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Inanna/Ishtar Bibliography

Dec. 30th, 2020 | 08:38 am

Last updated 15 February 2014.

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Sekhmet and related goddesses bibliography

Dec. 29th, 2020 | 11:05 am

Last updated 24 April 2014.

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Partial bibliography for this LJ

Feb. 12th, 2020 | 12:56 pm

Partial bibliography for this LJCollapse )

(Last updated 15 February 2014.)

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The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction

Jul. 16th, 2014 | 02:11 pm

What a helpful and enlightening little book! Not just for comparisons with other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, but because everyone bangs on about the Bible these days, with varying levels of informedness.

A few observations from its pages:

"Artistically... ancient Israel was a cultural backwater... Yet one artifact from ancient Israel has survived: its literature, commonly if somewhat controversially called the Old Testament. Prohibited according to an ancient law from making graven images, the Israelites channeled their creative energy into literary activity." (p 1)

References to other books, now lost, show that there was literature beyond what's now collected as the OT, including poetry (eg The Book of the Wars of the Lord) and royal records (eg The Book of the Acts of Solomon).

"... in antiquity a book was not necessarily a single product of a single author but was often more like a hypertext, which several, even many writers might expand, edit, and otherwise modify [over generations]... For its final editors... preserving different sources was more important than superficial consistency. Even before the Torah became sacred scripture, then, its constituent parts had already achieved something like canonical status." (p 20) Hence different versions of the Ten Commandments were all included (p 61-2) (I'd like to compare some other ancient examples. Maybe the Gilgamesh epic?)

Similarly, "Almost every biblical text is composite in the sense that unlike modern works it was not written once and then considered complete; rather, a text was subject to constant modification, variation, commentary, elaboration, expansion, and other types of addition and editing as writers from later generations continued to add their insights." (p 52) So for example "laws, rituals, institutions" are linked to the story of Exodus because of its importance. (I suppose in a way the responses of neo-Pagans to ancient texts are a version of this - the texts are not dead and set, but alive and changing - although we hardly form a single, coherent community or culture.)

The Mesha stela, which has correspondences with the book of Kings, mentions the gods Chemosh and Ashtar-Chemosh, whom I must remember to look up. (p 27) Other gods mentioned in the OT: Amun, Marduk (aka Bel, Nebo), Nergal, Dagon, Baal, Resheph, Mot, Asherah, Astarte, Milcom of Ammon, Hadad of Aram, Tammuz, the sun, the queen of heaven, Azazel, and Lilith. Yahweh presided over a royal court of deities, the "sons of God" aka the "holy ones", who included his army or "host"; in later, more strictly monothestic times, this was not understood literally. (p 40-42) Similarly, Yahweh is described as battling the sea and proves his superiority to the Egyptian deities. (p 50) He himself has lots of the attributes of the local storm gods (eg p 53). (On a side note, recently I was puzzling how one might debunk the urban legend that the English word "amen" ultimately derives from "Amun", when I came across someone who pointed out that they don't actually start with the same letter. :)

"in biblical law an orphan is technically a child without a male parent." (p 58)

"Testament" means "Covenant". (p 59)

"the sacred, personal name of Yahweh is not to be used in magic, sorcery, or other unlawful ways, for Yahweh is not a deity who can be localized or controlled." (p 62) (Contrast with Egyptian magic spells in which the sorcerer threatens cosmic destruction if the gods don't do his or her bidding!)

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Onee Kotoba and Emesal

Jun. 28th, 2014 | 02:48 pm

Japanese appears to have an equivalent of Emesal, the variety of Sumerian used for reporting the speech of a woman, a goddess, or a gala.

I discovered this in the translators note on a manga (Japanese comic), which explains onee kotoba ("literally, 'older sister speech') as "a rough, effeminate form of Japanese often employed by gay and male-to-female transgendered individuals in which feminine pronouns, word endings, and intonations are used. For example, instead of using watashi (a common, polite, neutral pronoun meaning 'I') [the character uses] atashi, which is a colloquial pronoun that a young woman might use to refer to herself." (By contrast, a different manga has a girl-disguised-as-a-boy character joke that she will now use the pronoun ore, reserved for tough young men.)

