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.

    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    Continuing with Mesopotamian cultic personnel: the kurgarrû held a "recognized office" rather than a temporary role (so was the saĝ-ur-saĝ, but the same evidence is lacking for the assinnu). Kurgarrû and assinnu often appear together, in lists and in rituals. In the Descent of Inanna, the kurgarrû and kalatura are sent to rescue the goddess, but in the Descent of Ishtar, it's Asushanamir the assinnu.

    The kurgarrû, like some other "cultic officials", carried weapons. Henshaw cites lines from "Inanna and Ebiḫ", in which the god An says: "to the kurgara I have given the gír 'sword or dagger' and ba-da-ra ["club", "prod", "knife"] / to the gala I have given the drum and the li-li-is / for the pi-li-pi-li I have changed the sex".

    (Interesting that it's An, not Inanna, doing the changing - "either a garment change, or a role change, or a literal sex change". It's Henshaw's parsimonious view the pili-pili carried the spindle when he played a female role, and a weapon when he played a male role. OTOH, the ETCSL gives a different translation: "I have transformed the pilipili cult performers." ETA: According to Jarle Ebeling, in pi-li-pi-li saǧ šu bal mu-ni-ak, the verb saǧ šu bal can mean "to turn something on its head / to turn something upside down". Betty De Shong Meador describes the transformation as "ritual head-overturning".)

    Also in the kurgarrû's arsenal: the naglabu "razor", quppû "knife", ṣurtu "flint knife", and the belu / tillu also worn by the assinnu - all of which ulluṣ kabtat ᵈIštar, "delight the heart of Ishtar". An ershemma lamenting Dumuzi states: "the kurgarra of his city did not brandish the sword". "Elsewhere", says Henshaw, "one finds that these are not merely ceremonial weapons, but are covered with blood." Some authors suggest this is the result of self-mutilation; Henshaw believes it's part of a "war game". For example, in one rite, the kurgarrû and others "play war (lit. 'battlefield'), ie, act out a battle in dramatic liturgical form".

    The kurgarrû also carry "instruments symbolic of the female": the pilaqqu "spindle, distaff or hair-clasp", whip, and comb. An astrologial prophecy tells us: "If Adad in the midst of the constellation Great Bear (gave a cry) and it rained cardamom (and they became?) men, then the kurgarrûs will sit in the house and the kurgarrûs will give birth to men." With epic litotes Richard Henshaw describes this as "difficult", but points out it does refer to the kurgarrû's "female role".

    Ebeling, Jarle. "Multiword-verb combinations with and without ak". in Jarle Ebeling and Graham Cunningham (eds). Analysing literary Sumerian: corpus-based approaches. London, Oakville, CT, Equinox, 2007.
    Henshaw, Richard A. "Appendix Three: The assinnu, kurgarrû and Similar Functionaries". in Female and male - the cultic personnel: the Bible and the rest of the ancient Near East. Allison Park, Pa, Pickwick Publications, 1994.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    (Long ago (June 2011) I started a series of postings about the ancient Mesopotamian assinnu which I made a hash of, so this is a do-over!)

    Richard Henshaw (1994) groups the assinnu with the kurgarrû, the kulu'u, the saĝ-ur-saĝ, the pilipili (pilpilû), and similar cultic functionaries who are "a kind of actor in the cultic drama". He remarks that, unlike most professional titles, many of these can't be translated; possibly they're foreign loanwords, or pre-Sumerian words.

    Like many Akkadian words, assinnu was actually written down using Sumerian signs; someone reading a tablet out loud would have said "assinnu" when they saw LÚ.UR.SAL or UR.MUNUS. The LÚ indicates it's the name of a profession; SAL and MUNUS both mean 'woman'. Martti Nissenen (1998) says that: "UR.SAL, or 'man-woman', should actually be read "'dog-woman', 'dog' representing masculinity in a despicable sense" (147n45). I've often encountered this assumption in the literature - that 'dog' in terms like the Sumerian saĝ-ur-saĝ or the Akkadian keleb must be derogatory. However, UR also appears in terms like ur.mah "lion" and ur.saĝ "hero, champion"; more than one scholar has wondered if the saĝ-ur-saĝ is a type of ur-saĝ. (Henshaw says that it's not "bitch", which was written SAL.UR.) Drawing on the online Sumerian Lexicon, Saana Teppo points out that "'dog' can also mean a young man, a servant, a warrior, or an enemy".

