ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
You read something over breakfast thinking, this is short, it'll only take a minute, and before you know it you're embroiled.

This short article from the year 1900 suggests that Ishtar was originally an androgynous deity before being "split" into male and female aspects. Similarly, Barton argues, Enlil and Ninlil were originally one and the same god. This intriguing idea is based on three pieces of evidence: one, in South Arabia, the goddess Athtar became the god Athtar, the deity's female aspect becoming a separate goddess, Shamsu; an inscription which Barton argues should read in part "the king of countries, the god Ishtar, the lady, the goddess Ishtar"; and an incantation in which both Enlil and Ninlil are called "mother-father". Barton also mentions Phoenician inscriptions referring to "Ashtart of the name of Baal" and "Tanit of the face of Baal".

This is appealing, but I don't quite know what to do with it. I can't find any citations of this article (which makes me wonder how I found it in the first place); apparently no-one else has built on this idea (although Barton discussed it further in his 1902 book A Sketch of Semitic Origins: Social and Religious). Connections suggest themselves: the primordial Aztec creator deity Ometeotl, both male and female, who can also appear as a male god, Ometecuhtli, and a goddess, Omecihuatl. OTOH, the Egyptian god Atum seems to have started off male and acquired female characteristics as a necessary part of being a creator.

There's also a mention of a Phoenician idol of a bearded goddess (Tanit, but with Baal's face?). I tried randomly searching for "bearded goddess" and came up with various examples, including a bearded Isis (which I will ETA), and the bearded Aphrodite / Aphroditus / Hermaphroditus, and his/her festival in which men and women swapped clothes - shades of the transvestism apparently involved in Inanna's rituals. Scholars have argued over whether Anat wore a beard. (Which I will also ETA because I can't lay hands on the photocopies right now.)

ETA: After much faffing about I found a section on Anat's beard in Neal H. Walls' book The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. There's a description of the god El mourning the slain Baal in a series of ritual actions, which includes shaving his beard and whiskers. Then Anat goes through the same series of steps. IIUC what El does, literally, is to "cut his cheeks and chin", where the word for "chin" is also used to mean "beard". So in Anat's case, she "gashed her cheeks and chin". Walls remarks: "the comparative evidence for bearded goddesses is dubious". I shall pursue this question. (Does Sekhmet's ruff count?)

Barton, George A. An Androgynous Babylonian Divinity. Journal of the American Oriental Society 21, 1900, pp. 185-187
Walls, Neal H. The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. Scholars Press, Atlanta GA, 1992.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)

These figures appear on the back pillar of a magical healing statue, Turin 3031, which portrayed a man holding a Horus cippus. Only the lower part has survived.

If that's an accurate rendering of "Sekhmet the Great, beloved of Ptah", then her phallus seems to have slid down to her knees. Kákosy compares her to other lioness-headed, ithyphallic figures, from Karnak and Hibis, and also "the statue in Naples inv. 1065 back pillar right side ref V.1.", which alas I seem to have neglected to photocopy.

There are enough examples of this figure - the ithyphallic lioness-headed goddess - to say that it was definitely A Thing, a rare example of androgyny in Egyptian religion. But what did it mean to the ancients? If it's a syncretism between Mut or Sekhmet and a specific male god or gods, then why not name them? Perhaps it was comparable to pantheistic figures - showing that the deity in question had the powers of all the gods, male and female?

ETA: Figures labelled as Sekhmet appear elsewhere on the same statue - which makes sense for a goddess associated with sickiness and healing. The goddess takes various forms: holding two snakes; holding a long double-headed snake ("Sekhmet who subdues the Rebel"); as a lion-headed uraeus, presented with the wedjat by a baboon (presumably a reference to the tale of the Distant Goddess); and as a lion lying on a shrine, wearing the atef crown ("Sekhmet the Great who dwells in the City" (perhaps Thebes)).

