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Monday, 7 May 2012

Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Phoenician gods and goddesses.

 Edited June 7, 2012

The oldest  Sumerian religious beliefs  resemble that of shamanism. According to those beliefs, the world is filled with evil spirits, which are divided into several categories, depending on the area of operation, for example, at sea, the desert, underground, in the mountains, in cemeteries, whether on the road. The most feared spirits were able to completely destroy the fields and crops. Equally dangerous were those generating the disease. The most dreadful spirits were Pazuzu , Labartu and Lilith .


The figure of Lilith, the Sumerian terracotta tablet from Ur derived from the second millennium BC which is the oldest known representation of Lilith. On both sides of the characters are owls and lions nestled at the foot, and her hands hold the symbols of justice.


                                                    John Collier Lilith

In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamashtu (Akkadian La-maš-tu; Sumerian Dimme ) was a female demon, monster, malevolent goddess or demigoddess who menaced women during childbirth and, if possible, kidnapped children while they were breastfeeding. She would gnaw on their bones and suck their blood, as well as being charged with a number of other evil deeds. She was a daughter of the Sky God Anu.
Lamashtu is depicted as a mythological hybrid, with a hairy body, a lioness' head with donkey's teeth and ears, long fingers and fingernails, and the feet of a bird with sharp talons. She is often shown standing or kneeling on a donkey, nursing a pig and a dog, and holding snakes. She thus bears some functions and resemblance to the Mesopotamian demon Lilith
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labartu
Plaque des Enfers - the most famous of the famous amulets against Lamasztu. Collections of the Louvre (AO 22 205). Neo-Assyrian period (934-612 BC)

"The gods of the Euphrates, like those of the Nile, constituted a countless multitude of visible and invisible beings, distributed into tribes and empires throughout all the regions of the universe. A particular function or occupation formed, so to speak, the principality of each one, in which he worked with an indefatigable zeal, under the orders of his respective prince or king; but, whereas in Egypt they were on the whole friendly to man, or at the best indifferent in regard to him, in Chaldæa they for the most part pursued him with an implacable hatred, and only seemed to exist in order to destroy him. These monsters of alarming aspect, armed with knives and lances, whom the theologians of Heliopolis and Thebes confined within the caverns of Hades in the depths of eternal darkness, were believed by the Chaldæans to be let loose in broad daylight over the earth,—such were the "gallu" and the "mas-kim," the "âlu" and the "utukku," besides a score of other demoniacal tribes bearing curious and mysterious names." 
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III


" Some floated in the air and presided over the unhealthy winds. The South-West Wind, the most cruel of them all, stalked over the solitudes of Arabia, whence he suddenly issued during the most oppressive months of the year: he collected round him as he passed the malarial vapours given off by the marshes under the heat of the sun, and he spread them over the country, striking down in his violence not only man and beast, but destroying harvests, pasturage, and even trees."(ibid)


" The genii of fevers and madness crept in silently everywhere, insidious and traitorous as they were. The plague alternately slumbered or made furious onslaughts among crowded populations. Imps haunted the houses, goblins wandered about the water's edge, ghouls lay in wait for travellers in unfrequented places, and the dead quitting their tombs in the night stole stealthily among the living to satiate themselves with their blood. The material shapes attributed to these murderous beings were supposed to convey to the eye their perverse and ferocious characters. They were represented as composite creatures in whom the body of a man would be joined grotesquely to the limbs of animals in the most unexpected combinations. They worked in as best they could, birds' claws, fishes' scales, a bull's tail, several pairs of wings, the head of a lion, vulture, hyaena, or wolf; when they left the creature a human head, they made it as hideous and distorted as possible. The South-West Wind was distinguished from all the rest by the multiplicity of the incongruous elements of which his person was composed. His dog-like body was supported upon two legs terminating in eagle's claws; in addition to his arms, which were furnished with sharp talons, he had four outspread wings, two of which fell behind him, while the other two rose up and surrounded his head; he had a scorpion's tail, a human face with large goggle-eyes, bushy eyebrows, fleshless cheeks, and retreating lips, showing a formidable row of threatening teeth, while from his flattened skull protruded the horns of a goat: the entire combination was so hideous, that it even alarmed the god and put him to flight, when he was unexpectedly confronted with his own portrait. There was no lack of good genii to combat this deformed and vicious band. They too were represented as monsters, but monsters of a fine and noble bearing,—griffins, winged lions, lion-headed men, and more especially those splendid human-headed bulls, those "lamassi" crowned with mitres, whose gigantic statues kept watch before the palace and temple gates. Between these two races hostility was constantly displayed: restrained at one point, it broke out afresh at another, and the evil genii, invariably beaten, as invariably refused to accept their defeat."(Ibid.)

