Dagon — a God in a Fish Suit

Dagon. This Semitic deity has been equated with El, Enlil, and Oannes. He is said to be a warlike protector, and Ba‘al Hadad’s father.

Dagon. This Semitic deity has been equated with El, Enlil, and Oannes. He is said to be a warlike protector, and Ba‘al Hadad’s father.

Dagon is a god of agricultural fertility and grain, and also a major deity of fish and fishing. Like the Babylonian god Oannes, who may be another form of Dagon, he is shown as a merman, human above the waist and fish below. The Babylonian writer Berossus stated that Oannes was the bringer of all wisdom to humankind after the creation, that he had the form of a fish, but underneath looked like a man, and that he rose out of the Persian Gulf each day to teach humans writing, arts, and sciences, returning to the deep each night.

Dagon was very popular with the Philistines, who were enemies of the Israelites, and who captured the Ark of the Covenant from Yahweh’s followers and took it to Dagon’s temple in Ashdod, bringing dire consequences on themselves.

Kothar-wa-Khasis and the Casement Window

Casement Window. Is the discussion between Ba‘al and Kothar-u-Khasis really about a casement window?

Casement Window. Is the discussion between Ba‘al and Kothar-u-Khasis really about a casement window?

Kothar-wa-Khasis (Skillful and Wise), a Canaanite craftsman god, designs and creates weapons for the gods, imbuing them with magic. He makes the two weapons, called Chaser and Driver, with which Ba‘al defeats Yam, and he builds an opulent palace for Ba‘al, of cedar from Lebanon, gold, silver, and lapis lazuli.

In the below excerpt from the Ba‘al Cycle, Aliyan Baal (another name for Ba‘al) has finally gotten permission from El to build himself a palace and is excited to get started, but he has an odd disagreement with his architect-builder Kothar-wa-Khasis about whether he needs a “casement” in the middle of his palace that opens on hinges like a door:

…Aliyan Baal declares:
“Hurry, let a house be built.
Hurry, let a palace be erected!
Hurry, let a house be built.
Hurry, let a palace be erected
In the midst of the heights of Saphon!
A thousand acres the house is to comprise,
A myriad hectares, the palace!”

And Kothar-u-Khasis declares:
“Hear, O Aliyan Baal!
Perceive, O Rider of Clouds!
I shall surely put a window in the house,
A casement in the midst of the palace!”

And Aliyan Baal replies:
“Do not put a window in the house,
A casement in the midst of the palace!
Let not Pidray, girl of Light,
Nor Tallay, girl of rain,
Be seen by El’s beloved Yam Nahar!”
The Lord reviles and spits.

And Kothar-u-Khasis replies:
“Thou wilt return, Baal, to My word.”

Leaving the casement issue aside for the moment, Kothar builds the house without the window. When the sumptuous palace is complete, Ba‘al throws a housewarming party fit for the gods:

Hadad prepares the housewarming of His palace.
He slaughters great and small cattle
He fells oxen and ram-fatlings.
Yearling calves,
Little lambs and kids.
He called His brothers into His house.
His kinsmen into the midst of His palace.
He called the Seventy sons of Asherah.
He caused the sheep Gods to drink wine.
He caused the ewe Goddesses to drink wine.
He caused the bull Gods to drink wine.
He caused the cow Goddesses to drink wine.
He caused the throne Gods to drink wine.
He caused the chair Goddesses to drink wine.
He caused the jar Gods to drink wine.
He caused the jug Goddesses to drink wine.
Until the Gods had eaten and drunk,
And the sucklings quaffed
With a keen knife
A slice of fatling.
They drink wine from a goblet,
From a cup of gold, the blood of vines.

Ba‘al later goes on to conquer 90 cities, and when he returns to his palace as Lord of All the World, he tells Kothar to go ahead and put that casement in.

As Baal went into the midst of the house
Aliyan Baal declared:
“I would install, Kothar, son of the Sea,
Yea Kothar, son of the assembly!
Let a casement be opened in the house;
A window in the midst of the palace,
And let the clouds be opened with rain
On the opening of Kothar-u-Khasis.”

Kothar-u-Khasis laughed.
He lifts His voice
And shouts:
“Did I not tell Thee, O Aliyan Baal,
That Thou wouldst return, Baal, to My word?
Let a casement be opened in the house,
A window in the midst of the palace!”

Baal opened the clouds with rain,
His holy voice He gives forth in the heavens.

A Laser Shooting into Space

A Laser Shooting into Space

Could Kothar have been talking about an astronomical observatory, for instance, when he told Ba‘al he needed a casement in the middle of his palace? Below is England’s historic Aldershot Observatory.

Could Kothar have been talking about an astronomical observatory, for instance, when he told Ba‘al he needed a casement in the middle of his palace? Below is England’s historic Aldershot Observatory.

An SS-24 Missile Silo with 'Hinged' Top. Could Kothar possibly have meant that Ba‘al should install a missile or rocket launching silo, when he said a casement was needed in the palace? Seems preposterous? Learn a little about divine chariots, and ancient rainmakers.

An SS-24 Missile Silo with ‘Hinged’ Top. Could Kothar possibly have meant that Ba‘al should install a missile or rocket launching silo, when he said a casement was needed in the palace? Seems preposterous? Learn a little about divine chariots, and ancient rainmakers.

Osiris, Resurrected as King of the Underworld

Facsimile of a vignette from the Book of the Dead of Ani. 'The deceased Ani kneels before Osiris, judge of the dead. Behind Osiris stand his sisters Isis and Nephthys, and in front of him is a lotus on which stand the four sons of Horus,' original circa 1300 BCE.

Facsimile of a vignette from the Book of the Dead of Ani. ‘The deceased Ani kneels before Osiris, judge of the dead. Behind Osiris stand his sisters Isis and Nephthys, and in front of him is a lotus on which stand the four sons of Horus,’ original circa 1300 BCE.

Osiris (Usiris, Asar, Asari, Aser, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, Usire or Ausare) was god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead, over whom he was said to be a merciful judge. He is the oldest son of Geb the Earth god and Nut the sky goddess, making him Isis’s brother; he later became her husband, begetting Horus, in one of the all-time strange myths.

