Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 107

Manu's account of the flood has been already referred to (Chapter II). The god in fish shape informed him: "The time is ripe for purging the world.... Build a strong and massive ark, and furnish it with a long rope...." When the waters rose the horned fish towed the ark over the roaring sea, until it grounded on the highest peak of the Himavat, which is still called Naubandha (the harbour). Manu was accompanied by seven rishis.[229]

In the Celtic (Irish) account of the flood, Cessair, granddaughter of Noah, was refused a chamber for herself in the ark, and fled to the western borders of the world as advised by her idol.[230] Her fleet consisted of three ships, but two foundered before Ireland was reached. The survivors in addition to Cessair were, her father Bith, two other men, Fintan and Ladru, and fifty women. All of these perished on the hills except Fintan, who slept on the crest of a great billow, and lived to see Partholon, the giant, arriving from Greece.

There is a deluge also in Egyptian mythology. When Ra, the sun god, grew old as an earthly king, men began to mutter words against him. He called the gods together and said: "I will not slay them (his subjects) until I have heard what ye say concerning them." Nu, his father, who was the god of primeval waters, advised the wholesale destruction of mankind.

Said Ra: "Behold men flee unto the hills; their heart is full of fear because of that which they said."

The goddess Hathor-Sekhet, the Eye of Ra, then went forth and slew mankind on the hills. Thereafter Ra, desiring to protect the remnant of humanity, caused a great offering to be made to the goddess, consisting of corn beer mixed with herbs and human blood. This drink was poured out during the night. "And the goddess came in the morning; she found the fields inundated, she rejoiced thereat, she drank thereof, her heart was rejoiced, she went about drunken and took no more cognizance of men."[231]

It is obvious that the Egyptian myth refers to the annual inundation of the Nile, the "human blood" in the "beer" being the blood of the slain corn god, or of his earthly representative. It is probable that the flood legends of North and South America similarly reflected local phenomena, although the possibility that they were of Asiatic origin, like the American Mongoloid tribes, cannot be overlooked. Whether or not Mexican civilization, which was flourishing about the time of the battle of Hastings, received any cultural stimulus from Asia is a question regarding which it would be unsafe to dogmatize, owing to the meagre character of the available data.

The Mexican deluge was caused by the "water sun", which suddenly discharged the moisture it had been drawing from the earth in the form of vapour through long ages. All life was destroyed.

A flood legend among the Nahua tribes resembles closely the Babylonian story as told by Pir-napishtim. The god Titlacahuan instructed a man named Nata to make a boat by hollowing out a cypress tree, so as to escape the coming deluge with his wife Nena. This pair escaped destruction. They offered up a fish sacrifice in the boat and enraged the deity who visited them, displaying as much indignation as did Bel when he discovered that Pir-napishtim had survived the great disaster. Nata and Nena had been instructed to take with them one ear of maize only, which suggests that they were harvest spirits.