Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 172If the view is accepted that Ashur is Anshar, it can be urged that he was imported from Sumeria. "Out of that land (Shinar)", according to the Biblical reference, "went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh." Asshur, or Ashur (identical, Delitzsch and Jastrow believe, with Ashir), may have been an eponymous hero--a deified king like Etana, or Gilgamesh, who was regarded as an incarnation of an ancient god. As Anshar was an astral or early form of Anu, the Sumerian city of origin may have been Erech, where the worship of the mother goddess was also given prominence.
Damascius rendered Anshar's name as "Assōros", a fact usually cited to establish Ashur's connection with that deity. This writer stated that the Babylonians passed over "Sige, the mother, that has begotten heaven and earth", and made two--Apason (Apsu), the husband, and Tauthe (Tiawath or Tiamat), whose son was Moymis (Mummu). From these another progeny came forth--Lache and Lachos (Lachmu and Lachamu). These were followed by the progeny Kissare and Assōros (Kishar and Anshar), "from which were produced Anos (Anu), Illillos (Enlil) and Aos (Ea). And of Aos and Dauke (Dawkina or Damkina) was born Belos (Bel Merodach), whom they say is the Demiurge" (the world artisan who carried out the decrees of a higher being).
Lachmu and Lachamu, like the second pair of the ancient group of Egyptian deities, probably symbolized darkness as a reproducing and sustaining power. Anshar was apparently an impersonation of the night sky, as his son Anu was of the day sky. It may have been believed that the soul of Anshar was in the moon as Nannar (Sin), or in a star, or that the moon and the stars were manifestations of him, and that the soul of Anu was in the sun or the firmament, or that the sun, firmament, and the wind were forms of this "self power".
If Ashur combined the attributes of Anshar and Anu, his early mystical character may be accounted for. Like the Indian Brahma, he may have been in his highest form an impersonation, or symbol, of the "self power" or "world soul" of developed Naturalism--the "creator", "preserver", and "destroyer" in one, a god of water, earth, air, and sky, of sun, moon, and stars, fire and lightning, a god of the grove, whose essence was in the fig, or the fir cone, as it was in all animals. The Egyptian god Amon of Thebes, who was associated with water, earth, air, sky, sun and moon, had a ram form, and was "the hidden one", was developed from one of the elder eight gods; in the Pyramid Texts he and his consort are the fourth pair. When Amon was fused with the specialized sun god Ra, he was placed at the head of the Ennead as the Creator. "We have traces", says Jastrow, "of an Assyrian myth of Creation in which the sphere of creator is given to Ashur."
Before a single act of creation was conceived of, however, the early peoples recognized the eternity of matter, which was permeated by the "self power" of which the elder deities were vague phases. These were too vague, indeed, to be worshipped individually. The forms of the "self power" which were propitiated were trees, rivers, hills, or animals. As indicated in the previous chapter, a tribe worshipped an animal or natural object which dominated its environment. The animal might be the source of the food supply, or might have to be propitiated to ensure the food supply. Consequently they identified the self power of the Universe with the particular animal with which they were most concerned. One section identified the spirit of the heavens with the bull and another with the goat. In India Dyaus was a bull, and his spouse, the earth mother, Prithivi, was a cow. The Egyptian sky goddess Hathor was a cow, and other goddesses were identified with the hippopotamus, the serpent, the cat, or the vulture. Ra, the sun god, was identified in turn with the cat, the ass, the bull, the ram, and the crocodile, the various animal forms of the local deities he had absorbed. The eagle in Babylonia and India, and the vulture, falcon, and mysterious Phoenix in Egypt, were identified with the sun, fire, wind, and lightning. The animals associated with the god Ashur were the bull, the eagle, and the lion. He either absorbed the attributes of other gods, or symbolized the "Self Power" of which the animals were manifestations.