reference to the “Reed fields” (Egyptian: sekhet iaru / ialu), a paradisiacal land of plenty where the dead hoped to spend eternity.
In Celtic mythology Taranis was the god of thunder worshipped essentially in Gaul, Britain and Ireland, but also in the Rhineland and Danube regions, amongst others. Taranis, along with Esus and Toutatis as part of a sacred triad, was mentioned by the Roman poet Lucan in his epic poem Pharsalia as a Celtic deity to whom human sacrificial offerings were made. Taranis was associated, as was the cyclops Brontes (“thunder”) in Greek mythology, with the wheel.
Many representations of a bearded god with a thunderbolt in one hand and a wheel in the other have been recovered from Gaul, where this deity apparently came to be syncretised with Jupiter.
The name as recorded by Lucan is unattested epigraphically, but variants of the name include the forms Tanarus, Taranucno-, Taranuo-, and Taraino-. The name is continued in Irish as Tuireann, and is likely connected with those of Germanic (Norse Thor, Anglo-Saxon Þunor, German Donar) and Sami (Horagalles) gods of thunder.
Taranis is likely associated with the Gallic Ambisagrus (likely from Proto-Celtic *ambi-sagros = “about-strength”), and in the interpretatio romana with Jupiter, in ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter (Latin: Iuppiter) or Jove is the king of the gods and the god of sky and thunder.
Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as sacrifice.
The reconstructed Proto-Celtic form of the name is *Toranos “thunder”. In present day Welsh taranu and taran means ‘to thunder’ and ‘thunder’ (taraniñ and taran in Breton), and in present day Irish Tarann means ‘thunder’. This may also be connected to the Ancient Greek “ουρανός” (“ouranos”, meaning “sky”), and “του ουρανού” (“touranou” or “touranos”, meaning “of the sky” or “from the sky”, possibly indicating the origin of thunder (also see Ogmios).
Taranis, as a personification of thunder, is often identified with similar deities found in other Indo-European pantheons. Of these, Old Norse Þórr, Anglo-Saxon Þunor, Old High German Donar—all from Proto-Germanic *þunraz or *þonar-oz—and the Hittite theonym Tarhun (see Teshub) contain a comparable *torun- element. The Thracian deity names Zbel-thurdos, Zbel-Thiurdos also contain this element (Thracian thurd(a), “push, crash down”). The name of the Sami thunder god Horagalles derives from Thor’s.
Votive wheels called Rouelles, thought to correspond to the cult of Taranis. Thousands of such wheels have been found in sanctuaries in Belgic Gaul, dating from 50 BC to 50 AD. Musée d’Archéologie Nationale.
The wheel, more specifically the chariot wheel with six or eight spokes, was an important symbol in historical Celtic polytheism, apparently associated with a specific god, known as the wheel-god, identified as the sky- sun- or thunder-god, whose name is attested as Taranis by Lucan. Numerous Celtic coins also depict such a wheel. It is thought to correspond to a sun-cult practiced in Bronze Age Europe, the wheel representing the sun. The half-wheel shown in the Gundestrup “”broken wheel” panel also has eight visible spokes.
Symbolic votive wheels were offered at shrines (such as in Alesia), cast in rivers (such as the Seine), buried in tombs or worn as amulets since the Middle Bronze Age. Such “wheel pendants” from the Bronze Age usually had four spokes, and are commonly identified as solar symbols or “sun cross”. Artefacts parallel to the Celtic votive wheels or wheel-pendants are the so-called Zierscheiben in a Germanic context. The identification of the Sun with a wheel, or a chariot, has parallels in Germanic, Greek and Vedic mythology.
The so-called sun cross or wheel cross, a cross inside a circle, is frequently found in the symbolism of prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. The actual significance of these symbols in the prehistoric period is not known. From their ubiquity and apparent importance, however, the symbols have been adopted in various schools of Neopaganism, esotericism and occultism.
In Norse mythology, Thor (from Old Norse Þórr) is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility.
The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology and paganism was known in Old English as Þunor, in Old High German as Donar, in Old Saxon as thunar, and in Old Frisian as thuner, stemming from a Common Proto-Germanic masculine noun þunraz (meaning “thunder”).
Tendants in a distinctive shape representing the hammer of Thor (known in Norse sources as Mjöllnir) have frequently been unearthed in Viking Age Scandinavian burials. The hammers were worn as a symbol of Norse pagan faith.
Casting moulds have been found for the production of both Thor’s hammers and Christian crucifixes, and at least one example of a combined crucifix and hammer has been discovered. The Eyrarland Statue, a copper alloy figure found near Akureyri, Iceland dating from around the 11th century, may depict Thor seated and gripping his hammer.
The swastika symbol has been identified as representing the hammer or lightning of Thor. Scholar Hilda Ellis Davidson (1965) comments on the usage of the swastika as a symbol of Thor: The protective sign of the hammer was worn by women, as we know from the fact that it has been found in women’s graves. It seems to have been used by the warrior also, in the form of the swastika. […]
Primarily it appears to have had connections with light and fire, and to have been linked with the sun-wheel. It may have been on account of Thor’s association with lightning that this sign was used as an alternative to the hammer, for it is found on memorial stones in Scandinavia besides inscriptions to Thor. When we find it on the pommel of a warrior’s sword and on his sword-belt, the assumption is that the warrior was placing himself under the Thunder God’s protection.
