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Tag: Human Sacrifice

Sacrifice of Children was a Babylonian Institution

” … But although the Assyrian kings are fond of boasting of their exploits in massacring or torturing their defeated enemies in honour of Assur, we find no allusions in the inscriptions of the historical period to human sacrifice.

That human sacrifices, however, were known as far back as the Accadian era, is shown by a bilingual text (K5139) which enjoins the abgal, or “chief prophet,” to declare that the father must give the life of his child for the sin of his own soul, the child’s head for his head, the child’s neck for his neck, the child’s breast for his breast.

The text not only proves that the idea of vicarious punishment was already conceived of; it also proves that the sacrifice of children was a Babylonian institution.

In the great work on astronomy called The Observations of Bel, we are told that “on the high-places the son is burnt.” The offering was consequently by fire, as in Phoenicia.

The sacrifices were accompanied, sometimes by hymns or incantations, sometimes by prayers. The prayers were all prescribed, and a large number of them have been preserved.”

A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, p. 78.

The Second Dream of Nebuchadnezzar II

“But Daniel’s three companions—Shadrach, Me-shach, and Abednego—refused to worship a golden image which the King had set up, and he commanded that they should be cast into a fiery furnace, through which they passed unharmed.

This circumstance still more turned the heart of Nebuchadrezzar in the direction of the God of Israel. A second dream which he had, he begged Daniel to interpret. He said he had seen a tree in the midst of the earth of more than natural height, which flourished and was exceedingly strong, so that it reached to heaven. So abundant was the fruit of this tree that it provided meat for the whole earth, and so ample its foliage that the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the air dwelt in its midst.

A spirit descended from heaven and called aloud, demanding that the tree should be cut down and its leaves and fruit scattered, but that its roots should be left in the earth surrounded by a band of iron and brass. Then, ordering that the tree should be treated as if it were a man, the voice of the spirit continued to ask that it should be wet with the dew of heaven, and that its portion should be with the beasts in the grass of the earth.

“Let his heart be changed from a man’s,” said the voice,

“and let a beast’s heart be given him ; and let seven times pass over him.”

Then was Daniel greatly troubled. He kept silence for a space until the King begged him to take heart and speak. The tree, he announced, represented Nebuchadrezzar himself, and what had happened to it in the vision would come to pass regarding the great King of Babylon.

He would be driven from among men and his dwelling would be with the beasts of the field. He would be made to eat grass as oxen and be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven times would pass over him, till he knew and recognized that the Most High ruled in the kingdom of man and gave it to whomsoever he desired.”

Lewis Spence, Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria, 1917, pp. 38-9.

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Babylon

” … All the younger gods, who displaced the elder gods as one year displaces another, were deities of fertility, battle, lightning, fire, and the sun; it is possible, therefore, that Ashur was like Merodach, son of Ea, god of the deep, a form of Tammuz in origin.

His spirit was in the solar wheel which revolved at times of seasonal change. In Scotland it was believed that on the morning of May Day (Beltaine) the rising sun revolved three times. The younger god was a spring sun god and fire god. Great bonfires were lit to strengthen him, or as a ceremony of riddance; the old year was burned out.

Indeed the god himself might be burned (that is, the old god), so that he might renew his youth. Melkarth was burned at Tyre. Hercules burned himself on a mountain top, and his soul ascended to heaven as an eagle.

These fiery rites were evidently not unknown in Babylonia and Assyria. When, according to Biblical narrative, Nebuchadnezzar “made an image of gold” which he set up “in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon,” he commanded:

“O people, nations, and languages… at the time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick… fall down and worship the golden image.”

Certain Jews who had been “set over the affairs of the province of Babylonia,” namely, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego,” refused to adore the idol.

They were punished by being thrown into “a burning fiery furnace”, which was heated “seven times more than it was wont to be heated.” They came forth uninjured.

In the Koran it is related that Abraham destroyed the images of Chaldean gods; he “brake them all in pieces except the biggest of them; that they might lay the blame on that.” According to the commentators the Chaldaeans were at the time “abroad in the fields, celebrating a great festival.”

To punish the offender Nimrod had a great pyre erected at Cuthah.

“Then they bound Abraham, and putting him into an engine, shot him into the midst of the fire, from which he was preserved by the angel Gabriel, who was sent to his assistance.”

Eastern Christians were wont to set apart in the Syrian calendar the 25th of January to commemorate Abraham’s escape from Nimrod’s pyre.

It is evident that the Babylonian fire ceremony was observed in the spring season, and that human beings were sacrificed to the sun god. A mock king may have been burned to perpetuate the ancient sacrifice of real kings, who were incarnations of the god.

Isaiah makes reference to the sacrificial burning of kings in Assyria:

“For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.

For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared: he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.”

When Nineveh was about to fall, and with it the Assyrian Empire, the legendary king, Sardanapalus, who was reputed to have founded Tarsus, burned himself, with his wives, concubines, and eunuchs, on a pyre in his palace. Zimri, who reigned over Israel for seven days, “burnt the king’s house over him with fire.”

