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Dalley: Apkallu-2, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD).

Apkallu (continued).

“The deities Ea, Damkina, Gula, Enlil, Adad, Marduk, Nabu, and Gerra were all called “sage of the gods” in texts on particular occasions; the link with Ea is apparent for type 2 from 40, 47–48, and with Marduk and Nabu from 63. A link between type 2 and the moon god Sin is shown on 45 and probably with Adad on 15*.

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 15, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Four beardless umu-apkallu flank a fifth bearded one wearing the horned tiara indicative of divinity. Apkallu are often portrayed wearing this crown, but this illustration may be unique with just one.<br /> The two bottom apkallu hold mullilu and banduddu in their appropriate hands, while the central apkallu holds what appear to be poppy bulbs.

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 15, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Four beardless umu-apkallu flank a fifth bearded one wearing the horned tiara indicative of divinity. Apkallu are often portrayed wearing this crown, but this illustration may be unique with just one.
The two bottom apkallu hold mullilu and banduddu in their appropriate hands, while the central apkallu holds what appear to be poppy bulbs.

Exceptional people such as Sennacherib, his wife Naqia, and their grandson Assurbanipal were called sage, a./apkallatu, whether as flattery or as a result of specific circumstances.

A 7th century queen of Arabia was also given the title of sage, perhaps related to the meaning of the cognate as a type of priest in early Arabia (BORGER 1957). This may be linked to the appearance of unbearded type 1 sages whose garments differ from those of bearded sages (1*–2, 27–30).

Apkallu type 1, illustration 1, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Stephanie Dalley's

Apkallu type 1, illustration 1, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Stephanie Dalley’s “beardless” type 1 apkallu. Aside from being beardless, these feminized apkallu wear atypical necklaces and hold what appear to be looped stones or prayer beads in their left hands.
Typical rosette bracelets adorn their wrists, and they wear armlets at the elbow as is common.
Both umu-apkallu wear the horned tiara indicative of divinity, as they salute a sacred tree in its prototypical configuration.

One of the questions relevant for the three iconographic types of sages is whether they refer to categories of sage related to different periods in time – preflood, intermediate (i.e., ZiusudraAtrahasis who lived through the flood), and postflood; or to different functions such as writers of medical texts or court wisdom; or whether chronological and/or regional traditions account for different types and associations.

II. Typology

1. HUMAN-FIGURED Apkallu (1–39)

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD. This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand. The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu. Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand.
The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu.
Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

2. FISH-CLOAK Apkallu (12, 33–35, 40–66)

Apkallu type 2, illustration 33, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> This puradu-fish apkallu on the left holds the banduddu bucket in his left hand.<br /> The central figure appears to be a type 1 umu-apkallu, holding the reins to a winged conveyance.<br /> I am unsure of the right side figures, as they both lack horned headdresses indicative of divinity and they stand on the ground, rather than on animals.

Apkallu type 2, illustration 33, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This puradu-fish apkallu on the left holds the banduddu bucket in his left hand.
The central figure appears to be a type 1 umu-apkallu, holding the reins to a winged conveyance.
I am unsure of the right side figures, as they both lack horned headdresses indicative of divinity and they stand on the ground, rather than on animals.

3. BIRD-OF-PREY-HEADED Apkallu (6–7, 21, 36, 39, 67–80)

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36 (detail) Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.<br /> The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human um-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.<br /> The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.<br /> Like the atypical illustration below, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36 (detail) Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.
The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.
The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.
Like the atypical illustration below, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting.

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummanu, or, as earlier analysts speculated, the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists assert that Anu is never represented in illustrations or bas reliefs.<br /> The iconography is correct for an apkallū. The horned headdress is indicative of divinity, the plants held in both hands are not unprecedented, though they are not common. I believe that they are poppy bulbs.<br /> The rosette design in the large ring appears elsewhere in Neo-Assyrian symbolism, though its significance is undetermined. The large ring around the torso appears around the central figure in illustration 36 above, as well.<br /> The wings on the figure are typical of an apkallu.<br /> The fact that the figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū.<br /> Further, the disc atop the headdress is problematic. In no other example does a human apkallū appear with a disc surmounting a horned headdress. The device at the top of the figure in illustration 36 above resembles this one.<br /> Indeed, it is unclear whether the disc is just worn, or whether the lower part of the disc portrays the inverted horns of the Moon, indicative of the Moon god Sin. Or, it could just be a damaged ring, similar to the device in illustration 36 above.<br /> This is one of the most dramatic examples of Neo-Assyrian art, but my scholarship is too meager to explicate it.<br /> http://transfixussednonmortuus.tumblr.com/image/32382020729