Swastikas appear on various Germanic objects stretching from the Migration Period to the Viking Age, such as the 3rd century Værløse Fibula (DR EM85;123) from Zealand, Denmark; the Gothic spearhead from Brest-Litovsk, Belarus; numerous Migration Period bracteates; cremation urns from early Anglo-Saxon England; the 8th century Sæbø sword from Sogn, Norway; and the 9th century Snoldelev Stone (DR 248) from Ramsø, Denmark.
Sun Chariot (horse)
A solar deity (also sun god/dess) is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. Hence, many beliefs have formed around this worship, such as the “missing sun” found in many cultures.
A “solar barge” (also “solar bark”, “solar barque”, “solar boat” and “sun boat”) is a mythological representation of the sun riding in a boat. The “Khufu ship”, a 43.6-meter-long vessel that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2500 BC, is a full-size surviving example which may have fulfilled the symbolic function of a solar barque. This boat was rediscovered in May 1954 when archeologist Kamal el-Mallakh and inspector Zaki Nur found two ditches sealed off by about 40 blocks weighing 17 to 20 tonnes each. This boat was disassembled into 1,224 pieces and took over 10 years to reassemble. A nearby museum was built to house this boat.
Other sun boats were found in Egypt dating to different pharonic dynasties.
- Neolithic petroglyphs which (it has been speculated) show solar barges
- The many early Egyptian goddesses who are related as sun deities and the later gods Ra and Horus depicted as riding in a solar barge. In Egyptian myths of the afterlife, Ra rides in an underground channel from west to east every night so that he can rise in the east the next morning.
- The Nebra sky disk, which is thought to show a depiction of a solar barge.
- Nordic Bronze Age petroglyphs, including those found in Tanumshede often contains barges and sun crosses in different constellations.
A “sun chariot” is a mythological representation of the sun riding in a chariot. The concept is younger than that of the solar barge, and typically Indo-European, corresponding with the Indo-European expansion after the invention of the chariot in the 2nd millennium BC.
- In Norse mythology, the chariot of the goddess Sól, drawn by Arvak and Alsvid. The Trundholm sun chariot dates to the Nordic Bronze Age, more than 2,500 years earlier than the Norse myth, but is often associated with it.
- Greek Helios riding in a chariot, (see also Phaëton)
- Sol Invictus depicted riding a quadriga on the reverse of a Roman coin.
- Vedic Surya riding in a chariot drawn by seven horses
The sun itself also was compared to a wheel, possibly in Proto-Indo-European, Greek hēliou kuklos, Sanskrit suryasya cakram, Anglo-Saxon sunnan hweogul (PIE *swelyosyo kukwelos).
The Neolithic concept of a solar barge, the sun as traversing the sky in a boat, is found in the later myths of Utu (Akkadian rendition of Sumerian UD “Sun”), the Sun god in Sumerian mythology, and the god of the sun, justice, application of law, and the lord of truth
Utu is the son of the moon god Nanna, or Sin (Akkadian: Su’en, Sîn), and the goddess Ningal. His brother and sisters are Ishkur and the twins Inanna and Ereshkigal. Marduk is spelled AMAR.UTU in Sumerian, literally, “the calf of Utu” or “the young bull of the Sun”. In the perfected system of astrology, the planet Jupiter was associated with Marduk by the Hammurabi period.
Nanna was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with the Semitic moon god Su’en/Sin, who is in origin a separate deity from Sumerian Nanna, but became syncronized with Nanna from the time of the Akkadian Empire and are identified as the same.
Nanna’s wife was Ningal (“Great Lady”), who bore him Utu/Shamash (“Sun”) and Inanna/Ishtar (the goddess of the planet Venus). The tendency to centralize the powers of the universe leads to the establishment of the doctrine of a triad consisting of Sin/Nanna and his children.
The original meaning of the name Nanna is unknown. The name of Ur, is itself derived from the theonym, and means “the abode (UNUG) of Nanna. The two chief seats of Nanna’s/Sin’s worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.
Utu is usually depicted as wearing a horned helmet and carrying a saw-edged weapon not unlike a pruning saw. It is thought that every day, Utu emerges from a mountain in the east, symbolizing dawn, and travels either via chariot or boat across the Earth, returning to a hole in a mountain in the west, symbolizing sunset. Every night, Utu descends into the underworld to decide the fate of the dead. He is also depicted as carrying a mace, and standing with one foot on a mountain. Its symbol is “sun rays from the shoulders, and or sun disk or a saw”.
The sun god is only modestly mentioned in Sumerian mythology with one of the notable exceptions being the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the myth, Gilgamesh seeks to establish his name with the assistance of Utu, because of his connection with the cedar mountain. Gilgamesh and his father, Lugalbanda were kings of the first dynasty of Uruk, a lineage that Jeffrey H. Tigay suggested could be traced back to Utu himself. He further suggested that Lugalbanda’s association with the sun-god in the Old Babylonian version of the epic strengthened “the impression that at one point in the history of the tradition the sun-god was also invoked as an ancestor”.
