Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 53Tammuz in his twofold character as a patriarch and a god of fertility.
The Adonis version of the myth may be summarized briefly. Ere the god was born, his mother, who was pursued by her angry sire, as the river goddesses of the folk tales are pursued by the well demons, transformed herself into a tree. Adonis sprang from the trunk of this tree, and Aphrodite, having placed the child in a chest, committed him to the care of Persephone, queen of Hades, who resembles the Babylonian Eresh-ki-gal. Persephone desired to retain the young god, and Aphrodite (Ishtar) appealed to Zeus (Anu), who decreed that Adonis should spend part of the year with one goddess and part of the year with the other.
It is suggested that the myth of Adonis was derived in post-Homeric times by the Greeks indirectly from Babylonia through the Western Semites, the Semitic title "Adon", meaning "lord", having been mistaken for a proper name. This theory, however, cannot be accepted without qualifications. It does not explain the existence of either the Phrygian myth of Attis, which was developed differently from the Tammuz myth, or the Celtic story of "Diarmid and the boar", which belongs to the archaeological "Hunting Period". There are traces in Greek mythology of pre-Hellenic myths about dying harvest deities, like Hyakinthos and Erigone, for instance, who appear to have been mourned for. There is every possibility, therefore, that the Tammuz ritual may have been attached to a harvest god of the pre-Hellenic Greeks, who received at the same time the new name of Adonis. Osiris of Egypt resembles Tammuz, but his Mesopotamian origin has not been proved. It would appear probable that Tammuz, Attis, Osiris, and the deities represented by Adonis and Diarmid were all developed from an archaic god of fertility and vegetation, the central figure of a myth which was not only as ancient as the knowledge and practice of agriculture, but had existence even in the "Hunting Period". Traces of the Tammuz-Osiris story in various forms are found all over the area occupied by the Mediterranean or Brown race from Sumeria to the British Isles. Apparently the original myth was connected with tree and water worship and the worship of animals. Adonis sprang from a tree; the body of Osiris was concealed in a tree which grew round the sea-drifted chest in which he was concealed. Diarmid concealed himself in a tree when pursued by Finn. The blood of Tammuz, Osiris, and Adonis reddened the swollen rivers which fertilized the soil. Various animals were associated with the harvest god, who appears to have been manifested from time to time in different forms, for his spirit pervaded all nature. In Egypt the soul of Osiris entered the Apis bull or the ram of Mendes.
Tammuz in the hymns is called "the pre-eminent steer of heaven", and a popular sacrifice was "a white kid of the god Tammuz", which, however, might be substituted by a sucking pig. Osiris had also associations with swine, and the Egyptians, according to Herodotus, sacrificed a pig to him annually. When Set at full moon hunted the boar in the Delta marshes, he probably hunted the boar form of Osiris, whose human body had been recovered from the sacred tree by Isis. As the soul of Bata, the hero of the Egyptian folk tale, migrated from the blossom to the bull, and the bull to the tree, so apparently did the soul of Osiris pass from incarnation to incarnation. Set, the demon slayer of the harvest god, had also a boar form; he was the black pig who devoured the waning moon and blinded the Eye of Ra.
In his character as a long-lived patriarch, Tammuz, the King Daonus or Daos of Berosus, reigned in Babylonia for 36,000 years. When he died, he departed to Hades or the Abyss. Osiris, after reigning over the Egyptians, became Judge of the Dead.
Tammuz of the Sumerian hymns, however, is the Adonis-like god who lived on earth for a part of the year as the shepherd and agriculturist so dearly beloved by the goddess Ishtar. Then he died so that he might depart to the realm of Eresh-ki-gal (Persephone), queen of Hades. According to one account, his death was caused by the fickle Ishtar. When that goddess wooed Gilgamesh, the Babylonian Hercules, he upbraided her, saying: