Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 158

Mother body which produceth all things....
Merciful, gracious Father, in whose hand the life of the whole land is contained.

One of the Isis chants of Egypt sets forth, addressing Osiris:

There cometh unto thee Isis, lady of the horizon, who hath begotten herself alone in the image of the gods....
She hath taken vengeance before Horus, the woman who was made a male by her father Osiris.[312]

Merodach, like Osiris-Sokar, was a "lord of many existences", and likewise "the mysterious one, he who is unknown to mankind[313]". It was impossible for the human mind "a greater than itself to know".

Evidence has not yet been forthcoming to enable us to determine the period at which the chief Babylonian deities were identified with the planets, but it is clear that Merodach's ascendancy in astral form could not have occurred prior to the rise of that city god of Babylon as chief of the pantheon by displacing Enlil. At the same time it must be recognized that long before the Hammurabi age the star-gazers of the Tigro-Euphrates valley must have been acquainted with the movements of the chief planets and stars, and, no doubt, they connected them with seasonal changes as in Egypt, where Isis was identified with Sirius long before the Ptolemaic age, when Babylonian astronomy was imported. Horus was identified not only with the sun but also with Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.[314] Even the primitive Australians, as has been indicated, have their star myths; they refer to the stars Castor and Pollux as two young men, like the ancient Greeks, while the African Bushmen assert that these stars are two girls. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the prehistoric Sumerians were exact astronomers. Probably they were, like the Aryo-Indians of the Vedic period, "not very accurate observers".[315]

It is of special interest to find that the stars were grouped by the Babylonians at the earliest period in companies of seven. The importance of this magical number is emphasized by the group of seven demons which rose from the deep to rage over the land (p. 71). Perhaps the sanctity of Seven was suggested by Orion, the Bears, and the Pleiad, one of which constellations may have been the "Sevenfold" deity addressed as "one". At any rate arbitrary groupings of other stars into companies of seven took place, for references are made to the seven Tikshi, the seven Lumashi, and the seven Mashi, which are older than the signs of the Zodiac; so far as can be ascertained these groups were selected from various constellations. When the five planets were identified, they were associated with the sun and moon and connected with the chief gods of the Hammurabi pantheon. A bilingual list in the British Museum arranges the sevenfold planetary group in the following order:--

The moon, Sin.
The sun, Shamash.
Jupiter, Merodach.
Venus, Ishtar.
Saturn, Ninip (Nirig).
Mercury, Nebo.
Mars, Nergal.

An ancient name of the moon was Aa, Â, or Ai, which recalls the Egyptian Aâh or Ah. The Sumerian moon was Aku, "the measurer", like Thoth of Egypt, who in his lunar character as a Fate measured out the lives of men, and was a god of architects, mathematicians, and scribes. The moon was the parent of the sun or its spouse; and might be male, or female, or both as a bisexual deity.