Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The double god/goddess.

By Talfar:
The story of Nergal- Lord of the great city- and Ereshkigal- Queen of the Great Earth- is found in two versions. Trying to make one story from two incomplete ones echoes a theme in Mesopotamian and Greek mythology..

Deities, especially those who descend to the Netherworld, have a habit of becoming two...

Dumuzi- Lord of Barley grain, and Nin-Gishizida- Lord of the tree. Both 'vegetation' gods, like the Green Man. Both are taken down to The Great Below.

And then there is Nergal, and his 'twin' Erra, god of war. In the story of Ereshkigal and Nergal, Nergal refuses to show respect to Ereshkigal's visor Namtar (fate) and by implication disrespects Ereshkigal. This results in Ereshkigal demanding that Nergal is sent down to the Underworld apologize to her directly, least she open the gates and allow the dead to overwhelm the living.

Ereshkigal made her voice heard and spake,
Addressed her words to Namtar her vizier,
"Go, Namtar, you must speak to Anu, Ellil, and Ea!
Set your face towards the gate of Anu, Ellil, and Ea,
To say, 'Ever since I was a child and a daughter,
I have not known the playing of other girls,
I have not known the romping of children.
That god whome you sent to me and who has impregnated me-
let him sleep with me again!
Send that god to us, and let him spend the night with me as my lover!
I am unclean, and I am not pure enough to perform the judging of the great gods,
The great gods who dwell within Erkalla.
If you do not send that god to me
According to the rites of Erkalla and the great Earth
I shall raise up the dead, and they will eat the living.
I shall make the dead outnumber the living!'"

Ereshkigal- Queen of the Great Earth, has more than a little in common with Ninhursag- Lady of the Great heap, constantly labouring to give birth.

Whilst Damuzi's sister Geshtinanna Lady of the grape vine, who swaps place with him under the earth, isn't very different to Dumuzi himself.

Both represent brewed drinks that contain 'spirit', crops cut down in spring and autumn.

When the Ereshkigal- Great earth goddess- myths became Greek, the theme of her abduction became the mysteries of Demeter-Kore.

Putting the names together as one, at first loses detail, and finally transforms into a new cycle of myth.

I would like to say that it is as simple as that...but some themes keep on reoccurring within Mesopotamian myths, pointing to the belief systems used by people living in the first cosmopolitan cities, echoing themes handed down to them by cultures  older than ancient Sumer.

The double gods, be they male or female or both seem to be more than just a matter of names encapsulating similar meanings.

The double gods, the twins, gallop across the battlefield in particular..golden, youthful they shine like the sun and moon.

Like Hengest and Horsa.

Whilst the double goddess ..

Malia bee pendant from Minoan Crete.
Two bees, hold a ball of pollen.

Her symbols, the double axe.
And the labyrinth...

Is sharred by Zeus who also carries the labrys.

The first written use of the word labrys comes from Plutarch describing it as a Lydian word for axe. Hippolyte was queen of the Amazons, indicating that the symbol was originally associated with the feminine, rather than the male.

Herakles, having slain Hippolyte and taken her axe away from her with the rest of her arms, gave it to Omphale. The kings of Lydia who succeeded her carried this as one of their sacred insignia of office, and passed it down from father to son until it was passed to Candaules, who disdained it and gave it to one of his companions to carry. When Gyges rebelled and was making war upon Candaules, Arselis came with a force from Mylasa to assist Gyges; Arselis then slew Candaules and his companion and took the axe to Caria with the other spoils of war. And, having set up a statue of Zeus, Arselis put the axe in his hand and invoked the god, "Labrandeus

There is also a twin Zeus:
Zeus Didymalos.
Which makes me think of Janus.

Which brings us back to  gates, doors, passages, endings and time and Ningishizida and Dumuzi as the two gatekeepers of heaven in the myth of Adapa.

But back to Crete and Ariadne.
According to the Delian myth, Ariadne led the Cretan Crane Dance  for the first time on the island of Delos with all those rescued from sacrifice. It is said that this ceremonial dance was a part of the collective marriage ritual for marrying couples.

Yet again the theme of the twins and the descent re-occur in the story of Ariadne and her sister.

One twin remains in the upper world, whilst the other is lost, carried away into the perpetual half-light of the Underworld.

When Theseus entered the labyrinth, Ariadne, gave him the double axe to kill her brother, the minotaur. After it was over and whilst Poseidon shook her father's kingdom to the ground, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, sailed away with Theseus.

On Naxos, Ariadne was abducted by Dionysos.

How do the myths fit together?
Or is that the wrong question...

The parallels and similarities must surely be the most important thing.