 Pazuzu figure from the collections of the Louvre ( Assyria and Babylonia , VII century BC). The inscription on the back: I am the god Pazuzu, son of the god of disgrace, the king of bad winds.

"The most audacious among them did not fear at times to attack the gods of light; on one occasion, in the infancy of the world, they had sought to dispossess them and reign in their stead. Without any warning they had climbed the heavens, and fallen upon Sin, the moon-god; they had repulsed Shamash, the Sun, and Eamman, both of whom had come to the rescue; they had driven Ishtar and Anu from their thrones: the whole firmament would have become a prey to them, had not Bel and Nusku, Ea and Merodach, intervened at the eleventh hour, and succeeded in hurling them down to the earth, after a terrible battle. They never completely recovered from this reverse, and the gods raised up as rivals to them a class of friendly genii—the "Igigi," who were governed by five heavenly Anunnas. 

"The earthly Anunnas, the Anunnaki, had as their chiefs seven sons of Bel, with bodies of lions, tigers, and serpents: "the sixth was a tempestuous wind which obeyed neither god nor king,—the seventh, a whirlwind, a desolating storm which destroys everything,"—"Seven, seven,—in the depth of the abyss of waters they are seven,—and destroyers of heaven they are seven.—They have grown up in the depths of the abyss, in the palace;—males they are not, females they are not,—they are storms which pass quickly.—They take no wife, they give birth to no child,—they know neither compassion nor kindness,—they listen to no prayer nor supplication.—As wild horses they are born in the mountains,—they are the enemies of Ba,—they are the agents of the gods;—they are evil, they are evil—and they are seven, they are seven, they are twice seven." Man, if reduced to his own resources, could have no chance of success in struggling against beings who had almost reduced the gods to submission. He invoked in his defence the help of the whole universe, the spirits of heaven and earth, the spirit of Bel and of Belit, that of Ninib and of Nebo, those of Sin, of Ishtar, and of Bamman; but Gibir or Gibil, the Lord of Fire, was the most powerful auxiliary in this incessant warfare. The offspring of night and of dark waters, the Anunnaki had no greater enemy than fire; whether kindled on the household hearth or upon the altars, its appearance put them to flight and dispelled their power." 
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III




"Gibil, renowned hero in the land,—valiant, son of the Abyss, exalted in the land,—Gibil, thy clear flame, breaking forth,—when it lightens up the darkness,—assigns to all that bears a name its own destiny. —The copper and tin, it is thou who dost mix them,—gold and silver, it is thou who meltest them,—thou art the companion of the goddess Ninkasi—thou art he who exposes his breast to the nightly enemy!—Cause then the limbs of man, son of his god, to shine,—make him to be bright like the sky,—may he shine like the earth,—may he be bright like the interior of the heavens,—may the evil word be kept far from him," and with it the malignant spirits. The very insistence with which help is claimed against the Anunnaki shows how much their power was dreaded. The Chaldean felt them everywhere about him, and could not move without incurring the danger of coming into contact with them. He did not fear them so much during the day, as the presence of the luminary deities in the heavens reassured him; but the night belonged to them, and he was open to their attacks.

The official census of the invisible beings stated the number of the great gods in heaven and earth to be sixty-five thousand!
 (Ibid )


 
This whole cluster of countless spirits had two leaders of the names of Anu and Enki. Anu was the ruler of heaven, the enemy of the people and the father of all evil. He commanded them to produce all the calamities that fell on people. His works have been droughts. hurracaines and epidemic. Anu was also the name of Enlil - the ruler of a prevailing wind. Pretty soon Enlili Anu  became two separate characters. Enki (Lord of the territory) ruler of the Earth, was originally a personification of the underworld, deep ( Apsu ), the original Chaos. He became ruler of the time, groundwater and sea, and the father of a huge amount of creatures that inhabit all the waters. Enki was depicted as a Capricorn with a fish tail.
Source: Wilipedia 
 
 A cylinder seal impression detail-(on clay), Enkidu in battle.

 The Chaldean Account of Genesis, Caption in book reads: "Izdubah and Heabani in conflict with the lion and bull".

Sumerian Pantheon

An (Anu), the father of all gods, and his name in Sumerian means heaven, , ruler of the universe and the first mover in the creation of today. Pantheon leader prior to 2500 BC. The word “an” means “heaven.” 

Enki, Sumerian, (En=lord, ki=earth) god of the underworld ocean of fresh water (Apsu), who supplied the springs and rivers. Enki was associated with magic, wisdom and art crafts.


His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, very similar to the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.


Enlil one of the most important gods, the ruler of the air. 