Nefertum also makes multiple appearances, firstly to the left of Horus on the cippus, in the form of a lotus with tall plume hung with two pairs of menits. The texts on the cippus which refer to this symbol name "Horus the Saviour", who Kákosy speculates was identified with Nefertem in this case. Kákosy writes that this symbol was "a potent emblem" and says that Nefertem and his lotus often appear in magic; Horus on the papyrus, which appears on the right side of the cippus opposite Neferterm's symbol as its "counterpart", "may have been the symbol of rejuvenation and freshness of health" as well as the union of male and female (many goddesses hold a papyriform sceptre).

There are several other interesting figures, such as Sobek pulling a snake out of his mouth and two cats flanking a sistrum. "Khonsu the Great who came forth from the Nun" appears in the form of a crocodile on a pedestal with a falcon-head and sun-disc emerging from its back.

Kákosy, László. Egyptian Healing Statues in Three Museums in Italy: Turin, Florence, Naples. Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali, Soprintendenza al Museo delle antichità egizie, 1999.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
This chapter by Donald B. Redford discusses the "ever-present struggle between land and sea, fair weather and storm", which "dominat[ed] the mythology of the maritime cities of the eastern Mediterranean", in the form of stories of hero vs monster - tales describing creation and providing "an archetypal rationalization of kingship". The version of the story from northern Syria, with Baal defeating Prince Sea on the coast near Mount Saphon (modern Jebel al-ʾAqraʿ / Kel Dağı), was the most influential: Greek myth placed the battle between Zeus and Typhon in the same area, Athena and Poseidon's rivalry is based on Anat and Yam's, and Marduk's defeat of Tiamat in the Enûma Elish is also drawn from the story.

Variations of the story occur further south, in cities where the worship of the goddess, called Astarte, "seems to outshine" her male consort. ("This may hark back to the Bronze Age when the cult of Asherah, the mother of the gods, as more prominent in the Levant. In the hinterland of the south, indeed, she continued to dominate as the consort of Baʿal and Yahweh.") In Byblos, "the goddess reigned supreme". She was known as "the Mistress of Byblos" - probably Astarte. Byblos also had the tale of the battle with the sea, but he "is worsted, killed and has to be revived by a loyal partner". (The story of Adonis and the Egyptian tale of the Doomed Prince, among others, show traces of this myth.) There were further variations at Sidon and Tyre.

A second storyline involves the "sexually-avaricious Sea who turns his attention to the beautiful goddess, the Baʿal's consort". Derivations include Typhon's pursuit of Aphrodite, the abduction of the Phoenician princess Europa, and Perseus' rescue of the Ethiopian princess Andromeda. Redford drily remarks: "There can be no doubt that the prospect of the innocent, voluptuous beauty ravished by the monster had an irresistable appeal to the collective subconscious of many a community in the Aegean". There are related stories of the goddess Atagatis / Derceto turning into a fish (along with her son) after being thrown or leaping into the water.

At Gaza, Anat, Astarte, Dagon, Reshef, Arsay, and Marnas were worshipped (later as their Greek incarnations, Athena, Aphrodite, Zeus, Apollo, possibly Persephone). "A Ramesside ostracon speaks of a festival of Anat of Gaza for which a 'cover' (? for a shrine?) seems to be one of the requirements". Redford links Plutarch's story of Isis and Osiris with Gaza. As Isis returns from Byblos, bad weather on the River Phaedrus provokes her to dry it up. Next, as Isis inspects Osiris' body at a "deserted spot", a prince of Byblos, Palaestinus, sneakily observes her and is struck dead by Isis' angry look. Plutarch writes: "Some say that... he fell into the sea and is honoured because of the goddess... and that the city founded by the goddess was named after him." Gaza is described with the same Greek word for "deserted spot" in Acts 8:26, and "Palaestinus" is derived from "p3-knʿn", "the town of Canaan".

(Bit more to come from this article; but now it is time for pizza!)

(OK pizza and "Game of Thrones" now complete)

Redford compares the stories from the southern Levant, which feature the water monster, the goddess, and her child, with Egyptian versions, including Astarte and the Sea (the Astarte Papyrus), the Story of the Two Brothers, and Set's hunt for Isis and Horus. "In Egypt, however, the motif has been largely separated from a maritime venue, and is now informed by the denizens and landscape of the Nile valley. The monster now takes shape as a crocodile, or serpent; the hero as ichneumon, falcon or scorpion. Horus defeats the serpent, the creator god subdues the water-monster (crocodile)." So for example, "the great battle... when Re had transformed himself into an ichneumon 46 cubits (long) to fell Apophis in his rage." (That's over 21 m fyi.)