There are various versions, but basically Osiris’s brother Set (Seth) tricked him into getting into a coffin or box, which Set then sealed with lead and dropped into the Nile River. When Isis finds out, she goes after the box, fearing that without proper rituals and burials, Osiris will not be able to enter the Land of the Dead. Isis finds the coffin embedded in a tree which is being used for a pillar in the palace of the King of Byblos.

Isis retrieves the coffin by curing the king’s son of a nasty illness, but leaves it in a marsh, where Set happens to find it. He cuts Osiris into 14 pieces (some say 13, some say 16 or 26) and distributes the chunks throughout Egypt. Isis, with the help of Set’s sister/wife Nephthys, eventually finds all the parts except for one — the phallus — which was eaten by a fish with a nose like Set’s. Isis fashions another phallus from gold, then sings a magical song and breathes life into Osiris long enough for her to, in the form of a bird, impregnate herself with his seed.

Diodorus Siculus gives another version of the myth in which Osiris is described as an ancient king who taught the Egyptians the arts of civilization, including agriculture. Osiris is murdered by his evil brother Set, whom Diodorus associates with the evil Typhon (“Typhonian Beast”) of Greek mythology. Typhon divides the body into twenty six pieces which he distributes amongst his fellow conspirators in order to implicate them in the murder….

The tale of Osiris becoming fish-like is cognate with the story the Greek shepherd god Pan becoming fish like from the waist down in the same river Nile after being attacked by Typhon (see Capricornus). This attack is part of a generational feud in which both Zeus and Dionysus were dismembered by Typhon, in a similar manner as Osiris is by Set in Egypt. —From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osiris

Isis, in the form of a bird (kite), conceives Horus with the sort-of-alive, sort-of-dead Osiris.

Isis, in the form of a bird (kite), conceives Horus with the sort-of-alive, sort-of-dead Osiris.

'The Nile god pouring water from a hand and a breast over Osiris, pictured as a bird with a man's head,' 1902.

The hugely popular Cult of Osiris allowed anyone who could afford it — not just pharaohs — to have a shot at eternal life — based on moral behavior and ability to pay for appropriate funerary practices.

The flail (nekhakha) was a short rod with three beaded strands attached to its top. Its form was clearly ceremonial but probably derived from a shepherd’s whip. It may also have derived from the ladanisterion which is used to collect ladanum from the leaves of the cistus plant (or other gum bearing plants) which could then be used in the preparation of incense.

The flail was [a] popular emblem of pharaonic power. In early Egyptian history it appears on its own … but in later times if was often paired with the Heqa staff (or crook). Like the Heqa, the flail was associated with the regal gods such as Andjety and Osiris. The flail was also associated with the ithyphallic deities [gods or god statues having an erect penis], in particular Min, and often depicted hovering above the hand raised above their head. The flail was also associated with certain sacred animals (such as sacred bulls and hawks) who were often depicted carrying a flail on their backs. —© J. Hill 2010, http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/royalemblems.html

Portrait of Osiris from The Book of the Dead.

Portrait of Osiris from The Book of the Dead.

Statuette of Osiris, circa 664-332 BCE, bronze with gold.

Statuette of Osiris, circa 664-332 BCE, bronze with gold.

According to Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge, the story of the resurrection of Osiris is related to the Christian resurrection:

The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris is of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death… In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child. —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osiris

In temple rites, bread in the shapes of Osiris’s various parts is eaten.

Athirat: God’s Wife?

Athirat, or Asherah, whom the above clay figurine is thought to depict, was said to be the consort of the gods El, and sometimes Ba‘al, and may have later been known as consort of the god Yahweh.

Athirat, or Asherah, whom the above clay figurine is thought to depict, was said to be the consort of the gods El, and sometimes Ba‘al, and may have later been known as consort of the god Yahweh.

Athirat, also known as Asherah, is a mother goddess called “creatrix of the gods” and “she who treads on the sea.” She is one of the contenders for the title “Queen of Heaven” and was said to be the consort of the high god El, and later Ba‘al. William G. Dever’s book Did God Have a Wife? suggests that Asherah was Yahweh’s consort in Israelite folk religion—not too surprising since Yahweh apparently merged with El and Ba‘al over the years.

In Exodus 34:13, Yahweh tells Moses that as part of the covenant he is making with the Israelites, Yahweh will be driving various peoples out of the “promised land” on the Israelites’ behalf, and they must destroy altars, images, and “Asherah poles” they find there:

Exodus 34:11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:

13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves [Asherah poles]:

14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;

16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Many Bible translations replace groves in verse 13 above with Asherahs/Asherim or Asherah poles. Although historians know that Asherah poles were sacred and that they were placed at Canaanite sacred sites in order to honor Asherah, they do not know what, exactly, they were. Based on repeated biblical instructions to cut them down, and use the wood for burnt offerings to Yahweh, the supposition is that the Asherah was made of wood — either a pole, or a living tree, or a grove of trees.

Asherah Poles

Asherah Poles

According to The Oxford Companion To World Mythology (David Leeming, Oxford University Press, 2005, page 118), “It seems almost certain that the God of the Jews evolved gradually from the Canaanite El, who was in all likelihood the ‘God of Abraham’… If El was the high god of Abraham — Elohim, the prototype of Yahveh mdash; Asherah was his wife, and there are archeological indications that she was perceived as such before she was in effect ‘divorced’ in the context of emerging Judaism of the seventh century B.C.E. (See 2 Kings 23:15).”

Lots of Deities Drove Cooler Vehicles than Yahweh

The Pushpak Aircraft

The Pushpak Aircraft, by Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi, 1916.

In addition to the very interesting divine vehicles associated with Yahweh (the God of the Christians and Jews), many gods and goddesses have driven massively cool vehicles. In fact, as I point out elsewhere, many of their avatars (changed aspects) may be the vehicles themselves rather than a transformation of the deity.

