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Dieter Koch, The bullfight of Gilgamesh, Pp. 39-86.

© 2007 Dieter Koch, Josefstr. 137, 8005 Zurich

 

The celestial bull and the goddess

Bullfight

Heavenly bull and agriculture

When the goddess Ishtar Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, proposes marriage, he refuses and points out that she has only brought harm to all of her previous lovers. Ishtar furiously climbs up to heaven, sends the “heavenly bull” down and sets him on Gilgamesh, with the intention of killing the hero. The plan fails. Gilgamesh, supported by his friend Enkidu, succeeds in killing the celestial bull. [1]

The possibility of an astronomical interpretation of the "heavenly bull" (GU4.AT. N / A, alû (“The one from above”)) is registered by scholars at best marginally, apart from the panbabylonists at the beginning of the 20th century and the outsider Werner Papke. This is strange cries but the term “heavenly bull” is based on an astronomical interpretation. George mentions that the celestial bull is the constellation Taurus, but does not begin with that. He does not consider that this finding could have consequences for the interpretation of the celestial bull myth and that astronomy could offer help for the understanding of the myth; at least he says nothing more about it. [2] You will also look in vain for relevant information from other authors and translations.

The Sumerian version of the myth provides a clear indication that the constellation of the Taurus must be mentioned here. When the sky god An himself initially refuses to leave Inanna (Ishtar) the celestial bull, he justifies this as follows:

lu2-tur-ĝu10 gud an-na u2-gu7-bi in-nu an-ur2-ra u2 gu7-bi-im

ki-sikil dinana gud an-na ki dutu ed2-a-še3 u2 im-da-gu7-e

za-e gud an-na nu-mu-e-da-ab-ze2-eĝ3-en

My little one, the heavenly bull would have no pasture, at the horizon is his pasture.

Virgo Inanna, the celestial bull grazes in the land where the sun rises.

I will not give you the celestial bull with you. [3]

The statement that the celestial bull is only on the eastern horizon (an-ur2, actually “Heaven's Foundation”), meets that excellently Constellation of the bull and is difficult to explain otherwise.

Ishtar "leads" (iredde) the celestial bull on a nose rope (ṣerretum, saman za-gin3) to Uruk. In the Sumerian text, the verb e3 (var. ed3) is used. [4] The meaning of this verb is strangely ambiguous. Used transitively, it means either “out” or “lead in” or either “up” or “lead down”. This is the common one astronomical Terminology used in the rising and setting of celestial bodies and constellations. A rise in the east is hardly meant in the present case, since, according to the text, the eastern horizon is already the usual place of residence of the bull. We can conclude from this that Ishtar brought the bull to its demise, that is, to the western Horizon leads.

Papke now sees in the process a description of the starry morning sky at the beginning of autumn. [5] In the 3rd millennium BC. At this time of year, the bull was on the western horizon just before sunrise, i.e. it was just setting. On the other hand, the virgin - that is, the goddess - is just rising. With regard to texts such as MUL.APIN or the Astrolabe, this interpretation actually makes sense: The appearance of the starry sky immediately before sunrise or before the stars disappear in daylight was used here to determine the time of year and to determine the ideal point in time Leap month should be inserted in the calendar. So does the myth of Gilgamesh's fight with the celestial bull depict a scene in the starry sky that indicated a certain season of the year at its anthelic (morning) setting? In fact, both in front of and behind the Taurus constellation, there are constellations of male figures that could be identified with Gilgamesh and Enkidu: the “true heavenly shepherds” in the area of ​​Orion and the “wage laborers” in the area of ​​Aries. We'll look at this scene in more detail later. The conclusion Papke draws is obviously inevitable: The celestial bull myth is about the morning, anthelic decline of the bull, which the Mesopotamians of the 3rd millennium BC. BC, together with the rising virgin indicated the beginning of autumn. This also makes sense for another reason: The beginning of autumn was of great importance for the arable year insofar as it was associated with plowing the fields and sowing the seeds. Bulls and oxen played an important role as draft animals for the plow. (Plate A1 below) It is very clear that the epic deals with such an important point in time and with the celestial constellation assigned to it. At the same time, however, we get the idea that bullfighting must have something to do with agriculture and the sowing season.

The relationship between bull killing and the early morning setting of the constellation Taurus is supported by the Sumerian poem "Lugalbanda and the Mountain Cave". Lugalbanda also kills a bull:

on the su4 am kur-ra-ke4 lu2-ĝešpu2-gin7 im-ma-DU.DU lu2-lirum-ma-gin7 im-ma-ši-gam

lipiš-bi im-ta-an-zig3dutu ed2-a-ra mu-na-an-ĝar

The red bull, the bull of the mountains - like an athlete (?) He carried it, like a wrestler he wrestled it down.

He tore out his heart and presented it to the rising sun god.[6]

I have put the crucial words in italics. When the bull before the rising sun is killed, it must be one morning Act celestial constellation. The bull will struggledi.e. he go under.

Now Lugalbanda, who was considered Gilgamesh's father, was also king of Uruk and, like Gilgamesh, probably also cultic husband of Inanna-Ishtar. We can therefore surmise that when Lugalbanda kills a bull, it is "the same" feat that Gilgamesh performs, or one that has the same status. The fact that not only Lugalbanda, but also Gilgamesh the heart of the bull as a sacrifice to the sun god makes this even clearer.

There are also differences between the two narratives. While Gilgamesh has to fight the heavenly bull in his hometown, in Uruk, Lugalbanda moves to the distant mountains and fights a bull there. There also seems to be an essential difference between the two animals themselves. While the word gud is used for the celestial bull, ie the expression for a domesticated, possibly also castrated bull, ie an ox, in Lugalbanda it is the word am that denotes a "wild bull".

Nevertheless, the impressive parallel remains that the king wrestles with a male bovid, defeats the animal and sacrifices his heart to the rising sun god. The two stories must have something to do with each other. The differences found are put into perspective on closer inspection. Among other things, it will be shown that the bullfight is also symbolic of war. But whether you defeat an attacker at home, or whether you defeat the enemy in a foreign country, is not necessarily an essential difference when it comes to having a young king put his skills to the test. But let's leave this aside for now!

The difference that different words are used for “bull” in Gilgamesh and Lugalbanda's bullfight is put into perspective on closer inspection. The use of the various Taurus words can best be studied by looking at all the places where Gilgamesh himself compared to a "bull" becomes. It is hardly a coincidence that Gilgamesh, the bullfighter, is called a "bull" himself. Perhaps this is based on the archaic idea that the hunter takes over the powers of the animal he has killed.

