Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 171

In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. Thy Fates open their hands....[353]

or when Byron wrote:

Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!
If in your bright leaves we would read the fate
Of men and empires--'t is to be forgiven
That in our aspirations to be great,
Our destinies o'erleap their mortal state
And claim a kindred with you....[354]

Our grave astronomers are no longer astrologers, but they still call certain constellations by the names given them in Babylonia. Every time we look at our watches we are reminded of the ancient mathematicians who counted on their fingers and multiplied 10 by 6, to give us minutes and seconds, and divided the day and the night into twelve hours by multiplying six by the two leaden feet of Time. The past lives in the present.

[302] "It may be worth while to note again", says Beddoe, "how often finely developed skulls are discovered in the graveyards of old monasteries, and how likely seems Galton's conjecture, that progress was arrested in the Middle Ages, because the celibacy of the clergy brought about the extinction of the best strains of blood." The Anthropological History of Europe, p. 161 (1912).
[303] Census of India, vol. I, part i, pp. 352 et seq.
[304] Hibbert Lectures, Professor Sayce, p. 328.
[305] The Story of Nala, Monier Williams, pp. 68-9 and 77.
[306] "In Ymer's flesh (the earth) the dwarfs were engendered and began to move and live.... The dwarfs had been bred in the mould of the earth, just as worms are in a dead body." The Prose Edda. "The gods ... took counsel whom they should make the lord of dwarfs out of Ymer's blood (the sea) and his swarthy limbs (the earth)." The Elder Edda (Voluspa, stanza 9).
[307] The Story of Nala, Monier Williams, p. 67.
[308] Egyptian Myth and Legend, pp. 168 it seq.
[309] The Burden of Isis, Dennis, p. 24.
[310] Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, p. 117.
[311] Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, T.G. Pinches, p. l00.
[312] The Burden of Isis, J.T. Dennis, p. 49.
[313] Ibid., p. 52.
[314] Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, A. Wiedemann, p. 30.
[315] Vedic Index, Macdonell & Keith, vol. i, pp. 423 et seq.
[316] Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, Sayce, p. 153, n. 6.
[317] Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, A. Wiedemann, p. 30.
[318] Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, p. 95.
[319] Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, pp. 63 and 83.
[320] When the King of Assyria transported the Babylonians, &c., to Samaria "the men of Cuth made Nergal", 2 Kings, xvii, 30.
[321] Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, p. 80.
[322] Indian Myth and Legend, p. 13.
[323] Derived from the Greek zōon, an animal.
[324] The Hittites, pp. 116, 119, 120, 272.
[325] "The sun... is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race." (Psalm xix, 4 et seq.) The marriage of the sun bridegroom with the moon bride appears to occur in Hittite mythology. In Aryo-Indian Vedic mythology the bride of the sun (Surya) is Ushas, the Dawn. The sun maiden also married the moon god. The Vedic gods ran a race and Indra and Agni were the winners. The sun was "of the nature of Agni". Indian Myth and Legend, pp. 14, 36, 37.
[326] Or golden.
[327] The later reference is to Assyria. There was no Assyrian kingdom when these early beliefs were developed.
[328] Primitive Constellations, R. Brown, jun., vol. ii, p. 1 et seq.
[329] In India "finger counting" (Kaur guna) is associated with prayer or the repeating of mantras. The counting is performed by the thumb, which, when the hand is drawn up, touches the upper part of the third finger. The two upper "chambers" of the third finger are counted, then the two upper "chambers" of the little finger; the thumb then touches the tip of each finger from the little finger to the first; when it comes down into the upper chamber of the first finger 9 is counted. By a similar process each round of 9 on the right hand is recorded by the left up to 12; 12 X 9 = 108 repetitions of a mantra. The upper "chambers" of the fingers are the "best" or "highest" (uttama), the lower (adhama) chambers are not utilized in the prayer-counting process. When Hindus sit cross-legged at prayers, with closed eyes, the right hand is raised from the elbow in front of the body, and the thumb moves each time a mantra is repeated; the left hand lies palm upward on the left knee, and the thumb moves each time nine mantras have been counted.
[330] Primitive Constellations, R. Brown, jun., vol. ii, p. 61; and Early History of Northern India, J.F. Hewitt, pp. 551-2.
[331] Rigveda-Samhita, vol. iv (1892), p. 67.
[332] Vedic Index, Macdonell & Keith, vol. ii, pp. 192 el seq.
[333] Indian Myth and Legend
[334] Pp. 107 et seq.
[335] Primitive Constellation, R. Brown, jun., vol. i, 1. 333. A table is given showing how 120 saroi equals 360 degrees, each king being identified with a star.
[336] "Behold, his majesty the god Ra is grown old; his bones are become silver, his limbs gold, and his hair pure lapis lazuli." Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, A. Wiedemann, p. 58. Ra became a destroyer after completing his reign as an earthly king.
[337] As Nin-Girau, Tammuz was associated with "sevenfold" Orion.
[338] Babylonian and Assyrian Life, pp. 61, 62.
[339] Herodotus (ii, 52) as quoted in Egypt and Scythia (London, 1886), p. 49.
[340] Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, L.W. King (London, 1896), pp. 43 and 115.
[341] Vedic Index, Macdonell & Keith, vol. ii, p. 229.
[342] Ibid vol. i, pp. 409, 410.
[343] Ibid vol. i, p. 415.
[344] Primitive Constellations, vol. i, p. 343.
[345] Custom and Myth, pp. 133 et seq.
[346] Dr. Alfred Jeremias gives very forcible reasons for believing that the ancient Babylonians were acquainted with the precession of the equinoxes. Das Alter der Babylonischen Astronomie (Hinrichs, Leipzig, 1908), pp. 47 et seq.
[347] Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 207 et seq.
[348] A History of the Babylonians and Assyrians, p. 93.
[349] Babylonians and Assyrians: Life and Customs, pp. 219, 220.
[350] Primitive Constellations, vol. ii, pp. 147 et seq.
[351] The Aryo-Indians had a lunar year of 360 days (Vedic Index, ii, 158).
[352] A History of the Babylonians and Assyrians, p. 94.
[353] Twelfth Night, act ii, scene 5.
[354] Childe Harold, canto iii, v, 88.