Saul, another fallen king, was burned after death, and his bones were buried “under the oak in Jabesh”.

In Europe the oak was associated with gods of fertility and lightning, including Jupiter and Thor. The ceremony of burning Saul is of special interest. Asa, the orthodox king of Judah, was, after death, “laid in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art: and they made a very great burning for him” (2 Chronicles, xvi, 14).

Jehoram, the heretic king of Judah, who “walked in the way of the kings of Israel,” died of “an incurable disease. And his people made no burning for him like the burning of his fathers” (2 Chronicles, xxi, 18, 19).

The conclusion suggested by the comparative study of the beliefs of neighbouring peoples, and the evidence afforded by Assyrian sculptures, is that Ashur was a highly developed form of the god of fertility, who was sustained, or aided in his conflicts with demons, by the fires and sacrifices of his worshippers.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, pp. 348-51.

Human Sacrifice

“The goddesses of classic mythology had similar reputations. Aphrodite (Venus) had many divine and mortal lovers. She links closely with Astarte and Ashtoreth (Ishtar), and reference has already been made to her relations with Adonis (Tammuz). These love deities were all as cruel as they were wayward. When Ishtar wooed the Babylonian hero, Gilgamesh, he spurned her advances, as has been indicated, saying:

On Tammuz, the spouse of thy youth,

Thou didst lay affliction every year.

Thou didst love the brilliant Allalu bird

But thou didst smite him and break his wing;

He stands in the woods and cries “O my wing.”

He likewise charged her with deceiving the lion and the horse, making reference to obscure myths:

Thou didst also love a shepherd of the flock,

Who continually poured out for thee the libation,

And daily slaughtered kids for thee;

But thou didst smite him and didst change him into a leopard,

So that his own sheep boy hunted him,

And his own hounds tore him to pieces.

These goddesses were ever prone to afflict human beings who might offend them or of whom they wearied. Demeter (Ceres) changed Ascalaphus into an owl and Stellio into a lizard. Rhea (Ops) resembled

The tow’red Cybele,

Mother of a hundred gods,

the wanton who loved Attis (Adonis). Artemis (Diana) slew her lover Orion, changed Actaeon into a stag, which was torn to pieces by his own dogs, and caused numerous deaths by sending a boar to ravage the fields of Oeneus, king of Calydon.

Human sacrifices were frequently offered to the bloodthirsty “mothers.” The most famous victim of Artemis was the daughter of Agamemnon, “divinely tall and most divinely fair.” Agamemnon had slain a sacred stag, and the goddess punished him by sending a calm when the war fleet was about to sail for Troy, with the result that his daughter had to be sacrificed.

Artemis thus sold breezes like the northern wind hags and witches.”

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

Rituals of Human Sacrifice and Moloch

” … Without being unduly rash we may surmise that the tribute of seven youths and seven maidens whom the Athenians were bound to send to Minos every eight years had some connexion with the renewal of the king’s power for another octennial cycle.

Traditions varied as to the fate which awaited the lads and damsels on their arrival in Crete; but the common view appears to have been that they were shut up in the labyrinth, there to be devoured by the Minotaur, or at least to be imprisoned for life.

Perhaps they were sacrificed by being roasted alive in a bronze image of a bull, or of a bull-headed man, in order to renew the strength of the king and of the sun, whom he personated. This at all events is suggested by the legend of Talos, a bronze man who clutched people to his breast and leaped with them into the fire, so that they were roasted alive. He is said to have been given by Zeus to Europa, or by Hephaestus to Minos, to guard the island of Crete, which he patrolled thrice daily. According to one account he was a bull, according to another he was the sun.

Probably he was identical with the Minotaur, and stripped of his mythical features was nothing but a bronze image of the sun represented as a man with a bull’s head. In order to renew the solar fires, human victims may have been sacrificed to the idol by being roasted in its hollow body or placed on its sloping hands and allowed to roll into a pit of fire. It was in the latter fashion that the Carthaginians sacrificed their offspring to Moloch.

The children were laid on the hands of a calf-headed image of bronze, from which they slid into a fiery oven, while the people danced to the music of flutes and timbrels to drown the shrieks of the burning victims. The resemblance which the Cretan traditions bear to the Carthaginian practice suggests that the worship associated with the names of Minos and the Minotaur may have been powerfully influenced by that of a Semitic Baal.

In the tradition of Phalaris, tyrant of Agrigentum, and his brazen bull we may have an echo of similar rites in Sicily, where the Carthaginian power struck deep roots.”

James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, 1922, The Killing of the Divine King, np.

Creation of the Stars

Meanwhile darkness covered the land. When day broke the men who had repented of their blasphemies appeared with their bows, and slew the enemies of Ra. At this result Ra was pleased, and he forgave those who had repented because of their righteous slaughter of his enemies. From this time onwards human sacrifices were offered up at the festivals of Ra celebrated in this place, and at Heliopolis and in other parts of Egypt.