Redford concludes by reminding us that it's impossible to draw a simple "family tree" of these stories, due to "the very general nature of the basic plot, and the mutual awareness and ease of contact enjoyed by eastern Mediterranean communities."
Redford, Donald B.. "The Sea and the Goddess". in Sarah Israelit-Groll (ed). Studies in Egyptology: presented to Miriam Lichtheim. Magness Press, Hebrew University, 1990.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
A long, copiously footnoted, often technical, and frequently filthy dirty article, "A Cloud Roams and Beautifies by Spitting Out Her Brother" discusses a Ugaritic composition called KTU 1.96. The author, Matthew S. Tarazi, discusses prevous interpretations of the hymn, and gives his own: it describes the goddess Anat, acting as the "servant-messenger" of the storm-god Baal, collecting the rainwaters and distributing them to the freshwater springs which are essential for civilisation. Here's his translation of the first 9 1/2 lines:

"A Cloud roams and beautifies by spitting out her brother —
And her brother is beautiful, how very beautiful!
May she devour his flesh without a knife,
May she drink his blood without a cup:
May she face the spring of shame.
From the spring of shame may she face the spring of the market, the spring of the assembly, the spring of the gate."

Tarazi interprets this as Anat performing fellatio on Baal to obtain his semen, which she then distributes to the underground springs and brings to the surface, fertilising ("beautifying") the land. Baal's "flesh and blood" is his "entire essence and nature", the rainwater; the "spring of shame" is Baal's penis. The market, assembly, and gate are all "components of civilized life in Ugarit", so Anat's visit "vivif[ies] these sectors of life and civilization." The title of the hymn can be less poetically interpreted as "A cloud roams and irrigates by emitting out rainwaters", fertilising the earth "so that it brings forth magnificent life, vegetation, and civilization".

The Ugaritic word 'nn means both "cloud" and "servant, messenger"; it makes perfect sense for the storm-god's servants and messengers, including in this case Anat, to be clouds.

"Shame" seems like such an odd word in such a positive context. I wonder if it's really the right translation. Tarazi points out that Anat herself might not feel ashamed, even if "she is shameful by certain social standards".

Tarazi argues that it's Baal who does the fertilising here; although she acquires his waters in an *ahem* active manner, Anat is his agent, not a fertility goddess in her own right. He believes this is a deliberate change from an older view of Anat as having the "innate capacity to fertilize the earth". ("It also accords well with iconographic images depicting her with small breasts, thus internally deficient of life-sustaining fluids." OTOH, Ishtar is depicted proferring full breasts, and yet is arguably a goddess of sexual desire rather than fertility per se*.) I guess that would fit with the image of Anat taking Baal's semen in her mouth, rather than her vagina. (This is not the same thing, but I thought of Atum, who is what Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty would call a "male androgyne", producing Shu and Tefnut by taking his semen in his hand and placing it in his mouth.)

The author discusses at some length "a literary convention wherein [poet-scribes] would pluralize a term that denotes a particular person, typically a deity, to refer to the essential manifestation of that person". (He argues in particular that the word "brother" is actually "brothers".) "... deities are construed as ultimate sources of certain constituents and phenomena of the natural world [which in turn are] construed as coming out from the body of the person of the deity himself, and embodying that deity's essential nature." The point of this convention was to show that the god and their essence were different, but intimately related. It also addresses the idea that a god can manifest simultaneously in multiple places; similarly, in the Hebrew Bible, "plural forms of deity names... can be used to refer to idols of that deity [because] an idol is construed as sharing in the very essence and nature of the god whom it represents."

* I can't remember for the life of me who made this argument.

Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy. Women, androgynes, and other mythical beasts. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Tarazi, Matthew S. A Cloud Roams and Beautifies by Spitting Out Her Brother: KTU 1.96 and its Relation to the Baal Cycle. Ugarit-Forschungen 36 2004, pp 445-509.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Egyptian hieroglyphs at Mnamon: Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean: A critical guide to electronic resources

Ancient Egypt for kids - Egyptian Crowns and Headdresses of Gods

A Very Remote Period Indeed: A blog reviewing recent archaeological publications having to do with Paleolithic archaeology, paleoanthropology, lithic technology, hunter-gatherers and archaeological theory.

Untangling an Accounting Tool and an Ancient Incan Mystery (NYT, 2 January 2016)

Diodorus Siculus describes the Assyrian king Sardanapallus (perhaps Ashurbanipal) as a transvestite / transgender bisexual and blames him for the destruction of the Assyrian Empire - although the Greek historian's account mostly sounds like a pretty ordinary war.

Ancient Egyptian herbal wines (Patrick E. McGovern, PNAS 106(18), 5 May 2009) | Archaeological team prepares 4,000-year-old Hittite meals (Slate, 8 September 2016)

Ancient 'Mad Libs' Papyri Contain Evil Spells of Sex and Subjugation (LiveScience, 20 May 2016)

Scientist debunks nomadic Aboriginal 'myth' (GA, 9 October 2007) | Waking our sleeping Indigenous languages: 'we're in the midst of a resurgence' (GA, 31 August 2016) | Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, DNA study confirms (GA, 21 September 2016) | World-first genome study reveals rich history of Aboriginal Australians (ABC, 22 September 2016) | Indigenous Australians know we're the oldest living culture – it's in our Dreamtime (GA, 22 September 2016)

A Lost European Culture, Pulled From Obscurity (NYT, 30 November 2009). Review of the exhibition The Lost World of Old Europe: the Danube Valley, 5000-3500 B.C.

How human sacrifice helped to enforce social inequality (Aeon, 8 June 2016)

The Exotic Animal Traffickers of Ancient Rome (The Atlantic, 30 March 2016)

Female King Ruled in Canaan, Carving Suggests (National Geographic, 10 April 2009)

Scientists use 'virtual unwrapping' to read ancient biblical scroll reduced to 'lump of charcoal' (GA, 21 September 2016)

Unearthing the origins of East Africa's lost civilization (CNN, 19 October 2015)
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Alexander Pruss' chapter "The Use of Nude Female Figurines" discusses terracotta figures from Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine, including those weird-looking ones with all the holes in the head for attaching hair and earrings, and the later, more naturalistic ones which sort of wave their boobs at you. These and similar objects have long been interpreted as "fertility figurines". Pruss argues that "any link to childbirth and motherhood is completely lacking with these figurines". None are pregnant; none hold a child; the hands are not pressing milk from the breasts, but supporting them, presenting them.

"Generally, there is no reason to believe that the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Syria could not separate the fields of eroticism and human procreation," writes Pruss. In fact, in the ANE, fertility was more closely linked with male deities, such as Dumuzi. By contrast, the patroness of sexual desire, Inanna/Ishtar, was childless ("except for some ephemeral traditions").

That said, questions remain about who used these sexually aggressive little figures, and exactly what for (household rituals? votive offerings?).

Pruss, Alexander. "The Use of Nude Female Figurines". in S. Parpola and R. M. Whiting (eds). Sex and gender in the ancient Near East: proceedings of the 47th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Helsinki, July 2-6, 2001. Helsinki : Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2002. pp 537-545.


Jul. 8th, 2016 08:59 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
You learn something new every day. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6) are typically named as Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence. However, it turns out that only Death is specifically named in the chapter. War is fairly clearly identified, but Famine and Pestilence are both guesses. The horseman I'm used to seeing called Pestilence is described thusly (KJV):
And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
What struck me at once (so to speak) is that if this is Pestilence, then it's a Pestilence armed with bow and arrow - just as Sekhmet's messengers, the demons that deliver disease at her behest, are her "arrows".

Whether there's any connection between these two things is another matter entirely!