                                                           Enlil with his wife, Ninlil


Inanna, Queen of Heaven, the goddess of battle, love, patrons of the planet Venus. Daughter Ana or Nanny. It is mainly worshiped in Uruk.Probably was the wife of Dumuzi, but do not support this historical sources. Inanna depicted in art as a warrior in full armor, sometimes winged. It also worshiped in the form of a lion. With time, Inanna was identified with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar.

This is Inanna on the Ishtar Vase in the Museum Louvre

Nanna Sumerian, (Sin (Akkadian):god of the moon son of Enlil and Ninlil. His wife was Ningil, with whom he had offspring: Utu - the sun god and the Inanna.

Impression of the cylinder seal of Ḫašḫamer, ensi (high priest) of Sin at Iškun-Sin ca. 2100 BC. The seated figure is probably king Ur-Nammu, bestowing the governorship on Ḫašḫamer, who is led before him by a lamma (protective goddess). Sin/Nanna himself is present in the form of a crescent.

Ninurta was the god of the south wind, and storms, heavy rain with thunder, hunting and war. Ninurta son of Enlil, so it mainly worshiped in Nippur. Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend "Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta" and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.

                                                                   Shedu

 

Ningishzida presented in the form of a serpent god of vegetation. He was the father of the Dumuzi. At the same time,  he was the god of the underworld.

 
The "libation vase of Gudea", dedicated to Ningishzida (21st century BC. The caduceus is interpreted as depicting the god himself..

Babylonian Religion
Babylonian religion was derived mainly from the beliefs of the Sumerians. At the beginning of one of its main features was a fertility cult .  Babylonian religious cult consisted of making sacrifices, libations , and magical rites .
  Babylonian seal impressions

Babylonian Pantheon

An,  Lord of heaven, king of the gods, living in heaven. Was mainly worshiped in Uruk, later in Ashur.

Ea, the Babylonian ruler of the freshwater ocean Apsu. He was the god of wisdom and magic, and the father of Marduk.

Marduk, "solar calf"; national and guardian god of Babylon. He was the deity of the spring sun, spells, and divination. At the same time he was the son of the god Ea. Marduk slowly rose to the position of the head of the Babylonian pantheon in the time of Hammurabi (18th century BCE), a position he fully acquired by the second half of the second millennium BCE. The etymology of the name Marduk is conjectured as derived from amar-Utu ("bull calf of the sun god Utu")
In the perfected system of astrology, the planet Jupiter was associated with Marduk by the Hammurabi period.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marduk

Unfinished kudurru (boundary marker) with a horned serpent (symbol of Marduk) around pillar at bottom. The most prominent gods are featured as symbols.







                                                                   God Marduk

  Marduk, sun god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts pursues Anzu after Anzu stole the Tablets of Destiny.


Ishtar, the Babylonian-Assyrian warrior goddess,  Babylonian, goddess of passion, war, prostitution, the Babylonian version of Inanna, and later identified with goddess Venus.

Ishtar is the evening star which precedes the appearance of the moon, and the morning star which heralds the approach of the sun: the brilliance of its light justifies the choice which made it an associate of the greater heavenly bodies. "In the days of the past.... Ea charged Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar with the ruling of the firmament of heaven; he distributed among them, with Anu, the command of the army of heaven, and among these three gods, his children, he apportioned the day and the night, and compelled them to work ceaselessly."

The Evening Star had symbolized the goddess of love, who attracted the sexes towards one another, and bound them together by the chain of desire; the Morning Star, on the other hand, was regarded as the cold-blooded and cruel warrior who despised the pleasures of love and rejoiced in warfare: Ishtar thus combined in her person chastity and lasciviousness, kindness and ferocity, and a peaceful and warlike disposition, but this incongruity in her characteristics did not seem to disconcert the devotion of her worshippers.
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III

   
Ancient legends related how the shepherd Dumuzi, son of Ea and Damkina, having excited the love of Ishtar while he was pasturing his flocks under the mysterious tree of Eridu, which covers the earth with its shade, was chosen by the goddess from among all others to be the spouse of her youth, and how, being mortally wounded by a wild boar, he was cast into the kingdom of Allat. One means remained by which he might be restored to the light of day: his wounds must be washed in the waters of the wonderful spring, and Ishtar resolved to go in quest of this marvellous liquid. The undertaking was fraught with danger, for no one might travel to the infernal regions without having previously gone through the extreme terrors of death, and even the gods themselves could not transgress this fatal law. (Ibid.) 

 
Sin, the Babylonian god of the moon, father of sun god Shamash and the goddess Venus - Ishtar.

Tiamat ,The Babylonian goddess  represented in the form of a dragon. It was salty ocean ruler.