Divine chariots are described quite a bit in the Bible, and also are described a lot in religions around the world. For instance, ancient Hindu texts are crammed full of descriptions of various types of flying chariots — vimanas — and information on how to make them, fuel them, and control them.

According to Wikipedia, a vimana is:

A chariot of the gods, any mythical self-moving aerial car, sometimes serving as a seat or throne, sometimes self-moving and carrying its occupant through the air; other descriptions make the Vimana more like a house or palace, and one kind is said to be seven storeys high.

The pushpaka (“flowery”) is the vimana of Ravana, who is the hero of the great Hindu epic The Ramayana, which describes the pushpaka as follows:

The Pushpaka chariot that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravana; that aerial and excellent chariot going everywhere at will …. that chariot resembling a bright cloud in the sky … and the King [Rama] got in, and the excellent chariot at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere.

Rama being welcomed back to Ayodhya. He is also shown flying in the celestial flying machine, the Pushpak Vimana.

Rama being welcomed back to Ayodhya. He is also shown flying in the celestial flying machine, the Pushpak Vimana.

The Thunderbirds of the Native Americans are similar to the flying things called “gods” by very many ancient cultures — and similar to the United States Air Force Thunderbirds of today. See my post on Thunder Gods, Such as Yahweh….

The Persian king Kai Kavus built himself a Flying Throne and flew it to China.

King Solomon reportedly had a flying carpet 60 miles square that could “get from Damascus to Medina within a day”. The wind once caused the carpet to drop 40,000 people to their deaths, due to Solomon having too much pride.

The Greek god Helios drove the Chariot of the Sun across the sky every day; it was drawn by fire-darting steeds. Phaëton, his son, borrowed the chariot, but lost control and plunged into the river Eridanos. Thor drove his Chariot of Thunder across the sky; it was pulled by his two magic goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. Poseidon frequently drove his Chariot of the Sea through and atop the ocean, pulled by hippocampi (sea-going horses with fish-like hindquarters).

Kali with her chariot Vitthakalai.

Kali with her chariot Vitthakalai.

Maa Kali drives a gold-decorated chariot called the Vitthakalai. Sol, the Norse sun goddess, flew in a chariot pulled by the horses Arvak and Alsvid, whose manes shone like the sun. Dionysus’s chariot was pulled by panthers, tigers, or centaurs, or by a bull, a panther, and a griffin, or something — as usual, no one was exactly clear on what they were seeing.

Dinoysius driving his chariot pulled by a bull, a panther, and a griffin.

Dinoysius driving his chariot pulled by a bull, a panther, and a griffin.

Noah and the Deluge, with Details and Illustrations


Genesis 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Like Enoch, Noah also “walked with God”:

Genesis 6:9 … Noah is a righteous man; perfect he hath been among his generations; with God hath Noah walked habitually. —Young’s Literal Translation

So Noah built an ark according to the instructions Yahweh gave him. Rabbinical texts say that Noah kept preaching at his neighbors, which annoyed them, and that Yahweh had to post guards — lions and other wild animals — in order to protect them. Yahweh, or his angels, were reportedly the ones to provide the animals and food for the trip.

Genesis 6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind; two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

But apparently it was a little more complicated than just two of every living thing of all flesh:

Genesis 7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.


Genesis 7:2 [O]f all the clean beasts thou dost take to thee seven pairs, a male and its female; and of the beasts which are not clean two, a male and its female;
3 also, of fowl of the heavens seven pairs, a male and a female, to keep alive seed on the face of all the earth…. —Young’s Literal Translation

“Cleanliness” of animals in the Bible determines whether they can be eaten or not. Presumably, Noah took more of the clean animals onto the Ark (seven pairs as opposed to two) to serve as food. Information re what was okay to eat is found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Animals were clean if they had cloven (split) hooves and they did not chew their cud. Water-dwelling creatures who did not have fins and scales were unclean. “Every creeping thing that flieth” was unclean, and so on.

Finally Noah (who was 600 years old) and his sons and their wives and all their beasts went onto the boat, having been given a week’s warning by Yahweh as to when the rain would start, and “the LORD shut him in.”

God Shuts the Door of the ark, after Noah and the other occupants are safely inside.

God Shuts the Door of the ark, after Noah and the other occupants are safely inside. This painting from 1340, in Gurk Cathedral, Austria, reflects biblical descriptions of the ark, which make it sound more like a chest (from Latin arca) than a boat.

Genesis 7:13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
14 They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.
15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.
16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.

'World Destroyed by Water'

‘World Destroyed by Water’

It then rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and the Earth stayed flooded for another 150 days.


Noah’s ark has a leak.

When Noah was able to send out a dove who first returned with an olive leaf and then didn’t come back at all, he knew there was dry land to be found. Noah “removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.”



Enlil Rides Zu, a Huge Storm-Bird, His Firebreathing “Servant”


Eagle-Headed Enlil (Ashur): A marble slab at the British Museum.

The third member of the main triad of Sumerian gods — along with An and Enki — Enlil is the tutelary deity of Nippur. He was originally the most powerful Mesopotamian god, but his position was taken over by the Babylonian god Marduk (who also replaced Enki), and then by Ashur (his Assyrian version).

Enlil was the god of “breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance),” known for causing plants to grow and for inventing the mattock (an agricultural tool). He was also the god of weather, which came in handy: He helped create humans, then got fed up with all the noise and sent a deluge to polish everyone off.

His temple was named Ekur, “House of the Mountain.”[8]… As Enlil was the only god who could reach the heaven god An he held sway over the other gods who were assigned tasks by his agent and would travel to Nippur to draw in his power. He is thus seen as the model for kingship.[11] … Grouped around the main sanctuary, there arose temples and chapels to the gods and goddesses who formed his court, so that Ekur became the name for an entire sacred precinct in the city of Nippur. The name “mountain house” suggests a lofty structure and was perhaps the designation originally of the staged tower at Nippur, built in imitation of a mountain, with the sacred shrine of the god on the top. —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlil

Paraphrasing ancient tablets, [Samuel] Kramer [The Sumerians] noted that “it is Enlil who has given them kingship of the land, who has made the land prosperous for them, who gave them all the lands to conquer by his strength. It is Enlil who pronounces the king’s name and gives him his scepter and looks upon him with a favorable eye.”[footnote in orig] Enlil was believed to dwell in his temple in the city of Nippur, “the most important religious center of the Sumerians.”[footnote in orig] —Discovering God, Rodney Stark.

