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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 183

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.

It is possible to read too much into his symbols. These are not more complicated and vague than are the symbols on the standing stones of Scotland--the crescent with the "broken" arrow; the trident with the double rings, or wheels, connected by two crescents; the circle with the dot in its centre; the triangle with the dot; the large disk with two small rings on either side crossed by double straight lines; the so-called "mirror", and so on. Highly developed symbolism may not indicate a process of spiritualization so much, perhaps, as the persistence of magical beliefs and practices. There is really no direct evidence to support the theory that the Assyrian winged disk, or disk "with protruding rays", was of more spiritual character than the wheel which encloses the feather-robed archer with his trident-shaped arrow.

The various symbols may have represented phases of the god. When the spring fires were lit, and the god "renewed his life like the eagle", his symbol was possibly the solar wheel or disk with eagle's wings, which became regarded as a symbol of life. The god brought life and light to the world; he caused the crops to grow; he gave increase; he sustained his worshippers. But he was also the god who slew the demons of darkness and storm. The Hittite winged disk was Sandes or Sandon, the god of lightning, who stood on the back of a bull. As the lightning god was a war god, it was in keeping with his character to find him represented in Assyria as "Ashur the archer" with the bow and lightning arrow. On the disk of the Assyrian standard the lion and the bull appear with "the archer" as symbols of the war god Ashur, but they were also symbols of Ashur the god of fertility.

The life or spirit of the god was in the ring or wheel, as the life of the Egyptian and Indian gods, and of the giants of folk tales, was in "the egg". The "dot within the circle", a widespread symbol, may have represented the seed within "the egg" of more than one mythology, or the thorn within the egg of more than one legendary story. It may be that in Assyria, as in India, the crude beliefs and symbols of the masses were spiritualized by the speculative thinkers in the priesthood, but no literary evidence has survived to justify us in placing the Assyrian teachers on the same level as the Brahmans who composed the Upanishads.


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