In Sumerian mythology, the utukku were a type of spirit or demon that could be either benevolent or evil. In Akkadian mythology, they were referred to as utukki, were seven evil demons who were the offspring of Anu and Antu.
The evil utukku were called Edimmu or Ekimmu; the good utukku were called shedu. Two of the best known of the evil Utukku were Asag (slain by Ninurta) and Alû.
Assyro-Babylonian Shamash (“Sun”) plays an important role during the Bronze Age, and “my Sun” is eventually used as an address to royalty. Similarly, South American cultures have a tradition of Sun worship, as with the Incan Inti. Svarog is the Slavic god sun and spirit of fire.
Together with Nanna-Sin and Ishtar, Shamash completes another triad by the side of Anu, Enlil and Ea. The three powers Sin, Shamash and Ishtar symbolized three great forces of nature: the moon, the sun, and the life-giving force of the earth, respectively. At times instead of Ishtar we find Adad, the storm-god, associated with Sin and Shamash, and it may be that these two sets of triads represent the doctrines of two different schools of theological thought in Babylonia which were subsequently harmonized by the recognition of a group consisting of all four deities.
Both in early and in late inscriptions Shamash is designated as the “offspring of Nannar”; i.e. of the moon-god, and since, in an enumeration of the pantheon, Sin generally takes precedence of Shamash, it is in relationship, presumably, to the moon-god that the sun-god appears as the dependent power. Such a supposition would accord with the prominence acquired by the moon in the calendar and in astrological calculations, as well as with the fact that the moon-cult belongs to the nomadic and therefore earlier stage of civilization, whereas the sun-god rises to full importance only after the agricultural stage has been reached.
In ancient Egypt, with Ra and Horus. Earlier Egyptian myths imply that the sun is within the lioness, Sekhmet, at night and can be seen reflected in her eyes or that it is within the cow, Hathor during the night, being reborn each morning as her son (bull).
Sun worship was prevalent in ancient Egyptian religion. The earliest deities associated with the sun are all goddesses: Wadjet, Sekhmet, Hathor, Nut, Bast, Bat, and Menhit. First Hathor, and then Isis, give birth to and nurse Horus and Ra. Hathor the horned-cow is one of the 12 daughters of Ra, gifted with joy and is a wet-nurse to Horus.
The Sun’s movement across the sky represents a struggle between the Pharaoh’s soul and an avatar of Osiris. Ra travels across the sky in his solar-boat; at dawn he drives away the demon Apep of darkness. The “solarisation” of several local gods (Hnum-Re, Min-Re, Amon-Re) reaches its peak in the period of the fifth dynasty.
Ra or Re is the ancient Egyptian solar deity. By the Fifth Dynasty (2494 to 2345 BC) he had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the midday sun. The meaning of the name is uncertain, but it is thought that if not a word for ‘sun’ it may be a variant of or linked to words meaning ‘creative power’ and ‘creator’.
The major cult centre of Ra was Heliopolis (called Iunu, “Place of Pillars”, in Egyptian), where he was identified with the local sun-god Atum. Through Atum, or as Atum-Ra, he was also seen as the first being and the originator of the Ennead, consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys.
In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Re-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”). He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk.
When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten suppressed the cult of Ra in favour of another solar deity, the Aten, the deified solar disc, but after the death of Akhenaten the cult of Ra was restored.
The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, an aspect of the chief god in the region of Heliopolis, Atum-Ra, had its centre in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.
All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively humans were created from Ra’s tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra.” In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became bloodthirsty she was pacified by mixing beer with red dye.
Proto-Indo-European religion has a solar chariot, the sun as traversing the sky in a chariot. In Germanic mythology this is Sol, in Vedic Surya, and in Greek Helios (occasionally referred to as Titan) and (sometimes) as Apollo.
During the Roman Empire, a festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) was celebrated on the winter solstice, the “rebirth” of the sun, which occurred on December 25 of the Julian calendar.
In late antiquity, the theological centrality of the sun in some Imperial religious systems suggest a form of a “solar monotheism.” The religious commemorations on December 25 were replaced under Christian domination of the Empire with the birthday of Christ.
The Ādityas are one of the principal deities of the Vedic classical Hinduism belonging to Solar class. In the Vedas, numerous hymns are dedicated to Mitra, Varuna, Savitr etc.
Even the Gayatri mantra, which is regarded as one of the most sacred of the Vedic hymns is dedicated to Savitr, one of the principal Ādityas. The Adityas are a group of solar deities, from the Brahmana period numbering twelve. The ritual of sandhyavandanam, performed by Hindus, is an elaborate set of hand gestures and body movements, designed to greet and revere the Sun.
The sun god in Hinduism is an ancient and revered deity. In later Hindu usage, all the Vedic Ādityas lost identity and metamorphosed into one composite deity, Surya, the Sun. The attributes of all other Ādityas merged into that of Surya and the names of all other Ādityas became synonymous with, or epithets of, Surya.