His servant is Zu (or Anzu, To Know Heaven), the huge storm-bird, sometimes shown as a lion-headed eagle, who can breathe fire and water and who guards Enlil’s throne in his sanctuary—ultimately stealing the Tablet of Destinies from him.


'Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, representing the bird-god Anzu (or Im-dugud) as a lion-headed eagle. Alabaster, Early Dynastic III (2550–2500 BC). Found in Telloh, ancient city of Girsu.'

The story of Enlil’s romance with Sud is a classic.

[1-8.] The …… of the young girl [Sud] burgeoned, and she became full of flourishing beauty. …[A]t the gate of the E-zagin, …… she stood, the object of admiration, like a tall, beautifully shaped cow.

9-26. At that time Enlil had not yet been given a wife in the E-kur; Ninlil’s name was not yet famous in the Ki-ur. After travelling through Sumer and to the ends of the universe, he ……; in his search throughout the Land, Enlil, the Great Mountain, stopped at Erec.

He sees Sud and, overcome by her beauty, decides she will become his wife. She is not impressed and closes the door in his face. Enlil tells his vizier, Nuska, to intercede on his behalf.

Sud’s mother, Nanibgal (goddess of writing and learning) points out that they would be foolish to not accept this great honor and good fortune, and tells Sud to get the vizier a beer:

“Nuska is knowing and wise. …… to his presence and pour him beer.” According to the instructions of her mother, she washed his hands and placed a tankard in his hands. The minister opened his left hand and gave her the jewellery, …… everything …… and set it before her. She received the gifts …….

When Enlil got the good news, there was:

…great rejoicing in Enlil’s heart. He raised his head ……, and animals came running. …… herds of four-legged animals that graze together in the desert. He caught …… living in the mountains, he made wild bulls, red deer, elephants, fallow deer, gazelles, bears, wild sheep and rams, lynxes, foxes, wild cats, tigers, mountain sheep, water buffaloes, monkeys, and thick-horned fat cattle jostle together noisily. Cows and their calves, wild cattle with wide-spread horns, …… rope, {ewes and lambs, goats and kids, romping ……} {(1 later ms. from Susa has instead:) …… and fighting}, large kids with long beards, scratching with their hooves, lambs, ……, and majestic sheep were despatched by Enlil toward Erec.

Large cheeses, mustard-flavoured cheeses, small cheeses, ……, milk ……, the sweetest dry honey and white honey, ……, and thick and large …… were despatched by Enlil toward Erec.

……, dates, figs, large pomegranates, ……, jipar fruits, plums (?), halub nuts, almonds, acorns, Dilmun dates packed in baskets, dark-coloured date spadices, large pomegranates gathered from orchards, big clusters of grapes on high, …… trees in fruit, trees from orchards, …… grown in winter, and fruits from orchards were despatched by Enlil toward Erec.

Ores (?) from Harali, the faraway land, …… storehouses, ……, rock-crystal, gold, silver, ……, the yield of the uplands ……, heavy loads of them, were despatched by Enlil toward Erec. After the personal presents, the transported goods ……, Ninmah and the minister ……. The dust from their march reached high into the sky like rain clouds. Enormous marriage gifts were being brought for Nanibgal to Erec; the city was getting full inside and out….

Ashur (Assur, Aš), the head of the Assyrian pantheon, may have started out as the deification of the ancient city of Assur (pronounced Ashur). He eventually merged with Enlil, acquiring Enlil’s goddess wife, Ninlil (Assyrian Mullisu), and his sons Ninurta and Zababa. [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashur_%28god%29.]


Ashur is associated with a horned winged disc, or sun disc, and with an archer drawing his bow.

From Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by Donald A. Mackenzie (1915):

Mesopotamia and Its Gods


'Rectangular, baked clay relief panel; modeled in relief on the front depicting a nude female figure with tapering feathered wings and talons, standing with her legs together; shown full frontal, wearing a headdress consisting of four pairs of horns topped by a disc; wearing an elaborate necklace and bracelets on each wrist; holding her hands to the level of her shoulders with a rod and ring in each; figure supported by a pair of addorsed lions above a scale-pattern representing mountains or hilly ground, and flanked by a pair of standing owls. Known as the 'Burney Relief' or the 'Queen of the Night'.'

The ancient area of Mesopotamia is considered “the cradle of civilization” for much of the world. The name means land between rivers, comprising the area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, roughly modern-day Iraq, plus parts of northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and southwestern Iran.

A non-Semitic tribe calling themselves the black-headed people lived in southern Mesopotamia; the Semitic Akkadians who inhabited the north gave them the name Sumerians. The Sumerians had an advanced civilization that seems to have sprung into being more or less from nowhere around 4000 BCE.

Sumerians were the first known people to grow grains and raise sheep and cattle on a large scale. They were the first to practice “modern” agriculture: large-scale, year-round production, using mono-cropping, irrigation, and specialized workers. Sumer drained marshes for agriculture, aided by the fact that the temples and their high priests owned vast amounts of land—and required that everyone donate labor to the temple, on a moment’s notice and for as long as needed.

Fertile Crescentsource

The Fertile Crescent.

The Sumerians’ success at growing and storing grains and herding animals meant they could settle instead of living as nomads. A dozen city-states, of 10,000 or more population each, sprang up in Sumer, such as Eridu and Sippar, each with its own temple for its own tutelary deity, and each ruled by its king or high priest.

Sumer is thought to have been the birthplace of writing; written records begin here about 3100 BCE, consisting of cuneiform text on clay. The Sumerians had a complex system of metrology, the science of measurement; they understood, and perhaps created, arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. Their number system was sexagesimal, based on alternating bases of 10 and 60, and is still used today to measure time and angles. Sumer is said to have been the first to use place values in arithmetic, and the first to calculate the volume of a cube and the area of a triangle.

