In Search of Cupid and Psyche: Myth and Legend in Children's Literature
|Inanna and Dumuzi||Ishtar and Tammuz||The Myth of Telepinus||The Myth of Heracles rescue of Hesione|
|Demeter and Core/Persephone||Orpheus and Eurydice||The Myth of Pandora||The Myth of Andromeda|
Descents Into The Underworld
S.H. Hooke. Middle Eastern Mythology. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963.
Archaeological excavation of the sites of the ancient cities in the Tigris-Euphrates valley has shown that this region, known as Sumer and Akkad, was inhabited as early as 4000 BV by a people known as the Sumerians . . . They appear to have come into the delta from the mountainous region to the northeast of Mesopotamia, and their myths show that they came from a very different kind of country from that which they found in their new ho9me. The form of writing called cuneiform was their invention, and it was they who built the strange temple-towers, known as ‘ziggurats’ . . .. –page 18
The Myth of Dumuzi and Inanna
The first of these myths has long been known as the descent of Ishtar into the underworld and existed in a fragmentary form; but as a result of Professor Kramer'’ skilled labours it is now known in a complete form as the myth of Dumuzi and Innana. Dumuzi is the Sumerian form of the more familiar name Tammuz, while Innana is similarly the Sumerian equivalent of the Semitic Ishtar, the queen of heaven. Dumuzi is the prototype of all the vegetation gods who die and rise again with the rebirth of vegetation in the spring. In the form of the myth underlying the Tammuz liturgies, the imprisonment of the god in the underworld is a principal motive of the myth and is the cause of Inanna’s descent into the underworld. But in the earliest form of the myths given by Kramer in The Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament (J.B. Pritchard, 55 ff.), the reason for the descent of the goddess is not given. The form of the myth here related follows Kramer’s version.—page 18.
For reasons unknown, Inanna, the queen of heaven, decides to go down into the nether world, the ‘land of no return’, ruled over by her sister, the goddess Ereshkigal. Kramer suggests that the motive may have been ambition, the desire to bring the nether world under her dominion. To provide against any disasters that may happen to her in the nether world, Inanna instructs her vizier, Ninshubar, that if she does not return in three days he is to perform mourning rites for her, and to go in turn to the three high gods, Enlil of Nippur, Nanna the moon-god of Ur, and Enki, the Babylonian god of wisdom, in Eridu, and entreat them to intervene on her behalf that she may not be put to death in the nether world. Then Inanna puts on her queenly apparel and her jewels, and approaches the gate of the nether world. There she is challenged by Neti, the gate-keeper of the seven gates. By the orders of Ereshkigal and in accordance with the laws of the nether world, Inanna as she passes through the seven gates, is stripped of an item of her apparel at each gate; she is brought before Ereshkigal and the Anunnaki, the seven judges of the nether world. They turn ‘the eyes of death’ upon her and she is turned into a corpse and hung upon a stake. After three days, as she does not return, Ninshubur does as he was directed by Inanna. Enlil and Nanna refuse to intervene, but Enki performs certain magical operations by which Inanna is restored to life. Out of dirt from his finger-nail her creates two strange creatures, the kurgarru and the kalaturru, the meaning of whose names is unknown, and sends them to the nether world with the food of life and the water of life sixty times upon the corpse of Inanna. They do so and the goddess is restored to life. It is a law of the nether world that non one may return from thence without providing a substitute. Hence the myth goes on to describe the ascent of Inanna to the land of the living accompanied by demons who are to carry back to the nether world the substitute whom she provides. First Ninshubur, then Shara the god of Umma, and the Latarak the god of Badibira are in turn claimed by the demons and rescued by Inanna. Here the text as given in The Ancient Near Eastern Texts breaks off, but Kramer adds in a footnote to his introductory summary of the myth a surprising addition recently discovered. According to this fragment of the myth, Inanna and her escort of demons come to her own city of Erech and there find her husband Dumuzi. He does not humble himself before her as the other three had done, and she therefore hands him over to the demons to be carried off to the nether world. Dumuzi entreats Utu, the sun-god, to deliver him, and here the fragment breaks off. Hence we do not know whether, in the original Sumerian form of the myth, Dumuzi, who is Tammuz, was carried away by the demons into the nether world.