    In various cultic texts, we get glimpses of the assinnu's religious jobs, including chanting, singing, and dancing. In one ritual, the assinnu and the kurgarrû wear the belû / tillu (possibly a scabbard?) of the goddess Narudu. (Any relation to the saltier of Atargatis, I wonder?) In another, "... the assinnu is found setting a brick down in the House of Lament... He lights a fire over it and roasts on it various meats, fish, and other items. He pours a libation of beer and places seven loaves on the fire. The ritual ends with him singing the Love Lyric 'When I saw you in the Equlû.'" (One of several tasks for the assinnu and the kurgarrû during the month of Simanu, as described by A.R. George, who remarks that they were probably busy the year round.)

    Martti Nissinen (2003) describes letters from Mari which mention prophecies delivered by assinnus attached to the temple of Annunitum ("a manifestation of the warrior aspect of Ishtar" - Wilson). (Prophets are often grouped with assinnu in "lexical and administrative lists".) Åke W. Sjöberg quotes passages describing saĝ-ur-saĝs carrying "the corvée basket" and yokes, which "show that the saĝ-ur-saĝ (when corresponding to the assinnu) had duties other than only cultic assignments".

    Richard Henshaw cautiously outlines the evidence for the assinnu's sexuality. The Epic of Erra contains a line referring to the assinnu and the kurgarrû in Anum and Ishtar's temple, the Eanna:

    ša ana šupluh nišī Ištar zikrusunu uterru ana ain [nišūti]

    "The translation of this is ambiguous," cautions Henshaw: "'those who in order to bring about awe/religious awe in people, Ishtar turned their maleness into femaleness'... Nothing more appears in this text to indicate the nature of this change".

    In a text describing "sexual advances, sexual dreams, etc", there's a line "something like: 'if a man suffers physically in prison, and like an assinnu the desire to copulate is taken away from him..." (This impotence could mean sterility rather than erectile dysfunction.) And another line: "... if a man approaches (for sexual purposes) an assinnu..." (Henshaw cautions that many lines of the text describe the "fantastic actions" in dreams rather than "actual cases".)

    Of the Descent of Ishtar and Asushanamir, Henshaw says, "Why the assinnu could pass through the gate and confront the queen... is not explained in the text, but I propose that being of in-between sex made him impervious to the sexual rites and power that Ereshkigal, following the example of her sister, could impose upon him." (She herself is a pretty sexy goddess.)

    One text pairs the assinnu with the sinnišānu: "The form of this word can be explained as the word for woman, sinništu, with the feminine ending" replaced by the masculine ending -ānu, perhaps to be understood "man-woman". Elsewhere, a curse promises to "(turn) his maleness like (that of) a sinnišānu".

    One text, says Henshaw, includes a possible reference to a female assinnu - that is, "the feminine form of the noun assinnu" - and another mentions a female kurgarru.

    Concluding his appendix on the assinnu and co, Henshaw remarks: "Many of the texts discussed in this section are cryptic; indeed, I think they were meant to be." Scholars sometimes seem to have drawn great, and sometimes questionable, conclusions about these cultic personnel from very small scraps of information.

    ETA: More on the assinnu's unclear sexuality from Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. Robert R. Wilson cites the lines from the Epic of Erra above and notes that "This has been variously been interpreted to mean that the assinnu was a eunuch, transvestite, male cult-prostitute, or pederast. However, none of these interpretations can unambigously be supported by reference to other texts [therefore] some scholars hold that the assinnu was simply an actor who took a female role in cultic dramas." Assinnus appear in three of the Mari letters, and in one of them, the assinnu Šelebum goes into a trance in Annunitum's temple before giving a prophet warning meant for the king. Wilson suggests that, during the trance, Šelebum was possessed by the goddess, and therefore would have spoken and acted in a feminine way; and that this might have been a regular part of the assinnu's job.

    George, Andrew "Four temple rituals from Babylon." in George, A R and Finkel, I L, (eds). Wisdom, Gods and Literature: Studies in Assyriology in Honour of W. G. Lambert. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 2000, pp. 259-299.
    Henshaw, Richard A. "Appendix Three: The assinnu, kurgarrû and Similar Functionaries". in Female and male - the cultic personnel: the Bible and the rest of the ancient Near East. Allison Park, Pa, Pickwick Publications, 1994.
    Kessler Guinan, A. Auguries of Hegemony: The Sex Omens of Mesopotamia. Gender & History, 9: 462–479, 1997.
    Nissinen, Martti. "Introduction". in Prophets and prophecy in the ancient Near East, Martti Nissinen with contributions by C.L. Seow and Robert K. Ritner ; edited by Peter Machinist. Atlanta, Ga, Society for Biblical Literature, 2003.
    Nissenen, Martti. Homoeroticism in the Biblical World. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998.
    Sjöberg, Åke W. A Hymn to Inanna and her Self-Praise. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 40(2) autumn 1988.
    Wilson, Robert R. Prophecy and society in ancient Israel. Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1980.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    In "Genre, Gender, and the Sumerian Lamentation", Jerrold S. Cooper discusses the origins of the lamentation genre and the gala-priests who performed laments.