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummanu, or, as earlier analysts speculated, the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists assert that Anu is never represented in illustrations or bas reliefs.
The iconography is correct for an apkallū. The horned headdress is indicative of divinity, the plants held in both hands are not unprecedented, though they are not common. I believe that they are poppy bulbs.
The rosette design in the large ring appears elsewhere in Neo-Assyrian symbolism, though its significance is undetermined. The large ring around the torso appears around the central figure in illustration 36 above, as well.
The wings on the figure are typical of an apkallu.
The fact that the figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū.
Further, the disc atop the headdress is problematic. In no other example does a human apkallū appear with a disc surmounting a horned headdress. The device at the top of the figure in illustration 36 above resembles this one.
Indeed, it is unclear whether the disc is just worn, or whether the lower part of the disc portrays the inverted horns of the Moon, indicative of the Moon god Sin. Or, it could just be a damaged ring, similar to the device in illustration 36 above.
This is one of the most dramatic examples of Neo-Assyrian art, but my scholarship is too meager to explicate it.
http://transfixussednonmortuus.tumblr.com/image/32382020729

4. PROBLEMATIC IDENTIFICATIONS

GENERAL REMARKS. No single image definitively represents the sages. However, three main types can be distinguished: the human-figured, winged Apkallu (type 1); the fish-cloaked (type 2); and the bird-headed, winged Apkallu (type 3). (As portrayed above and depicted below).

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.  The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.  The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.  The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.
The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.
The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.
The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

They have been identified chiefly on the basis of iconographic similarities but also because of evidence in inscriptions (WIGGERMANN 1992: passim) and in Berossos’ account.

The commonest pose is that of a standing figure holding his left hand forward or downward, while his right hand is raised. When mirror-image pairs are found, left and right are reversed.

All three types are commonly found with the downward hand holding a bucket/situla (3, 5–6*, 10*–16, 21–22, 23–26, 28–30, 33*–36*, 39*– 55*, 60, 62*–63, 67, 70).

This detailed portrayal of the banduddu bucket is from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud.  British Museum ANE 124564. Photograph by Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 100.

This detailed portrayal of the banduddu bucket is from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud.
British Museum ANE 124564. Photograph by Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 100.

Most frequently when the left hand carries a bucket, the raised right hand holds a cone (6*, 10*–11, 15*–16, 21–22, 23–24, 26, 28–29, 38–39*, 42*–43, 62*, 70), whose precise function is not certain (WIGGERMANN 1992: 67), but the raised hand may also be empty (not often clear on seals and seal impressions, clear on 5, 13–14*, 77).

This ummânū uniquely presents with a feather in the raised right hand, and a kid goat held in the left. I am unaware of any other depiction like this one. The bracelets of rosette design appear bilaterally on both wrists, as do bracelets around the upper arms. The tassels are finely detailed, and a tassel can be discerned on the ummânū's upper back. This depiction is also perhaps unique in the degree of fine detail lavished on the wings, and on the fringe of the garment. This ummânū also wears a headband with the rosette design, rather than the horned tiara.

This ummânū uniquely presents with a feather in the raised right hand, and a kid goat held in the left.
I am unaware of any other depiction like this one.
The bracelets of rosette design appear bilaterally on both wrists, as do bracelets around the upper arms.
The tassels are finely detailed, and a tassel can be discerned on the ummânū’s upper back.
This depiction is also perhaps unique in the degree of fine detail lavished on the wings, and on the fringe of the garment.
This ummânū also wears a headband with the rosette design, rather than the horned tiara.

Less often types 1 and 3 hold in one hand or the other a sprig (9*, 12*, 17–18, 20, 31–32, 39*), a mace (4, 20), or a stag (1 8 ).

Furthermore, the bearded Apkallus of type 1 normally, and type 3 often, wear a kilt of above-the-knee length with a tasseled fringe and a full-length cutaway robe or skirt, which leaves the forward leg bare from the knee downward (3, 5–18, 20– 23, 25–27, 29, 35–36*, 39*, 68*– 6 9 ).

This detailed portrayal of the rosette bracelets is from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. Armlets are visible at the elbow. <br /> This photograph is from Mehmet-Ali Atac, <em>The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art</em>, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 110.<br /> British Museum ANE 124568.

This detailed portrayal of the rosette bracelets is from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. Armlets are visible at the elbow.
This photograph is from Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 110.
British Museum ANE 124568.

On detailed representations of types 1 and 3, two daggers and a whetstone are usually tucked into the waist (1*, 6*, 17, 20, 22, 26, 39*).

