Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 27

An obscure god Shony, the Oannes of the Scottish Hebrides, received oblations from those who depended for their agricultural prosperity on his gifts of fertilizing seaweed. He is referred to in Martin's Western Isles, and is not yet forgotten. The Eddic sea god Njord of Noatun was the father of Frey, the harvest god. Dagda, the Irish corn god, had for wife Boann, the goddess of the river Boyne. Osiris and Isis of Egypt were associated with the Nile. The connection between agriculture and the water supply was too obvious to escape the early symbolists, and many other proofs of this than those referred to could be given.

Ea's "faithful spouse" was the goddess Damkina, who was also called Nin-ki, "lady of the earth". "May Ea make thee glad", chanted the priests. "May Damkina, queen of the deep, illumine thee with her countenance; may Merodach (Marduk), the mighty overseer of the Igigi (heavenly spirits), exalt thy head." Merodach was their son: in time he became the Bel, or "Lord", of the Babylonian pantheon.

Like the Indian Varuna, the sea god, Ea-Oannes had control over the spirits and demons of the deep. The "ferryman" who kept watch over the river of death was called Arad-Ea, "servant of Ea". There are also references to sea maidens, the Babylonian mermaids, or Nereids. We have a glimpse of sea giants, which resemble the Indian Danavas and Daityas of ocean, in the chant:

Seven are they, seven are they,
In the ocean deep seven are they,
Battening in heaven seven are they,
Bred in the depths of ocean....
Of these seven the first is the south wind,
The second a dragon with mouth agape....[44]

A suggestion of the Vedic Vritra and his horde of monsters.

These seven demons were also "the messengers of Anu", who, although specialized as a sky god in more than one pantheon, appears to have been closely associated with Ea in the earliest Sumerian period. His name, signifying "the high one", is derived from "ana", "heaven"; he was the city god of Erech (Uruk). It is possible that he was developed as an atmospheric god with solar and lunar attributes. The seven demons, who were his messengers, recall the stormy Maruts, the followers of Indra. They are referred to as

Forcing their way with baneful windstorms,
Mighty destroyers, the deluge of the storm god,
Stalking at the right hand of the storm god.[45]

When we deal with a deity in his most archaic form it is difficult to distinguish him from a demon. Even the beneficent Ea is associated with monsters and furies. "Evil spirits", according to a Babylonian chant, were "the bitter venom of the gods". Those attached to a deity as "attendants" appear to represent the original animistic group from which he evolved. In each district the character of the deity was shaped to accord with local conditions.

At Nippur, which was situated on the vague and shifting boundary line between Sumer and Akkad, the chief god was Enlil, whose name is translated "lord of mist", "lord of might", and "lord of demons" by various authorities. He was a storm god and a war god, and "lord of heaven and earth", like Ea and Anu. An atmospheric deity, he shares the attributes of the Indian Indra, the thunder and rain god, and Vayu, the wind god; he also resembles the Semitic Adad or Rimman, who links with the Hittite Tarku. All these are deities of tempest and the mountains--Wild Huntsmen in the Raging Host. The name of Enlil's temple at Nippur has been translated as "mountain house", or "like a mountain", and the theory obtained for a time that the god must therefore have been imported by a people from the hills. But as the ideogram for "mountain" and "land" was used in the earliest times, as King shows, with reference to foreign countries,[46] it is more probable that Enlil was exalted as a world god who had dominion over not only Sumer and Akkad, but also the territories occupied by the rivals and enemies of the early Babylonians.