    Cooper writes that the gala is "attested from the Fara [Early Dynastic IIIa] period... and at Lagash in the late-pre-Sargonic period and under Gudea the gala is associated with funerals". For example, mourners at Queen Baranamtara's funeral included "numerous gala"; Gudea's Statue B describes a general shut-down of funerals in Girsu during which "the gala did not set up his balag-drum and bring forth laments from it". (The balag-drum, Cooper points out, is the source of the name for the most common of the gala's laments, the balag; the term balag-di means "lamentation performer". "The gala first appears five hundred years prior to Ur III, and the balag-performer is attested five hundred years earlier still, in the earliest cuneiform lexical lists".)

    In both examples above, "the gala is accompanied by women lamenters. Women may actually have served as gala in Presargonic Lagash, as they did later in the Diyala region". In cultures around the world and throughout time, funeral laments, as well as love songs and wedding songs, are the "musical province par excellence of women". Cooper notes that Inanna and Dumuzi appear in songs for both marriages and funerals, and that in some cultures these two rites have similarities. "That Inanna-Ishtar should be at the nexus of love and death is very fitting for a deity who is patron of both prostitution [sexuality, certainly] and battle. She is also associated with transformation and inversion... and weddings and funerals are the only two transformative rituals in ancient Mesopotamia of which we are aware."

    Cooper's thesis is that the official lamentations developed from women's songs, much as Ancient Greek women's funeral laments were "brought under control and channeled into male-dominated ritual or literary enterprise"; female mourners were "joined by male colleagues who eventually replaced them". (Similarly, "the other realm of women's performance and Emesal usage, courtship and wedding song, came to be, at least for the elite, dominated by male performers.") Emesal is only used in Sumerian literature for the speech of women and goddesses, and for ritual laments, sung by galas. (A possibility about Emesal is that it was the local dialect of Lagash, and could only be written down "once Sumerian orthography fell under the influence of phonetic semitic orthography [which] could express dialectal differences", which is why no Emesal texts appear until the Old Babylonian period.)

    This association with women, says Cooper, could explain "the ambiguous image of the gala - a ridiculous figure of uncertain sexuality according to some literary texts; a respected cleric with a wife and children in many documents". (Though personally I'm not convinced that the gala's "ridiculous" nature isn't a projection by modern authors.) Cooper points out that galas might have had different roles depending on historical period, context, and which deity they were serving. He also disputes that the logogram for gala, UŠ.TUŠ, should be read GÌŠ.DÁR, "penis + anus" - "the interpretation is not compelling, and other suggest themselves." (An example of projection? Here's another - the chief gala was in charge of "prostitutes", géme-kar-kíd. géme means female worker or slave, but the translation of kar-kíd (ḫarimtu) as "prostitute" has been challenged, as Cooper acknowledges; it may only mean "unmarried woman".)

    (I thought of the cihuacoatl, the male deputy of the Aztec emperor, who was named after the snake goddess Cihuacoatl, "Snake Woman" - and speculation that the office might originally have belonged to women.)

    Cooper, Jerrold S. Genre, Gender, and the Sumerian Lamentation. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 58(2006) pp 39-47.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    Brief notes from Archaeological Perspectives on the Transmission and Transformation of Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    In "Minoan Asherah", Stephanie Budin seeks to explain the form of the Judean Pillar Figure*, goddess figurines holding their breasts and with "a pillar-shaped, free-standing base". She argues that these combine features from Levantine figurines, which hold their breasts, and Cypriot figurines, which wear a "hoop-skirt". The result is an alternative to "the traditional Levantine female divine iconography... The pillar-shaped based covers, hides, or otherwise deletes the most consistently significant attribute of Levantine female iconography: the prominent display of the genitalia." Judean prudishness - or perhaps the figurines represent Asherah, "with a base that would not only emphasise her tree- or pillar-like associations, but would clearly render her distinct from the more erotic Ištars and Aštarôth of the surrounding regions." (Paul Butler has very kindly made his drawings for this chapter available online.)

    In "The worship of Anat and Astarte in Cypriot Iron Age sanctuaries", Anja Ulbrich writes: "The evidence for the worship of Astarte... shows her as a multi-faceted deity, who includes the functions of war- and city-goddess as well as a goddess of female sexuality, love and fertility. Anat is also "multi-faceted", but her primary role in Ugaritic myth is as goddess of war, "whose sexual activity is doubtful and elusive... This connects her strongly with the virgin Greek Athena, with whom, in the inscriptions from Iron Age Cyprus, Anat is invariably equated." A bilingual inscription is dedicated to "Anat, fortress of the living" in Phoenician, and "Athena Soteria Nike" in Greek.