They wear a pair of bracelets with a rosette at each wrist (1*, 6*, 10*, 16–18, 20, 22, 26), a spiral armlet just above the elbow (6*, 17 ), and sometimes a single-stranded necklace (6*, 10*, 17–18, 20, 22, 39*) with up to eight (?) pendants (1*–2).

This illustration depicts girdle knives and what is alleged to be a stylized whetstone. This photograph is from p. 110, Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

This illustration depicts girdle knives and what is alleged to be a stylized whetstone.
This photograph is from p. 110, Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Types 1 and 3 appear more frequently than type 2 in mirror-image pairs on either side of a stylized sacred tree (1*, 7, 13, 24, 29, 39*), a god (15*, 69), or a king (6 8*). Types 1 and 2 appear together on 12*, 33*–34, and 38. Types 1 and 3 appear together on 7, 21, and 36*.

Stephanie Dalley, “Apkallu,” Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East (IDD), Swiss National Science Foundation, University of Zurich, 2011 (text updated 2011 and illustrations updated 2007), p. 2/7.

The Oracles of Ea

“How a water-god became the demiurge seems at first sight obscure. But it ceases to be so when we remember the local character of Babylonian religion.

Ea was as much the local god of Eridu as Merodach was of Babylon, or Assur of Assyria. His connection with the water was due to the position of Eridu at the mouth of the Euphrates and on the shore of the sea, as well as to the maritime habits of its population.

In other respects he occupied the same place as the patron-deities of the other great cities. And these patron-deities were regarded as creators, as those by whose agency the present world had come into existence, and by whose hands the ancestors of their worshippers had been made.

This conception of a creating deity is one of the distinguishing features of early Babylonian religion. Mankind are not descended from a particular divinity, as they are in other theologies; they are created by him.

The hymn to Ea tells us that the god of Eridu was the creator of the black-headed race-that is to say, the old non-Semitic population whose primary centre and starting-point was in Eridu itself. It was as creators that the Accadian gods were distinguished from the host of spirits of whom I shall have to speak in another Lecture.

The Accadian word for “god” was dimer, which appears as dingir, from an older dingira, in the southern dialect of Sumer. Now dimer or dingir is merely “the creator,” formed by the suffix r or ra, from the verb dingi or dime, “to create.”

A simpler form of dimer is dime, a general name for the divine hierarchy. By the side of dime, dim, stood gime, gim, with the same meaning; and from this verb came the Sumerian name of Istar, Gingira. Istar is said to have been the mother of mankind in the story of the Deluge, and as Gula, “the great” goddess, she is addressed in a prayer as “the mother who has borne the men with the black heads.”

It was in consequence of the fact that he was a creator that Ea was, according to Accado-Sumerian ideas, a dingir or “god.”

In the cosmology of Eridu, therefore, the origin of the universe was the watery abyss. The earth lay upon this like a wife in the arms of her husband, and Dav-kina accordingly was adored as the wife of Ea.

It was through her that the oracles of Ea, heard in the voice of the waves, were communicated to man. Dav-kina is entitled “the mistress of the oracular voice of the deep,” and also “the lady who creates the oracular voice of heaven.”‘

The oracles delivered by the thunder, the voice of heaven, thus became the reflex of the oracles delivered through the roaring of the sea.”

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. 142-4.

Marduk of Babylon: Baal

” … Nebuchadnezzar may invoke Merodach as “the lord of the gods,” “the god of heaven and earth,” “the eternal, the holy, the lord of all things,” but he almost always couples him with other deities–Nebo, Sin or Gula–of whom he speaks in equally reverential terms.

Even Nabonidos uses language of Sin, the Moon-god, which is wholly incompatible with a belief in the exclusive supremacy of Merodach. He calls him “the lord of the gods of heaven and earth, the king of the gods and the god of gods, who dwell in heaven and are mighty.” Merodach was, in fact, simply the local god of Babylon.

Events had raised Babylon first to the dignity of the capital of Babylonia, and then of that of a great empire, and its presiding deity had shared its fortunes. It was he who had sent forth its people on their career of conquest; it was to glorify his name that he had given them victory.

The introduction of other deities on an equal footing with himself into his own peculiar seat, his own special city, was of itself a profanation, and quite sufficient to draw upon Nabonidos his vindictive anger. The Moon-god might be worshipped at Ur; it was out of place to offer him at Babylon the peculiar honours which were reserved for Merodach alone.