And this is how I found this out. *creeps away shamefully*
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Re the Keret Epic, Tablet C: "For instance, it can be shown conclusively that the so-called goddess Sha'taqat is a figment of the imagination; the supposed name is a finite verb and the figure referred to is the minor goddess of healing, Thatmanitu." (p 131)

Starting a cult for Sha'taqat in three, two...

Albright, William Foxwell. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: a Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths. London, Athlone Press, 1968.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Over in Tumblr, my strange little hobby is trying to identify gods and demons in photos from Egypt. When the name is visible in hieroglyphs, of course, it's a pushover. At other times, I can only make an educated guess from other clues, because the iconography of many deities overlaps: Isis and Hathor; Amun and Khnum; Re and Ra-Horakhty; and the many lioness goddesses can look identical. I'm far less well up on the gods of the Levant, Phoenicia and Syria and Canaan and all that, but the problem of telling them apart seems to be even more pronounced, even for the experts. As Richard D. Barnett writes, "we have lost the keys for interpreting many of the bewildering variety of divine types".

So Barnett only "ventured to identify" one particular form of Phoenician goddess of the Iron Age with Anat (aka 'Anath): "a young girl, dressed in a long Egyptian woman's garment who wears either the great Egyptian triple version of the 'atef crown, called hm hm ('terrible'), or the 'atef crown on horns between two uraeus snakes". She also "wears an Isis-girdle, holds a shield and harpe and sometimes has a long dagger (or daggers) stuck in her girdle at her waist." Barnett describes this goddess as "partially transvestite": not only is she armed, but the hm hm crown is more usually seen on male gods, such as Osiris, Harpocrates, and Ba'al. This is a good match for the Anat of the Ba'al cycle, ready to avenge her brother's death, and representations of Anat from New Kingdom Egypt show her brandishing shield and weapons, as Barnett points out. (I'd add that it matches Papyrus Chester Beatty VII, in which Anat is described as "a woman acting as a warrior, clad as men and girt as women".) However, 'Ashtart (aka Astarte) was similarly depicted in Egypt: "it is clear that she and 'Anath often coalesced".

Barnett's goal is to trace the history of representations of Anat. The Iron Age in Phoenicia, 1200-500 BCE, roughly corresponds with the middle of the New Kingdom in Egypt through to the middle of the Late Period. Barnett writes that "the identification of Isis-Hathor with the Lady of Byblos goes back to the Middle Kingdom" and "the concept of 'Anath and 'Ashtart as war-goddesses is an invention of the Egyptian New Kingdom, and was not known in Phoenicia till the Iron Age." (There may be indications of it as early as the Hyksos period, however.) I guess this is a pretty good indication of the cultural exchange going on between Egypt and the Levant - iconography and gods being traded along with everything else. (Ugarit, however, predates the Iron Age, and 'Anat is pretty bloody warlike in the literature found there!)

It's also possible that 'Anath is represented in a different way - wearing Isis/Hathor's sun-and-horns headdress, flanking a god who could be Ba'al or Reshep, with a goat standing on its hindlegs on his other side. She embraces him (the god, not the goat). Apparently Anat and Hathor were identified with one another in second millennium BCE Syria. Barnett thinks it's more likely this goddess is 'Astarte. But he cautions that "Their roles and representations are in fact still at present very hard to distinguish. The distinction between the representation of the two sister goddesses is something of a mystery, which we are not yet in a position to unravel." Has it been unravelled a bit since 1978? Further investigation is indicated.

Barnett, Richard D. The Earliest Representation of 'Anath. Eretz-Israel 14 1978, pp 28-31.


Mar. 19th, 2016 06:45 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
A chapter on Hittite birth rituals, discussing "binding" in sorcery and mythology:

"Here [Text F in Beckman's catalogue] the goddess IŠTAR speaks to the goddess Malliya, who speaks to the goddess Pirwa, she she in turn to Kamrusepa, who 'yoked her horses and drove to the Great River, whom she conjured by incantation'. Then all that had been bound was loosed, through the ritual agency of Kamrusepa.