Shamash - all-seeing sun god, guardian of justice and divination, the judge and the terror of evil spirits, 

As soon as he appeared he was hailed with the chanting of hymns: "O Sun, thou appearest on the foundation of the heavens,—thou drawest back the bolts which bar the scintillating heavens, thou openest the gate of the heavens! O Sun, thou raisest thy head above the earth,—Sun, thou extendest over the earth the brilliant vaults of the heavens." The powers of darkness fly at his approach or take refuge in their mysterious caverns, for "he destroys the wicked, he scatters them, the omens and gloomy portents, dreams, and wicked ghouls—he converts evil to good, and he drives to their destruction the countries and men—who devote themselves to black magic." 
As in Egypt the Horuses identified at first with the sun became at length the rulers of the planets, so in Chaldæa the three suns of Ninib, Merodach, and Nergal became respectively assimilated to Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars;* and this identification was all the more easy in the case of Saturn, as he had been considered from the beginning as a bull belonging to Shamash
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III

  
The symbols of Shamash (the sun), Sin (the moon) and Ishtar (star)

The ancient symbol of the Mesopotamian sun-god Shamash, with alternate pointy and wavy rays. According to Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green (1992, p. 168), it occurs "from the Akkadian down to the Neo-Babylonian period", and "The Akkadian names of the symbol were šamšatu and niphu.


The pantheon of deities in addition to the major, sat the lesser deities, occupying a high position in local beliefs. Number of Babylonian deities was a few thousand.

 The god-in-chief title during the reign of Hammurabi was given Marduk, who formerly belonged to the highest of any triad of deities. He was called the king of all gods and creator of the world.

Most of the materials to the study of Babylonian religion are the lyrics, written cuneiform script , found during archaeological excavations, which began in the nineteenth century. These include epics , myths and legends , magic and divination , hymns and prayers , exorcisms , descriptions of rituals and lists of deities. There are also preserved in the sources of classical references, for example, fragments of works of the Greek priest of Babylon Berossos.
Available sources on clay tablets were mostly written in Sumerian and Akkadian . Less commonly, there were texts in Hittite and Hurrian , which are the source for research on the influence of Babylonian religion.

Assyrian Religion
The official religion is borrowed from the Assyrian Babylon, but in everyday life in society, there were indigenous Assyrian beliefs related to the religion of the Hurrians . In contrast to the national religion of the Babylonian deity of the Assyrians was Ashur , Marduk and was one of the gods.


Cylinder Seal with Scorpion Man Shooting at Winged Creatures Middle Assyrian between 1400 and 1200 BC


Fragment of an Assyrian bas-reliefs of the presentation of the god Ashur

 Myths of Babylonia and Assyria by Donald A. Mackenzie (1915):
Ashur was not a "goat of heaven", but a "bull of heaven", like the Sumerian Nannar (Sin), the moon god of Ur, Ninip of Saturn, and Bel Enlil. As the bull, however, he was, like Anshar, the ruling animal of the heavens, and like Anshar he had associated with him "six divinities of council". Other deities who were similarly exalted as "high heads" at various centers and at various Periods, included Anu, Bel Enlil, and Ea, Merodach, Nergal, and Shamash. A symbol of the first three was a turban on a seat, or altar, Which may have Represented the "world mountain". Ea, as "the world spine", was symbolized as a column, with Ram's Head, standing on a throne, Which crouched beside a "goat fish"

Ashur in anthroposophy 

In anthroposophy Ashur is a demon who wants the total destruction of man through the war. In the writings of Rudolf Steiner appears at the latest. It is much more dangerous than Lucifer and Ahriman .

 Ishtar, the goddess of love, fertility and war, among others worshiped  in Ashur, Kalchu, Nineveh and Arbela (Irbil today).

 Sin, the moon god represented in the form of the lunar crescent.

Ninurta, warrior god Assyrian Mars, with its temple in Kalchu.

Ea the wise and gentle guardian of the people, taught to cultivate the soil.

Shamash, the sun god, giver of all-seeing justice.

Phoenicia


El god known as the creator of all creatures. Father of the gods, represented as a dignified old man, wise and good, wishing peace and universal consent.El had fathered many gods, but most important were Hadad, Yam, and Mot, each share similar attributes to the Greco-Roman gods: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades respectively. He was sometimes referred to as "the Bull" and was generally shown as a seated figure wearing a crown with bull's horns. The bull suggested El's strength and creative force.
http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Dr-Fi/El.html

  El depicted with two lions on the back of the handle of the Gebel el-Arak Knife

Adon (Adonis), the god of rebirth in the spring of nature.  



Anat,  a violent war-goddess and revenge, a virgin in Ugarit (btlt 'nt) though the sister and lover of the great Ba‘al known as HadadAnat is addressed by El as "daughter".
 
