Ningishzida

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Ningishzida: is a Mesopotamian deity of the underworld. His name in Sumerian is translated as „lord of the good tree“

Ningishzida, in Mesopotamian religion, Sumerian deity, city god of Gishbanda, near Ur in the southern orchard region. Although Ningishzida was a power of the netherworld, where he held the office of throne bearer, he seems to have originally been a tree god, for his name apparently means “Lord Productive Tree.” In particular, he probably was god of the winding tree roots, since he originally was represented in serpent shape. When pictured in human form, two serpent heads grow from his shoulders in addition to the human head, and he rides on a dragon. He was a son of Ninazu and Ningirda and was the husband of Ninazimua.

In This drawing we see Ningishzida (middle figure) bringing Adapa of Eridu to God Anu (on throne at right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ningishzida is portrayed as either a serpent with the head of a man, or, more frequently, as a double-headed serpent coiled into a double helix.  It is believed that the Greeks also made use of this symbolism in their myth of the caduceus, the wand of Hermes/Mercury which is associates with theft, deception, and death.  Of course contemporary people are familiar with the double helix as well.  We know that DNA, the fundamental blueprint of life is latticed together on a double helix.  It is strange that the first use of this symbol is a mysterious Sumerian tree/snake god who apparently also appealed to Jewish scholars during the Babylonian captivity.

The Vase of Gudea

On exhibit in the Louvre is a green libation vase, which was excavated from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Lagash.  The inscription on it, from King Gudea of Lagash circa 2025 BC, is a dedication to Ningizzida.  Also on the vase is an image of two entwined snakes on a rod.  Some have dated the vase as far back as 4000 B.C. The rod is most likely to be Axis Mundi, the world tree, Yggdrasil, the tree of life.  Ningizzida, a fertility god, was also known as ‚Lord of the Tree of Life‘.  He was often depicted as a serpent with a human head, and later became a god of healing and magic.  His companion was Tammuz/Dumuzi, who personified the creative powers of spring.

The Tree of Life had also been linked with the serpent or dragon (winged serpent) for over 1,000 years before Genesis was written. In 2025 BC the cup of the Sumerian King Gudea of Lagash (see Chapter 5, Fig. 22) showed two winged dragons holding back a pair of opening doors to reveal a caduceus of uniting snakes, the incarnation of the god Ningizzida, one of the names given to the consort of the mother goddess, to whom the cup is inscribed: ‘Lord of the Tree of Truth’.

Associated with his role in agriculture, Ningišzida is said to travel to the underworld at the time of the death of vegetation (in Mesopotamia – mid-summer to mid-winter). This journey is recorded in both Sumerian and Akkadian myths (Ningišzida’s Journey to the Netherworld, ETCSL 1.7.3 and Lambert 1990: 293). In the Adapa legend, Ningišzida, under the name Gišzida, is one of the two deities who are said to have disappeared from the land.

In northern Babylonia the goddess of the Tree of Life was called the ‘divine Lady of Eden’ or Edin, and in the south she was called the ‘Lady of the Vine’, an understandable change of name given that the Sumerian sign for ‘life’ was originally a vine leaf. However, in the myth of Eden, where there is no unifying image of a goddess, there is significantly also not one tree but two trees, or, it could be said, the one tree has become two, and now the fruit of both of them is forbidden. In earlier mythologies the one tree offered both ‘knowledge’ and ‘life’, or ‘wisdom’ and ‘immortality’. Here, knowledge of good and evil is split apart from eternal life, so that a perception of duality is rendered absolutely antithetical to a perception of life’s unity. Campbell comments that: ‘The principle of mythic dissociation, by which God and his world, immortality and mortality, are set apart in the Bible is expressed in a dissociation of the Tree of Knowledge from the Tree of Immortal Life.

 

The Flood Tablet

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The most famous cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia.

Relating part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, From Nineveh, northern Iraq, Neo-Assyrian, 7th century BC.
The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BC) collected a library of thousands of cuneiform tablets in his palace at Nineveh. It included letters, legal texts, lists of people, animals and goods, and a wealth of scientific information, as well as myths and legends.
The best known of these was the story of Gilgamesh, a legendary ruler of Uruk, and his search for immortality. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a huge work, the longest piece of literature in Akkadian language  (the language of Babylonia and Assyria). It was known across the ancient Near East, with versions also found at Hattusas (capital of the Hittites), Emar in Syria and Megiddo in the Levant.
This, the eleventh tablet of the Epic, describes the meeting of Gilgamesh with Utnapishtim. Like Noah in the Hebrew Bible, Utnapishtim had been forewarned of a plan by the gods to send a great flood. He built a boat and loaded it with all his precious possessions, his kith and kin, domesticated and wild animals and skilled craftsmen of every kind.
Utnapishtim survived the flood for six days while mankind was destroyed, before landing on a mountain called Nimush. He released a dove and a swallow but they did not find dry land to rest on, and returned. Finally a raven that he released did not return, showing that the waters must have receded.
This Assyrian version of the Old Testament flood story was identified in 1872 by George Smith, an assistant in The British Museum. On reading the text he … jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself.
Courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photo taken by Jessica Spengler.

Categories: Mesopotamische Artefakte Tags: Schlagwörter: , , , ,

A War Scene

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Gypsum wall panel relief from the palace of Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III 745–727 BCE

Two Assyrian cavalrymen charging against enemies. Both have short curly hair, pointed beards, and wear a kind of pointed helmet with earflaps. The first horseman wears a fringed tunic, highly ornamented with discs set in squares, and a cuirass. The horses have the usual triple tasselled decoration on top of their heads, and two tassels attached to their plaited collars. The second horseman is spearing the horse of an enemy which is sinking down. The headless rider pitches forwards. He wears a garment held by a multiple girdle and low boots. Behind the Assyrian horses a headless figure, dressed in a long garment, lies upside down. He also seems to wear boots with slightly upturned toes. Above the slain a vulture flies to the right carrying entrails in its claws and beak.

NeoAssyrian
Excavated by: Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1849
Nimrud, Mosul
Central Palace, reused in the south west palace
Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III 745–727 BCE
British museum