Here, then, is one of the results of that localisation of religious worship which was characteristic of Babylonia. Nabonidos not only offended the priests and insulted the gods of other cities by bringing their images into Babylon, he also in one sense impaired the monopoly which the local deity of Babylon enjoyed. He thus stirred up angry feelings on both sides.

Had he himself been free from the common belief of the Babylonian in the local character of his gods, he might have effected a revolution similar to that of Hezekiah; he had, however, the superstition which frequently accompanies antiquarian instincts, and his endeavour to make Babylon the common gathering-place of the Babylonian divinities was dictated as much by the desire to make all of them his friends as by political design.

Now who was this Merodach, this patron-god of Babylon, whose name I have had so often to pronounce? Let us see, first of all, what we can learn about him from the latest of our documents, the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors.

In these, Merodach appears as the divine protector of Babylon and its inhabitants. He has the standing title of Bilu or “lord,” which the Greeks turned into βμλος, and which is the same as the Baal of the Old Testament. The title is frequently used as a name, and is, in fact, the only name under which Merodach was known to the Greeks and Romans.

In the Old Testament also it is as Bel that he comes before us. When the prophet declares that “Bel boweth down” and is “gone into captivity,” he is referring to Merodach and the overthrow of Merodach’s city.

To the Babylonian, Merodach was pre-eminently the Baal or “lord,” like the Baalim or “lords” worshipped under special names and with special rites in the several cities of Canaan.”

 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. 90-2.

Boundary Stone of Ritti-Marduk (British Museum, No. 90,858)

The accompanying illustration, which is reproduced from the Boundary Stone of Ritti-Marduk (Brit. Mus., No. 90,858), supplies much information about the symbols of the gods, and of the Signs of the Zodiac in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I, King of Babylon, about 1120 B.C.

British Museum number 90858 Description 3/4: Right Limestone stela in the form of a boundary-stone: consisting of a block of calcareous limestone, shaped and prepared on four sides to take sculptures and inscriptions. It is now mounted on a stone plinth.  Faces B and C each bear a single column of inscription, the lines running the full width of the stone.  The top of the stone and Face D have been left blank, except for the serpent, which has been carved to the left of the emblems on Face A.  Inscribed with a Charter from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I.

British Museum number 90858
Description 3/4: Right
Limestone stela in the form of a boundary-stone: consisting of a block of calcareous limestone, shaped and prepared on four sides to take sculptures and inscriptions. It is now mounted on a stone plinth.
Faces B and C each bear a single column of inscription, the lines running the full width of the stone.
The top of the stone and Face D have been left blank, except for the serpent, which has been carved to the left of the emblems on Face A.
Inscribed with a Charter from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I.

Thus in Register 1, we have the Star of Ishtar, the crescent of the Moon-god Sin, and the disk of Shamash the Sun-god. In Reg. 2 are three stands (?) surmounted by tiaras, which represent the gods Anu, Enlil (Bel) and Ea respectively. In Reg. 3 are three altars (?) or shrines (?) with a monster in Nos. 1 and 2. Over the first is the lance of Marduk, over the second the mason’s square of Nabû, and over the third is the symbol of the goddess Ninkharsag, the Creatress. In Reg. 4 are a standard with an animal’s head, a sign of Ea; a two-headed snake = the Twins; an unknown symbol with a horse’s head, and a bird, representative of Shukamuna and Shumalia. In Reg. 5 are a seated figure of the goddess Gula and the Scorpion-man. In Reg. 6 are forked lightning, symbol of Adad, above a bull, the Tortoise, symbol of Ea (?), the Scorpion of the goddess Ishkhara, and the Lamp of Nusku, the Fire-god.  Down the left-hand side is the serpent-god representing the constellation of the Hydra.

Thus in Register 1, we have the Star of Ishtar, the crescent of the Moon-god Sin, and the disk of Shamash the Sun-god.
In Reg. 2 are three stands (?) surmounted by tiaras, which represent the gods Anu, Enlil (Bel) and Ea respectively.
In Reg. 3 are three altars (?) or shrines (?) with a monster in Nos. 1 and 2. Over the first is the lance of Marduk, over the second the mason’s square of Nabû, and over the third is the symbol of the goddess Ninkharsag, the Creatress.
In Reg. 4 are a standard with an animal’s head, a sign of Ea; a two-headed snake = the Twins; an unknown symbol with a horse’s head, and a bird, representative of Shukamuna and Shumalia.
In Reg. 5 are a seated figure of the goddess Gula and the Scorpion-man.
In Reg. 6 are forked lightning, symbol of Adad, above a bull, the Tortoise, symbol of Ea (?), the Scorpion of the goddess Ishkhara, and the Lamp of Nusku, the Fire-god.
Down the left-hand side is the serpent-god representing the constellation of the Hydra.