Our epic, where Gilgamesh calls it "bull", uses no fewer than three different terms: rīmum[7] ("wild bull"), būrum[8] ("bull calf"), lī’um[9] ("Bull"). Of these, at least the latter two can also be applied to domesticated animals. It is noticeable that the word for the domesticated bull or ox is missing in this list, namely alpum, the Akkadian equivalent of the Sumerian gud. But this could also be just a coincidence. It says elsewhere in the epic alpum for a wild, untamed force of nature par excellence: for the flood. Utanapishti says that the god Adad "like a bull" (kīma alpi (gu4 = gud)!) the country flooded and destroyed. [10] In addition, warlike kings like to compare their rage to that of a deluge. So it is possibly just a coincidence that Gilgamesh is not one alpum is called, and it cannot therefore be ruled out that Gilgamesh fragments may appear in which a comparison with a alpum finds. But which term is used for the heavenly bull? Strangely enough, at least in the Akkadian text, we find no bull word here, but rather alû, actually "the one from on high". [11]

How is it in the Sumerian texts? The celestial bull is always a "domesticated" bull or ox (gud). Gilgamesh, on the other hand, is addressed on the one hand as "wild bull" (am), on the other hand as "ox" (gud). Inanna, for example, complains that Gilgamesh behaves like a "big 'ox' that was let loose in Uruk" (gud gal dgilgameš2 šu bar-ra unugki). [12] In order to tame him, she demands the heavenly bull or "heavenly ox" (gud an-na) from her father. We also encounter Gilgamesh as gud in the texts "Gilgamesh and Chuwawa" and "The Death of Gilgamesh" [13]. The word Taurus applied to the royal hero can change, the only thing that matters is that it is a male bovid.

From all of this I conclude that the differences between the various types of male bovids are of secondary importance to the myth. For example, one cannot say that the king is clearly associated with a certain bull word, but the Mesopotamian authors had a great deal of freedom in this. [14] The contrast between nature and culture, or wild brutality and domination, which is otherwise important for the epic, does not seem to come into play here. This is understandable, because the bull remains a dangerous animal even if it is domesticated.

We will consequently be able to conclude something similar for the celestial bull. A clear statement as to whether it is a domesticated or a wild animal is not necessary because the domestic animal can also be wild and dangerous. This puts the difference between Gilgamesh and Lugalbanda's bullfight into perspective. The fact that one is fighting with a gud and the other is fighting with an am seems irrelevant.

As already indicated, the heavenly bull myth is depicted in the sky. We see it when we look at the constellation Taurus in the context of the constellations surrounding it. In truth, we have quite a few in the Taurus area scenery pictured in the sky, which sets before sunrise during the sowing season. (see illustration A1) Let us consider the Mesopotamian names of the constellations adjacent to Taurus! The ram was understood as one who worked in the field "Wage worker" (MUL.LÚHUN.GÁ, agru). On the other side of the bull is the "True Shepherd of Heaven" (MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, šidallu), which partially corresponds to today's Orion, but extended further north than today's Orion. [15] Papke correctly states that Enkidu, who grabs the bull from behind, must be the "wage worker", while Gilgamesh, who grabs the bull by the horns from the front and sticks a knife in its neck, is the "true shepherd of heaven" must be. [16] In the Sumerian Chuwawa myth, Enkidu is even explicitly mocked by Chuwawa as a "wage worker" (lú huĝ-ĝá). [17] The expression “shepherd” (SIPA = rē‘û) on the other hand, there is a title of the king in the epic. Gilgamesh is "the shepherd of Uruk-the-cattle pen" (šū rē’ûmma (SIPA) ša uruk supūri).[18]

What do Gilgamesh and Enkidu do with the bull? According to the wording of the epic, they fight with him and kill him. But since the celestial constellation is related to the beginning of autumn and the sowing time, there must also be a symbolic connection between the myth and the sowing time. The assumption is obvious that the fight symbolizes the mastery of the animal and its use in the field. Because the bull Trenches rips into the ground, this makes sense: The fight of Enkidus and Gilgamesh with the heavenly bull must symbolize the process of plowing and sowing, and the bullfight therefore consists of work in the field. The bullkilling stands either for its part symbolically for the mastery of the animal or for a bullVictim after finishing work in the field. The celestial bull thus becomes the “celestial ox”, and that's exactly what it is if one uses its Sumerian name (GU4. AN.NA) takes it seriously.

One can complete the celestial scene even further by adding the constellation of the northern triangle behind the “wage laborer” as a plow (MUL.GIŠAPIN) was considered. Also for the Pleiades (MULMUL), which are located in the neck of the bull, a connection with the cultivation of grain can be proven. At least in ancient times they were seen as an ear of corn. Papke here refers to cylinder seals from the 3rd millennium. [19] With the same cylinder seals Watanabe proves a connection between the bull and agriculture and grain, but without recognizing the astral meaning of the representations. [20] The later names for the Pleiades no longer make it clear that it is an ear of grain. [21] The Akkadian name zappu refers to the "bristles" on the neck of the bull. [22] But let us consider that these bristles can be associated with those of an ear of corn, and note that in the representations mentioned the ear of corn is shown in the area of ​​the neck bristles of the bull! [23] That the Pleiades in Mesopotamia were later no longer seen as an ear of corn on the one hand could be due to the fact that the star Spica was also presented as an ear of wheat, which was bound to lead to confusion, on the other hand because, as a result of the precession of the equinoxes, the old correlation between the sinking of the Pleiades, the autumn equinox and the sowing time, as well as the correlation between the rising of the Pleiades, the spring equinox and the harvest time from the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC began to lose their meaning.

This results in the following alternative interpretation of the heavenly bullfighting scene: A "wage worker" (= ram) harnesses a bull or ox as a draft animal in front of a plow (= northern triangle). Before the bull, however, stands the “shepherd” Orion. Does he perhaps yoke the bull? In any case, the "shepherd" and the "wage worker" plow the earth together with the bull and at the same time sow the grain (= Pleiades). The sinking of these constellations, and in particular the Pleiades ear of wheat, to the earth, impressively symbolizes the process of plowing and sowing. Incidentally, all these constellations were almost at the same height at the time of sowing on the morning western horizon and therefore did not go one after the other, but more or less together under. So at the time of sowing in the western sky you saw two men harnessing a bull to the plow.

Let us now turn our gaze to the goddess! Ishtar rises to heaven and leads the heavenly bull down to earth. So we must also interpret Ishtar astronomically. In fact, we also meet it in the sky, but its astronomical assignment is somewhat more complex. Inanna's frequent identification with Venus is well known. In connection with the year of agriculture, however, this planet is irrelevant; its movements are difficult or impossible to reconcile with the solar year, and especially with a specific date such as an equinox.

We shall deal in detail later with the problem of the astronomical identification of Inanna. [24] First of all, let's just look at Papke's theory, because it is very plausible! Papke classifies the Ishtar in connection with this myth Constellation to. Ishtar rises to heaven up and sends the bull to earth down. If so the morning Downfall of the bull at the beginning of autumn in the 3rd millennium BC. should be displayed, the question arises as to which constellation is at the same time rosewhile the celestial bull went down. This would then have to be Ishtar. One of the constellations to which this applied was the "furrow" (MUL AB.SÍN, šir’u). It was also called "Schala, the ear of corn" (dšala šubultu4) known [25] and corresponded roughly to today's constellation Virgo, more precisely that part of it that is located south of the ecliptic. [26] While the bull was standing over the western horizon, the constellation of the “furrow” or the goddess with the ear of corn was on the rise on the eastern horizon. With this constellation Papke identifies the goddess Ishtar, who ascends to the sky.