Astarte or Ashtoreth  - the name of the Phoenician and Canaanite goddess of love, fertility and war, identical with the Babylonian-Assyrian goddess Ishtar and Sumerian Inanna (Lady of Heaven). Greeks identified Astarte with Aphrodite.   The goddess was usually depicted naked, often with lotus flowers (symbols of fertility) in his hands. Sometimes standing on the back of a lion or a horse.

                                                             Goddess Astarte

                                                          Goddess Astarte

                                           Dante Gabriel Rossetti,  Astarte Syriaca



Inherent in the worship of Astarte were fulfilled sexual acts between worshipers visiting the temple and a special priestesses called Kedesh. Worship involved  the burning incense, sacrificing food, animals, and sometimes children.

 Qetesh was a goddess adopted into Egyptian mythology from the Canaanite religion, popular during the New Kingdom. She was a fertility goddess of sacred ecstasy and sexual pleasure.
From the Semitic root Q-D-Š, meaning "Holy." Her other names are Quadshu, Qudshu, Qodesh, Qadesh, Qadashu, Qadesha, Qedeshet, Kedesh and Kodesh. Her city of worship was Kadesh.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qetesh


 
                                   Qetesh on the Triple Goddess Stone.
 
 Qetesh wearing the headdress of Hathor.


Dagon his name meant "grain". God of crops.


Baal Hadad, son of Dagon, the storm god, rain, and fertility. Baal is a common Semitic * word that means "lord" or "owner. Baal developed into a single, widely known god, called Lord of the Earth and Lord of the Rain and Dew.
http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Ar-Be/Baal.html

Baal was pictured in art as a warrior in a pointed helmet decorated with antlers. In one hand he holds a mace in the second lightning - his divine attribute. An animal that symbolizes the power of Baal is the bull , with some texts show him in this form, fertilizing herd of heifers , which was illustrated by his inexhaustible sexual power.


Baal with thunderbolt. Limestone stele, 15th-13th century BC. Found at the acropolis in Ras Shamra (ancient city of Ugarit).

  A human sacrifice to Baal - image of a painting in Sacred Books of the East


Baal in Other Ancient Cultures.
  
Worship of Baal was widespread in the ancient Near East. Baal was also popular in Egypt from about 1400 to 1075 B . C . In Mesopotamia, Baal was known to the Babylonians and Assyrians, and he was identified with their national gods Marduk and Ashur. The Greeks called the god Belos and identified him with Zeus.


Mot the god of death, drought and devastating power. He was a sworn enemy of Baal.
     

Tanit was a Phoenician lunar goddess, worshipped as the patron goddess at Carthage
 From the fifth century BCE onwards Tanit is associated with that of Baal Hammon. She was goddess of war, a virginal (not married) mother goddess and nurse, and, less specifically, a symbol of fertility.

                                         Tanit with a lion's head
 
It is impossible for us to gauge the motives which determined the assimilation of some of these divinities, the fashion in which it was carried out, the mutual concessions which Semite and Sumerian must have made before they could arrive at an understanding, and before the primitive characteristics of each deity were softened down or entirely effaced in the process. Many of these divine personages, such as Ea, Merodach, Ishtar, are so completely transformed, that we may well ask to which of the two peoples they owed their origin. The Semites finally gained the ascendency over their rivals, and the Sumerian gods from thenceforward preserved an independent existence only in connection with magic, divination, and the science of foretelling events, and also in the formulas of exorcists and physicians, to which the harshness of their names lent a greater weight. Elsewhere it was Bel and Sin, Shamash and Eamman, who were universally worshipped, but a Bel, a Sin, a Shamash, who still betrayed traces of their former connection with the Sumerian Inlil and Inzu, with Babbar and Mermer.