Sumerians were knowledgeable astronomers; they made star maps. They gave the world its first bureaucracy, with codified systems of law and administration, including “paperwork” (on clay), courts, and jails. They may have been responsible for inventing military formations. They were avid traders and boat-builders and were accomplished at leather- and metalwork, weaving, masonry, and pottery. They may even have invented the wheel—it appears, as a potter’s wheel, nearly simultaneously in the mid-4th millennium BCE, in Mesopotamia, Central Europe, and the northern Caucasus (at the border of Europe and Asia). Soon wheels were propelling carts and grinding grain.

Where did all this advanced knowledge come from? Archaeological findings show that just before the time Sumer blossomed, “civilization” locally consisted, most likely, of peasant farmers, hunter-fishermen, and nomads — and indications are that these rude lifestyles were on their way down, devolving not evolving, at the time Sumer blossomed.


'1st Millennium seal showing a worshipper and a fish-garbed sage before a stylised tree with a crescent moon & winged disk set above it. Behind this group is another plant-form with a radiant star and the Star-Cluster (Pleiades cluster) above. In the background is the dragon of Marduk with Marduk's spear and Nabu's standard upon its back.'

Stories from many civilizations tell of divine teachers — gods and demigods — and sometimes humans specially endowed by the gods with knowledge — who teach humans the arts and sciences needed for civilized living. Ancient texts suggest that one such teacher, Oannes, and his helpers oversaw the education of humans when “kingship” first “from heaven was lowered,” giving rapid rise to Sumerian civilization. Here is what Carl Sagan and his co-auther I.S. Shklovskii had to say about Oannes in the 1966 edition of their book, Intelligent Life in the Universe:

[S]tories like the Oannes legend, and representations especially of the earliest civilizations on Earth, deserve much more critical studies than have been performed heretofore, with the possibility of direct contact with an extraterrestrial civilization as one of many possible alternative explanations.

With or without the help of Oannes, Sumer prospered—and was a popular target for takeover, falling to the Akkadians in 2270, and then being conquered in turn by the Babylonians and Assyrians, among others, with Alexander the Great taking over for Greece in 332 BCE.

Mesopotamians worshiped about 2400 gods and goddesses in the early days, winnowing those to a few hundred over time, as Sumerian gods merged with Akkadian gods, and so forth, and as less popular gods fell by the wayside. Each city-state had its own tutelary deity, who was considered the most superior of all the gods worshipped in that vicinity — although most of the many written prayers that have been found exalt whichever god they’re addressed to as being the best god in every way. Many Mesopotamian gods and goddesses were especially popular with Yahweh’s followers.


'Bust of a male, bearded orant (an image of someone with her or his hands in prayer position), found in the temple of Ishtar at Mari. Gypsum alabaster, traces of bitumen in the holes of the beard, ca. 2500–2400 BC.'

Praying statues mesopotamian

These praying figures lived in Mesopotamian temples, where they represented constantly praying worshippers. As with idols of the gods themselves, these statues were thought to actually embody the entity depicted.

In addition to their many gods, Mesopotamians also had many demons to make their lives difficult with plagues and misfortunes, often requiring exorcism. The edimmu, for instance, were ghosts of people who did not have proper burial; [they were vengeful against their former loved ones, love having turned to hate in equal proportion.] They were thought to suck the breath out of sleeping children.

With its lively, multifaceted pantheon, Mesopotamian religion prospered for more than 4000 years. Beginning in the first century CE, it became admixed or replaced with Christianity and Judaism, but remnants of the native religion remained until at least the 4th century CE.

The religious stories of Sumeria, which probably were the first ever to be written down, not only show up transformed into Bible classics—such as the Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Deluge, the Tower of Babel, Moses’s Birth, and the Ten Commandments — but also form the basis of Egyptian and Greek mythologies. Professor Rodney Stark writes in Discovering God that the pantheons of the ancient gods were “remarkably similar”:

Indeed the great Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-425 BCE) claimed that the gods of Greece had been adopted from Egypt, and many modern scholars agree. [fin][fn: Griffiths, “The Orders of Gods in Ancient Greece and Egypt.”] There is equally strong evidence that both Greek and Egyptian religions display strong Sumerian influences.

Sumer’s was a temple religion; there was no separation of church and state; the highest priest was the king himself. All the people were considered slaves of the city’s god, and the priests, as intermediaries, controlled everyone’s lives.

Priests were mostly descendants of previous priests; it was a closed order. They were highly trained in ritual; important parts were played by dance, hymns, and music — harps, lyres, drums. Sacred temple Sumerian texts were rhythmic, sometimes with much repetition of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” sort, and catchy choruses.

Ordinary people did not take place in temple activities, except occasionally in public ceremonies. Upper nobility might be able to gain access to some temple rites, but usually Sumerian temple rituals were performed and witnessed exclusively by priests. The temple was considered the house of the god(s), and the holy sanctuary where the god(s) resided was out of view of everyone except priests. The gods were believed to actually inhabit the sacred temple idols made in their images, in one or another of their forms, and they needed to be bathed, fed, and similarly cared for, in addition to being petitioned and propitiated.

Temples were huge, built on high spots atop raised platforms, and made of baked mud bricks. When the old temple was worn out, the mud bricks were torn down and flattened, and a new temple was built atop the remains of the old one—the only acceptable, sacred site, making the temple that much higher yet than the surrounding city.

Starting about 2300 BCE, the building style shifted to step pyramids called ziggurats—from two to seven successively smaller tiers of sun-baked bricks, with colorful fired and glazed brick facings outside; inside walls were painted with frescos.

The ziggurats were believed to connect heaven and Earth. Etemenanki, the name of a Babylonian temple dedicated to Marduk, means Temple of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth, or perhaps House of the Platform between Heaven and Earth. It had seven multi-colored tiers, with the temple on top—where the god(s) lived—painted indigo blue. The ziggurat included living quarters for the priests, and was a fortress of privacy at the center of a busy city.