This is the first of the three basic myths referred to above in its Sumerian form. It is possible that the Sumerians brought the myth with them when they settled in the delta, and that this is its earliest form. In this form Inanna does not descend into the nether world to bring back her husband/brother Dumuzi, or Tammuz, from death. On the contrary and against all later conceptions of the myth, it is Inanna who allows the demons to carry off Dumuzi to the nether world as her substitute, while the reason for her own descent is left unexplained. Nevertheless, the Tammuz-liturgies which belong to the Sumerian period already show the later form of the myth. They describe the chaos and desolation which fall upon the land when Tammuz goes down in the nether world: they describe Ishtar’s lamentations and her descent into the nether world to rescue Tammuz from its powers; and they conclude with a description of the triumphant return of Tammuz to the land of the living. It is also clear that the liturgies form part of a seasonal ritual, and hence that the myth may rightly be classed as a ritual myth. A possible reason for the change in the original form of the myth may be found in the facts that the Sumerians, in coming into the delta, were passing from a pastoral economy to an agricultural mode of life. In the liturgies Tammuz and Ishtar are frequently represented under the figure of the male and female fir-tree, and the fir-tree is not found in the Tigris-Euphrates delta, but belongs to the mountainous region from which the Sumerians came. Moreover, the fact that the towering ‘ziggurats’ were a feature of Sumerian temple architecture has been held to point in the same direction. Hence the original form of the myth may have arisen under conditions of life which were very different from the agricultural mode of life which the Sumerians were obliged to adopt when they settled in the delta. There is evidence to show that Semites and Sumerians were both occupying the delta for a considerable time before the Amorite invasions and the final conquest and absorption of the Sumerians by the Semites. We know that the Semites took over from the Sumerians and their cuneiform script and much of their religion and mythology, and this may well be accepted as a further explanation of the changed character of the Tammuz-Ishtar myth as we find it in the Assyro-Babylonian period. We shall see later what changes the myth underwent as it passed into other countries.—page 20-23.
The Descent of Ishtar into the Nether World
. . . At an early date, but probably later than the Sumerian settlement of the delta of the Tigris-Euphrates, the first wave of Semitic invasion entered the region of Sumer and Akkad, gradually conquered the Sumerians, absorbed their culture, and adopted their cuneiform script, but not their language. The language of the Semitic invaders is known as Akkadian, and is one of the important branches of the great Semitic family of languages of which Arabic is the ancestor. The second wave of Semitic invasion by a people known as Amurru, or Amorites, resulted in the foundation of the first Amorite dynasty in Babylon, and the rise of Babylon under Hammurabi to the hegemony of Sumer and Akkad. The date of the first king of the Amorite dynasty was been assigned to about 2200 BC. . . in the main, the myths which we shall describe are of Babylonian provenance, and represent the Semitic transformation of earlier Sumerian material.—page 18.
Ishtar, in this version of the myth, is a much more hostile and threatening figure than she is in the Sumerian version. We also find in Ishtar’s threat to let loose the dead upon the living an illustration of the Babylonian fear of ghosts which was such a marked feature of their religion and appears in so many of their incantations. As Ishtar passes through the seven gates she is stripped of some part of her apparel at each gate, as in the Sumerian version. The Babylonian version omits the grim description of her being turned into a corpse by the baleful ‘eyes of death’, however. She does not return, and then follows Papsukkal’s appeal to the great gods quoted above. In answer to this appeal Ea, who is Enki in the Sumerian version, creates Asushunamir the eunuch, and sends him down to induce Ereshkigal to give him the life-water bag. By his charm he succeeds in doing this, and Ereshkigal reluctantly orders her vizier Namtar to sprinkle Ishtar with the water of life. Ishtar is released and returns, receiving back those articles of adornment and apparel which had been taken from her as she passes through the seven gates on her return journey. But a reference is made to the ransom which she must pay. Ereshkigal says to Namtar, ‘if she does not give thee her ransom-price, bring her back.’ What this is to be is not specified, but the mention of Tammuz at the end of the myth seems to imply his return from the underworld, although no indication has been given as to how he came there. We have already seen that there is a Sumerian myth of Enlil’s banishment to the underworld and of Inanna’s accompanying him there, and reference has been made to the identification of Tammuz with Enlil in the liturgies. Hence it would seem that in the course of the development of the myth the descent of Tammuz into the underworld came to assume increasing importance, and to be related to the death and rebirth of vegetation. When, in the course of time, the myth was carried into other countries, it was the death of Tammuz and the mourning for him that came to be emphasized at the expense of other features of the myth. Thus we have a reference in Ezekiel (8:14) to the women of Israel weeping for Tammuz, and the myth of Venus and Adonis represents the form in which the myth had passed into Greek mythology. Milton’s reference to the river Adonis running ‘purple to the sea, supposed with blood of Thammuz yearly wounded’, is a reminder of the Syrian form of the myth, and we shall see that the death of Baal in the Ugaritic mythology may represent an earlier stage of the development of the myth in its passage to Syria.—page 39-41.