    Ulbrich notes that coins from the Cypriot city of Lapithos show Athena with her Corinthian helmet on one side, and on the other, "a female head en face with a helmet with cow-ears and bovine horns with wings attached to them... this iconography points to prototypes from the Near East, where horned helmets, wings and arms" appear in depictions of war-goddesses (usually identified as Ishtar - the Mesopotamian equivalent of Astarte). This means that Canaanite goddesses with horns, or horned helmets, could be either Anat or Astarte, as could the goddess on these Cypriot coins. (Only Anat is described as having wings in the texts, which can help with her identification.) Both Anat and Astarte had sanctuaries on Cyprus, but it's not known if they were separate sanctuaries or those of a pre-existing goddess. "Astarte-figurines, depicting naked females with prominently rendered breasts and pubis, who partly touch their genitalia" were introduced from Phoenicia and were used as votives.

    Hathor was worshipped in Phoenicia, but, outside Egypt, only on Cyprus were large Hathor-capitals found, made from local limestone - like this one at the Met.

    * Not to be confused with the Pillar Figure of Judea, obvs.
    Clarke, Joanne (ed). Archaeological Perspectives on the Transmission and Transformation of Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean. Council for British Research in the Levant and Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2005.

    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    "See, from the breasts of Anat I have suckled, the big cow of Seth. See, I have lots of words against you! From the big pitcher of Seth I have drunk them; from his jug I have drained them. Listen, samana-demon, listen! The voice of Seth is roaring [… …] listen to his roaring!"

    From number 24 in Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts, translated by J. F. Borghouts, Leiden, Brill, 1978.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    In this chapter from Sacred Marriages, Saana Teppo (now Saana Svärd) describes the assinnu, the kurgarrū, and the kulu'u (or gala), and their role in the worship of Ishtar. "in their ecstatic performances," she writes, "they were joined with Ishtar in a union comparabable to sacred marriage... they fulfilled the same function as the king in the sacred marriage ritual: they ensured the blessing of the goddess for the country."

    "It seems that all three groups of cultic functionaries were born as men (or hermaphrodites [that is, intersex people]), but... their appearance was either totally feminine, or they had both male and female characteristics. [All three are] recorded in the literature of the Sumerian period [and] continued to appear in Akkadian texts up to the Seleucid and Persian eras." They were rained for their ritual duties: "ecstatic dance, music, ritual plays, and performances", in which they wore female dress and makeup and carried masks, spindles, and weapons. Teppo admits that the "evidence for this from Mesopotamia is not overwhelming", but it is possible that, like the galli and the hijra (?), the cultic performers mutilated themselves to achieve "an altered state of consciousness in which they could achieve union with the divine - a sacred marriage". (Perhaps the weapons were for mock or ritual battles? One of the love lyrics W.G. Lambert translates, perhaps describing a ritual, includes the lines 'Battle is my game, warfare is my game,' he/she will utter and the Assinnu-priest will go down to battle, he will ... a jig [...]".)

    In the Sumerian version of the Descent of Inanna, Enki creates the kurgarrū and "the kalaturru (GALA.TUR, which can be translated as 'young kulu'u')" from dirt under his fingernails and dispatches them to rescue Inanna. In the Assyrian version, Ea creates the assinnu Asushanamir for the same purpose.

    Teppo discusses the possibility that the assinnu, kurgarrū, and kulu'u performed sex work connected with Ishtar worship; I'm going to put that aside for now, because I still haven't fully got to grips with the recent overturning of the long-standing assumption that every priestess (and almost every woman!) in Mesopotamia was a sex worker. I will note, though, that the "kulu'u is called Ištar's 'sweet bedfellow' (ṣālitu ṭābu) and 'lover' (ḫabbubu)."

    (ETA: Henshaw (p 300) discusses this last, translating the lines from a "namburbi text addressed to Ishtar": "come enter our house / with you may enter the beautiful one / who sleeps with you / your lover and your kulu'u." Henshaw notes: "it couldn't be three separate people invited in!" Oddly, that was exactly how I read it - although I think Henshaw's interpretation is probably right.)

    Teppo suggests that the assinnu's role in healing is explained by Asushanamir's helping to bring Ishtar back to life. Assinnus could also be prophets (and there are three Neo-Assyrian prophets who, though are not called assinnus, are described as being both men and women). The kurgarrus performed a "war dance" "with knives, swords, and clubs", and played "ritual games with skipping ropes and bawdy speech". The assinnu and the kurgarrū are often found in each other's company, such as at liminal moments - the New Year's Festival, and eclipses.