A lamassu is a protective deity, often depicted with a bull or lion’s body, eagle’s wings, and human’s head. In some writings, it is portrayed to represent a female deity. A less frequently used name is shedu which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu.
Ninurta (Nin Ur: God of War) often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.
Sharur, which means “smasher of thousands”, is the weapon and mythic symbol of the god Ninurta. Sumerian mythic sources describe it as an enchanted talking mace. Sharur plays a prominent role in an incident in which Ninurta is described as using it to defeat Asag, a monstrous demon; Sharur has the power to fly across vast distances without impediment and communicate with its wielder.
It has been suggested that Sharur is a possible precursor for similar objects in other mythology such as Arthurian lore. King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century.
Date: ca. 2500 B.C.
Description: Monumental relief showing lion-headed eagle Imdugud, grasping hind-quarters of pair of stags standing back-to-back beneath its outstretched wings.
Zu, also known as Anzu and Imdugud, in Sumerian, (from An “heaven” and Zu “to know”, in the Sumerian language) is a lesser divinity of Akkadian mythology, and the son of the bird goddess Siris. He was conceived by the pure waters of the Apsu and the wide Earth. Both Zu and Siris are seen as massive birds who can breathe fire and water, although Zu is alternately seen as a lion-headed eagle (like a griffin).
Anzu 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 Anzu stole the Tablet of Destinies, so hoping to determine the fate of all things. In one version of the legend, the gods sent Lugalbanda, a character found in Sumerian mythology and literature, to retrieve the tablets, who in turn, killed Anzu.
The Typhon episode in Hesiod’s Theogony (820-880) is as follows: a monstruous creature, previously unheard of, is born from Earth and Tartarus and grows great, threatening Zeus’ power. There is a battle between the two, and Zeus, using his storm weapons, which include the usual thunder and lightning and also tornadoes, overwhelms his opponent and destroys him.
Typhon himself is some sort of stormdemon: although consigned to Tartarus, he is the source of wild, destructive winds. The Typhon episode does not fit very well into the structure of the Succession Myth and should be regarded as a separate, self-contained story drawn from the general area of tradition, and it may be compared with several oriental myths. The myth has many important Mesopotamian, Canaanite and Hurro-Hittite parallels.
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that features in the myths of many cultures. It is a mythological representation of a reptile. In antiquity, dragons were mostly envisaged as serpents, but since the Middle Ages, it has become common to depict them with legs, resembling a lizard.
The word dragon entered the English language in the early 13th century from Old French dragon, which in turn comes from Latin draconem (nominative draco) meaning “huge serpent, dragon,” from the Greek word drakon (genitive drakontos) “serpent, giant seafish”. The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, and this usage was also current in English up to the 18th century.
Dragons are usually shown in modern times with a body like a huge lizard, or a snake with two pairs of lizard-type legs, and able to emit fire from their mouths. The European dragon has bat-like wings growing from its back. A dragon-like creature with wings but only a single pair of legs is known as a wyvern.
Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label. Some dragons are said to breathe fire or to be poisonous, such as in the Old English poem Beowulf.
Dragons are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically scaly or feathered bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as hoarding treasure. Some myths portray them with a row of dorsal spines. European dragons are more often winged, while Chinese dragons resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature.
Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom – often said to be wiser than humans – and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech. In some traditions dragons are said to have taught humans to talk.
Narratives about dragons often involve them being killed by a hero. This topos can be traced to the Chaoskampf of the mythology of the Ancient Near East (e.g. Hadad vs. Yam, Marduk vs. Tiamat, Teshub vs. Illuyanka, etc.; the Biblical Leviathan presumably reflects a corresponding opponent of an early version of Yahweh).
The motif is continued in Greek Apollo, and the early Christian narratives about Archangel Michael and Saint George. The slaying of Vrtra by Indra in the Rigveda also belongs in this category. The theme survives into medieval legend and folklore, with dragon slayers such as Beowulf, Sigurd, Tristan, Margaret the Virgin, Heinrich von Winkelried, Dobrynya Nikitich, Skuba Dratewka/Krakus.
In Biblical myth, the archetype is alluded to in the descendants of Adam crushing the head of the Serpent, and in Christian mythology, this was interpreted as corresponding to Christ as the “New Adam” crushing the Devil.
The blood of a slain dragon is depicted as either beneficent or as poisonous in medieval legend and literary fiction. In German legend, dragon blood has the power to render invincible skin or armor bathed in it, as is the case with Siegfried’s skin or Ortnit’s armor.
In the Slavic myth, the Earth refuses it as it is so vile that Mother Earth wishes not to have it within her womb, and it remains above ground for all eternity. The blood of the dragon in Beowulf has acidic qualities, allowing it to seep through iron. Heinrich von Winkelried dies after the blood of the dragon slain by him accidentally drips on him.
There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, and the Chinese dragon, with counterparts in Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries.
The two traditions may have evolved separately, but have influenced each other to a certain extent, particularly with the cross-cultural contact of recent centuries. The English word “dragon” derives from Greek (drákōn), “dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake”.