The differences between the gods were all the more accentuated, for the reason that many who had a common origin were often separated from one another by, relatively speaking, considerable distances. Having divided the earth's surface between them, they formed, as in Egypt, a complete feudal system, whose chiefs severally took up their residence in a particular city. Anu was worshipped in Uruk, Enlil-Bel reigned in Nipur, Eridu belonged to Ea, the lord of the waters. The moon-god, Sin, alone governed two large fiefs, Uru in the extreme south, and Harran towards the extreme north-west; Shamash had Larsam and one of the Sipparas for his dominion, and the other sun-gods were not less well provided for. Each was absolute master in his own territory, and it is quite exceptional to find two of them co-regnant in one locality.  Each, moreover, had fair play, and Nebo or Shamash, after having filled the rôle of sovereign at Borsippa or at Larsam, did not consider it derogatory to his dignity to accept a lower rank in Babylon or at Uru. Hence all the feudal gods played a double part, and had, as it were, a double civil portion—that of suzerain in one or two localities, and that of vassals everywhere else—and this dual condition was the surest guarantee not only of their prosperity, but of their existence. All the gods were, therefore, worshiped by the Chaldeans, and the only difference among them in this respect arose from the fact that some exalted one special deity above the others. The relations between these feudal deities were not always pacific: jealousies arose among them like those which disturbed the cities over which they ruled; they conspired against each other, and on occasions broke out into open warfare. The faithful, who, instead of praying to each one separately, preferred to address them all, invoked them always in the same order: they began with Anu, the heaven, and followed with Bel, Ea, Sin, Shamash, and Bamman. They divided these six into two groups of three, one trio consisting of Anu, Bel, and Ea, the other of Sin, Shamash, and Bamman. Ea was the most active and energetic member of the triad.* As he represented the bottomless abyss, the dark waters which had filled the universe until the day of the creation, there had been attributed to him a complete knowledge of the past, present, and future, whose germs had lain within him, as in a womb. The attribute of supreme wisdom was revered in Ea, the lord of spells and charms, to which gods and men were alike subject: no strength could prevail against his strength, no voice against his voice: when once he opened his mouth to give a decision, his will became law, and no one might gainsay it. From his incomparable knowledge the scribes derived theirs, and physicians and wizards invoked spirits in his name alone by the virtue of prayers which he had condescended to teach them. 

Subordinate to these limitless and vague beings, the theologians placed their second triad, made up of gods of restricted power and invariable form. Sin was the offspring of Bel, Shamash of Sin, Kamman of Anu. It would appear that the triad had begun by having in the third place a goddess, Ishtar of Dilbat.

Ishtar was separated from her two companions, when the group of the planets was definitely organized and claimed the adoration of the devout; the theologians then put in her place an individual of a less original aspect, Ramman. Ramman embraced within him the elements of many very ancient genii, all of whom had been set over the atmosphere, and the phenomena which are daily displayed in it—wind, rain, and thunder. These genii occupied an important place in the popular religion which had been cleverly formulated by the theologians of Uruk, and there have come down to us many legends in which their incarnations play a part. They are usually represented as enormous birds flocking on their swift wings from below the horizon, and breathing flame or torrents of water upon the countries over which they hovered. The most terrible of them was Zu, who presided over tempests: he gathered the clouds together, causing them to burst in torrents of rain or hail; he let loose the winds and lightnings, and nothing remained standing where he had passed. He had a numerous family: among them cross-breeds of extraordinary species which would puzzle a modern naturalist, but were matters of course to the ancient priests. His mother Siris, lady of the rain and clouds, was a bird like himself; but Zu had as son a vigorous bull, which, pasturing in the meadows, scattered abundance and fertility around him. The caprices of these strange beings, their malice, and their crafty attacks, often brought upon them vexatious misfortunes. Shutu, the south wind, one day beheld Adapa, one of the numerous offspring of Ea, fishing in order to provide food for his family.
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III
  



The busts of the two deities on the front of the roof of the shrine are the two charioteers of the sun;
 they uphold and guide the rayed disk upon the altar. Cf. in the Assyrian period the winged disk led with cords by two genii.

  
Whether Sumerian or Semitic, the gods, like those of Egypt, were not abstract personages, guiding in a metaphysical fashion the forces of nature. Each of them contained in himself one of the principal elements of which our universe is composed,—earth, water, sky, sun, moon, and the stars which moved around the terrestrial mountain. The succession of natural phenomena with them was not the result of unalterable laws; it was due entirely to a series of voluntary acts, accomplished by beings of different grades of intelligence and power. Every part of the great whole is represented by a god, a god who is a man, a Chaldæan, who, although of a finer and more lasting nature than other Chaldæans, possesses nevertheless the same instincts and is swayed by the same passions. He is, as a rule, wanting in that somewhat lithe grace of form, and in that rather easy-going good-nature, which were the primary characteristics of the Egyptian gods: the Chaldæan divinity has the broad shoulders, the thick-set figure and projecting muscles of the people over whom he rules; he has their hasty and violent temperament, their coarse sensuality, their cruel and warlike propensities, their boldness in conceiving undertakings, and their obstinate tenacity in carrying them out. Their goddesses are modeled on the tyra of the Chaldæn women, or, more properly speaking, on that of their queens. The majority of them do not quit the harem, and have no other ambition than to become speedily the mother of a numerous offspring. Those who openly reject the rigid constraints of such a life, and who seek to share the rank of the gods, seem to lose all self-restraint when they put off the veil: like Ishtar, they exchange a life of severe chastity for the lowest debauchery, and they subject their followers to the same irregular life which they themselves have led. "Every woman born in the country must enter once during her lifetime the enclosure of the temple of Aphrodite, must there sit down and unite herself to a stranger. Many who are wealthy are too proud to mix with the rest, and repair thither in closed chariots, followed by a considerable train of slaves. The greater number seat themselves on the sacred pavement, with a cord twisted about their heads,—and there is always a great crowd there, coming and going; the women being divided by ropes into long lanes, down which strangers pass to make their choice. A woman who has once taken her place here cannot return home until a stranger has thrown into her lap a silver coin, and has led her away with him beyond the limits of the sacred enclosure. As he throws the money he pronounces these words: 'May the goddess Mylitta make thee happy! '—Now, among the Assyrians, Aphrodite is called Mylitta. The silver coin may be of any value, but none may refuse it, that is forbidden by the law, for, once thrown, it is sacred. The woman follows the first man who throws her the money, and repels no one. When once she has accompanied him, and has thus satisfied the goddess, she returns to her home, and from thenceforth, however large the sum offered to her, she will yield to no one. The women who are tall or beautiful soon return to their homes, but those who are ugly remain a long time before they are able to comply with the law; some of them are obliged to wait three or four years within the enclosure." This custom still existed in the Vth century before our era, and the Greeks who visited Babylon about that time found it still in full force. 