Emesal's differences from standard Sumerian might not have been as great - just some vocabulary and pronunciation - but I suppose it might not all have been preserved in cuneiform.

(I'll bet this is not the last parallel to Emesal that I'll come across if I start looking.)

(If you're curious, the manga in question are Black Butler volume 2, written by Yana Toboso and translated by Tomo Kimura, and Ouran High School Host Club.)

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Sekhmet and the Dual Year at Hibis

Jun. 22nd, 2014 | 08:54 pm

On the roof of Hibis temple there's what's left of a room which, presumably, depicted the deities of the dual year - the civil (solar) and lunar years combined:
  • thirty-six decans
  • twelve pseudo-decans
  • eleven additional gods to make up the difference in length between the solar year (365 days) and the lunar year (354 days)
... for a total of fifty-nine deities. In Hibis Temple Project Volume I (p 185-), Eugene Cruz-Uribe reconstructs the elaborate parade of gods in the room with the help of lists from elsewhere.

A lioness-headed goddess, perhaps Sekhmet, makes a surprise appearance between Decans 21 and 22 (and Ptah between Decans 25 and 25a), and also at the end of the list. According to Cruz-Uribe, this tells us something about what the list of deities is for.

As he notes, Sekhmet is invoked for protection at the time of the New Year - she is "frequently found on a variety of small objects, alone or with Ptah, as part of an invocation to an individual wishing them a good year". According to Yoyotte, "Sekhmet appears to personify the perils that must be reckoned with each and every day of the year"; at Dendera she is given a name for each of the thirty days of the month, and the king makes offerings to each one - assuring Re's daily triumph over the forces of chaos. (At the Karnak temple, Yoyotte believes, there would have been a total of 365 Sekhmet statues - one for each day of the year.)

Now at Dendera, the king invokes the decans' help in appeasing Sekhmet. So this is Cruz-Uribe's interpretation of the elaborate roll call of time gods on the roof at Hibis, and the presence of Sekhmet and Ptah amongst them - to protect against chaos in the New Year rituals held at the change of the civil calendar and the lunar one.

Cruz-Uribe, Eugene. Hibis temple project, Vol 1: Translations, commentary, discussions and sign list. San Antonio, Texas, Van Siclen Books, 1988.
Parker, Richard A. The Calendars of Ancient Egypt. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 26. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1950. (Source of the "dual year" concept.)
Yoyotte, J. Une monumentale litanie de granit. Les Sekhmet d'Aménophis III et la conjuration permanente de la Déesse dangereuse. Bulletin de la Société Française 87-88, 1980.

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Egypt's Sunken Treasures 3: the falcon-headed crocodile...

Jun. 21st, 2014 | 11:54 am

... or a falcon-headed sphinx? Amongst the divers' finds was a granite falcon head, roughly 70 cm by 70 cm, with ears (which dates it to the seventh century BCE at the earliest). What sort of body it was attached to, though, remains a mystery - lion or croc? The book notes that hieracosphinxes were a New Kingdom innovation, representing pharaoh as Montu. There's a headless sphinx, with the foreparts of a lion and the hindparts of a crocodile, at Amenhotep III's temple. Later, in the fifth century BCE, drawings of this kind of falcon-lion-crocodile sphinx "often placed on a high plinth in the shape of a temple" crop up, a pantheistic figure representing Horus of Sohag, "known everywhere since the Old Kingdom as a redoubtable magician, who cured the sick and annihilated wicked enemies", and who appeared on magic columns, amulets, talismans, and so forth. (pp 206-207)

(On a personal note, the text on this find was either poorly translated or written in a second language and had some weird printing errors, and I had trouble following it. More research is indicated. If only because I am fond of hybrid creatures.)

