Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 110

In time, however, a new world appears.

I see uprising a second time
Earth from the Ocean, green anew;
The waters fall, on high the eagle
Flies o'er the fell and catches fish.

When the surviving gods return, they will talk, according to the Vala (prophetess), of "the great world serpent" (Tiamat). The fields will be sown and "Balder will come"[242]--apparently as Tammuz came. The association of Balder with corn suggests that, like Nata of the Nahua tribes, he was a harvest spirit, among other things.

Leaving, meantime, the many problems which arise from consideration of the Deluge legends and their connection with primitive agricultural myths, the attention of readers may be directed to the Babylonian conception of the Otherworld.

Pir-napishtim, who escaped destruction at the Flood, resides in an Island Paradise, which resembles the Greek "Islands of the Blessed", and the Irish "Tir nan og" or "Land of the Young", situated in the western ocean, and identical with the British[243]

island-valley of Avilion,
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly, but it lies
Deep meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea.[244]

Only two human beings were permitted to reside on the Babylonian island paradise, however. These were Pir-napishtim and his wife. Apparently Gilgamesh could not join them there. His gods did not transport heroes and other favoured individuals to a happy isle or isles like those of the Greeks and Celts and Aryo-Indians. There was no Heaven for the Babylonian dead. All mankind were doomed to enter the gloomy Hades of the Underworld, "the land of darkness and the shadow of death; a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is darkness", as Job exclaimed in the hour of despair, lamenting his fate.[245]

This gloomy habitation of the dead resembles the Greek Hades, the Teutonic Nifelhel, and the Indian "Put". No detailed description of it has been found. The references, however, in the "Descent of Ishtar" and the Gilgamesh epic suggest that it resembled the hidden regions of the Egyptians, in which souls were tortured by demons who stabbed them, plunged them in pools of fire, and thrust them into cold outer darkness where they gnashed their teeth, or into places of horror swarming with poisonous reptiles.

Ishtar was similarly tortured by the plague demon, Namtar, when she boldly entered the Babylonian Underworld to search for Tammuz. Other sufferings were, no doubt, in store for her, resembling those, perhaps, with which the giant maid in the Eddic poem "Skirnismal" was threatened when she refused to marry Frey, the god of fertility and harvest:

Trolls shall torment thee from morn till eve
In the realms of the Jotun race,
Each day to the dwellings of Frost giants must thou
Creep helpless, creep hopeless of love;
Thou shalt weeping have in the stead of joy,
And sore burden bear with tears....