This goddess is found frequently in the circle of IŠTAR (ie the Hurrian Shausuga), Malliya (a river goddess), Pirwa and Askasepa, the 'genius' of the Gateway. Pirwa, both god and goddess, honoured by songs in Nesite and Luwian, is described as the god upon a Silver Horse and depicted in the iconography of Kültepe/Kanesh with chariot and team of horses... The logographic writing IŠTAR represented a deity, at once male and female, of War and Love." (All emphases mine.)

What caught my eye here, of course, was the hints of gender ambiguity; but also - look at all those goddesses! The article goes on to describe Kamrusepa's healing a newborn child and calming the anger of "the Hattic god Telepinus".

Beckman, Gary M. Hittite birth rituals. Wiesbaden, O. Harrassowitz, 1983.
Pringle, Jackie. "Hittite Birth Rituals". in Averil Cameron and Amélie Kuhrt. Images of Women in Antiquity. Croom Helm, London and Sydney, 1983.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
More about Emesal, the Sumerian "women's language" - or was it? Gordon Whittaker argues that Emesal should be understood as a literary device, not as the genderlect used by Sumerian women (in contrast with with the differences between male and female speech in other languages, including Japanese). He points out that although Emesal is used for the speech of goddesses in certain types of Sumerian compositions, "the evidence for mortal women and girls actually using Emesal still needs to be presented." Enheduanna, the "greatest known author of Sumerian cultic literature, did not write in Emesal... even when she is writing in the first person and identifying herself by name."

Whittaker also discusses the evidence for the gala-priest as eunuch - concluding "more evidence is needed". The gala uses Emesal when singing laments and so forth; some Sumerologists have suggested that he was a castrato. Whittaker counters: "no direct, or even reasonably cogent evidence has ever been proferred that the genitals of the gala suffered the fate of the pre-modern choirboy." He also notes the evidence of galas having children and passing on their profession to their sons (although they could have been adopted?) and a reference to a gala as puršum bitim "patriarch". (In Sumerian proverbs, the gala speaks Emesal "in everyday life", but this could be stereotyping and/or satire.)

The more I read about this stuff, the less certain everything becomes.

Whittaker, Gordon. "Linguistic Anthropology and the Study of Emesal as (a) Women's Language". in S. Parpola and R. M. Whiting (eds). Sex and gender in the ancient Near East: proceedings of the 47th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Helsinki, July 2-6, 2001. Helsinki, Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2002.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Idly eyeing an article on Hittite birth rituals, I read that the midwife would give a newborn boy "the goods of a male child", and a newborn girl "the goods of a female child"; similarly, in a Sumerian ritual, the midwife gives a male child a mace and axe and a female child a spindle. The Hittites and the Mesopotamians were neighbours, but Aztec midwives, hugely separated in time and space, did exactly the same thing. I wonder how many cultures throughout history have engaged in this gender enforcement (and how the midwives handled intersex births, of which they must have seen very many).

Pringle, Jackie. "Hittite Birth Rituals". in Averail Cameron and Amélie Kuhrt (eds). Images of Women in Antiquity. Croom Helm, London and Sydney, 1983.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
  • Falsone, Gioacchino. "Anath or Astarte? A Phoenician Bronze Statuette of the Smiting Goddess". in Religio Phoenicia: acta colloquii Namurcensis habiti diebus 14 et 15 mensis Decembris anni 1984. Namur, Société des études classiques, 1986.

    This article discusses the rare bronze figurines of goddesses in the "smiting god" pose - left foot forward, both arms bent 90°, right one raised, weapons held in both hands (usually lost). The particular statue being discussed also wears the Isis/Hathor horned sundisc, which other Syro-Palestinian goddesses wear (possibly including Anat) but "in a peaceful attitude".

    "Athtart (Ashtart/Astarte) is less often mentioned and more obscure [than Anat], but may have had some similar functions. Some scholars have stressed her war attitude and her roles in hunting and chariotry. Later she becomes more sensual and less warlike. In the Iron Age, in fact, Anath seems to disappear or, at any rate, loses her importance, while Astarte assumes her functions and becomes the chief female deity of the Phoenician pantheon." (p 74)

  • te Velde, Herman. Seth, God of Confusion: a study of his role in Egyptian mythology and religion. 2nd ed. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1977.
  • Gardiner, Alan H. Hieratic papyri in the British Museum. Third series, Chester Beatty gift. London, British Museum, 1935.
  • Dawson, Warren (1936). Observations on Ch. Beatty Papyri VII, VIII and XII. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 22, 1936, pp 106–108.

