Winds and the Babylonian Concept of Evil
by Estéban Trujillo de Gutiérrez
“Hadad, Addu or Dadda, never superseded the native name of Ramânu (Ramman) in Babylonia and Assyria, and remained foreign to the last.
Ramânu, however, was sometimes addressed as Barqu or Barak, “the lightning;” and it is possible that antiquarian zeal may have also sometimes imposed on him the Accadian title of Meru.
He grew continuously in popular favour. In Semitic Babylonia, and yet more in Semitic Assyria, his aid was constantly invoked; and, like Anu, Bel and Ea, he tended as time went on to become more and more national in character. Ramman is one of the least local of Babylonian gods.
This was due in great measure to the nature of his origin. He began as the amalgamation of two distinct deities, the wind-god and the air-god, and the extension af his cult was marked by the absorption into his person of the various deities of the winds adored by the older faith.
He continued to grow at their expense. The spirits of the winds and storms sank lower and lower; and while the beneficent side of their operation attached itself to Ramman, there remained to them only that side which was harmful and demoniac.
By degrees, the two aspects of their character came be separated. The higher gods came to be looked upon as the hearers of prayers and the bestowers of all good gifts; while the instruments of their vengeance an the inflictors of suffering and misery upon man were the inferior spirits of the lower sphere.
But the old conception, which derived both good and evil from the same source, did not wholly pass away. Evil never came to be regarded as the antagonist of good; it was rather the necessary complement and minister of good.
The supreme Baal thus preserved his omnipotence, while at the same time the ideas of pain and injustice were dissociated from him. In his combat with the dragon of chaos, Merodach summons the “evil wind” itself to his assistance; and in the legend of the assault of the seven wicked spirits upon the Moon, they are nevertheless called “the messengers of Anu their king.”
Nerra, the god of plague and destruction, smites the people of Babylonia on account of their sins by the command of the gods, like the angel with the drawn sword whom David saw standing over Jerusalem at the threshing-floor of Araunah; and in the story of the Deluge it is because of the wickedness of mankind that the flood is brought upon the earth.
The powers of darkness are degraded from their ancient position of independence, and either driven, like Tiamat, beyond the bounds of the created world, or reduced to the condition of ministers of divine wrath.
If we would realise how widely removed is this conception of them as the instruments of divine anger from that earlier view in which they are mere elemental powers, in themselves neither good nor evil, we cannot do better than compare these legendary compositions of the Semitic period with the old Accadian hymns that relate to the seven harmful spirits.”
A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 205-6.