The association of the serpent with a monstrous opponent overcome by a heroic deity has its roots in the mythology of the Ancient Near East, including Canaanite (Hebrew, Ugaritic), Hittite and Mesopotamian. Humbaba, the fire-breathing dragon-fanged beast first described in the Epic of Gilgamesh is sometimes described as a dragon with Gilgamesh playing the part of dragon-slayer.
In Akkadian mythology Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Sumerian spelling), also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned Humbaba as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi.
Teshub (also written Teshup or Tešup) was the Hurrian god of sky and storm. He is related to the Hattian Taru. His Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun (with variant stem forms Tarhunt, Tarhuwant, Tarhunta), although this name is from the Hittite root *tarh- “to defeat, conquer”.
Teshub is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs.
According to Hittite myths, one of Teshub’s greatest acts was the slaying of the dragon Illuyanka. Myths also exist of his conflict with the sea creature (possibly a snake or serpent) Hedammu. This monster was born of Kumarbi’s union with the daughter of a sea-god and emerged from the sea to devour animals and humans. It was eventually subdued by Teshub’s sister Sauska/Ishtar who caused the seawater to act as a sleeping draught.
In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. . The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology and paganism was known in Old English as Þunor and in Old High German as Donar, stemming from a Common Germanic Þunraz (meaning “thunder”).
Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor, is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of leveling mountains. Tanngrisnir (Old Norse “teeth-barer, snarler”) and Tanngnjóstr (Old Norse “teeth grinder”) are the goats who pull the god Thor’s chariot in Norse mythology.
In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr (Old Norse: Jǫrmungandr, pronounced [ˈjɔrmuŋɡandr]), often written Jormungand, or Jörmungand and also known as the Midgard Serpent (Old Norse: Midgarðsormr), or World Serpent, is a sea serpent, the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and Loki.
According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki’s three children by Angrboða, the wolf Fenrir, Hel and Jörmungandr, and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the earth and grasp his own tail. As a result, he received the name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. When he lets go, the world will end.
Jörmungandr’s arch-enemy is the god Thor. It comes from the ouroboros. The Ouroboros is symbolized by a snake biting its own tail. It comes from the Greek word “Ouron” which means “To make water”, explaining the references of Jormungandr to the sea. It symbolizes balance in nature, hence, when he “lets go”, it would be similar to Atlas letting go, which means there would be chaos and no order.
The legless serpent (Chaoskampf) motif entered Greek mythology and ultimately Christian mythology, although the serpent motif may already be part of prehistoric Indo-European mythology as well, based on comparative evidence of Indic and Germanic material. It has been speculated that accounts of spitting cobras may be the origin of the myths of fire-breathing dragons.
European dragons exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. Dragons are generally depicted as living in rivers or having an underground lair or cave. They are commonly described as having hard or armoured hide, and are rarely described as flying, despite often being depicted with wings.
European dragons are usually depicted as malevolent though there are exceptions (such as Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon of Wales).
Tarhunt the god of thunder and his conflict with the serpent Illuyanka, which is to find in the religion of the Hittites and Luwians, resembles the conflict between Indra and the cosmic serpent Vritra in Vedic mythology, or Thor and the serpent Jörmungandr in Norse mythology.
In the early Vedic religion, Vritra (Devanāgarī) or Vṛtra “the enveloper”, was an Asura and also a “naga” (serpent) or possibly dragon-like creature, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi (“snake”) and he is said to have had three heads.
In Asia, the concept of dragon appears largely in a form of a Long, a beneficent dragon-like creature from Chinese folklore. Another dragon-like creature which appears in the form of Naga, which is prevalent in some Southeast Asian countries with more direct influence from Vedic religion.
Nāga, snakes that may take human form, 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 and Jainism.
In the great epic Mahabharata, the depiction of nagas tends toward the positive. An epic calls them “persecutors of all creatures”, and tells us “the snakes were of virulent poison, great prowess and excess of strength, and ever bent on biting other creatures” (Book I: Adi Parva, Section 20). At some points within the story, nagas are important players in many of the events narrated in the epic, frequently no more evil nor deceitful than the other protagonists, and sometimes on the side of good.
Stories involving the nāgas are still very much a part of contemporary cultural traditions in predominantly Hindu regions of Asia (India, Nepal, and the island of Bali). In India, nāgas are considered nature spirits and the protectors of springs, wells and rivers. They bring rain, and thus fertility, but are also thought to bring disasters such as floods and drought.
In China, depiction of the dragon can be found in artifacts from the Shang and Zhou dynasties with examples dating back to the 16th century BC. The Chinese name for dragon is pronounced “lóng” in Mandarin Chinese or “lùhng” in the Cantonese. Archaeologist Zhōu Chong-Fa believes that the Chinese word for dragon is an onomatopoeia of the sound thunder makes.
The origin of the Chinese dragon is not certain. The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from the Hongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.