Winckler’s excavation of Boghaz-köi, the site of Hattusas, the ancient capital of the Hittite empire, and the labours of many scholars in deciphering and translating the Hittite cuneiform script, has shown that the Hittites (a name which they did not use of themselves), were non-Semitic invaders who settled in Asia Minor about the beginning of the third millennium BC, and built up an empire which lasted until 1225 BC . . . page 95.
The Myth of Telepinus
The beginning of the text is broken so we do not know the causes of the god’s anger. The thread of the story is taken up at the point where the rage of Telepinus is described. He is depicted as putting his left shoe on his right foot and his right shoe on his left foot, implying that he was so angry that he did not know what he was doing. Telepinus goes away into the steppe and is lost. He is overcome with fatigue and falls asleep. Then we have a description of the effects of his absence: a mist covers the country; in the fire-place the logs are stifled; at the altars the gods are stifled; the sheep neglects its lamb, and the cow neglects its calf; there is drought and famine so that men and gods perish from hunger. The storm-god becomes anxious about his son Telepinus, and the search begins. The storm-god sends out the swift eagle with orders to search every mountain and valley, but the eagle returns unsuccessful. Then the goddess Hannahannas urges the storm-god to do something about it. He goes to the house of Telepinus and batters at the gate. He only succeeds in breaking his hammer, but does not find the missing god, and retires from the quest. Then Hannahannas suggests sending out the Bee in search, but the storm-god mocks at the idea and says that the Bee is too small to succeed in an enterprise in which the great gods have failed. Hannahannas, however, sends out the Bee with orders to sting Telepinus on his hands and feet, to smear wax on his eyes and feet, and purify him and bring him back to the gods. The Bee finds him after a long search and carries out the orders of the goddess. Telepinus is aroused from his sleep, but is more enraged than ever, and the gods are at a loss. Then the sun-god says, ‘Fetch man! Let him take the spring Hattara on Mount Ammuna. Let him make him move! With the eagle’s wing let him make him move!’( Pritchard, J.B. op cit, p.127). Some kind of ritual seems to be implied here, but the meaning is obscure. After a break in the text, in which the goddess Kamrusepas, the goddess of healing, seems to have been summoned, her ritual of purification is described. Telepinus returns, borne on the eagle’s wing and accompanied by thunder and lightning. Karusepas calms him and soothes his rage. She orders a sacrifice of twelve rams. Torches are kindled and extinguished, symbolizing the extinction of the god’s fury. A spell is then pronounced, apparently by the man mentioned previously, intended to banish all the evils of the rage of Telepinus into the underworld. The concluding words of the spell run, ‘The door-keeper has opened the seven doors, has unlocked the seven bolts. Down in the dark earth there stand bronze cauldrons, their lids are of abaru metal, their handles of iron. Whatever goes in there comes not out again; it perishes therein. Let them also receive Telepinus’s rage, anger, malice, and fury! Let them not come back!’ (Ibid, p. 128). The text ends with the return of Telepinus to his house and the restoration of prosperity. Telepinus cares for the king and the queen and provides them with enduring life and vigour. An interesting feature of the conclusion of the ritual is the erection of a pole before the god, from which the fleece of a sheep is suspended. The closing lines of the text explain that the pole with its suspended fleece signifies fat of the sheep, grains of corn, wine, cattle, sheep, long life and many children.
