ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
(One of these days I would like to go back through all these jillions of links and organise them by subject. "'I would like'? I would like a trip to Europe!" - Daffy Duck)

Anat: Autonomous Goddess Of Ugarit. Presented by Ellie Wilson at the Society of Biblical Literature's annual meeting, November 1993.

Artefacts found in Pilbara cave show Aboriginal life in northern WA dates back 50,000 years (ABC, 19 May 2017) | The extraordinary science behind an Aboriginal history discovery 65,000 years in the making (SMH, 20 July 2017). "Artefacts found in Kakadu national park show that Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years, 18,000 years longer than the previous estimate."

The world's oldest observatory? How Aboriginal astronomy provides clues to ancient life (Lateline, 13 October 2016) | How astronomy paved the way for terra nullius, and helped to get rid of it too (phys.org, 14 October 2016)

Ancient Humans Liked Getting Tipsy, Too (Smithsonian.com, 10 July 2017) | What wine did Jesus drink at the Last Supper? (phys.org, 17 April 2017) | Barley dormancy mutation suggests beer motivated early farmers (phys.org, 21 November 2016) | Revealing the science of Aboriginal fermentation (phys.org, 24 October 2016)

Late last year the Brooklyn Museum's Tumblr posted about the use of "Visible-Induced Luminescence imaging to map the presence of Egyptian blue". Meanwhile, the earliest known use of Egyptian blue has been identified in a bowl from the time of King Scorpion.

Archaeologists discover earliest monumental Egyptian hieroglyphs (phys.org, 26 June 2017)

DNA from ancient Egyptian mummies reveals their ancestry (Washington Post, 30 May 2017)

The origin of the tabby coat and other cat mysteries revealed (ABC Science, 20 June 2017) | No, Those Aren't Male Lions Mating. One Is Likely a Female. (National Geographic, 18 April 2016)

The Amazon Women: Is There Any Truth Behind the Myth? (Smithsonian Magazine, April 2014) | The kingdom of women: the society where a man is never the boss (The Guardian, 1 April 2017) The Mosuo of Tibet.
What ancient Egypt tells us about a world without religious conflict (The Guardian, 30 October 2015) The Faith After the Pharaohs exhibition at the British Museum.

Information-age math finds code in ancient Scottish symbols (Scientific American, 31 March 2010)

How we discovered that people have been cooking plants in pots for 10,000 years (phys.org, 24 January 2017)

Scientists find advanced geometry no secret to prehistoric architects in US Southwest (phys.org, 23 January 2017)

Why we'll always be obsessed with – and afraid of – monsters (Medical Xpress, 31 October 2016)

Inscription About Ancient 'Monkey Colony' Survives [Daesh] Attacks (LiveScience, 9 December 2016)

Women Are the Backbone of the Standing Rock Movement (Time, 29 November 2017)

This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits (Medical Xpress, 29 November 2016)

Pristine pressed flower among 'jaw-dropping' bronze age finds (The Guardian, 30 September 2016)

“Gay” Caveman Wasn’t Gay… (En|Gender, 7 April 2011) "... she was trans." Or third gender. Or...

Unearthing the origins of East Africa's lost civilization (CNN, 19 October 2015). Kilwa in Tanzania, part of the Azania trading society.

Gender and the Generic in Divine Acclamations (a series of Tweets from Edward Butler, 28 November 2015).

Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Distinguished religious scholar Christine R. Dowling writes passionately about the Greek goddess Gaia in her chapter for The Book of the Goddess, in similar energetic terms to Carl Olson's introduction to "the goddess" in general.

Unlike other Greek goddesses, writes Dowling, "Gaia is never wholly personal, never entirely humanized", but this does not make her a lesser being than the anthropomorphic deities; rather, she "reminds us that the divine is transhuman and prehuman - there from the beginning - not simply a human projection. Because of this, she is the primordial source as no humanlike mother can be." She is "a reminder of the time when matter was still rebellious" - in fact, "matter is still rebellious, alive and eruptive. Gaia is earthquake and volcano, molten lava and shifting rock." She is growth, but not the human-controlled growth of agriculture. "Gaia signifies all that cannot be brought under control." She contains the dead as well as producing all life.