    The kulu'u or gala was originally a lamentation chanter, listed alongside "female mourners and wailers" and using the female literary dialect, Emesal. (Possibly they replaced female singers, retaining "the female forms of the profession".) An Old Babylonian poem describes Enki creating the gala to soothe Inanna's heart. Galas peformed in temples, at funerals, and possibly at court. The chief gala (GALA.MAḪ) was a high-ranking official; there may have been gala guilds, gala families, and female galas. (There's possible evidence of a female assinnu and a female kurgarrū.) But some galas were slaves, and the galas could be forced to do corvée work for the temple.

    Ishtar could change someone's sex or gender, as noted in Inana C (aka The Stout-Hearted Lady, Lady of Largest Heart), the hymn Išme-Dagan K, and The Epic of Erra, which says of Ishtar and the kurgarru and assinnu: "Who changed their masculinity into femininity to make the people of Ištar revere her. The dagger-bearer, bearers of razors, pruning-knives, and flint blades, who frequently do abominable [ie "taboo acts, forbidden to regular persons] to please the heart of Ištar." Which said, nobody knows for sure whether some or all of the assinnus, kurgarrūs, and kulu'us were castrated (and if so, to what extent). (Eunuchs, ša-rēši, were a separate category of persons.)

    So these cultic personnel had an established, institutional role, but how well were they treated as individuals? Some of Teppo's evidence that they were marginalised doesn't quite convince me. Enki created them from the dirt under his fingernails, but then, he created the human race out of lowly clay (maybe there was a bit left over :). The curse placed on Asushanamir is pretty unequivocal, though, damning the assinnu to a homeless city life, and someone is insulted with the remark "He is a kulu'u and not a man" - a reminder that "in practical terms Mesopotamian society was strongly patriarchal and had fairly inflexible gender categories," as Teppo remarks. She goes on to say: "There was very little toleration for individuals who did not conform to the expected male and female roles." (I wish she'd given some evidence for Mesopotamian gender non-conformity!) Perhaps these "third gender" roles "existed specifically because the roles of men and women were so clearly defined" - they represented "an outlet, a means for society to deal with people who could not, for whatever reason, function in society as men and women."

    Lambert, W.G. "The Problem of the Love Lyrics". in Hans Goedicke and J. J. M. Roberts (eds). Unity and diversity: essays in the history, literature, and religion of the ancient Near East. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975. (p 105)
    Teppo, Saana. "Sacred Marriage and the Devotees of Ishtar". in Martti Nissinen and Risto Uro (eds). Sacred marriages: the divine-human sexual metaphor from Sumer to early Christianity. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 2008. pp 75-92.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    In Drakōn: dragon myth and serpent cult in the Greek and Roman worlds, Daniel Ogden discusses the "radical reinterpretation of Near-Eastern iconography" which may have formed the basis of some Greek myths: for example, images of Marduk vs Tiamat become the story of Perseus vs the sea-monster, Gilgamesh vs Humbaba becomes Perseus slaying Medusa, and the demoness Lamashtu portrayed with animals becomes Medusa "giving birth" to Pegasus. This is an interesting enough idea in itself, but the reason I mention it is Ogden's analogy: "We may invoke the model of the cult British stop-motion television series, The Magic Roundabout. Eric Thompson created this by watching the episodes of the French original, Le Manège enchanté, with the sound down, and spinning his own, whimsical narrations around the characters' ostensible actions, narrations that inevitably has little or no point of contact with the original stories." (A story which appears to be essentially correct. :)

    Ogden, Daniel. Drakōn: dragon myth and serpent cult in the Greek and Roman worlds. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    "Woman-woman marriage - in which one woman pays brideprice to acquire a husband's rights to another woman - has been documented in more than thirty African populations," opens this chapter from Boy-Wives and Female Husbands. "In these groups," the authors go on to say, "female political leaders are also common. These women chiefs rarely have male husbands (whether or not they had wives). Indeed, among the Lovedu, the queen was prohibited from having a male husband and was required instead to have a wife."

    Amongst many examples, they quote E.E. Evans-Pritchard about the Nuer version of the practice: "... the husband gets a male kinsman or friend or neighbour... to beget children by her wife and to assist... in those tasks of the home for the carrying out of which a man is necessary." (He's paid in cows for each child and for his work.) And Max Gluckman about the "rich and important Zulu woman" who takes a wife: "she is the pater of her wife's children begotten by some male kinsman of the female husband. They belong to the latter's agnatic lineage as if she were a man." And George W. B. Huntingford about the Nandi: "This gave both women the legal and social status of husband and wife respectively. There was no lesbianism involved here, for the female husband could have her own men friends and the wife could have intercourse with any man of whom her 'husband' approved." (The chapter's authors warn against ethnographers' assumptions that female husbands and their wives never had sexual relations.)