A parallel to the pole erected before Telepinus may be seen in the pole decorated with foliage often depicted in Assyrian and Babylonian seals with attendant figures on each side of it engaged in some kind of ritual act. The raising of the dead tree in the Osiris ritual may also be mentioned in this connexion.--page 100-102.
Robert Graves. The Greek Myths. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960, 1972.
The Myth of Demeter and Core (Persephone)
c. Demeter lost her gaiety for ever when young Core, afterwards called Persephone, was taken from her Hades fell in love with Core, and went to ask Zeus’s leave to marry her. Zeus feared to offend his eldest brother by a downright refusal, but knew also that Demeter would not forgive him if Core were committed to Tartarus; he therefore answered politically that he could neither give nor withhold his consent. This emboldened Hades to abduct the girl, as she was picking flowers in a meadow . . . anywhere in the widely separated regions which Demeter visited in her wandering search for Core. But her own priests say that it was at Euless. She sought Core without rest for nine days and nights, neither eating nor drinking, and calling fruitlessly all the while. The only news she could get came from old Hecate, who early one morning had heard Core crying ‘A rape! A rape!’ but, on hurrying to the rescue, found no sign of her.
d. On the tenth day, after a disagreeable encounter with Poseidon among the herds of Oneus, Demeter came in disguise to Eleusis, where King Celeus and his wife Metaneira entertained her hospitably; and she was invited to remain as wet-nurse to Demophoön, the newly-born prince. Their lame daughter Iambe tried to console Demeter with comically lascivious verses, and the dry-nurse, old Baubo, persuaded her to drink barley-water by a jest: she groaned as if in travail and, unexpectedly, produced from beneath her skirt Demeter’s own son Iaachus, who leaped into his mother’s arms and kissed her.
e. ‘Oh, how greedily you drink!’ cried Abas, an elder son of Celeus’s, as Demeter gulped the pitcherful of barley-water, which was flavoured with mint. Demeter threw him a grim look, and he was metamorphosed into a lizard. Somewhat ashamed of herself, Demeter now decided to do Celeus a service, by making Demophoön immortal. That night she held him over the fire, to burn away his mortality. Metaneira, who was the daughter of Amphicyon, happened to enter the hall before the process was complete, and broke the spell; so Demophoön died. ‘Mine is an unlucky house!’ Celeus complained, weeping at the fate of his two sons, and thereafter was called Dysaules, ‘Dry your tears, Dysaules,’ said Demeter, ‘You will have three sons, including Triptolemus on whom I intend to confer such great gifts that you will forget your double loss.’
f. For Triptolemus who herded his father’s cattle, had recognized Demeter and given her the news she needed: ten days before this his brothers Eumolpus, a shepherd, and Eubuleius, a swineherd, had been out in the fields, feeding their beasts, when the earth suddenly gaped open, engulfing Eubuleius’s swine before his very eyes; then, with a heavy thud of hooves, a chariot drawn by black horses appeared, and dashed down the chasm. The chariot-driver’s face was invisible, but his right arm was tightly clasped around a shrieking girl. Eumolpus had been told of the event by Eubuleus, and made it the subject for a lament.
g. Armed with this evidence, Demeter summoned Hecate. Together they approached Helius, who sees everything, and forced him to admit that Hades had been the villain, doubtless with the connivance of his brother Zeus. Demeter was so angry that, instead of returning to Olympus, she continued to wander about the earth, forbidding the trees to yield fruit and the herbs to grow, until the race of men stood in danger of extinction. Zeus, ashamed to visit Demeter in person at Eleusis, sent her first a message by Iris (of which she took no notice), and then a deputation of the Olympian gods, with conciliatory gifts, begging her to be reconciled to his will. But she would not return to Olympus, and swore that the earth must remain barren until Core had been restored.
h. Only one course of action remained for Zeus. He sent Hermes with a message to Hades: ‘If you do not restore Core, we are all undone!’ and with another to Demeter: ‘You may have your daughter again, on the single condition that she has not yet tasted the food of the dead.’
i. Because Core had refused to eat so much as a crust of bread ever since her abduction, Hades was obliged to cloak his vexation, telling her mildly: ‘My child, you seem to be unhappy here, and your mother weeps for you. I have therefore decided to send you home.’