Each family possessed its household gods, to whom its members recited prayers and poured libations night and morning, and whose statues set up over the domestic hearth defended it from the snares of the evil ones. The State religion, which all the inhabitants of the same city, from the king down to the lowest slave, were solemnly bound to observe, really represented to the Chaldæans but a tithe of their religious life: it included some dozen gods, no doubt the most important, but it more or less left out of account all the others, whose anger, if aroused by neglect, might become dangerous. The private devotion of individuals supplemented the State religion by furnishing worshippers for most of the neglected divinities, and thus compensated for what was lacking in the official public worship of the community.(Ibid.)


 Magical Rites

The Babylonians believed in the benevolent power of ministering spirits and evil force of demons. To protect yourself from harmful demons, used a variety of purifying rituals of magic. One of them was incensed with the smoke of the cypresses and cedars.  Magical rites in the form of spells and exorcisms were designed to annihilate the demon action. 

An important role in religious life was astrology , the observation of the movements of celestial bodies in order to predict the future.  People felt surrounded by the demons that have always been ready to assault the man. To protect yourself against them wore amulets.When the victim showed the symptoms of demonic possession,  they called in an exorcist to cast out evil spirits with the help of spells and rituals.  
In addition to astrological predictions , they predicted future in the form of dreams , animal behavior, the birth of monsters, and random phenomena. It was predicted from the liver of animals. This last method of divination and astrology served the king , state, and high dignitaries.  In Mesopotamian mythology, man is the servant of the gods and their vicegerent on earth, created in order to relieve the gods in their work.

  

The faithful had to offer sacrifices to their gods with food, beverages, olive oil , wine , and sometimes the blood of animals.


 

The scene depicted behind Shamash deals with a legend still unknown. A
goddess, pursued by a genius with a double face, has taken refuge under a tree, which bows down to protect her; while
the monster endeavours to break down the obstacle branch by branch, a god rises from the stem and hands to the goddess a
stone-headed mace to protect her against her enemy.
 
In the most ancient times it would appear that even human sacrifices were offered, but this custom was obsolete except on rare occasions, and
lambs, oxen, sometimes swine's flesh, formed the usual elements of the sacrifice. The gods seized as it arose from the altar the unctuous
smoke, and fed on it with delight. 

The festivals assigned to the local god and his colleagues, together with the acts of praise in which the whole nation joined, such as that
of the New Year, required an abundance of extravagant sacrifices, in which the blood of the victims flowed like water. Days of sorrow and
mourning alternated with these days of joy, during which the people and the magnates gave themselves up to severe fasting and acts of penitence.

The Chaldeans had a lively sense of human frailty, and of the risks entailed upon the sinner by disobedience to the gods. The dread of sinning haunted them during their whole life; they continually subjected the motives of their actions to a strict scrutiny, and once self-examination had revealed to them the shadow of an evil intent, they were accustomed to implore pardon for it in a humble manner. "Lord, my sins are many, great are my misdeeds!—O my god, my sins are many, great my misdeeds!—O my goddess, my sins are many, great my misdeeds!—I have committed faults and I knew them not; I have committed sin and I knew it not; I have fed upon misdeeds and I knew them not; I have walked in omissions and I knew them not.—The lord, in the anger of his heart, he has stricken me,—the god, in the wrath of his heart, has abandoned me,—Ishtar is enraged against me, and has treated me harshly!—I make an effort, and no one offers me a hand,—I weep, and no one comes to me,—I cry aloud, and no one hears me:—I sink under affliction, I am overwhelmed, I can no longer raise up my head,—I turn to my merciful god to call upon him, and I groan!... Lord reject not thy servant,—and if he is hurled into the roaring waters, stretch to him thy hand;—the sins I have committed, have mercy upon them,—the misdeeds I have committed, scatter them to the winds—and my numerous faults, tear them to pieces like a garment." Sin in the eyes of the Chaldæan was not, as with us, an infirmity of the soul; it assaulted the body like an actual virus, and the fear of physical suffering or death engendered by it, inspired these complaints with a note of sincerity which cannot be mistaken. 