Whether one wants to agree to this identification or not, in any case, with the “furrow” that opens at this time, there is again a seasonal reference to arable farming. The meaning is clear: the heliacal rise of the furrow showed the farmer, just like the bull scene on the western horizon, that work was now beginning in the field.

The virgin, as the goddess Schala, carries an ear of corn in her hand in Papke's sky map, which is modeled on the representations on Mesopotamian cylinder seals and other artefacts. (see illustration A2) In MUL.APIN it even bears the nickname "Corn Ear" (šubultu4). Strictly speaking, the ear of corn was the fixed star Spica (= Latin "ear of corn"), but because Spica was the first to rise star of the constellation, the constellation was named after this star.

The relationship between the constellations Taurus and Virgo and grain is explained by the fact that in Mesopotamia of the 3rd millennium BC. the time of plowing and sowing (from September [27]) coincided with the heliacal rising of the virgin / furrow and the setting of the celestial bull and the Pleiades. Was the Sowing time indicated by the early setting of the Pleiades ear of wheat and the bull, it fell Harvest time (from April) with their heliacal Rise together. [28] In the Gilgamesh epic, however, the heliacal ascent of the heavenly bull does not appear. The association of the two equinoxes with sowing and harvesting is found in the calendar of Ur in the 3rd millennium BC. very nicely expressed in the month names. The first month of the spring equinox was called še-kin-ku5, "Grain Harvest"; the seventh month, on the other hand, which contained the autumn equinox, bore the name of the equinox á-ki-ti. However, Akiti celebrations were held in both months. Accordingly, they were called ezem-á-ki-ti-še-kin-ku5, i.e. "Akiti festival of the grain harvest", and ezem-á-ki-ti-šu-numun, "Akiti festival of sowing". [29] Unfortunately, the names of the months of Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh, have not been handed down for this time. But the festival calendars of Uruk and Ur were very similar in later times.

In a Sumerian text with the title "The Farmer’s instructions" it says accordingly:

ud mul an-na šu im-ma-ab-du7-a-ta

10-am3 a2 gud a-šag4 zi-zi-i-da-še3 igi-zu nam-ba-e-gid2-i

If the constellations (or: Constellation) of the sky are correct (or: true) then make yourself over and over again (or: ten times) to the field with the strength of the ox; you shouldn't look grumpy. [30]

Unfortunately, the text does not specifically say which constellation (s) it is. Civil notes that while mul an-na stand for the Pleiades, the term could also mean “celestial constellation” in general. Perhaps the text considers more precise information to be unnecessary precisely because it means our scene with farmers, bulls and plows. So maybe he wants to say: "If the stars indicate it, that is, if they show a bull with a plow and two farmers on the western horizon, then do the same work indicated by this constellation." In any case, the heavenly constellation sketched here provides the scenario that is perfect fits this text.

The connection of the bull with grain, or more generally with agriculture as a whole, has often been referred to. It is not only found in Mesopotamia, but is already common in Neolithic arable cultures. Watanabe writes about this in her book Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia the following:

The successful hunting of the wild bull and its later domestication must have been perceived as great achievements. Animal domestication enabled humans to exploit animals within the framework of the cultural order, and by doing so they no longer needed to fear starvation. The bucrania displayed at Çatal Höyük seem to manifest the psychology behind the Neolithic revolution. Towards the end of the Neolithic period, the symbolism of the bull may have been closely associated with the drive to ‘tame’ the wild. The wild domain surrounds society, threatening human life with its dangerous forces. With domestication, however, the cultural order was extended into the wild to bring it under cultural control. The bull symbolizes the concept of animal domestication: the same animal conveys the symbolism of a dangerous wild force that can be turned into a most useful natural resource by successfully taming it. [31]

It is very likely that Gilgamesh's bullfight must also be interpreted in this sense.

The connection between the bull or bullfighting and agriculture is by no means noticeable in our myth. Nevertheless, it is clearly recognizable in various small references. In the Sumerian version, Gilgamesh smashes the celestial bull's skull with his ax. The following happens:

gud-e saĝ il2-la il2-la im-ma-ab-dirig

im-gin7 mu- / lu3-lu3\ buru14-gin7 / in \ -šu2-su2

The bull raised his head, higher and higher, and let it tower above (or: "Towered above (everything)").

It spread like rain and spread like grain. [32]

This can be understood as an allusion to the sowing season. Rain falls and the grain is sown. Later it is said that the "meat" of the bull is distributed to the people of Uruk - it is about food! [33]

Even the epic version of the myth is somehow about food, but in a different and not immediately understandable way. Let us consider the warning that Inanna receives from her father, the sky god An. He says that the heavenly bull is only allowed to go down to earth if the widow of Uruk has previously "chaffed" () collected and the farmer just as long "plants" (šammū) has grown. [34] Stefan Maul interprets this to mean that enough food must be available for the heavenly bull when it comes to earth. [35] This interpretation is apparently confirmed by the Sumerian version, in which Anu says that the celestial bull grazes on the horizon and would not find any food in Uruk; [36] furthermore by the fact that the celestial bull in Uruk actually "eats plants" (u2 mu-un-gu7-e). [37]

The gathering of chaff and plants initially indicates the harvest time, i.e. spring. What is annoying, however, is that there is talk of “seven years”. There is a harvest every year. What about the seven years? Papke thinks that the seven alludes to the seven stars. [38] But I cannot see how the seven stars are sifting out Years should derive. The seven also meets in other places, without that a reference to the Pleiades or to seven years can be assumed and even without Papke assuming one. Chuwawa has seven "horrors", Gilgamesh crosses seven mountains on the way to Chuwawa, Gilgamesh is not supposed to sleep for seven nights at Utanapishtim, etc. Unfortunately, numbers, measurements and distances in the epic, if taken literally, often result in neither astronomical nor geographically any sense. There is apparently a number magic behind this, which we shouldn't attach too much weight to with regard to astronomical interpretations, at least not at the moment. We should also take into account that the dimensional myth generally exaggerates. Enkidu and Gilgamesh are giants; the trenches that the celestial bull makes swallow hundreds of people, etc. Everything here is represented mythically oversized. We will come back to the "seven years" shortly.

The gathering of chaff and plants obviously alludes to the harvest and to the fact that supplies are being created. Not only must there be sufficient food reserves for the entire time leading up to the new harvest, but the seeds must also come from the reserves of the last harvest. Agriculture presupposes that one collects enough reserves for the next seed and for the livelihood until the next harvest. Not entirely without good reason, albeit imprecisely, is how Schott and von Soden translate the word instead of “chaff” with “grain”. [39] In addition, has also the meaning "mouth". This is likely to be a play on words and again an allusion to food. Word games of this type are very popular in Mesopotamian literature, and we will meet other examples of this.