You also get falcon-headed crocs with no lion parts, like the one at the Walters.

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Inanna snippet

May. 13th, 2014 | 08:10 pm

The final lines of a Sumerian hymn to Ninkasi, the goddess of beer:
šà-dinanna ki-bi ba-ab-gi4
šà-ga-ša-an-an-na-ke4 ki-bi ba-eb-gi4

The heart of Inanna is happy again,
The heart of the queen of heaven is happy again!
The author's footnote: "'Queen of heaven' translates ga-ša-an-an-na which is nothing but the Emesal form of dinanna." He adds that Emesal, the women's language, is used to indicate male and female speakers in different parts of the hymn.

Civil, M. A hymn to the beer goddess and a drinking song. Biggs, R.D. and J.A. Brinkman (eds). Studies Presented to A. Leo Oppenheim. Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1964.

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Quest for the Hedgehog Goddess

May. 10th, 2014 | 07:43 pm

Behold Âbâset or Abaset, from the tomb of Benaty at Bahria (the Bahariya Oasis):


I encountered this goddess in the French version of Wikipedia and decided to track her down. In Religions Méditerranéennes et Orientales de L'Antiquité she is described as "undivinité insolite, Abaset, portant un hérrison sut la tête, associée à Rêhorakhty et à Banebdjed" ("an unusual deity, Abeset, carrying a hedgehog on her head, associated with Ra-Horakhty and Banebdjed".) The associated footnote led me in turn to Bahria Oasis by Ahmed Fakhry (and a truly epic battle with Fisher Library's photocopiers).

Alas, this leaves us none the wiser about the goddess. As Fakhry notes, although the hedgehog was extensively used as an amulet and in medicine, we don't know its mythological significance, although he does point out that it's a snake-killer. These two appearances in the one tomb (on a wall behind Ra-Horakhty, and on a pillar behind Banebdjed) are the sum total of our knowledge of Abaset. So here my quest grinds to an undignified halt.

Having finally found a working photocopier, I also snagged a mummiform, lion-headed, flail-wielding, ithyphallic Amun-Min from the tomb of Thaty:


I was interested in its resemblance to the mysterious and possibly ambisexual deity at the Temple of Khonsu, of course, but the figure is also part of a procession which includes an unusual pair - Set and Horus, striding up to a seated Thoth, both of them with one hand raised to their face as if in mourning, and poor Set stuck with four knives to keep him under control.

Fakhry, Ahmed. Bahria Oasis vol 1. Cairo : Govt. Print., 1942-50.

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Egypt's Sunken Treasures 2

May. 6th, 2014 | 10:08 pm

The most important part of this enormous book are the photos - especially those of the eponymous treasures being brought up by divers from Herakleion, Canopus, and Alexandria - but here are some notes from the text:
  • The gods' attributes suggest the early settlement of the Nile and the ancientness of their worship: "like the Bedouin, the Egyptian gods hold a staff, goddesses hold a reed; their crowns are made of rushes, often they wear nothing other than a few ostrich plumes or the horns of the animals that are holy to them."

  • Oddly, the Hathor crown worn by Isis is described as including a lunar disc, rather than a solar one. (p 105)

  • Herakleion, the sunken city, is named for Herakles, whose mythology included exploits in Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia; one story had him killing the Egyptian tyrant Busiris, who sacrificed all strangers to Zeus. The truth of the tale was disputed amongst the ancients, but the human sacrifice of foreigners might have had a basis in fact: "Until the abolition of this practice in the sixth century BC, it happened that troublemakers were condemned to be burned alive at one of the numerous sanctuaries where a reproduction of the mummified corpse of Osiris at the point of resurrection was watched over and tended while being burned alive [sic - during the execution, presumably]. The fact of redness was for men, as for animals, a mark of their genetic kinship with Seth and Apopi. As a consequence, Greek pirates - blond or red-haired - who presented this mark underwent this death sentence, which was theologically based and ritualised." The king Busiris could be per-Osiris - one of the temples where this ritual was carried out.