Dragons or dragon-like depictions have been found extensively in neolithic-period archaeological sites throughout China. The earliest depiction of dragons was found at Xinglongwa culture ) (6200-5400 BC) sites. Yangshao culture sites in Xi’an have produced clay pots with dragon motifs. The Liangzhu culture also produced dragon-like patterns. The Hongshan culture sites in present-day Inner Mongolia produced jade dragon amulets in the form of pig dragons.
One such early form was the pig dragon. It is a coiled, elongated creature with a head resembling a boar. The character for “dragon” in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.
The Chinese dragon is the highest-ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy, strongly associated at one time with the emperor and hence power and majesty (the mythical bird fenghuang was the symbol of the Chinese empress), still recognized and revered.
Chinese dragons are occasionally depicted with bat-like wings growing out of the front limbs, but most do not have wings, as their ability to fly (and control rain/water, etc.) are mystical and not seen as a result of their physical attributes. Many pictures of oriental dragons show a flaming pearl under their chin. The pearl is associated with wealth, good luck, and prosperity.
Chinese dragons are strongly associated with water in popular belief. Just as water destroys, they said, so can some dragons destroy via floods, tidal waves and storms. They suggested that some of the worst floods were believed to have been the result of a mortal upsetting a dragon.
They are believed to be the rulers of moving bodies of water, such as waterfalls, rivers, or seas. They can show themselves as water spouts (tornado or twister over water). In this capacity as the rulers of water and weather, the dragon is more anthropomorphic in form, often depicted as a humanoid, dressed in a king’s costume, but with a dragon head wearing a king’s headdress.
According to Chinese legend, both Chinese primogenitors, the earliest Emperors, Yandi and Huangdi, were closely related to ‘Long’ (Chinese Dragon). At the end of his reign, the first legendary Emperor, Huangdi, was said to have been immortalized into a dragon that resembled his emblem, and ascended to Heaven. The other legendary Emperor, Huangdi’s brother, Yandi was born by his mother’s telepathy with a mythic dragon.
Since the Chinese consider Huangdi and Yandi as their ancestors, they sometimes refer to themselves as “the descendants of the dragon”. This legend also contributed towards the use of the Chinese dragon as a symbol of imperial power.
The dragon, especially yellow or golden dragons with five claws on each foot, was a symbol for the emperor in many Chinese dynasties. The imperial throne was called the Dragon Throne. During the late Qing Dynasty, the dragon was even adopted as the national flag. The dragon is featured in the carvings on the steps of imperial palaces and tombs, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.
In some Chinese legends, an Emperor might be born with a birthmark in the shape of a dragon. For example, one legend tells the tale of a peasant born with a dragon birthmark who eventually overthrows the existing dynasty and founds a new one; another legend might tell of the prince in hiding from his enemies who is identified by his dragon birthmark.
In contrast, the Empress of China was often identified with the Fenghuang, mythological birds of East Asia that reign over all other birds. The males are called feng and the females huang. In modern times, however, such a distinction of gender is often no longer made and they are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which is deemed male. In the West, it is commonly referred to as the Chinese phoenix or simply Phoenix.
Its origins are vague, but its “ancestors can be found on Neolithic pottery as well as Bronze Age ritual vessels.” Images of an ancient bird have appeared in China for over 8000 years, as earliest as the Hongshan neolithic period, on jade and pottery motifs, then appearing decorating bronze as well as jade figurines. Some believe they may have been a good-luck totem among eastern tribes of ancient China.
Tradition has it composed of nine different animals, with nine sons, each with its own imagery and affiliations. It is the only mythological animal of the 12 animals that represent the Chinese calendar. 2012 was the Chinese year of the Water Dragon.
In modern times, belief in the dragon appears to be sporadic at best. There appear to be very few who would see the dragon as a literally real creature. The worship of the Dragon Kings as rulers of water and weather continues in many areas, and is deeply ingrained in Chinese cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year celebrations.
Sometime after the 9th century AD, Japan adopted the Chinese dragon through the spread of Buddhism. Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Gould writes (1896:248), the Japanese dragon is “invariably figured as possessing three claws”.
Although the indigenous name for a dragon in Japanese is tatsu, a few of the Japanese words for dragon stem from the Chinese word for dragon, namely, “ryū” or “ryō”. The Vietnamese word for dragon is rồng and the Korean word for dragon is “ryong”.
Vietnamese dragons (rồng or long) are symbolic creatures in the folklore and mythology of Vietnam. According to an ancient creation myth, the Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon and a fairy. To Vietnamese people, the dragon brings rain, essential for agriculture. It represents the emperor, the prosperity and power of the nation. Like the Chinese dragon, the Vietnamese dragon is the symbol of yang, representing the universe, life, existence, and growth. Extant references to the Vietnamese Dragon are rare now, due to the fierce changes in history that accompanied the sinicization of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
This paper discusses forms of a female figure accompanied by felines, as sheevolved in prehistoric and early historic Anatolia; her movements throughoutAsia Minor; her transmission to Greece and Rome; and her worship thencethroughout the ancient world. It also addresses the controversy of how andwhether the Phrygian and later Greco-Roman goddess Cybele is connected to theAnatolian Kubaba mentioned in Hittite texts and later worshipped in Carchemish.Many of the Neolithic Anatolian female figures were also associated with bo-vines, as was Cybele millennia later.