    Discussing the gender of the female husband, the authors draw on researchers whose view is that gender or sex are not as important in African societies in general than social standing, age, and lineage. Evans-Pritchard said that a woman who had not had children "for this reason counts in some respects as a man". She is her wives' "legal husband and can demand damages if they have relations with men without her consent... Her children are called after her, as though she were a man, and I was told they address her as 'father'. She administers her home and herd as a man would do, being treated by her wives and children with the deference they would show a male husband and father."

    "In other words,' remark Carrier and Murray, "African marriages are between individuals in male and female roles, not necessarily between biological males and females." More than one author calls the female husbands "social males", "promoted" to the status of men. There's a parallel here with the ancient daughters adopted as sons, especially when it comes to inheritance. To what extent are, or were, the female husbands "social men"? Among the Nandi, "to some extent" the women dressed and adorned themselves as men, and stopped doing "women's work", and have the right to attend "public meetings and political discussions" (but don't!). OTOH, amongst the Simiti, husband and wife are considered mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.

    Interestingly, the chapter also mentions an Igbo dike-nwami ("brave-woman"), who described her belief that she "was meant to be a man" and her interest in "manly activities". Childless, she was divorced, dressed as a man, farmed and hunted, was initiated into men's societies, and took two wives (her brother begat her children).

    Carrier, Joseph M. and Stephen O. Murray. "Woman-Woman Marriage in Africa". in Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds). Boy-wives and female husbands: studies in African homosexualities. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1998.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    My standing Google search for "sekhmet" brought up Hashem's Repudiation of the Egyptian Deities (I also found its academia.org incarnation, "And Upon all the Gods of Egypt I Will Execute Judgment": The Egyptian Deity [Sekhmet] and the Ten Plagues) a fascinating article discussing the Ten Plagues described in Exodus, and suggesting that more than one of them was intended to "repudiate" Sekhmet as a false god. Fascinating not so much for its actual content, but because of the idea that you could match the Plagues to particular Egyptian deities, which I hadn't encountered before: for example, the idea that Ra couldn't penetrate the darkness created by the Jewish God.

    Unfortunately, Ira Friedman's arguments are convoluted. He suggests that the first plague, the Nile turning to blood, was intended as a sort of signal to the Egyptians to turn (ultimately unsuccessfully) to Sekhmet for protection - a riff on the Destruction of Mankind, in which, he says, "... Sekhmet slaughters disloyal Egyptians, and either their blood or the blood-like substance with which a remorseful Ra subdues Sekhmet flows into the Nile." The idea of connecting the field flooded with blood-coloured beer with the bloody Nile is pretty clever, but the polluting of the Nile with either the beer or the actual blood of Ra's enemies isn't mentioned in the myth. What's more, the image of the bloody beer represents not the goddess' wrath, but her pacification.

    In the academia.org paper, Friedman connects Sekhmet to the pestilience that affected domestic animals, but not to the plague of boils. In the article, Friedman skips ahead to the final plague. He says that Sekhmet was known to the Egyptians as "the Destroyer", identifies her (I think?) with "the destroyer" mentioned in Exodus, and so argues that the Egyptians would have been dismayed when God killed their children but prevented Sekhmet from killing the Israelites' children (in revenge, I guess?). tbh, it's an involved argument based on an epithet I'm not sure Sekhmet actually had - Friedman doesn't give us a reference for it. As best I can make out, it doesn't appear in the list of 187 epithets listed in Hoenes' book, nor in the Lexikon. (The closest is "Sḫmt-sbi-nb: Die jeden Feind zerstört"; "Who destroyed every enemy".)

    (More than anything, writing this posting has reminded me that I know far too little about one of the deities that is most personally significant to me - even though I fancy myself as a lay scholar.)

    Hoenes, Sigrid-Eike. Untersuchugen zu Wesen und Kult der Göttin Sachmet. Rydolf Habelt Verlag, Bonn, 1976.
    Leitz, Christian. Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen. Dudley, MA, Peeters, 2002-2003.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    In a much-annotated and tbh rather muddled posting from 2009, I attempted to describe Sekhmet- of Sahure or Sekhmet-Sahure. This goddess is attested by stelae and inscriptions; her cult lasted from the New Kingdom until at least the Late Period. She is, or was, thought to be a local version of Sekhmet who came into being because of an image of the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Sahure offering to her in the ruins of his mortuary temple.

    However, Tarek el Awady's 2013 article "Sekhmet-Sahure: New Evidence" argues that Sekhmet-Sahure was not a local form of Sekhmet, and that the whole of Sahure's "temple was revived in the New Kingdom as a healing place... and not as a temple of a new local cult".

    el Awady points out that Sahure's temple at Abusir is only eight kilometers from "the central worship place of Sekhmet-Ptah in Memphis", so there would have been no need for a local version of the goddess. Also, it's doubtful that an image of the king and Sekhmet survived intact until the New Kingdom; the images of gods and royalty had long since been defaced. (Many of the stelae found in the temple were made of stone recycled from the temple.)