In Homer, "Because earth is always near at hand and cannot be escaped, she is guarantor of the most serious oaths. Even the gods swear by her." (I couldn't help thinking of the inescapable Aztec deity, Tezcatlipoca, "Lord of the Close and Near".)

Beginning a list of the goddess' many offspring, Dowling remarks: "To be creative is Gaia's very essence. To be Gaia is to give birth to something other than herself, to heterogeneity." (Coincidentally, I just came across a line from Jill Raitt's alternative creation story: "Why should not the female genitrix be called Diversity, rather than Chaos?" Cf the Cambrian Explosion: boom!)

Other Greek goddesses, including Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, and Persephone, are "highly developed and specialized forms of the primordial mother goddess". As presented to us by their patriarchal authors, Dowling reminds us, "the Greek goddesses are not very attractive creatures. These texts all exhibit a deep suspicion of feminine power; they all seem concerned to validate the priority of the social over the natural order" (think of Athena's declaration that mothers are not their children's parents). As well as becoming "implacably hostile to one another", the goddesses have lost their connections to natural places and powers. IIRC there's evidence that the Mesopotamian goddesses underwent a similar reduction in their importance, though perhaps not so much of a reshaping.

Interestingly, Dowling's view of Demeter is a negative one: instead of the mother determined to rescue her abducted daughter, Dowling portrays her as clinging and childish. This jibes with a number of representations of Persephone's myth which I've encountered online, in which Hades is not a gross old rapist but a brooding, handsome figure in need of the love of a good woman, and sometimes Demeter is a "helicopter parent". I agree with the poster who preferred a version of the myth in which Persephone is raped, but endures.

ETA: Found on Tumblr: Homeric Hymn XXX - Earth Mother of All and Homeric Hymn XIV - The Mother of the Gods.

Olson, Carl. The Book of the Goddess Past and Present. The Crossroads Publishing Company, New York, 1987.
Raitt, Jill. The "Vagina Dentata" and the "Immaculatus Uterus Divini Fontis". Journal of the American Academy of Religion 48(3) September 1980, pp. 415-431.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
When I saw the spectacular conjunction between Venus and Jupiter currently in our skies, my first thought was, "She's probably threatening to beat him up." I was thinking of Anat's threat to El ("I will make your beard run with blood") in the stories of the hero Aqhat and of Baal's palace, and the parallels between that bloodthirsty Ugaritic goddess, the Mesopotamian Ishtar, and the Greek Aphrodite. But perhaps Athena is a closer analogue for Anat, as Bruce Louden argues in The Iliad: Structure, Myth, and Meaning.

Although Athena is often "calm and thoughtful", she also has angry and martial episodes. "Many of Athena's more striking features in Homeric epic - her use of deception against mortals, resentment of Zeus, bloodthirstiness... - all have close equivalents in earlier depictions of Anat." (p 285) As well as the similarity in their names, both wield spears, both "have certain masculine tendencies, are closely involved with their fathers, and have no relation to their mothers." (p 247) Both confront their fathers to get their own way, Anat with a direct threat, Athena while gripped by "savage anger"; and both are summoned to their fathers by divine messengers. (p 249-250) Louden also draws parallels with Anat and Baal and Athena and Ares (p 252-7).

Anat and Athena both punish arrogant heroes who foolishly offend them (something they have in common with Ishtar). In Anat's case, it's Aqhat, whose bow she covets; he rejects her offer of riches or immortality, telling her that bows are not for girls and even describing to the goddess of war what materials are needed to make one. In Athena's case, Hektor, Paris, and Pandaros all fall victim to the cheeked goddess' wrath. In both instances, the goddess enlists the help of another warrior (Yatipan, Achilles, and Diomedes) to get her revenge.

Louden compares the linking of feasting and slaughter in the Odyssey (the gory massacre of the suitors, in which Athena is instrumental), and Anat's "bloodbath":

"She arranges chairs for the soldiery,
Arranges tables for the hosts,
Footstools for the heroes...
Knee-deep she gleans in warrior-blood,
Neck-deep in the gore of soldiers,
Until she is sated with fighting in the house,
With battling between the tables."

(This is the most straightforward explanation of that passage I've ever read: Anat isn't fighting actual furniture, nor turning tables and chairs into soldiers, but hosting a feast and then killing the participants!)

