Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Assyrian Rock Sculpture from The Monuments of Nineveh, by Sir Henry Layard.
It is impossible to say what the mythological meaning hidden in this tale may portend. We have the moon-god attempting to feminize an unfortunate enemy. Does this mean that Parsondes came under the influence of the moon-god—that is, that he became a lunatic?
The deities of the underworld, of the region of the dead, are usually of later origin than those of the[Pg 150] heavens. They are frequently the gods of an older and discredited religion, and are relegated to the 'cold shades of opposition,' dwelling there just as the dead are supposed to 'dwell' in the grave. A legend exists regarding Aralu which was discovered among other texts at Tel-el-Amarna. The story goes that the gods once gave a feast to which they invited Aralu, apologizing at the same time that they were unable to go down to her and regretting that she could not ascend to them. In their dilemma they requested her to send a messenger to bring to her the viands which fell to her share. She complied with the request, and when the messenger arrived all the gods stood up to do him honour for his mistress's sake—all save Nergal. The messenger acquainted Aralu with this slight, and greatly enraged she sent him back to the dwelling of the gods to ask that the delinquent might be delivered into her hands so that she might slay him. The gods after some discussion requested the messenger to take back him who had offended the dark goddess, and in order that the envoy might the more easily discover him, all the gods were gathered together. But Nergal remained in the background. His absence was discovered, however, and he was despatched to the gloomy realm of Aralu. But he had no mind to taste death. Indeed Aralu found the tables turned, for Nergal, seizing her by the hair, dragged her from her throne and prepared to cut off her head. She begged to be allowed to speak, and upon her request being granted, she offered herself as a wife to her conqueror, along with the dominions over which she[Pg 151] held sway. Nergal assented to her proposals and they were wed.
Nergal is the sun which passes through the gloomy underworld at night just as does Osiris, and in this character he has to conquer the powers of death and the grave. It is rare, however, to find the sun-hero allying himself by marriage to one of the infernal powers, although in the Central American Popol Vuh one of the explorers to the underworld weds the daughter of one of its overlords, and Persephone, the corn-goddess, is forced to become the spouse of the lord of Hades.
Dagon, alluded to in the Scriptures, was, like Oannes, a fish-god. Besides being worshipped in Erech and its neighbourhood, he was adored in Palestine and on occasion among the Hebrews themselves. But it was in the extreme south of Palestine that his worship attained its chief importance. He had temples at Ashdod and Gaza, and perhaps his worship travelled westward along with that of Ishtar. Both were worshipped at Erech, and where the cult of the one penetrated it is likely that there would be found the rites of the other.