    The evidence points to "a small settlement" for "priests-physicians and patients" on the south side of the temple. For example, votive stelae asked Sekhmet-Sahure for "healthy limbs, youthful limbs, sound body, sound mouth, goodly lifespan, breath and pleasure". Stelae were also found for Bastet and Sobek, who, like Sekhmet, are "well attested as healers". Many wedjat and Tawaret amulets were uncovered. Amongst the goddess' epithets was "the eye of Re upon the sun disk", also an epithet of goddesses such as Hathor and Bastet in their roles as healers.

    el Awady suggests that Sahure's own knowledge of medicine is the reason that a cult of Sekhmet and a sort of hospital sprang up in the ruins of his funerary temple (in which Sekhmet, Bastet, and Sobek were all depicted). The pharaoh's chief physician was named Ni-ankh-Sekhmet.

    The article includes a photograph of a limestone stela found in "the upper northern side of Sahure's causeway" which shows a worshipper facing Sekhmet-Sahure and (behind her) Qadesh. Also found at the site were a fragment of a stela to either Reshef or Astarte, and another to Qadesh "beloved of Ptah".

    el Awady, Tarek. "Sekhmet-Sahure: new evidence." in Etudes et Travaux XXVI. Centre D'Archeologie Mediterraneenne de L'Academie Polonaises des Sciences, Varsovie, 2013. Vol 1, pp 57-63.
    Gaber, Amr Aly Aly. "Aspects of the Deification of some Old Kingdom Kings". in Eyma, A.K. and C.J. Bennett (eds). A Delta-Man in Yebu: occasional volume of the Egyptologist's Electronic Forum 1, 2003. pp 12-31.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    It's been a long time since I made one of my postings about gender in the ancient world. Until now, I've mostly posted about "third genders" which undermine the assumption that "man" and "woman" are universal constants in all times and places. This time I want to share my notes on a practice which calls into question the "natural" nature of gender. In at least three ancient Near Eastern cities, a woman could become a man, or simultaneously a man and a woman - at least for the purposes of inheritance.

    Counting descent solely through the male line requires any society to tie itself into knots*, especially when sons are necessary not just to inherit the property of the paterfamilias, but to perform ancestor worship. In the ancient Near East, a daughter could inherit, but then her father's property would go to her husband's household. In the absence of a son, an ancient Near Eastern man would usually appoint his son-in-law, brother, or brother's son as his male heir; or he might adopt a son. However, as Zafrira Ben-Barak points out, a man from another household could be a dangerous place to stash your patrimony. We have the documents from a case in which, through a series of dodgy steps, the son-in-law's brother ended up inheriting everything - taking the original testator's property entirely out of his household, and extinguishing his line to boot.

    One solution? If you had a daughter, you could make her into a son. In a will from the Hittite city of Emar, a man's will states: "I have established my daughter Al-ḫati as female and male [MUNUS ù NITAḪ]." and charges her with the worship of the household gods and ancestors. (His brothers were called as witnesses to the will; I wonder what they thought of not being appointed his legal heirs.) He also appoints his wife "father and mother [a-bu ù AMA] of my estate".

    In another will, also from Emar, the testator's wife is appointed "mother and father of the house", and his daughter is declared to be "male and female" and again given a son's responsibility of maintaining worship of the family's gods and ancestors.

    From the city of Nuzi, in the Hurrian-speaking kingdom of Mitanni, comes a will in which Unap-tae declares: "My daughter Šilwa-turi as a son I made." "Using the accepted term for son-adoption, marutu ["sonship"], the father adopts his daughter as a son," writes Ben-Barak. Another will gives three daughters all the status of sons and leaves the testator's property and gods to them. And finally, in a will from the Syrian city at el-Qitar, the testator adopts the wife of his adopted son as his own son.

    Katarzyna Grosz suggests that this custom - which, from the documents, was clearly a well-established practice - paved the way for "full legal independence" for women. What I'd like to find out is whether a woman's legal status as "head of the household" gave her any other rights which were normally exclusively male - or was her new status only relevant when it came to the family?

    Ben-Barak's analysis of the term "male and female" is that it doesn't literally mean Šilwa-turi is a legal hermaphrodite; rather, she is "a female with the status of a male". The entire business is a reminder that "man" and "woman" are social categories which can be changed by a bit of clay with marks on it**.

    (In one of the wills from Nuzi, the testator says that should his nephews try to make a claim on his estate, "may this tablet break their teeth". I just had to get that in somewhere.)