Though there's no mention of Anat's worship in the OT, she is mentioned in personal and place names; but Louden also argues that the depiction of Yahweh himself was influenced by her imagery and mythology. He remarks that "divine bloodthirstiness is a typical aspect of deity for the period", as are deception and cruelty; he gives some striking and disturbing Biblical examples, including images of sacrifice and cannibalism (which tie back in to the combination of feasting and killing). He also compares the herem of Yahweh - the mass killing of a city's whole population, with the implication of human sacrifice - with a word of the same root used in one text to describe Anat's warfare.

Louden, Bruce. The Iliad: structure, myth, and meaning. Baltimore, Md, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Presumptive "ocular prosthesis" found in the Burnt City - Tumblr discussion, including artist's impression. :)

Evolution of Angels: From Disembodied Minds to Winged Guardians

Africans in Roman York?

Oldest Perfumes Found on "Aphrodite's Island"

Peking Man Was a Fashion Plate

Papyri Point to Practice of Voluntary Temple Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Study shows 'gene flow' from India to Australia 4000 years ago

Stirling Castle's Amazon warrior revealed

Sekhmet's bits: Forgotten statue uncovered

Temple find shows sway of ancient Egyptian religion

War was central to Europe's first civilisation - contrary to popular belief

Ancient "Egyptian blue" pigment points to new telecommunications, security ink technology

DNA sleuth hunts wine roots in Anatolia

Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple (Best headline ever. The temple's in Teotihuacan.)

Uncovered: Ritual public drunkenness and sex in ancient Egypt

Linguists identify words that have changed little in 15,000 years

Classic gags discovered in ancient Roman joke book

Cosmic find unearthed using Aboriginal Dreaming story

Digging for the truth at controversial megalithic site (Indonesia's Gunung Padang)

Folk magic found in old Brisbane basement

The earliest iron artifact ever found was made from a meteorite

Evidence of 3,000-Year-Old Cinnamon Trade Found in Israel

Cheese first made at least 7,500 years ago

How Egyptian god Bes gave the Christian Devil his looks

Ancient Magician's Curse Tablet Discovered in Jerusalem

Egyptian goddess statue unveiled in İzmir’s Red Basilica (It's a nine-metre tall Sekhmet. Wow!)

Finds in Israel add weight to theory God “had wife”


Evidence of fire-raining comet discovered on Earth: "The sea of silica was a well-known area of study as its glass was found in highly valuable jewelry, including a brooch of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun."

Untangling the Mystery of the Inca (khipu)

ETA (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] alryssa!):

"Lost City" of Tanis Found, but Often Forgotten

Photos from the submerged ancient city of Heracleion
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Describing a spell for "dream-sending" (P. Louvre E 3229 2,10-3,1), the splendidly named Joachim Friedrich Quack remarks: "It has obvious connections with other Graeco-Roman magical texts of late Antiquity in its use of strange magical names. One of them, Neboutosoualeth, is actually well-attested in Greek papyri where it is normally an epithet of Hecate. This makes sense in so far as Hecate-Artemis is invoked as a lunar deity in those texts, and our papyrus uses just the lunar connection [it must be performed on the last day of the lunar month]. Still, a female lunar deity is not a traditional Egyptian conception but an innovation due to Greek influence." Noting a connection to Set, he adds, "This gives the impression that an older ritual making use of lunar mythology centered around Osiris has been adapted and remodelled by adding Hecate-Artemis to it."

These spells are hella cool. The magician's shopping list includes stuff like a human skull, the blood of a black dog, the milk of a black cow, and water pinched from the sacred lake (do not get caught). The main trick is to force some spirit or ghost to deliver a fake message, disguised as the victim's god. The cheek!
Quack, Joachim Friedrich. "Remarks on Egyptian Rituals of Dream-Sending". in Kousoulis, P. (ed). Ancient Egyptian Demonology: studies on the boundaries between the demonic and the divine in Egyptian magic (Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta 175). Leuven ; Walpole, Mass. : Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Studies, 2011. pp 140-141.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
"First Skyscraper" Built to Fight Solstice Shadow? - the Tower of Jericho

Ancient Tablets Decoded; Shed Light on Assyrian Empire

Prehistoric Americans Traded Chocolate for Turquoise?