If the gathering of chaff and plants alludes to the harvest, we can also relate further statements of the myth to the seasons or stations in the year of cultivation. We learn that the bull, with its immense thirst, drains floodplains, reed belts and swamps and that it drinks from the river until it sinks by seven cubits. This indicates quite clearly the Mesopotamian summer drought. The fact that the bull in Uruk "eats plants" can then be interpreted as meaning that all plants are during the summer drought wither. However, the hunger of the heavenly bull could also allude to the fact that a lot of grain is needed for the sowing: the plow bull "eats" seeds!

Finally, as the bull fights Gilgamesh and Enkidu, snorting (ina nipšišu) Trenches (šuttātum) in the earth into which the men of Uruk fall. [40] In truth, we are talking about the plowing bull snorting in front of the plow in autumn. The trenches are furrows. Let us not be confused by the exaggerated extent of these trenches! As already mentioned, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are described as giants. Such exaggerations are by no means uncommon for myths, especially not when it comes to depicting characters and events that fulfill an archetypal function or represent the etiology of important cultural achievements of mankind. Etiological interpretations have been presented for numerous episodes in our epic. For the celestial bull myth, such a thing is also conceivable, even to be expected, especially since the bull or ox played such an important role in agriculture, both as a draft animal for the plow and as a beast of burden during harvest. Corresponding to the central importance that agriculture played for early cultures, the figures and events involved in the etiology acquire supernatural dimensions.

The fact that bulls tear ditches in the earth while snorting or roaring, we find this motif elsewhere in the Gilgamesh epic, namely in the Chuwawa episode. Gilgamesh encounters the monster Chuwawa in various forms, and one of them is the bull. It is said that when Gilgamesh fights with this bull, it rips open a ravine or that it separates the mountains of Lebanon and Antilebanon. [41] In between lies the fertile Bekaa Valley. At one point there is even explicit mention of Chuwawa "plowing the earth" (imhaṣ qaqqaram):

im-haṣ qaq-qa-ram-ma pi-x x uš-tam-hir-šú

He plowed the earth and made them receive [their] moon. [42]

We shall study these passages and the relation of the celestial bull to Chuwawa in more detail later.

Another parallel: We learn from Lugalbanda that after his bullfight he saw the heads of two goats "like barley" (še-gin7) and their blood in a dig (si-dug4-ga) pours. [43] Was the ditch torn by the bull? Is it the furrow again? So is barley sown? Why goats come into play in bull killing - this is also a topos with parallels in other texts - we want to leave open. It is important that here, too, in the immediate context of the bullfight, it is about grain, and that this falls as seeds into the open earth.

The nasal rope on which the goddess leads the heavenly bull down to earth is also not unimportant in this context. Stefan Maul writes about this:

The model of the Nose rope of the celestial bull is the lead rope that oxen were pulled through their noses in order to make them docile as draft animals and pack animals and to force them to obey orders from their master. [44]

So is the ox being led across the field here to plow it?

In the epic version of the myth it seems that the celestial bull appears on earth during the harvest in spring, causes drought over summer, tears up the fields as a plowed animal in autumn and is then killed. His presence on earth would correspond to the time from the harvest, his heliacal rise, to the sowing, i.e. his morning set.

Something doesn't seem to work out quite well here. The bull does not come down to earth in spring; rather, it is at this time that it emerges from its depths. It only comes down to earth from above when autumn approaches. However, we must not claim that a myth strictly adheres to chronological and logical sequences. We are here in an event that follows the logic of dreams. What matters is: the bull comes down, goes into the earth, dies after bringing drought.

In the course of my remarks, the question may have arisen how the heavenly bull, responsible for the summer drought, relates to the bull of the rain god Adad. I do not want to go into this at this point. In the meantime it should be said that the bull of Adad actually appears in our epic, namely once in the Chuwawa episode, as a manifestation of Chuwawa himself, and then as the cause of the flood. It will be shown that in fact the same animal swallows up the water in one season and releases it again in the other season, which begins with autumn. In the Atramchasis epic, too, the weather bull god Adad first brings a drought, and then a deluge.

Now we are also ready for a possible explanation of the "seven years" which the widow of Uruk has to collect chaff and the farmer has to grow plants. The solution is presumably provided by related seasonal myths from Ugarit. One of them is about the death of the weather bull god Baal Hadad, another about the death of the hero Aqhat. In both cases, the event draws one seven year drought after yourself. In the Baal myth, this only ends when Baal is brought back to life. For more details, I refer to the chapter on Ugarit in the second part of the present work. Now these myths make it extraordinarily clear that they refer to the cycle of the seasons, and that the “seven-year drought” can only stand for the dry summer half of the year. Even if these texts differ from our celestial bull myth in some ways, there are parallels that clearly point to a common origin. We can therefore assume that the "seven years" in the myth of Gilgamesh and the heavenly bull has something to do with the six-month period between harvest and sowing.

Incidentally, both Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the epic have a relationship to agriculture and grain insofar as the strands of hair of the two heroes "resemble barley" (kīma dnissaba). [45] And of both it is said that the goddess Aruru, like humanity in general, formed them with her own hands, namely from "clay" (ṭīṭu). [46] When we think of “clay” we can think of the field. In another myth, Enlil lets people grow out of the field like grain. [47] It is also interesting that the name Enkidu can be translated as "Lord who tills the earth". [48] His name alone characterizes him as an arable farmer.

Let's hold on: Gilgamesh's fight with the bull represents the process of plowing and sowing. The ditches that the bull digs in the ground are the furrows. After the work is done, the bull is sacrificed.

In the course of this investigation it will be shown again and again that "killing" and "taming" for the myth are inseparable, if not exactly "the same". In panel VII, Enkidu attributes his death to his "taming" by Shamchat. The gods also decide at the beginning of the epic "Taming" of Gilgamesh - but an essential part of the epic deals with Gilgamesh's futile attempt, the death to escape. At the present time this remains incomprehensible. But as far as the bull is concerned, let me try to explain. Whether tamed or killed - the bull is in any case conquered, man takes control of him. Numerous episodes of the epic have been interpreted etiologically. Accordingly, we can interpret the celestial bull episode as a narrative of how agriculture was donated. The epic is then about the seizure of power by man over a) the bull and b) the growth of grain. Even if the connection between grain and bull is not yet completely clear to us, it becomes clear that that the myth of the seizure of power by man reports on the powers of nature to produce. The fact that bulls are castrated in order to be better suited as farm animals is a telling detail here. We see from this: Whether the bull is killed or tamed is also an expression of such domination. Isn't the yoke, castration and harnessing of the bull to the plow almost "the same" as killing it? None of these deeds is possible without mastering the animal. Let us consider that the actual killing of a bull with a knife or sword, like the mere taming, is by no means a simple and safe undertaking, testifies to the mastery of irrepressible natural forces and can therefore also symbolize them. The important thing is not whether the bull is killed or castrated or tamed, but rather the human ability to protect nature master. Killing, castration and taming are therefore "the same".