Every individual is placed, from the moment of his birth, under the protection of a god and goddess, of whom he is the servant, or rather the son, and whom he never addresses otherwise than as his god and his goddess. These deities accompany him night and day, not so much to protect him from visible dangers, as to guard him from the invisible beings which ceaselessly hover round him, and attack him on every side. If he is devout, piously disposed towards his divine patrons and the deities of his country, if he observes the prescribed rites, recites the prayers, performs the sacrifices—in a word, if he acts rightly—their aid is never lacking; they bestow upon him a numerous posterity, a happy old age, prolonged to the term fixed by fate, when he must resign himself to close his eyes for ever to the light of day. If, on the contrary, he is wicked, violent, one whose word cannot be trusted, "his god cuts him down like a reed," extirpates his race, shortens his days, delivers him over to demons who possess themselves of his body and afflict it with sicknesses before finally despatching him. Penitence is of avail against the evil of sin, and serves to re-establish a right course of life, but its efficacy is not permanent, and the moment at last arrives in which death, getting the upper hand, carries its victim away. The Chaldæans had not such clear ideas as to what awaited them in the other world as the Egyptians possessed: whilst the tomb, the mummy, the perpetuity of the funeral revenues, and the safety of the double, were the engrossing subjects in Egypt, the Chaldæan texts are almost entirely silent as to the condition of the soul, and the living seem to have had no further concern about the dead than to get rid of them as quickly and as completely as possible.

Evil spirits, prowled incessantly around the dead bodies of the Chaldæans, either to feed upon them, or to use them in their sorcery: should they succeed in slipping into a corpse, from that moment it could be metamorphosed into a vampire, and return to the world to suck the blood of the living. The Chaldæans were, therefore, accustomed to invite by prayers beneficent genii and gods to watch over the dead.
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III


The inhabitants of Mesopotamia could celebrate religious worship in the shrines in the open, private chapels, but the main centers of religious life were the temples. The main place in the temple was a statue of the god carved in wood and metal and adorned with precious stones. The temples were expanded gradually, so that for example in Eridu temple built from scratch in the same place several times, creating an artificial hill. Some scholars believe that this process has contributed to the idea of building ziggurat . These were stepped temple tower in the shape similar to a pyramid , reaching a height of 50 meters. At the top there was one or several temples covered with blue glaze.

 Ancient ziggurat at Ali Air Base Iraq

In Chaldæa, as in Egypt, the king or chief of the State was the priest par excellence, and the title of "vicegerent," so frequent in the early period, shows that the chief was regarded as representing the divinity among his own people; but a priestly body, partly hereditary, partly selected, fulfilled for him his daily sacerdotal functions, and secured the regularity of the services.

The 12th of the month Blul was set apart at Babylon for the worship of Bel and Beltis: the sovereign made a donation to them according as he was disposed, and then celebrated before them the customary sacrifices, and if he raised his hand to plead for any favour, he obtained it without fail. The 13th was dedicated to the moon, the supreme god; the 14th to Beltis and Nergal; the 15th to Shamash; the 16th was a fast in honour of Merodach and Zirbanit; the 17th was the annual festival of Nebo and Tashmit; the 18th was devoted to the laudation of Sin and Shamash; while the 19th was a "white day" for the great goddess Gula.
Gaston Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia ans Assyria Vol. III

  Reconstruction of the appearance of one of the ziggurat Etemenanki in Babylon .

Model of Etemenanki. Pergamon museum (Berlin)  "The house foundation / base of heaven and earth"  - the temple in the form of ziggurat , located in Babylon , in the immediate vicinity of the Processional Way, according to popular opinion dedicated to the god Marduk , one of the most important sanctuaries of the State of Babylon . According to some researchers, this building was the inspiration for the biblical story of the Tower of Babel .

 The walls of Babylon and the temple of Bel (aka: Baal, or, Babel)

 Choqa Zanbil, Ziggurat, Dur Untash, 13th century BC
 
  Ziggurat at entrance_to Metcalfe house, Qutb complex, India

 The Ziggurat in West Sacramento

 Ziggurat in Laguna Niguel, California