After these things Ra declared to Nut that he intended to leave this world, and to ascend into heaven, and that all those who would see his face must follow him thither. Then he went up into heaven and prepared a place to which all might come. Then he said, “Hetep sekhet aa,” i.e., “Let a great field be produced,” and straightway “Sekhet-hetep,” or the “Field of peace,” came into being.

He next said, “Let there be reeds (aaru) in it,” and straightway “Sekhet Aaru,” or the “Field of Reeds,” came into being. Sekhet-hetep was the Elysian Fields of the Egyptians, and the Field of Reeds was a well-known section of it.

Another command of the god Ra resulted in the creation of the stars, which the legend compares to flowers. Then the goddess Nut trembled in all her body, and Ra, fearing that she might fall, caused to come into being the Four Pillars on which the heavens are supported.

Turning to Shu, Ra entreated him to protect these supports, and to place himself under Nut, and to hold her up in position with his hands. Thus Shu became the new Sun-god in the place of Ra, and the heavens in which Ra lived were supported and placed beyond the risk of falling, and mankind would live and rejoice in the light of the new sun.

At this place in the legend a text is inserted called the “Chapter of the Cow.” It describes how the Cow of Heaven and the two Boats of the Sun shall be painted, and gives the positions of the gods who stand by the legs of the Cow, and a number of short magical names, or formulae, which are inexplicable.

The general meaning of the picture of the Cow is quite clear. The Cow represents the sky in which the Boats of Ra, sail, and her four legs are the four cardinal points which cannot be changed. The region above her back is the heaven in which Ra reigns over the beings who pass thereto from this earth when they die, and here was situated the home of the gods and the celestial spirits who govern this world.

E.A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations, London, 1912. (No page numbers are given in my edition).

Beer of Human Blood and Mandrakes

The legend now goes on to describe an act of Ra, the significance of which it is difficult to explain. The god ordered messengers to be brought to him, and when they arrived, he commanded them to run like the wind to Abu, or the city of Elephantine, and to bring him large quantities of the fruit called tataat.

What kind of fruit this was is not clear, but Brugsch thought they were “mandrakes,” the so-called “love-apples,” and this translation of tataat may be used provisionally. The mandrakes were given to Sekti, a goddess of Heliopolis, to crush and grind up, and when this was done they were mixed with human blood, and put in a large brewing of beer which the women slaves had made from wheat.

In all they made 7,000 vessels of beer. When Ra saw the beer he approved of it, and ordered it to be carried up the river to where the goddess Hathor was still, it seems, engaged in slaughtering men. During the night he caused this beer to be poured out into the meadows of the Four Heavens, and when Hathor came she saw the beer with human blood and mandrakes in it, and drank of it and became drunk, and paid no further attention to men and women.

In welcoming the goddess, Ra, called her “Amit,” i.e., “beautiful one,” and from this time onward “beautiful women were found in the city of Amit,” which was situated in the Western Delta, near Lake Mareotis. [It was also called the “City of Apis,” (Brugsch, Dict. Geog., p. 491), and is the Apis city of classical writers. It is, perhaps, represented by the modern Kom al-Hisn.]

Ra also ordered that in future at every one of his festivals vessels of “sleep-producing beer” should be made, and that their number should be the same as the number of the handmaidens of Ra. Those who took part in these festivals of Hathor and Ra drank beer in very large quantities, and under the influence of the “beautiful women,” i.e., the priestesses, who were supposed to resemble Hathor in their physical attractions, the festal celebrations degenerated into drunken and licentious orgies.

Soon after this Ra complained that he was smitten with pain, and that he was weary of the children of men. He thought them a worthless remnant, and wished that more of them had been slain. The gods about him begged him to endure, and reminded him that his power was in proportion to his will. Ra was, however, unconsoled, and he complained that his limbs were weak for the first time in his life.

Thereupon the god Nu told Shu to help Ra, and he ordered Nut to take the great god Ra on her back. Nut changed herself into a cow, and with the help of Shu Ra got on her back. As soon as men saw that Ra was on the back of the Cow of Heaven, and was about to leave them, they became filled with fear and repentance, and cried out to Ra to remain with them and to slay all those who had blasphemed against him.

But the Cow moved on her way, and carried Ra to Het-Ahet, a town of the nome of Mareotis, where in later days the right leg of Osiris was said to be preserved.

Meanwhile darkness covered the land. When day broke the men who had repented of their blasphemies appeared with their bows, and slew the enemies of Ra. At this result Ra was pleased, and he forgave those who had repented because of their righteous slaughter of his enemies. From this time onwards human sacrifices were offered up at the festivals of Ra celebrated in this place, and at Heliopolis and in other parts of Egypt.

E.A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations, London, 1912. (No page numbers are given in my edition).

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