In connection with the scenery of Orion, bull, wage laborer and plow in the western morning sky, the rites of Ur at the beginning of autumn or for the Akiti festival on the 1st Tashritu can be seen, whereby this month in Ur, as I said, actually á- ki-ti-še-kin-ku5, the "Akiti Festival of the Grainsowing", was called. Sallaberger writes about this:

The sowing season begins when the king, on behalf of his people, pulls the symbolic “first furrow” before God on behalf of his people, the blessing of which should then also be valid for the whole country. [49]

Since the king takes on the role of Gilgamesh here and Gilgamesh is the “true shepherd of heaven”, the morning constellation in the western sky at the beginning of autumn depicts this ritual. So the stars showed the farmer what to do. They showed the peasant model and archetype, the king who performed the ritual, and at the same time Gilgamesh, the king who first established agriculture. The farmer then did the same as his role model.

At the same festivities, bulls were sacrificed to the moon god Nanna in Ur:

4 gu4-niga dNanna igi-šu-nir sízkur-gu-la šà á-ki-ti

Four fat bulls (for) Nanna's standard, (for) the great sacrifice inside the Akiti (house). [50]

An interesting detail: the word “fat” (niga) is spelled with the same character as the word for “barley” (še). Cohen therefore translates the "fat bulls" as "grain-fed oxen". The killing of these animals evokes that passage in the Sumerian celestial bull myth where the bull killed by Gilgamesh "spreads like grain".

 

Bullfight and Holy Wedding

We interpreted the myth of the heavenly animal as a story about the origin of agriculture. Now we want to approach it from a different angle. The celestial bull episode is also a love story. It begins with Ishtar or Inanna Gilgamesh making a marriage proposal. So the same myth that tells of plowing and sowing also tells a love story.

We inevitably have to remember that Sumerian hymn in which Inanna describes her vagina as a well-watered field waiting for ox and plow. Inanna speaks:

 

ma-a gal4-la-ĝu10 dul6 you8-you8-a a ma- «a» -ra

ki-sikil-ĝen a-ba-a ur11-ru-a-bi

gal4-la-ĝu10 ki duru5 a ma-ra

ga-ša-an-ĝen gud a-ba-a bi2-ib2-gub-be2

My Vagina, a mound that is open and watered,

my, the virgin, (vagina) - who will be her plowman?

My vagina that was moist, watered,

my, the mistress, (vagina) - who will take the ox (gud) bring there?

By the way, ki.sikil, which is usually translated as “virgin”, actually means “pure, untouched earth”. The equation of the earth waiting for the plow with a young woman who wants to get married has even coined the Sumerian word for “young woman of marriageability”.

The king now answers:

in-nin9 lugal-e ha-ra-an-ur11-ru

ddumu-zid lugal-e ha-ra-ur11-ru

Innin, the king, shall plow them for you;

Dumuzi, the king, shall plow them for you.

And Inanna:

[gal4-la] -ĝa2 ur11-ru mu-luša3-ab-ĝa2-came

Plow in my vagina, man of my heart! [51]

Here the act of love and the process of plowing are seen as an analogy. Obviously, one must imagine this analogy quite concretely. Inanna is both woman and field here - the goddess of the field. The plow penetrates them like a genitalia, the grain fertilizes them. [52] The bull or ox is also a partner of the goddess of the fields by tearing open the field when stretched in front of the plow. And the farmer, too, by plowing and sowing the field, becomes, so to speak, the love partner and husband of the goddess. By the way, you can get Inanna's epithet in-nin9, which is usually translated as "mistress", also as a name for a type of grain - an abbreviation for še-(d)innin, Akkadian inni (n) nu - interpret. [53]

The goddess's proposal of love to Gilgamesh also associates the cult of the “holy wedding”, the “marriage” of the king with the goddess, through which the prosperity of city and state is guaranteed. Some Mesopotamian kings are known to identify with Dumuzi or to call themselves consorts of the goddess Inanna / Ishtar. The “marriage” of the king with the goddess is also discussed in other myths. Dumuzi is enthroned as king at his wedding to Inanna. Another husband of the goddess is King Enmerkar in the myth "Enmerkar and the King of Aratta". As king of Uruk, Gilgamesh would have to be a Dumuzi figure and partner of the Inanna. And if so in the celestial bull myth Inanna dem to put on the crown Gilgamesh makes a marriage proposal, this myth can undoubtedly be interpreted in the context of the Holy Wedding. In his answer to Ishtar, Gilgamesh even explicitly refers to the fate of Dumuzi, who did this Archetype a king married to the goddess is: Gilgamesh fears that the fate of Dumuzi might overtake him.

From this we must, however, draw a conclusion that seems to contradict the epic. Since we have interpreted Gilgamesh and his friend or servant Enkidu, the "wage laborer", as archetypes of the farmer, and since the field is the vagina of the goddess, it follows that she actually act as a love partner of the goddess! Apparently in contradiction to this, Gilgamesh explicitly gives Inanna a basket in the epic.

This basket has created considerable problems for the interpretation of the myth. One would actually prefer that Gilgamesh and the goddess married. The reasons for this are numerous:

- As I said, Gilgamesh should actually be Dumuzi's deputy and husband of the city goddess Inanna in his position as King of Uruk.

- The epic itself suggests a marriage between Gilgamesh and the goddess. Thus Gilgamesh performs in the II. Tablet on a young bride in the "bed prepared for Ishchara" (a-na diš-ha-ra ma-a-a-lum na-di-i-ma), i.e. in Ishtar's bed as the goddess of marriage, that officium primae noctis. So at this moment he must also be the husband of the goddess.

- Enkidu is also a partner of the goddess, as he sleeps with a temple whore of the Ishtar and is thereby initiated into the gifts that the goddess has given people: in human culture, in eating bread and drinking wine, ie in the field - and viticulture, as well as in all other cultural achievements of mankind. By sleeping with the Ishtar servant, Enkidu sleeps with her, so to speak Ishtar himselfbecause how else could he be initiated into her gifts?

- Also the fact that Gilgamesh is variously active in the epic as a founder of the cultural achievements of mankind [54] must give food for thought. Inanna is known as the goddess who taught the people of Uruk and the people in general the culture. In the celestial bull episode, as we now know, Gilgamesh becomes the founder of agriculture. How could he do this if not as a husband and "Pontifex" the goddess? In addition to Ishtar / Inanna, there is another important deity who was associated with the foundation of human culture, namely Enki. But Enki hardly plays a role in our epic. It is Ishtar who takes on this role here.

- In the myth of Inanna and the Chalub tree, Gilgamesh fell the tree for the goddess and made a bed and a throne for her. This seems to indicate a marriage between the two.