  • From the fifth century BCE, Amun was identified with Zeus, Mut with Hera, and Khonsu with Herakles. The authors describe this as "disconcerting", since the deities have, "at first sight", nothing in common. The child Khonsu, mummified, shown as large as an adult but wearing a sidelock, is "Chons in Thebes Neferhotep"; as a falcon-headed man with the lunar disc for a hat he is "Horus (!), master of joy". "The god identified with Herakles [must have been] 'Chons the child', one of those specifically childlike aspects in which all Egyptian gods were doubled by a Harpokrates, a 'child Horus'", with Khonsu's version being recognisable by the hem-hem and nemes headdresses. The authors explain the identification of Herakles and Khonsu as stemming from their similar origins - the god Amun took the form of the pharaoh to impregnate the royal wife with the next, divine pharaoh, and Zeus took the form of Amphitryon to impregnate Alcmena with the demigod Herakles.

  • I found a couple of examples of Khonsu being given the epithet "Horus, master of joy", such as at Qasr el Aguz.

  • Two statues from Alexandria, a snake and an ibis, probably represent "gods that were particularly venerated by the Alexandrians": Agathodaimon and Thoth, "alias Hermes Trismegistos". The "good genie" Agathodaimon was worshipped from the city's founding by Alexander. "When a shrine was erected small snakes would appear and would then scatter through the city, where the Alexandrians would protect and honour them. The origin of this seems to be linked to the Egyptian serpent Schai, a very popular protector god [whose] partner goddess Renenutet, having been assimilated into Isis Thermoutis - Isis in the form of a uraeus - often appeared alongside Agathodaimon on reliefs." Which may also have contributed to an assimilation of Agathodaimon and Sarapis. (p 204)

  • In their statues etc the Ptolemies had themselves presented according to Egyptian artistic conventions, though occasional Greek details crop up to lend authenticity to the portrait. The first queen "to be represented in the round in a pharaonic style" was Arsinoe II. "His Majesty ordered her [Arsinoe II's] statue to be erected in all the temples - which was acceptable to their priests - because these intentions were known to the gods and her kind deeds to all men." - Mendes Stela (The "queen-wives" continued to be represented like throughout the dynasty, all with "impersonal but splendid" anatomy, much as women in Egyptian art had always been portrayed with "perfect shapes clad in a tight dress". (p 160) Conversely, Isis was represented in the form of a Ptolemaic queen (p 170). Arsinoe II "was especially considered as a notable earthly manifestation of Aphrodite" (and given the epithet "Zephyritis"), "took an active interest in the navy and maritime routes" and according to her cult was "adored" by admirals, sailors, and "indigenous oarsmen" (p 172).

  • In the Arsinoeion in Alexandria, "an engineer had planned to put in place an iron statue which was supposed to have floated in the air by virtue of a magnet"!

  • In one area, divers found the remains of nine "decapitated and mutilated sphinxes" - "the result of vigorous dry blows applied with blunt instruments. This was the normal treatment meted out by Christians to deprive the demons that the pagan gods embodied" of their senses and their ability to move. (I wonder: did this idea, that there were spirits in the statues, originate with the Christians or come from the Egyptian concept of gods inhabiting their representations?) (p 170)

  • From Isis' temple at Narmouthis (p 210):

    All mortals who live on the infinite earth,
    Thracians, Greeks and barbarians too,
    Utter your beautiful name, honoured by all,
    Each in his own tongue, each in his own country.
    The Syrians name you Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia,
    And the people of Lykia Leto, sovereign.
    The men of Thrace name you Mother of the Gods,
    The Greeks Hera, enthroned on high, or even Aphrodite,
    Hestia the benevolent, Rhea, or Demeter.
    But the Egyptians call you Thioui, because you, and you alone,
    Are all the goddesses that people know by other names.

    (Various sources give "The Unique" for Thioui.)

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