There were five dozen or more significant temples in Sumeria, for various gods. The main triad of deities were known by different names at different times, and fused identities when convenient, but the basic story is that the high god An and his (literal or metaphorical) sons Enki and Enlil create heaven and earth, and then the sons come down to Earth to implement plans to mine and farm and provide a nice lifestyle for the gods. [300 come down; 300 stay up]

The gods cast lots and divided (the Cosmos):
[Anu] went up to [heaven]
[Enlil had] the earth as his subject;
[the lock,] the snare of the sea
[was given] to Enki the wise.[footnote: atrahasis]

Mesopotamia wasn’t the only springboard for civilization. Others around the world are: (dates vary widely among sources) Egypt (starting about 3000 BCE); Yellow River Valley (China, 2200 BCE); Indus Valley (India, 1500 BCE); Andes (Peru, 800 BCE); and Mesoamerica (Mexico, 3rd century BCE).

cuneiform tabletsource

A Cuneiform Tablet.

Ugarit was an ancient port city, the site of modern-day Ras Shamra in Syria.

Ugarit’s location was forgotten until 1928 when a peasant accidentally opened an old tomb while ploughing a field. The discovered area was the Necropolis of Ugarit located in the nearby seaport of Minet el-Beida. Excavations have since revealed an important city that takes its place alongside Ur and Eridu as a cradle of urban culture, with a prehistory reaching back to ca. 6000 BC, perhaps because it was both a port and at the entrance of the inland trade route to the Euphrates and Tigris lands.

The excavations uncovered a royal palace of ninety rooms laid out around eight enclosed courtyards, and many ambitious private dwellings. Crowning the hill where the city was built were two main temples: one to Baal the “king”, son of El, and one to Dagon, the chthonic god of fertility and wheat.

On excavation of the site, several deposits of cuneiform clay tablets were found; all dating from the last phase of Ugarit, around 1200 BC. These represented a palace library, a temple library and—apparently unique in the world at the time—two private libraries, one belonging to a diplomat named Rapanu. The libraries at Ugarit contained diplomatic, legal, economic, administrative, scholastic, literary and religious texts. The tablets are written in Sumerian, Hurrian, Akkadian (the language of diplomacy at this time in the ancient Near East), or Ugaritic (a previously unknown language). No less than seven different scripts were in use at Ugarit: Egyptian and Luwian hieroglyphs, and Cypro-Minoan, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian, and Ugaritic cuneiform. —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugarit

Babyloniaca, written by Babylonian priest Berossus circa 280 BCE, says that all the arts and sciences were brought by a “primeval being, half-man, half-fish, Oannes” who came out of the Persian Gulf and “taught man everything there is to know. Since then nothing new has been learned, though much has been forgotten.” In the 1832 edition of Ancient Fragments, author I.P. Cory translates the writings of Berossus concerning Oannes:

At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldæa, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field. In the first year there appeared, from that part of the Erythræan sea which borders upon Babylonia, an animal destitute1 of reason, by name Oannes, whose whole body (according to the account of Apollodorus) was that of a fish; that under the fish’s head he had another head, with feet also below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish’s tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.

This Being was accustomed to pass the day among men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions. And when the sun had set, this Being Oannes, retired again into the sea, and passed the night in the deep; for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which Berossus proposes to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings.

In the story of how Enki gets drunk and gives the 100 [sacred] mes to Inana, repetition is used to recall again and again what each me is:

Holy Inana received deceit, the rebel lands, kindness, being on the move, being sedentary. [El said,] “In the name of my power, in the name of my abzu, I will give them to holy Inana, my daughter….”

Holy Inana received the craft of the carpenter, the craft of the coppersmith, the craft of the scribe, the craft of the smith, the craft of the leather-worker, the craft of the fuller, the craft of the builder, the craft of the reed-worker. “In the name of my power, in the name of my abzu, I will give them to holy Inana, my daughter…”

This goes on for a long time, and then repeats as Inana acknowledges what she has been given:

“He has given me deceit. He has given me the rebel lands. He has given me kindness. He has given me being on the move. He has given me being sedentary…He has given me the craft of the carpenter. He has given me the craft of the coppersmith. He has given me the craft of the scribe. He has given me the craft of the smith. He has given me the craft of the leather-worker. He has given me the craft of the fuller. He has given me the craft of the builder. He has given me the craft of the reed-worker….”


The Ziggurat of Ur.


A reconstruction of the Etemenaki, a seven-story ziggurat dedicated to Marduk in the 6th century BCE.

Chichen-Itza El Castillosource

At Chichén-Itzá, in the Yucatan, stands the Temple of Kukulcan. Step pyramids are features of ancient societies not only in Mesopotamia, but in Egypt, Mesoamerica, South America, and North America. Like the earthen mound templess of pre-Columbian peoples in what is now the southeastern United States, the mud-brick pyramids of the Mesopotamians did not survive the centuries well, whereas the stone pyramids of other cultures are still impressive today.







The plumed serpent, Quetzalcoatl, at Teotihuacán, Mexico. To me, these plumes look like the flames from a rocket.

There’s a class of ancient stories about knowledge bringers. These were highly accomplished beings who came from the sky and taught the people the skills they needed to survive and thrive. Not surprisingly, many of these knowledge bringers are known as gods, usually creator gods. One of my favorite knowledge bringers is Quetzalcoatl. Lots of people have loved him through the ages, and love him still.

According to Graham Hancock in Fingerprints of the Gods, Quetzalcoatl was the main god of the ancient Mexicans. Hancock cites descriptions of Quetzalcoatl that sound much like Viracocha: “a fair and ruddy complexioned man with a long beard”, “a white man, a large man, broad browed, with huge eyes, long hair, and a great, rounded beard”, also:

…a mysterious person … a white man with strong formation of body, broad forehead, large eyes, and a flowing beard. He was dressed in a long, white robe reaching to his feet. He condemned sacrifices, except of fruits and flowers, and was known as the god of peace…. When addressed on the subject of war he is reported to have stopped up his ears with his fingers.