- Even the celestial bull myth itself contains - in spite of the apparent rift between the two - indications of the marriage. In the Sumerian version, Gilgamesh thanks Inanna for the gift of the heavenly bull and consecrates her horns! According to the Hittite paraphrase of the epic, Gilgamesh promises to build a sanctuary for the Inanna at the beginning of the celestial bull episode. [55] It is precisely from the resulting dialogue between the two that Inanna's proposal for love and the bullfight develop in this variant of the epic.

The problem can actually be solved very simply: If the bullfight is symbolic of the plowing of the field, if the field is the vagina of the goddess and its plowing is in turn a mating of the goddess, then it follows that the bullfight symbolizes an act of love. This is quite simply a compelling conclusion.

But how are the no and the insults Gilgamesh to Ishtar to be interpreted? And why does Ishtar complain about the death of the heavenly bull after the act of love, if she has achieved what she wanted? I would like to postpone the latter question a little later. Let us turn to the former first!

So how is the no, how are the insulting words of Gilgamesh to Ishtar to be explained? I would like to suggest interpreting this dialogue as part of a somewhat rough lovemaking game. Rough rejections by the partner as part of foreplay are not at all unusual, as anyone with some experience of love knows. And this applies just as much to us today as it does to Mesopotamian mythology: Dumuzi, too, when he rivals Enkidu for Inanna, first of all receives a basket from the goddess; only through insistence does he gain it. Enlil also gets to hear a no first when he advertises Ninlil. And Ereschkigal, too, is initially ignored, indeed disregarded, by Nergal before she wins him. Incidentally, this should not surprise us, since in love it is more the rule than the exception that we Say no but do yes or vice versa, or that we offend where we love. In any case, contrary to the first impression, the celestial bull episode cannot in truth be about a division between Gilgamesh and the goddess, but must be about their passionate union and holy marriage. The problem with many modern interpretations of myth appears to be that they no longer properly understand the language of myth (and perhaps the language of love).

Indeed, in Mesopotamian mythology, ambivalences in all possible varieties play an important role. The story of Nergal and Ereschkigal provides a helpful example. At the same time it turns out that this myth represents an illuminating parallel to the myth of the celestial bull. When Nergal refuses due respect to the underworld goddess Ereschkigal, she demands that the sky gods send him down to her so that he may be killed (ana mûti). Instead - or at the same time - he ends up as a love partner and husband (ana muti) the underworld goddess. [56] So is the same thing happening to Gilgamesh as Nergal? The play on words to which Bottéro referred [57] makes it clear that the writer associated “death” and “wedding” with one another. So does the same association apply to the celestial bull episode? Are both “death” and “wedding” not mutually exclusive, yes, was it possibly even “the same”? It is therefore very likely that Inanna was involved with the "killing" of Gilgamesh exactly the same had in mind, namely "wedding", even if we do not understand at the moment what this is supposed to mean.

In the case of Nergal, the identity of “death” and “wedding” results even from the narrative itself. Nergal actually ends up in the underworld, so “dies”. As we know, Gilgamesh will also “die” and at the same time become king of the underworld. The parallel between Gilgamesh and Nergal is underlined by the fact that Gilgamesh was actually identified with Nergal in late Babylonian times. [58] It is also noteworthy that Ishtar uses the same words to advertise Gilgamesh as Ereshkigal does for Nergal:

at-ta lu-ú mu-ti-ma ana-ku lu-ú áš-šat-ka

You shall be my husband and I will be your wife. [59]

So is Ishtar even an underworld goddess in the heavenly bull myth? Or at least it is also? Tzvi Abusch comes to this conclusion:

Here, Ishtar is the tomb. Her nature and behavior in our text are characteristic of a type of early earth goddess who is both the source of fertility and life as well as the cause of death and the receiver of the dead. [60]

Ishtar not only intends to “marry” Gilgamesh by “killing” Gilgamesh. Abusch believes that in the dialogue between Ishtar and Gilgamesh he also recognizes various indications that Ishtar's original "marriage proposal" is an invitation to Gilgamesh to become king of the underworld - of course by dying at the same time. For Abusch, this is the real reason for Gilgamesh, why he gives the goddess a basket. E.g. Ishtar promises the hero the following:

 

lu kám-/see below\ ina šap-li-ka šarrū(lugal)meš kabtūtu(idim)meš u rubû(now)meš

Kings, dignitaries and princes are to crouch at your feet. [61]

Abusch compares this passage with a corresponding one in an invocation to Gilgamesh in his role as ruler of the underworld:

šarrū šakkanakkū u rubû maharka kamsū

Kings, rulers and princes will crouch before you. [62]

It must obviously be about dead Act rulers who will crouch in front of Gilgamesh. The verb form is also very appropriate here kamsū. It is a tripod. The kings do not bow actively, but remain in a bowed state - as one would not otherwise expect from the dead. Further references to a “death wedding” can be seen in the fact that Gilgamesh Inanna compares it with a “palace that kills warriors”, as well as with things that have disintegrated: with a broken shoe, with a leaky water hose, with a door which it pulls through. [63]

Not all details that Abusch interprets as evidence of a “death wedding” may actually be meant that way. Nevertheless, the associative proximity of the celestial bull myth to the myth of Nergal and Ereschkigal cannot be a coincidence. Abusch, however, overlooks the possibility of interpretation that we choose here, namely that a connection between Gilgamesh and the goddess actually comes about.

This new interpretation also reveals another possible fundamental misunderstanding of conventional interpretations: the first appearance that the goddess is failing in her intention to "kill" Gilgamesh might be deceptive. Possibly she even receives everything she wants, both the "death" of Gilgamesh and at the same time Gilgamesh as a husband. Let us consider: After the killing of the heavenly bull and the death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh also becomes aware of his mortality. The rest of the epic tells of his attempt to escape death and his failure. Does Inanna's "killing curse" sit on his neck and does the hero feel that he must ultimately come true? One remembers Dumuzi's flight from the death demons that Inanna set on him. The epic even contains episodes in which Gilgamesh actually walks through death-like experiences. For example, once he is sent through a dark tunnel by a scorpion man. Noteworthy here: The scorpion is the animal of the goddess Ischchara, thus the Ishtar in the form of the wedding goddess.This makes sense because Ishtar wants to marry Gilgamesh after all. We will go into the astronomical aspect of this description later.

Abusch believes that Gilgamesh, by killing the heavenly bull, defeats Ishtar, and consequently can avoid death for the time being. But Nergal must warn us here to be careful: Nergal too defeated Ereschkigal - and at the same moment becomes you spouse and the ruler of the underworld.

So is Ishtar really achieving everything she wants? Let's not ignore: Only with such an interpretation of the myth does the goddess retain her dignity. A goddess who failed in her intention to marry a mortal and then failed in her intention to kill him would be completely ridiculous. The new interpretation can avoid this and gives the goddess back the respect she deserves. For this reason alone, it is plausible.