The mutilated text of the Fifth Tablet makes it impossible to gain further details in connection with Marduk’s work in arranging the heavens. We are, however, justified in assuming that the gaps in it contained statements about the grouping of the gods into triads.

In royal historical inscriptions the kings often invoke the gods in threes, though they never call any one three a triad or trinity. It seems as if this arrangement of gods in threes was assumed to be of divine origin.

In the Fourth Tablet of Creation, one triad “Anu-Bel-Ea” is actually mentioned, and in the Fifth Tablet, another is indicated, “Sin-Shamash-Ishtar.”

In these triads Anu represents the sky or heaven, Bel or Enlil the region under the sky and including the earth, Ea the underworld, Sin the Moon, Shamash the Sun, and Ishtar the star Venus.

When the universe was finally constituted several other great gods existed, e.g., Nusku, the Fire-god, Enurta, a solar god, Nergal, the god of war and handicrafts, Nabu, the god of learning, Marduk of Babylon, the great national god of Babylonia, and Ashur, the great national god of Assyria.

E.A. Wallis Budge, et al, & the British Museum, The Babylonian Legends of the Creation & the Fight Between Bel & the Dragon Told by Assyrian Tablets from Nineveh (BCE 668-626), 1901, pp. 11-2.

Revolting Unmoral Rites

“There is another phase, however, to the character of the mother goddess which explains the references to the desertion and slaying of Tammuz by Ishtar. “She is,” says Jastrow, “the goddess of the human instinct, or passion which accompanies human love. Gilgamesh … reproaches her with abandoning the objects of her passion after a brief period of union.” At Ishtar’s temple “public maidens accepted temporary partners, assigned to them by Ishtar.”

The worship of all mother goddesses in ancient times was accompanied by revolting unmoral rites which are referred to in condemnatory terms in various passages in the Old Testament, especially in connection with the worship of Ashtoreth, who was identical with Ishtar and the Egyptian Hathor.

Ishtar in the process of time overshadowed all the other female deities of Babylonia, as did Isis in Egypt. Her name, indeed, which is Semitic, became in the plural, Ishtar·te, a designation for goddesses in general. But although she was referred to as the daughter of the sky, Anu, or the daughter of the moon, Sin or Nannar, she still retained traces of her ancient character.

Originally she was a great mother goddess, who was worshipped by those who believed that life and the universe had a female origin in contrast to those who believed in the theory of male origin. Ishtar is identical with Nina, the fish goddess, a creature who gave her name to the Sumerian city of Nina and the Assyrian city of Nineveh.

Other forms of the Creatrix included Mama, or Mami, or Ama, “mother,” Aruru, Bau, Gula, and Zerpanitum. These were all “Preservers” and healers. At the same time they were “Destroyers,” like Nin-sun and the Queen of Hades, Eresh-ki-gal or Allatu.

They were accompanied by shadowy male forms ere they became wives of strongly individualized gods, or by child gods, their sons, who might be regarded as “brothers” or “husbands of their mothers,” to use the paradoxical Egyptian term.

Similarly Great Father deities had vaguely defined wives. The “Semitic” Baal, “the lord,” was accompanied by a female reflection of himself–Beltu, “the lady.” Shamash, the sun god, had for wife the shadowy Aa.

As has been shown, Ishtar is referred to in a Tammuz hymn as the mother of the child god of fertility. In an Egyptian hymn the sky goddess Nut, “the mother” of Osiris, is stated to have “built up life from her own body.” Sri or Lakshmi, the Indian goddess, who became the wife of Vishnu, as the mother goddess Saraswati, a tribal deity, became the wife of Brahma, was, according to a Purana commentator, “the mother of the world … eternal and undecaying.”

The gods, on the other hand, might die annually: the goddesses alone were immortal. Indra was supposed to perish of old age, but his wife, Indrani, remained ever young. There were fourteen Indras in every “day of Brahma”, a reference apparently to the ancient conception of Indra among the Great Mother-worshipping sections of the Aryo-Indians.

In the Mahabharata the god Shiva, as Mahadeva, commands Indra on “one of the peaks of Himavat,” where they met, to lift up a stone and join the Indras who had been before him. “And Indra on removing that stone beheld a cave on the breast of that king of mountains in which were four others resembling himself.”

Indra exclaimed in his grief, “Shall I be even like these?” These five Indras, like the “Seven Sleepers,” awaited the time when they would be called forth. They were ultimately reborn as the five Pandava warriors.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915.

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