Ancient Tablet Found: Oldest Readable Writing in Europe - Linear B

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/pictures/110415-egyptian-mummies-ct-scans-heart-disease-science-pictures/ | http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110415-ancient-egypt-mummies-princess-heart-disease-health-science/ | http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/05/110531-africa-mummies-parasites-schistosomiasis-science/






Seventy Egyptian artefacts found in illegal possession are authenticated (including Late Period Sekhmet amulets)

Ancient Clay Tablets Recovered from 9/11 Attack Restored and Translated

Black Magic Revealed in Two Ancient Curses: "Both curses feature a depiction of a deity, possibly the Greek goddess Hekate, with serpents coming out of her hair, possibly meant to strike at the victims."

http://www.smh.com.au/world/cave-women-in-a-different-light-20120515-1yp30.html (personally, I think it looks like a horseshoe crab)


Concealed shoes: Australian settlers and an old superstition

Ancient language controls crime rings. This sounds more esoteric and odd than it actually is: Nahuatl, a language about as old as English, is a living tongue with one and a half million speakers.


Africans in Roman York?
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Discussing Artemis, Bodil Hjerrild notes the apparent contradiction between her virginity and her role as protectress of women in childbirth, children, and young wild animals. Echoing an idea I think I've encountered somewhere else, "Her virginity has to be understood rather as a conservation of power and maybe a concentration of fertile energy that may be spread instead to nature and the people who worship her."

My brain being what it is, I connected this to come stuff I've been reading about the significance of shared childcare in human evolution, in particular a recent New Scientist article about middle age, and I quote: "Research suggests that a human child requires resources to be provided by multiple adults - almost certainly more than two young parents.' One study of hunter-gatherers found that "each couple requires the help of an additional 1.3 non-reproducing adults to provide for their children."

The article's idea was that the need for extra caregivers could explain why humans keep going strong after the age of menopause, but it struck me that it could also explain the persistence of many other categories of "non-reproducing adults" amongst human populations. Perhaps, for example, Artemis is the patroness of batty old aunties like myself. :)

Bainbridge, David. Marvellous Middle Age. New Scientist 2855, 8 March 2012, pp 49-51.
Hjerrild, Bodil. Near Eastern Equivalents to Artemis. Acta Hyperborea 12 2009, pp 41-49.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Will Roscoe's article "Priests of the Goddess" compares the Graeco-Roman gallus, the Mesopotamian gala (and similar cultic performers), and the Indian and Pakistani hijra.

They have several things in common:

  • they are priests of a goddess (or goddesses)
  • they're organised into groups, and employed by temples
  • they dance, sing, and play instruments
  • they are reputed to be homosexual and/or sex workers
  • they have an alternative "third" gender
  • and they have magical powers.

    It's those two last features I'm particularly interested in.

    The galli, singular gallus, "were originally temple personnel in the cities of central Anatolia", worshippers of the goddess Cybele, whose cult eventually spread throughout the Graeco-Roman world. The hijra are devotees of the goddess Bahuchara Mata; like the galli, they tell fortunes and can "utter fearful curses". (Lifting their sari to show their scars "doom[s] the viewer to calamity".) Their tradition may date back as far as "the early first millennium". The galli were called the "third sex" and the "middle kind"; the hijra are called "third gender", "not-male", and "woman-man" (Cf UR.SAL, "man-woman", ie assinnu.)

    As Roscoe points out, while the gala et al were said to be "gender transformed" by Inanna/Ishtar, we don't know whether this was a physical transformation. Interestingly, though many hijra are ritually castrated, many postpone this and some never go through with it; it's not an absolute requirement of the job. Roscoe points out that the same may have been true for the galli.

    This may have reflected an understanding of sex and/or gender which isn't reduced to the genitals, but has to do with cultural traits such as dress, behaviour, and profession. The galli wore "partly female and partly galli-specific dress", the hijra formerly mixed male and female clothing but now wear women's clothes; the gala sang in emesal, the woman's dialect, the kurgarru and assinnu "portrayed the goddess in ritual, by wearing masks and cross-dressing", the saĝ-ur-saĝ mixed male and female dress. Roscoe suggests that "since homosexual practices were, for the receptive partner, considered androgynizing, the sexual activity of galli served to overdetermine their status as androgynes". (p 205)

    "Why is gender transgression so often attributed with religious meaning?" ponders Roscoe. Nanda writes that the hijras "call into question the basic social categories of gender on which Indian society is built. This makes the hijras objects of fear, abuse, ridicule, and sometimes pity. But hijras are also... conceptualized as special, sacred beings... both Indian society and Hindu mythology provide some positive, or at least accommodating, roles for such sexually ambiguous figures."