At the same time I would like to point out that only with such an interpretation will the wisdom of the ancient myths retain their dignity. Suddenly they gain a depth that we would not have expected. A mind that works so profoundly with ambivalences can even challenge us modern people, maybe even abovedemand that we feel so much superior to ancient man. Could it be that these are not just some entertaining stories from the "childhood of mankind"? that ancient man was a little less naive than we are inclined to believe today? that there is a spirit and a depth in myths, the understanding of which is by no means a matter of course for us, but a question of personal maturity and depth? Could it even be that we have generally become too decadent and flat to understand the true meaning of myths?

The celestial bull and nergal myths are not the only myths in which “marriage” and “death” are “the same” or at least go hand in hand with each other. Let us leave aside the question of the exact meaning of this equation for the time being! The following list is intended to demonstrate that this equation is indeed very central is for Mesopotamian mythology. For the sake of completeness of this list, I'll include the two myths discussed here:

1. Inanna wants to marry Gilgamesh and sets the heavenly bull on him to kill him.

2. Ereschkigal wants to kill Nergal and wins him as a husband.

3. In the myth of Ishtar's journey into the underworld it is said that the dead celestial bull the husband of the underworld goddess.

4. When Ishtar returns to the surface of the earth in the same myth and is reunited with her husband Dumuzi, she kills him with the look of death.

5. After Schukaletuda deflowered Inanna, she pursues him and kills him.

6. After Enlil deflowered and impregnated his future wife Ninlil, he was banished to the underworld by the gods. Ninlil follows him there. The two eventually get married.

7. When Enki successively impregnates his wife, daughter, daughter's daughter, etc., he is sentenced to death by Ninchursang. By the way, he is also a kind of underworld god, as he rules over the subterranean water, which, according to Mesopotamian beliefs, comes to the surface of the earth in the winter half-year.

8. When Enkidu realizes that he has to die, he blames the whore Shamchat, who initiated him into sexuality. It is obvious that Shamchat is a manifestation of Ishtar.

In all of these myths, the themes of “death” and “marriage” go hand in hand. For cases 1 - 3, as we now know, the actual equation “marriage” = “death” applies. Hence, we must consider that the same is true of the other cases. For Enlil and Ninlil this is immediately plausible. What about Inanna and Schukaletudah? The punishment for defloration of the young woman is death. The common interpretation here is that Schukaletuda raped Inanna and therefor is punished. I will show later that this theory is wrong. The death of Schukaletuda should also be here Marriage symbol be. I don't even need to use depth psychology to make this understandable: How many young men flee from the responsibility they have taken on with a night of love? The wedding represents a transition in life, which means the end of a life and the beginning of a new one for both men and women - that is, a death and a birth. I'll get into more detail on this myth shortly.

And what about the case of Ishtar's underworld? On her return to the surface of the earth, she apparently sends Dumuzi to the underworld without first uniting with him. But appearances could also be deceptive. What speaks against it, also here, in the same sense as with Schukaletuda, to say that the goddess now forces the beloved into a firm bond and that therefore applies: "Death = marriage". We will talk about Ishtar's underworld walk and Dumuzi's death later.

In any case, it is clear - and this was a compelling conclusion - that Gilgamesh's wedding with Ishtar, desired by Ishtar in the heavenly bull myth, actually takes place, as does the “death” of the hero intended by the goddess.

Ishtar's rejection by Gilgamesh cannot therefore be a final rejection, but must be part of the love game. Not a word says the text, as if, for example, believes that Ishtar cannot irritate Gilgamesh as a woman. [64] Gilgamesh's justification lies rather in the notorious "unfaithfulness" of the goddess. It is pure reason that holds Gilgamesh back. He has nothing to complain about in her beauty. But this means alsothat he would take a liking to the goddess in himself. In any case, the goddess does not seem to stop this. It really gets going. And as far as Gilgamesh is concerned, the question may be asked what reason can do against passions.

The bullfight now obviously represents an excessive outburst of emotions. Its interpretation as an expression of the anger of the goddess is obvious. But at the same time it should also be an expression of sexual desire and an act of love. In an ancient Babylonian incantation it says:

uzzum illaka rīmāniš

Passion comes over me like a bull. [65]

Inanna does not give up her intention, but wants lust to overwhelm and "kill" Gilgamesh. She chases the bull, i.e. she chases hers - or his? - passion on him. you enforces what he initially does not want.

 

Gilgamesh = Nergal

Let us pause for a moment and reflect on how we have dealt with the various myths in the chapters above. We have brought the celestial bull myth and the nergal myth in relation to one another, and have found that in both cases a young man enters into a marriage with a death goddess. We therefore saw each other at the end forcedthat the two myths, although outwardly starkly different from one another, are in fact and truth from the same object act. The question arises as to how it can come about that one and the same culture can express the same subject in two so different myths. A plausible explanation is that, strictly speaking, we are not dealing with one and the same culture, but that the two myths stem from different local traditions, which, however, together go back to an older tradition dealing with this topic. In the course of the formation of the Mesopotamian empires and the amalgamation of peoples, the various local traditions would have come into contact with one another and would have become part of a single large collection of myths.

We already know from Greece how much local traditions of the same myth can differ. To visualize the phenomenon, one only needs to open Kerényi's “Mythology of the Greeks” anywhere and read a few sections. We find the same phenomenon in Mesopotamia. Consider the enormous differences between the two versions of the Nergal myth or the two versions of Ishtar's descent into the underworld! It is also known that even the names of the heroes or gods who play a part in it can change from place to place. The deluge hero Ziudsura becomes Atramchasis, Utanapishti and Noah. The role of the biblical god Yahweh is shared among others by the gods Enlil and Ea-Enki.

Seen from this point of view, one will in principle not be able to object much to “equating” myths, as we did with the celestial bull myth and the nergal myth. However, at the same time we have done something that is very unusual in the philological sciences. From this “equation” we have gained a new understanding of the celestial bull myth that cannot be read from its explicit statements. Not only that: our new understanding even seems to contradict what the naive listener thinks he is learning from the myth. It is not immediately apparent from the text that Gilgamesh's basket to Inanna is only supposed to be part of a love game and that a union of the two does actually come about after all. The "contradiction" of our new understanding to the naive one can now be reconciled. The interpretation of the bullfight as an act of love shines symbolic immediately a. We also know that in Mesopotamian mythology some love relationships only come about after one of the two partners has initially said no. Still, we have come to the conclusion that the true meaning of a myth cannot be what the naive listener finds itself. In short: we write one to the myth esoteric Importance to.

Can we avoid this too? Certainly, the whole of Assyriology has "known" how to avoid this up to now. But I see good reasons for breaking new ground here. I also point out that this esoteric interpretation is in addition to conventional attempts at interpretation - I want them naive or exoteric call - is not necessarily in conflict. The naive understanding is a reality. Not only modern Assyriologists can only see from myth that a mortal falls into a falling out with a goddess. It must have happened to the ancient reader or listener. The naive The meaning of the myth is therefore a legitimate subject of research. Nevertheless, the esoteric meaning of myth that I have expounded cannot be dismissed out of hand. I cannot see that there was anything missing from my argument. In my opinion, the evidence is extremely clear.