Another source cited by Hancock, The Mythology of Mexico and Central America, by John Bierhorst, says that the “wise instructor” Quetzalcoatl:

… came from across the sea in a boat that moved by itself without paddles. He was a tall, bearded white man who taught people to use fire for cooking. He also built houses and showed couples that they could live together as husband and wife; and since people often quarreled in those days, he taught them to live in peace.

In Fair Gods and Stone Faces, by Constance H. Frick Irwin, Quetzalcoatl is described as arriving at Coatzecoalcos (Serpent Sanctuary) by sea in vessels “with sides that shone like the scales of serpents’ skins”.


Quetzalcoatl in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, 16th century CE.

The legends say that Quetzalcoatl had come from very far away, across the Eastern Sea. They also say he left, with much sadness, supposedly from Coatzecoalcos (Serpent Sanctuary), sailing on a “raft of serpents,” saying he would be back someday [like Viracocha]. Hancock cites The New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology: “[Quetzalcoatl] burned his houses, built of silver and shells, buried his treasure, and set sail on the Eastern Sea preceded by his attendants who had been changed into bright birds.”

Since the sixteenth century it has been widely held that the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II initially believed the landing of Hernán Cortés in 1519 to be Quetzalcoatl’s return. This has been questioned by ethno-historian Matthew Restall (and a great majority of others) who argues that the Quetzalcoatl-Cortés connection is not found in any document that was created independently of post-Conquest Spanish influence, and that there is little proof of a pre-Hispanic belief in Quetzalcoatl’s return. Most documents expounding this theory are of entirely Spanish origin, such as Cortés’s letters to Charles V of Spain, in which Cortés goes to great pains to present the naïve gullibility of the Aztecs in general as a great aid in his conquest of Mexico. (Read more.) —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatl

Like Viracocha in South America, Quetzalcoatl went by different names in different parts of Mexico and Central America. He was Gucumatz to the Quiche Maya; he was Kukulkan to workshipers at Chichen Itza. All three of these names mean “Feathered Serpent”. Quetzalcoatl may also be at the core of the Mayan gods Votan and Itzamana. Quetzalcoatl was known to travel with assistants, so the numerous similar stories may reflect multiple “gods” spread across the New World.

Certain myths set out in the Ancient Mayan religious texts known as the Books of Chilam Balam, for instance, reported that “the first inhabitants of Yucatan were the “People of the Serpent”. They came from the east in boats across the water with their leader Itzamana, “Serpent of the East”, a healer who could cure by laying on hands, and who revived the dead.

“Kukulkan,” stated another tradition, “came with nineteen companions, two of whom were gods of fish, two others gods of agriculture, and a god of thunder…. They stayed ten years in Yucatan. Kukulkan made wise laws and then set sail and disappeared in the direction of the rising sun…. —Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods

Quetzalcoatl and his kind were credited with introducing writing, mathematics, the calendar, masonry, architecture, metallurgy, astronomy, agriculture, medicine, herbalism, law, and arts and crafts. He also forbade human sacrifice, although it reappeared after he left.

Quetzalcoatl was defeated by an evil god called Tezcatilpoca (Smoking Mirror) at Tollan, modern-day Tula (in Hidalgo, central Mexico). Supposedly, Tezcatilpoca had a magic mirror, called Tezcat, in which he could see things from far away, and from which other mirrors were made for wizards.

Graham Hancock has noted that idols in the Tula ruins are holding weapons similar to those held by Viracocha-related idols in the Kalasasaya Temple at Tiahuanaco —weapons unidentifiable as anything known. He suggests they may be the legendary xiuhcoatl,fire serpents— weapons of the gods. He references An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, by Mary Ellen Miller and Karl Taube, that these fire serpents “apparently emitted burning rays capable of piercing and dismembering human bodies.”


The Mayan Fire Serpent Xiuhcoatl.

Most Mesoamerican beliefs included cycles of suns. Usually, our current time was considered the fifth sun, the previous four having been destroyed by flood, fire and the like. Quetzalcoatl allegedly went to Mictlan, the underworld, and created fifth-world mankind [us] from the bones of the previous races (with the help of Chihuacoatl), using his own blood, from a wound in his penis, to imbue the bones with new life.

His birth, along with his twin Xolotl, was unusual; it was a virgin birth, to the goddess Coatlicue.[citation needed] Alternatively, he was a son of Xochiquetzal and Mixcoatl. One Aztec story claims that Quetzalcoatl was seduced by Tezcatlipoca into becoming drunk and sleeping with a celibate priestess (in some accounts, his sister Quetzalpetlatl) and then burned himself to death out of remorse. His heart became the morning star (see Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli). — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatl


Quetzalcoatl, as depicted in the Codex Magliabechiano, 16th century CE.

Speaking of a relief found carved on granite at La Venta, an Olmec site near the port of Coatzecoalcos (Serpent Sanctuary) on the Gulf of Mexico, and now obliterated by petroleum interests, Graham Hancock says:

The relief…showed a man sitting with his legs stretched out in front of him as though he were reaching for pedals with his feet. He held a small, bucket-shaped object in his right hand. With his left he appeared to be raising or lowering a lever. The “head-dress” he wore was an odd and complicated garment. To my eye it seemed more functional than ceremonial, although I could not imagine what its function might have been. On it, or perhaps on a console above it, were two x-shaped crosses.

I turned my attention to the other principal element of the sculpture, the “feathered serpent”. On one level it did, indeed, depict exactly that: a plumed or feathered serpent, the age-old symbol of Quetzalcoatl, whom the Olmecs, therefore, must have worshipped (or at the very least recognized). Scholars do not dispute this interpretation. It is generally accepted that Quetzalcoatl’s cult was immensely ancient, originating in prehistoric times in Central America and thereafter receiving the devotion of many cultures during the historic period.

The feathered serpent in this particular sculpture, however, had certain characteristics that set it apart. It seemed to be more than just a religious symbol; indeed, there was something rigid and structured about it that made it look almost like a piece of machinery. —Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods


Quetzalcoatl, left, and Tezcatlipo.