    ETA: By contrast, Piotr Michalowski's article on the Ur III period gala doesn't mention gender at all. (He does state that "Ur III ceremonial life" was based on concepts and symbols "very different from any that became before and after".) He remarks that "galas were important players in economic and religious life", involved in funerals, funerary cults, and organising official music performances, and possibly other entertainment. It's possible that men could temporarily take the role of a gala, such as at a wedding.

    ETA: More on the galli from The Gods of Ancient Rome by Robert Turcan, who states that Cybele's cult was overseen by "foreign priests (a Phrygian man and woman, as well as by galli... castrated like Attis, the companion who was both lover and son to the goddess."

    The galli left the goddess' sanctuary only on procession days. One procession is described as being accompanied by cymbals, tambourines, trumpets, and flutes, and the frenzied brandishing of weapons; the frightened onlookers showered the galli, who were dressed in multi-coloured garments, with offerings of coins and roses.

    During another procession, mourning the death of Attis, the galli whipped and cut themselves, and amongst all the shrieking, music, and dance, the new would-be galli castrated themselves with a flint. (One ancient writer cheekily referred to this as "the very day when the faithful of the Mother of the gods began to groan and feel sorry for themselves.").

    Legally, Romans could not be galli, as they could not be castrated, so the ritual of the taurobolium was substituted for officials such as the archgallus: he was completely soaked in the blood of a sacrificed bull (followed by a sacred marriage with the goddess "behind the curtain" - I hope he washed first).

    Turcan also mentions the "armed dance" and self-mutilation of the prophetic priestess of another Anatolian goddess, Ma-Bellona; and the "mendicant eunuchs of Atargatis" who similarly "slashed their arms with hatchets or swords" before prophesying.

    ETA: The tablet BM 29616 relates how Enki "upon hearing that Inanna was vexing heaven and earth with her wrath, fashioned the gala, and provided him with an assortment of chants as well as accompanying drum-like musical instruments... in order to soothe the goddess and help calm her rage." (Samuel Noah Kramer's article also notes that the "iršemma is a composition, often melancholy in nature", written in Emesal, "that was chanted by a temple singer known as the gala to the accompaniment of drum-like musical instruments.")

    ETA: More on the hijra from Serena Nanda. The basic definition of a hijra is an impotent man who renounces male sexuality through emasculation. However, there are exceptions to this, such as hijras who were raised as girls, but did not develop breasts or begin to menstruate at puberty, and a girl with intersex genitals who became a hijra. Nanda spoke to a hijra sex worker who was "skeptical" about the idea that hijras lacked sexual desire, and to a hijra in a relationship with a man; another was angered that men who had been married and had children had "joined [the hijra] community only for the sake of earning a living". Nanda says that the "hijra role" encompasses "people whom we in the West would differentiate as eunuchs, homosexuals, transsexuals, and transvestites."

    Nanda states that "wearing female attire is an essential and defining characteristic of the hijra. It is absolutely required for their performances, when asking for alms, and when they visit the temple of their goddess Bahuchara... Long hair is a must for a hijra." They also adopt (and exaggerate) female mannerisms, take female names and address each other with female kinship terms such as "sister" and "aunty". However, they also behave in ways which would be "outrageous" for women - lifting their skirts, smoking, using "coarse and abusive speech and gestures" (Cf the "bawdy speech" of the kurgarru).

    Nanda states that "Whereas Westerners feel uncomfortable with the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in such in-between categories as transvestitism, homosexuality, hermaphroditism, and transgenderism, and make strenuous attempts to resolve them, Hinduism not only accommodates such ambiguities, but also views them as meaningful and even powerful." She points to the plentiful "androgynes, impersonators of the opposite sex, and individuals who undergo sex changes" in Hindu myths, which are familiar through popular culture.