j. Core’s tears ceased to flow, and Hermes helped her to mount his chariot, But, just as she was setting off for Eleusis, one of Hades’ gardeners, by name Ascalaphus, began to cry and hoot derisively. ‘Having seen the Lady Core,’ he said, ‘pick a pomegranate from a tree in your orchard, and eat seven seeds, I am ready to bear witness that she has tasted the food of the dead!’ Hades grinned, and told Ascalaphus to perch on the back of Hermes’s chariot.
k. At Eleusis, Demeter joyfully embraced Core; but, on hearing about the pomegranate, grew more dejected than ever, and said again: ‘I will neither return to Olympus, nor remove my curse from the land.’ Zeus then persuaded Rhea, the mother of Hades, Demeter, and himself, to plead with her; and a compromise was at last reached. Core should spend three months of the year in Hades’s company, as Queen of Tartarus, with the title of Persephone, and the remaining nine in Demeter’s. Hecate offered to make sure that this arrangement was kept, and to keep constant watch on Core.
l. Demeter finally consented to return home. Before leaving Eleusis, she instructed Triptolemus, Eumolpus, and Celeus (together with Diocles, King of Pherae, who had been assiduously searching for Core all the while) in her worship and mysteries. But she punished Ascalaphus for his tale-bearing by pushing him down a hole and covering it with an enormous rock, from which he was finally released by Heracles; and then she changed him into a short-eared owl. She also rewarded the Pheneations of Arcadia, in whose house she rested after Poseidon had outraged her, with all kinds of grain, but forbade them to sow beans. One Cyamites was the first who dared do so; he has a shrine by the river Cephissus. Triptolemus she supplied with seed-corn, a wooden plough, and a chariot drawn by serpents; and sent him all over the world to teach mankind the art of agriculture. But first she gave him lessons on the Rarian Plain, which is why some call him the son of King Rarus. And to Phytalus, who had treated her kindly on the banks of the Cephissus, she gave a fig-tree, the first ever seen in Attica, and taught him how to cultivate it.—page 89-92.
The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
c. One day, near Tempe, in the valley of river Peneius, Eurydice met Aristaeus, who tried to force her. She trod on a serpent as she fled, and died of its bite; but Orpheus boldly descended into Tartarus, hoping to fetch her back. He used to passage which opens at Aornum in Thesprotis and, on his arrival, not only charmed the ferryman Charon, the Dog Cerberus, and the three Judges of the Dead with his plaintive music, but temporarily suspended the tortures of the damned; and so far soothed the savage heart of Hades that he won leave to restore Eurydice to the upper world. Hades made a single condition: that Orpheus might not look behind him until she was safely back under the light of the sun. Eurydice followed Orpheus up through the dark passage, guided by the sounds of his lyre, and it was only when he reached the sunlight again that he turned to see whether she were still behind him, and so lost her forever —page 112.
The Myth of Pandora
Epimetheus, alarmed by his brother’s fate, hastened to marry Pandora, whom Zeus had made as foolish, mischievous, and idle as she was beautiful—the first of a long line of such women. Presently she opened a jar, which Prometheus had warned Epimetheus to keep closed, and in which he had been at pains to imprison all the Spites that might plague mankind: such as Old Age, Labour, Sickness, Insanity, Vice, and Passion. Out these flew in a cloud, stung Epimetheus and Pandora in every part of their bodies, and then attacked the race of mortals. Delusive Hope, however, whom Prometheus had also shut in the jar, discouraged them by her lies from a general suicide.
Pandora ("all-giving") was the Earth Goddess Rhea, worshipped under that title at Athens and elsewhere (Aristophanes: Birds 971; Philostratus: Life of Apollonius of Tyana vi, 19)) whom the pessimistic Hesiod blames for man’s mortality and all the ills which beset life, as well as for the frivolous and unseemly behaviour of wives.—page 148—149.
The Myth of Andromeda
Persues paused for refreshment at Chemmis in Egypt, where he is still worshipped, and then flew on. As he rounded the coast of Philistia to the north, he caught sight of a naked woman chained to a sea-cliff, and instantly fell in love with her. This was Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus, the Ethiopian King of Jopaa, and Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia had boasted that both she and her daughter were more beautiful than the Nereids, who complained of this insult to their protector Poseidon. Poseidon sent a flood and a female sea-monster to devastate Philistia; and when Cepheus consulted the Oracle of Ammon, he was told that his only hope of deliveranace lay in sacrificing Andromeda to the monster. His subjects had therefore obliged him to chain her to a rock, naked except for certain jewels, and leave her to be devoured.