Probably the earliest Anatolian female figure connected with felines, dating to theaceramic, pre-agricultural Neolithic, no later than 8000 BCE, has been found inlevel II of the southeast Anatolian site of Göbekli Tepe, north of the Harran plain,in southeastern Turkey. The figure is carved in an area between pillars contain-ing depictions of felines (Schmidt 2006:238, figure 104). Thus in Göbekli Tepeone finds very early forms of both felines and females. The structures, roundmegalithic buildings, contain pillars on which are carved reliefs of many animals,including the felines, snakes, boars, and a bucranium.
Ancient Felines and the Great-Goddess in Anatolia:Kubaba and Cybele
Ancient Grain Goddesses of the Eastern Mediterranean
Eurasian Steppe and Caucasus – Hemp Rope, Impressions and Seeds
Early Third Millennium BC Cultural Horizons based on Distribution of Pottery and Seals
Fig. 4Early Transcaucasian ware (purple), Ninevite 5 ware (green), Scarlet ware (orange),and Burnt Steatite Style seals (crescent)(adapted from Roaf 1990: 80)
Shamanism: One of the earliest terrestrial religions. The social function of the Shaman was oracle, healer and spiritual guide all in one. Their job it was to maintain a connection with the spirit world. The word shaman originated among the Siberian Tungus (Evenks) and literally means he (or she) who knows.
The concept of a shaman was almost lost in the 20th century, but it is making a slow revival in ‘new-age’ cultures. In essence, shamanism is a belief system, similar to many religions today, it is often spoke of as one of the first ‘religions’ practiced by people. What did these early Shamans see? Were the visions they experienced and cataloged simply the result of psychoactive drugs, or were the experiences possibly an open portal to other dimensions?
Archaeologists in northern Israel say they have discovered the world’s oldest known grave of a shaman. The 12,000-year-old grave holds an elderly female of the mysterious Natufian culture, animal parts, and a human foot. Hundreds of Natufian graves have been excavated in Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. But only the one uncovered by Grosman contains a woman believed to have been a shaman.
Most cultures indulge in the consumption of mind-altering substances and ancientMesopotamia is unlikely to be an exception to the rule. Until recently, lack of hardevidence has discouraged any serious investigation into this subject, but now thatarchaeological material is mounting in discrete locations from around the ancient Near East, the time is ripe to re-examine the available data and look for clues to the existenceof drug related rituals that may have eluded us in the past.
Beginning with a review of therelevant textual and botanical evidence, this paper then focuses on the material and visualrecord from the Hurrian cultural horizon in its broadest sense, including all areas and periods that overlap with this ethno-linguistic group. The cumulative evidence suggeststhat inasmuch as drugs appear to play a central role in the socio-political and religious lifeof pre-urban societies that surrounded Mesopotamia and informed its culture, somevestige of these ancient rites are likely to have been absorbed along with the folklore andlegends that they inspired.
Comparable iconography occurs on cylinder seals that share a similar chronological and geographical distribution with Kura-Araxes ware and its southernderivative, Khirbet-Kerak ware. The so-called Burnt Steatite Style likewise dates to the late 4th and early 3rdmillennia BC and has been found at sites concentrated along thefoothills of the Zagros and Taurus range (Fig. 4, the area enclosed by the crescent thatoverlaps the distribution of Scarlet, Ninevite 5 and Transcaucasian ware). A fewcenturies later, during the Sargonic period (c. 2200 BC), this area is known as Greater Subartu, and part of it was famed for its magical arts. The typical designs on the BurntSteatite style seals suggest that this reputation may be rooted in older traditions.
Drug Consumption and its Social Context in the ancient Near East
The Khiamian (also referred to as El Khiam or El-Khiam) is a poorly understood and sometimes disputed sub-phase of the Near-Eastern Neolithic, straddling the transition from the Natufian (13,000 to 9,800 BC. ) to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA 8500 BCE – 7600 BC.). Some sources date it from about 10,000 to 9,500 BC., but it currently dates between 10,200 and 8800 BC according to the ASPRO chronology.
The PPNA in the southern Levant begins at around 10,300-10,200BP (10,000-9900 cal BC) but at Mureybet in the northern Levant it appears earlier at c.10,600-10,500bp (c.10,500 cal BC): “Hence there is no evidence for synchroneity for the onset of the Neolithic between the northern and southern Levant”.
According to Tchernov, this correlates with increased collection and cultivation of wild barley and emmer wheat and vegetal sources including legumes, seeds an fruits and specialized hunting of diverse vertebrates.
The Khiamian owes its name to the site of El Khiam, situated on banks of the Dead Sea, where researchers have recovered the oldest chert arrows heads, with lateral notchs, the so-called “El Khiam points”. They have served to identify sites of this period, which are found in Israel, as well as in Jordan (Azraq), Sinai (Abu Madi), and to the north as far as the Middle Euphrates (Mureybet).