    Kramer, Samuel Noah. Sumerian Literature and the British Museum: the Promise of the Future. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 124(4) August 1980.
    Michalowski, Piotr. Love or Death? Observations on the Role of the Gala in Ur III Ceremonial Life. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 58 2006, pp 49-61.
    Nanda, Serena. "Hijras as Neither Man nor Woman". in Timothy F. Murphy (ed). Reader's guide to lesbian and gay studies. Chicago, London, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000.
    Roscoe, Will. Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion. History of Religions 35(3), February 1996, pp 195-230. (The author has shared a huge chunk of the article online!)
    Turcan, Robert. The Gods of Ancient Rome. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

  • ikhet_sekhmet: (Angel of the Birds 1)
    More gendery stuff later, but now for something completely different: Barbara Walker's Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets and the word "bitch".

    The word "bitch", Walker tells us, became "a naughty word in Christian Europe because it was one of the most sacred titles of the Goddess, Artemis-Diana". Walker gives no citation, and after a lot of unsystematic rummaging, I haven't been able to find any evidence that "bitch" was a title for either Artemis or Diana - let alone "one of the most sacred titles" for either goddess.

    In the Iliad, "bitch" is certainly not a compliment, with Helen repeatedly castigating herself as "bitch" (kunos) and "bitchface" (kunopis - an insult also thrown at Aphrodite by the bard Demodokos), and Menelaus calling the Trojans "evil bitches" (kakai kunes). In the Odyssey, Penelope calls a treacherous maidservant kuon. In fact, "bitch" seems to pop up pretty frequently as an insult in Classical literature, well before "Christian Europe".

    I've found hundreds of epithets for Artemis, but the closest to Kuon which I've been able to find is Kynagon, "leader of the dogs". (No luck with Diana's epithets, either - no "canicula" or "catula".) Surely there's such a thing as a complete list of Artemis' epithets? That would settle the matter.

    Loraux, Nicole. "The Phantom of Sexuality". in The experiences of Tiresias: the feminine and the Greek man. Princeton University Press, 1995.
    Barbara G. Walker. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1983.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
    Did some heavy-duty reading yesterday. We pass the gleanings on to you!

    In her chapter "Athena and the Amazons", Susan Deacy explores the paradoxical nature of Athena: patroness of patriarchy, the goddess of Greek civilisation; and yet at the same time armed and armoured, not just unmarried but refusing marriage, and closely associated with those back-to-front barbarians, those "enemies of Greek civilisation", the Amazons. Though the Amazons are long defeated, and Athena is firmly on the side of Athens and its men, these contradictions produce a restless tension, which I think speaks to the basic problem of oppressing people: keeping them oppressed.

    According to Diodorus Sicilius, Athena leads the Amazon army; like them, she clings "tenaciously to manliness (andreia) and virginity (parthenia)." She remarks that Jean-Pierre Vernant (in Myth and Society in Ancient Greece) "has demonstrated that prior to marriage, the parthenos might be deemed not to be properly and exclusively feminine, capable of assuming warrior attributes and characteristics". Goddess and Amazons both "exhibit female behaviour not regulated by marriage" - they're not under men's control. In Amazon society, Diodorus tells us, men are strictly confined to the home because otherwise they might try to take over. Oh what a giveaway!

    Anywho, there are obvious parallels here with Inanna/Ishtar, who although a wife, performs no domestic duties and bears no children, and prefers to spend her time fighting and generally making trouble. As the embodiment of what women aren't supposed to be, she reinforces what they are supposed to be... mostly. Again there's this tension, this instability: people don't fall tidily into the roles society dictates for them, especially if those roles are lesser ones. They have to be constantly put back in their place.

    (Also intriguing: Diorodus says the Gorgons were an entire race of warrior women!)

    ETA: If this discussion is accurate, the Amazons are still being killed off today, at least in the world of comics...