  • In the Contendings of Horus and Set, the goddess Neith suggests that Set be married off to Anat and Astarte, while Horus gets the throne. "However," remarks te Velde, "the gods do not entertain this proposal."

    However, Set is linked sexually with Anat in Papyrus Chester Beatty VII, which possibly tells the story of Set raping (?) Anat while she was bathing, and how "the poison" ("the same Egyptian word was often used for 'seed', 'semen', and both senses are here intended together", remarks Gardiner) went up to his own forehead, making him sick. Anat begs Re to save Set. Re addresses her as "'Anat the divine, she the victorious, a woman acting as a warrior, clad as men and girt as women", and says ("cryptically"): "[Is it not?] a childish punishment (for?) the seed-poison put upon the wife of the god above [ie, Re] that he should copulate with her(?) in fire and open her(?) with a chisel?" In the end Isis arrives in the form of "a Nubian woman" and heals Set (and thus the patient, afflicted by scorpion poison).

    te Velde notes that Set has sex with 'Anat "who 'is dressed like man'", and quotes W.R. Dawson in a footnote: "The method by which Seth took his pleasure of 'Anat is interesting, as it further illustrates his already well-known homosexual tendencies." (p 37) However, both authors seem to be assuming that Anat was bathing fully clothed. ETA: Dawson's point is that Anat was on her hands and knees; otherwise, she would have drowned. But he also concedes that it wasn't anal sex, since "defloration resulted". tl;dr Egyptologists are weird.

    Gardiner: "That 'Anat became the consort of Seth is also implied by the obelisk of Tanis", on which Anat is called "the great cow(?) of Seth". (p 62)

    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    Some choice Inanna/Ishtar bits from an article on the Sumerian ball game (as played by Gilgamesh in his Epic):

    "The hymnic passage of the bilingual Exaltation of Ištar states: 'O Inana/Ištar, make fight and combat ebb and flow like a skipping rope (ešemen2/keppû)! O lady of battle, make the fray clash together like pukku (the Akkadian version adds: and mekkû)" (George, 2003:898). The idea is that for the goddess of war, the fierce battle is enjoyable like a dance or game." (p 285) The pukku and mekkû, which Gilgamesh makes from the roots of the ḫuluppu tree which Inanna plants and waters, are a ball and mallet, which parallel the ring and rod which are the symbols of royalty.

    "The cultic lament Uruammairrabi contains a similar passage about the goddess, in which she boasts: 'I send heads rolling like heavy balls (pukku); I play with my skipping rope whose cord is multi-coloured'." P. Lapinkivi argues that the keppû is not a skipping rope, but a "whip(ping) top". In either case, "its associations to pukku and the cult of the goddess are well attested." (p 286)

    Annus, Amar and Mari Sarv. "The Ball Game Motif in the Gilgamesh Tradition and International Folklore". in Robert Rollinger and Erik van Dongen (eds). Mesopotamia in the ancient world: impact, continuities, parallels: proceedings of the Seventh Symposium of the Melammu Project held in Obergurgl, Austria, November 4-8, 2013. Münster, Ugarit-Verlag, 2015.
    George, A.R. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts. Oxford, 2013.
    Lapinkivi, P. The Neo-Assyrian Myth of Ištar's Descent and Resurrection. States Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts 6. Publications of the Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research 1. Helsinki, 2010.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    Ancient customer-feedback technology lasts millennia (New Scientist, 2 March 2015). Nanni wants a refund from Ea-nasir for these rubbish copper ingots.

    The Newly Discovered Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh (Ancient History etc blog, 24 September 2015). It revealed more details of Gilgamesh and Enkidu's battle with Humbaba in the Cedar Forest.

    Summer Solstice – Season of Passion and Social Justice (Summer's Path blog, 6 July 2015). Sekhmet, the Ancestral Outraged Mother, and fighting for racial and sexual equality.