    ETA: Left out a bit. There's a parallel from India, the putrika-putra, a "daughter appointed as a son". Because she was considered a son, her son would not be the heir of her husband, but the son of her father: "As the merits of a son and grandson are equal (eg in offerings made to ancestors)," writes Grosz, "the latter ranked as a son." (A quick Google showed that this is only a glimpse at the complexities of traditional Hindu inheritance law.)

    ETA: The Women Designated 'Man and Woman' in Emar and Ekalte - presented by Masamichi Yamada at the 4th REFEMA Workshop, 2014. This mentions two cases in which a sister rather than a daughter was appointed as a man's heir, as well as examples involving a ḫarimtu and a qadištu.

    * We're watching the TV series Wolf Hall at the moment. When you're the King of England, the lack of a male heir has world-changing consequences, not to mention getting a lot of people killed. (Do matrilineal societies have the same kind of crazy problems?)

    ** Come to think of it, I wonder if there's any chance those curses - "may Ishtar impress female parts on your male parts" - have some basis in some real-life events? I have no doubt that the goddess can change anybody's physical sex, but perhaps the ancient civilisations of the Near East were familiar with a change of gender, and might wish the inferior social status of "woman" on their male enemies?


    Ben-Barak, Zafrira. "The legal status of the daughter as heir in Nuzi and Emar." in Society and economy in the Eastern Mediterranean (c.1500-1000 B.C.): proceedings of the International Symposium held at the University of Haifa from the 25th of April to the 2nd of May 1985 / edited by M. Heltzer and E. Lipinski (eds). Leuven, Uitgeverij Peeters, 1988.

    Grosz, Katarzyna. "Daughters adopted as sons at Nuzi and Emar". in Jean-Marie Durand (ed). La Femme dans le Proche-Orient Antique: compte rendu de la XXXIIIe Rencontre assyriologique internationale (Paris, 7-10 juillet 1986) (Rencontre assyriologique internationale 33). Paris, Recherche sur les civilisations, 1987.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
    Inanna's magnificence was certainly distracting as I tried to read about an Old Babylonian tigi-hymn to Inanna (BM 96739, CT 36, 33-34). The hymn is about Inanna's investiture of Dumuzi and by extension the Babylonian king with authority, and scholar Daniel Foxvog examines its astronomical references, but as usual I got caught up on lines like these:
    Lady, though (first) joyfully formed beautifully by Ningal for delight,
    She then provided you with the power to destroy, like a dragon (ušumgal).

    ... from your mother's very womb you have girded on the utug and mitum maces.

    Lady, the matters of your heart are greater than all heaven and all earth, who can know (anything) about you,
    And at your word, a doubled cord that cannot be cut, the whole heaven is consumed.
    Fabulous stuff! Inanna is also described as "mounted upon the storm winds", which IIRC is more characteristic of a male war-god such as Yahweh ("him who rides on the clouds", Psalm 68:4). But, as Foxvog points out, despite her awesome power she is a benevolent figure in this hymn (as she is in many others): "Could this be a memory of a time before her syncretism with Ištar?" (Dumuzi, by contrast, is an unusually martial figure.)

    As for the astronomical bit: Foxvog discusses the constellations associated with various deities, including Orion (Papsukkal aka Ninshubur), Aries (Dumuzi/Tammuz), and Anunitu, "the eastern fish of Pisces" (Inanna / Ishtar). He suggests an astronomical interpretation of one of the concluding lines of the hymn: "Heaven shall beget him [Dumuzi] (anew) each month on the day of the new moon like the Moon (himself)". "The sun moves through the entire zodiacal belt of constellations over the course of a year, but the moon makes the same circuit monthly," he explains. In an idealized lunar calendar, "the moon would return each month to its starting point in its apparent course through the zodiacal belt, and the first visibility of the new crescent would invariable coincide with the first visibility of Aries. In this way, for the purposes of a priestly hymnographer uninterested in the details, the sky could indeed be said to 'give birth' every month to both Suen and Amaušumgalanna/Aries on the day of the new moon." (I'm not qualified to comment on the accuracy of the astronomy here!)

    Foxvog gives a table of the correspondences between the Mesopotamian and Classical zodiac - here's a simplified version:

    Aries ram
    Taurus (Pleiades) bull
    Orion and Gemini men
    Cancer water (perhaps the Tigris and Euphrates)
    Leo lion
    Virgo grain
    Libra scales
    Scorpio scorpion
    Sagittarius (tablet is damaged)
    Capricorn goat
    Aquarius figure
    Pisces (tablet is damaged)

    Foxvog, Daniel. "Astral Dumuzi". in The Tablet and the scroll: Near Eastern studies in honor of William W. Hallo. CDL Press, Bethesda MD, 1993.


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