Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 62

Thou didst lay affliction every year.
Thou didst love the brilliant Allalu bird
But thou didst smite him and break his wing;
He stands in the woods and cries "O my wing".

He likewise charged her with deceiving the lion and the horse, making reference to obscure myths:

Thou didst also love a shepherd of the flock,
Who continually poured out for thee the libation,
And daily slaughtered kids for thee;
But thou didst smite him and didst change him into a leopard,
So that his own sheep boy hunted him,
And his own hounds tore him to pieces.[135]

These goddesses were ever prone to afflict human beings who might offend them or of whom they wearied. Demeter (Ceres) changed Ascalaphus into an owl and Stellio into a lizard. Rhea (Ops) resembled

The tow'red Cybele,
Mother of a hundred gods,

the wanton who loved Attis (Adonis). Artemis (Diana) slew her lover Orion, changed Actaeon into a stag, which was torn to pieces by his own dogs, and caused numerous deaths by sending a boar to ravage the fields of Oeneus, king of Calydon. Human sacrifices were frequently offered to the bloodthirsty "mothers". The most famous victim of Artemis was the daughter of Agamemnon, "divinely tall and most divinely fair".[136] Agamemnon had slain a sacred stag, and the goddess punished him by sending a calm when the war fleet was about to sail for Troy, with the result that his daughter had to be sacrificed. Artemis thus sold breezes like the northern wind hags and witches.

It used to be customary to account for the similarities manifested by the various mother goddesses by assuming that there was constant cultural contact between separate nationalities, and, as a result, a not inconsiderable amount of "religious borrowing". Greece was supposed to have received its great goddesses from the western Semites, who had come under the spell of Babylonian religion. Archaeological evidence, however, tends to disprove this theory. "The most recent researches into Mesopotamian history", writes Dr. Farnell, "establish with certainty the conclusion that there was no direct political contact possible between the powers in the valley of the Euphrates and the western shores of the Aegean in the second millennium B.C. In fact, between the nascent Hellas and the great world of Mesopotamia there were powerful and possibly independent strata of cultures interposing."[137]

The real connection appears to be the racial one. Among the Mediterranean Neolithic tribes of Sumeria, Arabia, and Europe, the goddess cult appears to have been influential. Mother worship was the predominant characteristic of their religious systems, so that the Greek goddesses were probably of pre-Hellenic origin, the Celtic of Iberian, the Egyptian of proto-Egyptian, and the Babylonian of Sumerian. The northern hillmen, on the other hand, who may be identified with the "Aryans" of the philologists, were father worshippers. The Vedic Aryo-Indians worshipped father gods,[138] as did also the Germanic peoples and certain tribes in the "Hittite confederacy". Earth spirits were males, like the Teutonic elves, the Aryo-Indian Ribhus, and the Burkans, "masters", of the present-day Buriats, a Mongolian people. When the father-worshipping peoples invaded the dominions of the mother-worshipping peoples, they introduced their strongly individualized gods, but they did not displace the mother goddesses. "The Aryan Hellenes", says Dr. Farnell, "were able to plant their Zeus and Poseidon on the high hill of Athens, but not to overthrow the supremacy of Athena in the central shrine and in the aboriginal soul of the Athenian people."[139] As in Egypt, the beliefs of the father worshippers, represented by the self-created Ptah, were fused with the beliefs of the mother worshippers, who adored Isis, Mut, Neith, and others. In Babylonia this process of racial and religious fusion was well advanced before the dawn of history. Ea, who had already assumed manifold forms, may have originally been the son or child lover of Damkina, "Lady of the Deep", as was Tammuz of Ishtar. As the fish, Ea was the offspring of the mother river.