    Grave of ‘Griffin Warrior’ at Pylos Could Be a Gateway to Civilizations (NYT, 26 October 2015)

    Farmers Have Been Enjoying The Fruits Of Bee Labor For 9,000 Years (NPR, 11 November 2015)

    Remains Of Captive Carnivores Discovered At Mexican Pyramid (iflscience.com, 19 December 2015)

    3,200-Year-Old Papyrus Contains Astrophysical Information about Variable Star Algol (scinews.com, 23 Decembe 2015): "Ancient Egyptians wrote Calendars of Lucky and Unlucky Days... The best preserved... is the Cairo Calendar dated to 1244 – 1163 BC (Ramesside Period). According to scientists at the University of Helsinki, this papyrus is the oldest preserved historical document of naked eye observations of a variable star, the eclipsing binary star Algol."

    Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in 5,000-Year-Old Hieroglyphs (Live Science, 19 January 2016) "... one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young pharaoh named Djer."

    Discovery Of Ancient Massacre Suggests War Predated Settlements (NPR, 21 January 2016)

    Ancient Babylonian astronomers used calculus to find Jupiter 1,400 years before Europeans (ABC, 29 January 2016)

    Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? (Smithsonian, November 2008)

    Rise of human civilization tied to belief in punitive gods (Science News, 10 February 2016)

    Lost art of Aboriginal dendroglyphs revived by modern artist (The World Today, 19 February 2016)

    Is the Moon seen as a crescent (and not a "boat") all over the world? (Ask an Astronomer) Had to include this because of Inanna's "crescent-shaped barge of heaven". :)

    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    The idea that the Sumerian term kar.kid (and its Akkadian equivalent ḫarimtu) consistently means "sex worker" has been put under the microscope. A proper analysis of this may have to wait until I can copy Julia Assante's article on the subject without cutting off half the pages this time. In the meantime, a short excerpt from a recent paper:

    "In the list the word nidnu, although seemingly without a context, can be thought to denote (although not necessarily) 'wages' of a prostitute. After all, the prostitute is termed in Sumerian as MUNUSKAR-KID. As Sallaberger brings to my attention, the early writing of KAR-KID as KAR-KÌD/KÈ(AK) points to the etymology of the term as 'a worker at the quay/market place', although a less literal meaning can be thought of, such as 'a (woman), engaged in trade', or what in modern parlance would be called (offensively) as 'a
    working girl'."

    (Let us put aside the fact that "prostitute" is also an offensive term.) Were there no women who worked in the marketplace or at the quays other than sex workers? The author, Yoram Cohen, has considered Assante's argument that kar.kid/ḫarimtu has been misinterpeted, but considers it to have been "safely dismissed". Yet again and again there are texts he quotes in which "woman worker" would make just as much sense as "sex worker" where the word kar.kid or ḫarimtu appears. For example, Cohen writes:

    "Under the ideal conditions of the land during Assurbanipal's reign, these workers will receive for their commodities by far more than the going rate — they will be paid by camels and slaves. The brewer sells as his commodity his beer, the gardener his vegetables and the tavern-woman — she sells what? Presumably sex for which she receives her nidnu."

    Were there no women who worked in the tavern other than sex workers - no women innkeepers? No barmaids? Even the text under examination, which states that if a stranger asks for a bed for the night, you should give him the wages of a ḫarimtu, makes just as much sense if the woman in question is an innkeeper.

    I retain a strong suspicion that the same assumptions and circular logic that invented "sacred prostitution" may be at work here. I have a mountain of material to get through, but something which would help convince me that kar.kid/ḫarimtu specifically indicates "sex worker" would be if there are terms for women workers that are consistently distinguished from it.

    Assante, Julia. The kar.kid / harimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman? A Reconsideration of the Evidence. Ugarit-Forschungen 30 2003 pp 5-96.
    Cohen, Yoram. The Wages of a Prostitute: Two Instructions from the Wisdom Composition 'Hear the Advice' and an Excursus on Ezekiel 16,331. Semitica 57 2015, pp 43-55.


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