Aside from the appearance of El Khiam arrow heads, the Khiamian is placed in the continuity of the Natufian, without any major technical innovations. However, for the first time houses were built on the ground level itself, and not half below ground as was previously done. Otherwise, the bearers of the El Khiam culture were still hunter-gatherers, and agriculture at that time was then still rather primitive, based on what has been reported on sites of this period.
Newer discoveries show that in the Middle East and Anatolia some experiments with agriculture were being made by 10,900 BC., and that there may already have been experimenting with wild grain processing by around 19,000 BC at Ohalo II.
The Khiamien also sees a change occur in the symbolic aspects of culture, as evidenced by the appearance of small female statuettes, as well as by the burying of aurochs skulls. According to Jacques Cauvin, it is the beginning of the worship of the Woman and the Bull, as evidenced in the following periods of the Near-Eastern Neolithic.
The antecedents of the PPNB clay figurines may be sought in the early Levantine stone statuary. Female sculpture in the Levant also coincided with the beginning of agriculture in the Khiamian culture, ca. 8500-8000 BC.
When individual figures started being carved most were sexually ambiguous or even dual-gendered representations. Examples at Salibiya, Nahal Oren and Gilgal, on the one hand, depict the body of a woman with a head barely disengaged from the shoulders, facial features reduced to the brows and a long nose, and with the trunk ending in two stumpy thighs.
On the other hand, the figures can also be viewed as male genitalia: the nose and brows become the foreskin, the body is the phallus and the thighs represent the testicles. The bisexual style was not confined to the PPNA culture but was still alive as late as in the 6th Millennium BC. at Shaar Golan, where pebble figurines still fused the male sex with the female body.
In fact, bisexuality, far from being restricted to the Mediterranean coast, was celebrated in a statuette as late as ca. 4500 BC. and as far as Tepe Yahya in southern Iran.
The PPNA stone figurines from El Khiam, and Mureybet II depict women that are singular in having no breasts, navel or genitalia. The buttocks are often emphasized, producing a characteristic arching posture. The stylization becomes even more extreme in the following millennia, as shown by figures of Mureybet III in the 8th Millennium, Tell Ramad II as well as Ras Shamra V in the 7th Millennium. The figures are then reduced to a torso with stumpy legs, omitting head, arms, breasts, navel and usually sex. A single specimen from Mureybet features a vulva. These statuettes also preserve the triangular profile noted in the PPNA prototypes.
Intercourse and bisexual representations were not restricted to the ancient province of Palestine, but were attested as far north as Turkey and as far east as Iran, respectively. The same is true for the flat-chested female stone statuettes. For example, level VI A at Catal Hüyük, ca. 6000 BC., produced a figurine that is far more naturalistic but still retains the same characteristic triangular profile and has no breasts, navel or vulva. It is noteworthy, therefore, that at Catal Hüyük, as well as at Hacilar, pregnancy is translated in the informal clay figurines, not in the more complex stone statuettes.
The fact that the Levant shares themes and style with other regions demonstrates that the Mediterranean coast was not isolated. The stone images belonged to a Pan-Near Eastern Neolithic phenomenon.
The first anthropomorphic representations consisted mostly of pebbles carved in the form of a phallus that appeared in Natufian assemblages ca. 10, 000 BC. The same culture is also traditionally credited for a small calcite statuette depicting a couple in coitus, with the two bodies tightly clutched together.
It is noteworthy that the theme of the embraced couple was not unique to the Natufians or to the Levant. The motif of the copulating couple reoccurs, for example, in Anatolian sculptures of the seventh millennium BC. at Catal Hüyük and as a seal of Protohistoric Susa.
The Ain Sakhri lovers, a carved stone object held at the British Museum, is the oldest known depiction of a couple having sex. It was found in the Ain Sakhri cave in the Judean desert. The sculpture is considered to be 11,000 years old and to be the oldest known representation of two people engaged in sexual intercourse. The figure looks differently depending on the viewer’s perspective. It may resemble a couple, a penis, breasts, or a vagina depending on this perspective; also, two testicles when viewed upside-down, from the bottom.
Ain Sakhri lovers
The first figure in glorifying pregnancy was A stone statuette from ‘Ain Ghazal, Jordan. The stone figure originated from the PPNC period, dated from 6000 to 5500 BC. It shows a nude figure whose gender is not immediately apparent. The genitals are not indicated and the breasts are flat. However, the absence of musculature, the abdominal fat rolls, the voluminous upper arms and thighs are clues that the subject is female. Mostly, the attention given to the womb, its enormous size, its central place in the composition, the way it projects in profile, and the gesture cradling it, makes it unequivocal that the figure is pregnant.
Who is the female exalting her pregnant state ? Who is the child? What did the figure mean to the Neolithic villagers? These are questions that the artifact alone or the shreds of evidence left at the site cannot answer. In this paper I seek to address these questions by analyzing the context, technology and style of the statuette. I place the piece in the iconography by comparing it with ‘Ain Ghazal clay figurines and with early Levantine stone sculptures. Then I glean information in the mythology, considering the role of pregnancy in ancient Near Eastern creation myths. Based on the collected data, I will propose that the statuette is part of a long tradition of women procreators of cosmos and vegetation.
A Stone Metaphor of Creation