As is well known, mythical narratives are often very elliptical. For example, if we compare the Sumerian myth of Inanna's descent into the underworld with the Akkadian myth, we find that the latter represents the plot extremely shortened. Some things about him are really not explained by himself, but only "esoterically". That is, it is assumed that the reader is not naive, but already knows a lot. Perhaps the text is not intended for reading and understanding at all, but is somehow in a cultic context, perhaps serving liturgical purposes. The urgent question for philology is therefore where we want to gain this “esoteric” more knowledge from. Other versions of the same myth or other myths on the same basic topic are ideal sources here.

However, if we want to proceed in this way, we cannot have a complete guarantee that the writer of the respective text actually had precisely what we were reconstructing through such cross-references between myths. For example, we cannot be absolutely certain that Sin-leqi-unninni, the alleged author of the epic, had a similar esoteric understanding of the celestial bull myth as we worked out earlier. It is quite possible that this was not the case. However, the following things should be considered:

- What use is the whole "scientific rigor" if in this case it obstructs a possible deeper understanding of the myths - thus a possible deeper understanding of the Mesopotamian spirit - from the outset. Instead, taking into account the given uncertainties, we should allow ourselves to follow the recorded path and see what comes out of it. In fact, I believe that we are entering a hitherto little understood dimension of the Mesopotamian spirit.

- Secondly, I would also like to ask the readers to consider carefully whether the parallels between the celestial bull and nergal myths are not convincing enough to actually close the conclusions I have drawn force. But this means that these conclusions must also have been at least subliminally present to the Mesopotamian man who was at home in these myths. If myths come from the unconscious, as psychoanalysis assumes, Sin-leqi-unninni could also be the carrier of a spirit or a mythological knowledge, the depths of which he himself does not quite penetrate with his consciousness.

- The heavenly animal myth is much older than the Gilgamesh epic as we know it. The Sumerian celestial bull myth and bull cults throughout the Middle East and Europe prove this. I refer here to the second part of the present work, in which I study these cults in detail. The conclusions drawn above that in the celestial bull myth both a wedding of the hero with the goddess and his death actually take place, must at least for an older, more original Version of the myth held true. It is difficult to say with certainty where and when this version was circulating. Nevertheless, it is significant because it belongs to the spiritual fund from which the Mesopotamian religion grew.

Another point at which conventional philology will come up against is that I “equate” numerous gods who, according to the current notions of the Mesopotamian pantheon, are independent individuals. The myths quoted above about the motif "Agriculture = sex act = death" suggest the following equations:

Gilgamesh = Nergal = celestial bull = Dumuzi = Enkidu = Schukaletuda = Enlil = Enki

Inanna / Ishtar = Ereschkigal = Ninlil = Ninchursang

Especially the addition of Enlil and Ninlil as well as Enki and Ninchursang will be strange.

It is important, however, that the purpose of these "equal signs" is by no means to identify all these figures with one another. The problem of such identifications of gods has been discussed extensively by others, and I do not need to go into it in detail. [66] If we consider all the sources that give information about the various gods, they turn out to be absolutely incompatible. Dumuzi is not a lord of gods, and Enlil is usually not a dying god. But the boundaries between these “divine individuals” are anything but sharp, and the well-known genealogies and descriptions of gods ultimately lead astray. Gods are not individuals with a clearly defined character. The various texts that deal with certain gods are not consistent with one another. Local traditions that differ from one another coexist, and over time, gods are merged with one another or new gods appear on the scene. The gods are therefore not strictly separate beings; they often overlap in their functionality. If we study the Sumerian hymns and myths about Enlil and Ninlil, we will find that some of them also deal with agriculture, marriage and death, and that they apparently come from a tradition in which that which is responsible for the fertility of the fields divine couple was not called Inanna and Dumuzi, but Enlil and Ninlil.

At least in the myths I refer to above, Enlil and Ninlil have a function analogous to that of Dumuzi and Inanna. When Mesopotamian theologians use the same gods at some point as independent characters have placed them in a genealogy or system of gods, or if modern classical scholars are still trying to do so, this is a different story. This also has a certain charm. But it does little to help us understand the myths deeper; on the contrary, it can only lead to confusion because the myths usually do not adhere to the underlying mythological systems. For example, it would be nonsense to argue that Enlil and Dumuzi cannot be compared because Enlil is not a dying god and Dumuzi is not a ruler of gods. Or, to address an often discussed problem: It is also nonsense and misleading to say that Ishtar is not a mother goddess, because even if she is very often not, gives there are texts in which it is. [67] Such concrete and restrictive ideas of the nature of the gods may make sense in certain contexts, but the myths discussed here demonstrate how limited they are as soon as we go into depth.

I would therefore like to emphasize that I am not concerned with names, but only with functions. If we want to understand the deeper, original meaning of myths, we should pay more attention to the functions than to the names of the characters involved. That said, we should consider the roles these characters play first and foremost intrinsic to the text determine. Then we can then, as done above, compare them with figures from other myths dealing with the same topic and show analogies in the process. Names are of secondary importance in mythology. The parallel myths listed above provide impressive evidence of this. If one wanted to bring the genealogies of the gods or preconceived notions of the individual nature and work of the gods into play, one would not only get entangled in countless contradictions; the meaning of the myths would also be largely lost, and they would become inconsequential stories. Unfortunately, quite a few scientists today are making this very mistake.

Here a central maxim of modern science proves to be the source of the greatest danger: the more differentiated, the more scientific, this is generally accepted. The fact that the myths mentioned could tell "the same thing" is out of the question from the outset. In a sense, I'm going in the opposite direction, focusing not on differences, but on analogies. That means I look at the myths with a kind of "syncretistic" eye, directing my attention to what probably moved late Babylonian theologians to, for example, explicitly equate Gilgamesh and Nergal. [68] Such equations can yes only happened if there is a corresponding predisposition of the two characters!

In a certain sense, one could even accuse conventional philology of the opposite, namely that in the present context it is not too much, but rather too little differentiated thinks. Just that text immanent Interpretation can ultimately have the meaning of a deity for the respective text Certainty establish. Any reference to other sources harbors the risk of bringing something into play that is not part of it. In principle, every text is an expression of the mind of its author, in fact the mind of its author at a certain point in time. Other authors need not share exactly the same ideas. In addition, we must reckon with the fact that there were innumerable traditions that we do not even perceive as such. One should therefore be careful not to insist too much on current ideas of Enlil wherever Enlil is mentioned. Consider: Would what is known from other sources of Enlil lead one to expect that the gods will ban him to the underworld as punishment for deflowering a woman?

In summary and somewhat exaggerated, I can formulate my approach as follows: In an effort to illuminate a mythical text through others, I am primarily not looking for texts in which characters of the same name appear, but characters who take on comparable roles.