    Deacey, Susan. "Athena and the Amazons: mortal and immortal femininity in Greek myth". in Lloyd, Alan B. (ed) What is a God?: studies in the nature of Greek divinity. London, Duckworth; Swansea, Classical Press of Wales, 1997.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Angel of the Birds 2)
    From a review in BAOS 357 Feb 2010 of The Origins of Aphrodite by Stephanie Lynn Budin, a book upon which I must lay my grubby paws because of its examination of goddesses (Inanna/Ishtar, Ishara, Asherah, Astarte, Qudshu) and cults (in Ugarit, Alalakh, Megiddo, Beth Shan, Tel Mevorakh, Lachish, Egypt) which may have influenced A.
    • "sex goddess versus fertility/mother goddess"
    • Cults of A. found "throughout Greece, the Aegean islands, Egypt, Magna Graecia, and in the Black sea region."
    • "Aphrodite entered Greece via Crete from Cyprus", "imported into Cyprus through the Phoenician settlement of Kition" and "amalgamated with a native goddess worshipped at Amathus and Paphos"
    • Adonis was the consort of the Cypriot Aphrodite and was lost in A.'s "transition to the west"
    From "Gods as a Frame of Reference" by Gertie Englund:
    • Egyptian theologians "did not study and interpret a basic text but they kept on creating new texts" (p 8)
    • "Many of the endless number of gods appearing in Egyptian texts and iconography were never the object of a cult and knowledge about them probably never passed the gates of the temple... However, the lack of a cult does not mean that a god is a purely speculative philosophical creation. The popular god Bes did not have a cult and no temple was dedicated to him." (p 19)
    • "There are surprisingly few adjectives in the Egyptian language... description is given in the form of an expression of identity. What one identifies with or identifies oneself with are gods. The gods who are personified concepts are used as concepts." (p 21)
    • The "rule which linguists call 'repression of sense'" may make Egyptian thought look as though it lacks abstract ideas and metaphors (p 22)
    • Someone who's got rich off flax and linen might be called the "husband of Tait" (p 22)
    • The House of Life is a microcosm - a library whose books describe the whole world (p 24)
    • Gods and humans maintain cosmic balance through "exchange of gifts", in which "Man offers what he has produced" (sounds like one of those nature/culture things to me)
    • "The myths offer as it were key scenarios of typical difficulties and problems", and by identifying with them, people could connect with the divine and receive "consolation and guidance" (p 24 - 25). A familiar thing to me as a Pagan, and I'm sure to most religious people.
    • While we think in "causalities", the Egyptians thought in "homologies", and approach which allows multiple assumptions about the same thing to be "valid simultaneously" - "a multitude of convert angles of approach" to the "undescribable". (p 26) (te Velde remarks: "working out the relationships between gods… was an important and favourite task of Egyptian priests". :) (p 240)
    From te Velde Relations and Conflicts:
    • "The Asiatic goddess Astarte can be given citizenship or godhood in Egypt and can be adopted as daughter of Ptah [in spite of which] exotic peculiarities, such as riding naked upon a horse, a thing hardly done by Egyptian goddesses, are not denied her." (p 240)

    • Amun had a close, ancient, but "rather vague and undefined relationship" with Amaunet, his fellow Karnak deity. "In the course of the 16th Century B.C. the cult of the goddess Mut, who had already been worshipped for centuries in the little provincial town of Megen, was introduced into the capital." Mut is first Amun's daughter, then his wife, and they are inseparable from this point on. (pp 240-1)

    • Regarding variations of the Ennead: "Already in the Pyramid Texts the retiring figure of the goddess Nephthys is sometimes replaced by the goddess Neith" (p 242) Karnak's great ennead had fifteen gods – the nine Heliopolitans plus Montu, Tjenenet and Iunet, Horus, Hathor of Gebelein, and Sobek; the little ennead was Thoth, Harendotes, Wepwawet of the south, Wepwawet of the north, Sobek lord of the Iuntiu, Ptah-upon-his-great-throne, Ptah-at-the-head-of-the-gods, Anubis lord of Ta-djeser, Dedwen-at-the-head-of-Nubia, Dewenawi, Merimutef, and Horus' four sons. Abydos' ennead numbered nine: Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, Re, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, and Wepwawet; or seven: two Khnums,two Wepwawets, Thoth, Horus, and Harendotes; or twelve: Osiris, Harendotes, Isis, Nephthys, Min, Iunmutef, Re-Harakhty, Onuris, Tefnut, Get (Geb?), Thoth, and Hathor. (p 243) Untersuchungen zum Gotterkreis der Neunheit by Winifred Barta contains a list of eighty-four enneads! (p 244)