Chapter XIV. Ashur the National God of Assyria


Derivation of Ashur--Ashur as Anshar and Anu--Animal forms of Sky God--Anshar as Star God on the Celestial Mount--Isaiah's Parable--Symbols of World God and World Hill--Dance of the Constellations and Dance of Satyrs--Goat Gods and Bull Gods--Symbols of Gods as "High Heads"--The Winged Disc--Human Figure as Soul of the Sun--Ashur as Hercules and Gilgamesh--Gods differentiated by Cults--Fertility Gods as War Gods--Ashur's Tree and Animal forms--Ashur as Nisroch--Lightning Symbol in Disc--Ezekiel's Reference to Life Wheel--Indian Wheel and Discus--Wheels of Shamash and Ahura-Mazda--Hittite Winged Disc--Solar Wheel causes Seasonal Changes--Bonfires to stimulate Solar Deity--Burning of Gods and Kings--Magical Ring and other Symbols of Scotland--Ashur's Wheel of Life and Eagle Wings--King and Ashur--Ashur associated with Lunar, Fire, and Star Gods--The Osirian Clue--Hittite and Persian Influences.

The rise of Assyria brings into prominence the national god Ashur, who had been the city god of Asshur, the ancient capital. When first met with, he is found to be a complex and mystical deity, and the problem of his origin is consequently rendered exceedingly difficult. Philologists are not agreed as to the derivation of his name, and present as varied views as they do when dealing with the name of Osiris. Some give Ashur a geographical significance, urging that its original form was Aushar, "water field"; others prefer the renderings "Holy", "the Beneficent One", or "the Merciful One"; while not a few regard Ashur as simply a dialectic form of the name of Anshar, the god who, in the Assyrian version, or copy, of the Babylonian Creation myth, is chief of the "host of heaven", and the father of Anu, Ea, and Enlil.

If Ashur is to be regarded as an abstract solar deity, who was developed from a descriptive place name, it follows that he had a history, like Anu or Ea, rooted in Naturalism or Animism. We cannot assume that his strictly local character was produced by modes of thought which did not obtain elsewhere. The colonists who settled at Asshur no doubt imported beliefs from some cultural area; they must have either given recognition to a god, or group of gods, or regarded the trees, hills, rivers, sun, moon, and stars, and the animals as manifestations of the "self power" of the Universe, before they undertook the work of draining and cultivating the "water field" and erecting permanent homes. Those who settled at Nineveh, for instance, believed that they were protected by the goddess Nina, the patron deity of the Sumerian city of Nina. As this goddess was also worshipped at Lagash, and was one of the many forms of the Great Mother, it would appear that in ancient times deities had a tribal rather than a geographical significance.