As Perseus flew towards Andromeda, he saw Cepheus and Cassiopeia watching anxiously from the shore near by, and alighted beside them for a hurried consultation. On condition that, if he rescued her, she should be his wife and return to Greece with him, Perseus took to the air again, grasped his sickle and, diving murderously from above, beheaded the approaching monster, which was deceived by his shadow on the sea. He had drawn the Gorgon's head from the wallet, lest the monster might look up, and now laid it face downwards on a bed of leaves and sea-weed (which instantly turned to coral), while he cleaned his hands of blood, raised three altars and sacrificed a calf, a cow, and a bull to Hermes, Athene, and Zeus respectively.
Cepheus and Cassiiopeia grudingly welcomed him as their son-in-law and, on Andromeda's insistence, the wedding took place at once; but the festivities were rudely interrupted when Agenor, King Belus's twin brother, entered at the head of an armed party, claiming Andromeda for himself. He was doubtless summoned by Cassiopeia, since she and Cepheus at once broke faith with Perseus, pleading that the promise of Andromeda's hand had been forced from them by circumstances, and that Agenor's claim was the prior one.
'Perseus must die!' cried Cassiopeia fiercely.
In the ensuing fight, Perseus struck down many of his opponents but, being greatly outnumbered, was forced to snatch the Gorgon's head from its bed of coral and turn the remaining two hundred of them to stone.
Poseidon set the images of Cepheus and Cassiopeia among the stars--the latter, as a punishment for her treachery, is tied in a market-basket which, at some seasons of the year, turns upside- down, so that she looks ridiculous. But Athene afterwards placed Andromeda's image in a more honourable constellation, because she had insisted on marrying Perseus, despite her parents' ill fiath. The marks left by her chains are still pointed out on a cliff near Joppa; and the monster's petrified bones were exhibited in the city itself until Marcus Aemilius Scacaurus had them taken to Rome during his aedilship.
Andromeda's story has probably been deduced from a Palestinian icon of the Sun-god Marduk, or his predecessor Bel, mounted on his white horse and killing the sea-mosnter Tiamat. This myth also formed part of Hebrew mythology: Isaiah mentions that Jehovah (Marduk) hacked Rahab in pieces with a sword (Isaiah li, 9); and according to Job x. 13 and xxvi. 12, rahab was the Sea. In the same icon, the jewewlled naked Andromeda, standing chained to a rock, is Aphrodite, or Ishtar, or Astarte, the lecherous Sea-goddess, 'ruler of men'. But she is not waiting to be rescued; Marduk has bound her there himself, after killing her emanation, Tiamat the sea-serpent, to prvent further mischief. In the Babylonian Creation Epic, it was she who sent the Flood. Astarte, as Sea-goddess, had temples all along the Palestinian coast, and at Troy she was Hesione, 'Queen of Asia', whom Heracles is said to have rescued from another sea-monter.
The Myth of Heracles rescuing Hesione
Heracles's rescue of Hesione, paralleled by Perseus's rescue of Andromeda ( see above), is clearly derived from an icon common in Syria and Asia Minor: Marduk's conquest of the Sea-monster Tiamat, an emanation of the goddess Ishtar, whose power he annulled by chaining her to a rock. Heracles is swalled by Tiamat, and disappears for three days before fighting his way out. So also, according to a Hebrew moral tale apparently based on the same icon, Jonah spent three days in the Whale's belly; and so Marduk's representative, the King of Babylon, spent a period in demise every year, during which he was supposedly fighting Tiamat (see 71.1; 73.7 and 103.i). Marduk's or Perseus's white solar horse here becomes the reward for Hesione's rescue. Heracles's loss of hair emphasizes his solar character: a shearing of the sacred king's locks when the year came to an end, typified the reduction of his magical strength, as in the story of Samson (see 91.1). When he had no more hair than an infant. Hesione's ransom of Podarces may represent the Queen-mother of Seha's (Scamander?) intervention with the Hittite King Mursilis on behalf of her scapegrace son Manapadattas.
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