    Englund, Gertie. Gods as a Frame of Reference: On Thinking and Concepts of Thought in Ancient Egypt. Boreas 20 1991, pp 7-28.

    te Velde, Herman. "Relations and Conflicts between Egyptian Gods, particularly in the Divine Ennead of Heliopolis", in Struggles of Gods. Papers of the Groningen Work Group for the Study of the History of Religions. Berlin, New York : Mouton, 1984. pp 239-257.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
    Two pharaonic statues stolen near Luxor, 19 March 2011. "One of the stolen artifacts is the upper part of the statue of Egyptian goddess Sekhmet and the other is a 28-by-23-centimeter black statue of a pharaonic god."

    Akhenaten's Toe Goes Home, 16 April 2010

    Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks, 7 October 2010

    Broken idols of Keros: British archaeologists explain Greek mystery, 10 June 2011

    Art of lost Amazon culture a surprise, 13 June 2011

    Archaeologist counts as one of ROM's hidden treasures - Royal Ontario Museum opens its permanent Nubia exhibition. "The image we have now of Sudan is war — in the south and in Darfur — and poverty. It is important to show a different aspect."
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Sandys - Medea (detail))
    Ended up at the library today by accident. Hunting (as it were) for a reference on Artemis represented with the head of a Gorgon, I came across a pithy introduction to the goddess in Pandora: Women in Classical Greece. (My knowledge of Classical myth is woefully scattershot.)

    Briefly, Artemis is the protectress of both young girls and young animals. There are multiple parallels between these two groups: the blood of menstruation and childbirth and the blood of a slain animal; the sexual maturity of a bride and the physical maturity of an animal old enough to be hunted; courtship (pretty much synonymous with rape) and the hunt. "The parallel between a girl's marriage and sacrificial death has often been noted", remarks the article. Surrounded by a band of virginal women, Artemis "directed the intense energy of their celibacy" into the hunt, but punished those who "explored their sexuality, willingly or unwillingly" - turning them into animals and shooting them. (That's a really vicious strand of Greek myth - goddesses punishing mortal women for being raped.)

    Artemis is both "a goddess of a world outside civilization and of its margins", but also "a supporter of community life and civic institutions" - both a virgin goddess and a goddess of childbirth. I think there's a parallel between that and the ambiguity of childbirth for the Greeks - obviously crucial to civilisation and expected of every woman, but also "a biological process rather than one of man-made institutions" and thus "a manifestation of woman's feral side".

    Pretty much coincidentally, the other day I bookmarked this beautiful Artemis with a fawn.

    ETA: "she herself is wild and uncanny and is even shown with a Gorgon head." - Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, p 149.

    "among the votive masks dedicated to the goddess... there are many that reproduce the monstrous and terrifying face of Gorgo." - Jean Pierre Vernant, Mortals and immortals, p 111

    Reeder, Ellen D. Pandora: Women in Classical Greece. Baltimore MD, Trustees of The Walters Art Gallery in association with Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1995.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
    I'm trying to work my way through some of the collective noun of podcasts that I've downloaded over the past few years. One, a 2007 interview with archaeologist Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, is still available to download, and as a transcript:

    New Light on the Greek 'Dark Age'

    My ears pricked up at the mention that before Athena was a Greek goddess, she was a Mycenean goddess, and possibly a Minoan goddess before that. And she's not the only Olympian whose name appears in Linear B. I had no idea. V. interesting!
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
    Here's that cat / lioness dichotomy again, in a pair of proverbs from The Teaching of Ankhsheshonq:

    "When a man smells of myrrh his wife is a cat before him."
    "When a man is suffering his wife is a lioness before him."

    I need to do some reading on Hathor this year, because of her close association with Sekhmet in the Destruction of Mankind, and also because she's associated with Tefnut in the Myth of the Eye of the Sun - there's that slippery interchangability between Egyptian deities, so several of them are "the Eye of Ra". (Hathor also flashes Ra in The Contendings of Horus and Seth and makes him laugh! Spot the parallel with Baubo in the story of Demeter's search for Persephone.)
    Houlihan, Patrick F. Wit and Humour in Ancient Egypt. Rubicon, London, 2001.


    ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
    Plaything of Sekhmet

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