Resplendent Quetzal (Male).


'Quetzalcoatl, using the attributes of Ehecatl the wind god, thus representing the winds that bring the rain. Also known as the feathered serpent.'


Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, 16th century CE.


'Man in Serpent', Olmec stele from La Venta, in Mexico. Click to enlarge.



Enki and the Creation of Humankind



Enki (Ea), along with An and Enlil, form the triad of gods at the heart of Mesopotamian mythology. He is often said to be the son of An, and the half-brother of Enlil. With the goddess Damkina, he is father of the great Babylonian god Marduk. Ea voluntarily hands over control of humanity to his super-impressive son, which act is said to reflect the passing of the “supremacy once enjoyed by [the city of] Eridu to Babylon as a religious and political center.”

The meaning of the name Enki is not clear; it may mean Lord of Earth or Lord of the Mound or Lord of that Which Is Below or even cunning. The later Akkadians and Babylonians called him Ea, Sumerian for House of Water, the name of his temple.

Enki is said to have created the first Sumerian city, Eridu, called in an ancient text “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the gods’] delight,” one of five antedeluvian Sumerian cities. According to the Sumerian King List:

When kingship from heaven was lowered, the kingship was in Eridu.

Although Eridu (said to mean on the seashore or home of going afar) was located near the mouth of the Euphrates River at the Persian Gulf, that was in 5400 BCE. Nowadays, due to silt accumulation, the city’s remains are inland (at Tell Abu Shahrain, in Iraq). Many scholars think that Eridu is the original Babel, of Tower of Babel fame [and a Mesopotamian story lends support].

Enki is Eridu’s tutelary deity. His temple, and home, called E-A (House of Water) or E-abzu (House of the Watery Deep), is a ziggurat in the midst of marshes, said to be raised upon a mound, or even located underwater. According to ancient texts translated by L.W. King in The Seven Tablets of Creation:

O thou River, who didst create all things,
When the great gods dug thee out,
They set prosperity upon thy banks,
Within thee Ea, the king of the Deep, created his dwelling.

Enki’s focus is more on “sweet” or fresh water than salt water. He is Lord of the Abzu, or Apsu in Akkadian, (meaning Deep Ocean or Water Far), the subterranean fresh-water sea from which all lakes, springs, rivers, and so forth are said to arise, imbued with cosmic forces.

The house Enki has built for himself is a marvel. The Sumerian story, Enki’s Journey to Nibru has a description:

In those remote days, when the fates were determined; in a year when An brought about abundance, and people broke through the earth like green plants—then the lord of the abzu, King Enki, Enki, the lord who determines the fates, built up his temple entirely from silver and lapis lazuli. Its silver and lapis lazuli were the shining daylight. Into the shrine of the abzu he brought joy.

An artfully made bright crenellation rising out from the abzu was erected for Lord Nudimmud [Enki as Lord of Creation, literally Lord of Make Bear Likeness]. He built the temple from precious metal, decorated it with lapis lazuli, and covered it abundantly with gold. In Eridug [Eridu], he built the house on the bank. Its brickwork makes utterances and gives advice. Its eaves roar like a bull; the temple of Enki bellows. During the night the temple praises its lord and offers its best for him.

Before Lord Enki, Isimud the minister praises the temple; he goes to the temple and speaks to it. He goes to the brick building and addresses it: “Temple, built from precious metal and lapis lazuli; whose foundation pegs are driven into the abzu; which has been cared for by the prince in the abzu! Like the Tigris and the Euphrates, it is mighty and awe-inspiring [?]. Joy has been brought into Enki’s abzu.”

“Your lock has no rival. Your bolt is a fearsome lion. Your roof beams are the bull of heaven, an artfully made bright headgear. Your reed-mats are like lapis lazuli, decorating the roof-beams. Your vault is a bull [or wild bull] raising its horns. Your door is a lion who [seizes a man] [or is awe-inspiring]. Your stairway is a lion coming down on a man.”

“Abzu, pure place which fulfils its purpose! E-engura [House of the Subterranean Waters]! Your lord has directed his steps towards you. Enki, lord of the abzu, has embellished your foundation pegs with cornelian. He has adorned you with …… and [?] lapis lazuli. The temple of Enki is provisioned with holy wax [?]; it is a bull obedient to its master, roaring by itself and giving advice at the same time. E-engura, which Enki has surrounded with a holy reed fence! In your midst a lofty throne is erected, your door-jamb is the holy locking bar of heaven.”

As it has been built, as it has been built; as Enki has raised Eridug up, it is an artfully built mountain which floats on the water. His shrine [?] spreads [?] out into the reedbeds; birds brood [at night] in its green orchards laden with fruit. The suhur carp play among the honey-herbs, and the ectub carp dart among the small gizi reeds. When Enki rises, the fish rise before him like waves. He has the abzu stand as a marvel, as he brings joy into the engur [abzu].

Enki is usually shown dressed in a carp skin; excavations at shrines to him in Eridu reveal piles of carp bones, apparently the leavings of feasts and offerings. He is associated with the fish gods Oannes and Dagon; they may be him, or versions or aspects of him. Like Oannes and Dagon, Enki teaches people the skills they need to live highly civilized lives.

But first, before man is even a gleam in Enki’s eye, he works hard, supervising a crew of gods to get the Earth into shape for the gods’ purposes:

The great prince put down the foundations, and laid the bricks. Enki placed in charge of all this him whose foundations once laid do not sag, whose good houses once built do not collapse [?], whose vaults reach up into the heart of the heavens like a rainbow—Mucdama, Enlil’s master builder.

He raised a holy crown over the upland plain. He fastened a lapis-lazuli beard to the high plain, and made it wear a lapis-lazuli headdress. He made this good place perfect with greenery in abundance. He multiplied the animals of the high plain to an appropriate degree, he multiplied the ibex and wild goats of the pastures, and made them copulate. Enki placed in charge of them the hero who is the crown of the high plain, who is the king of the countryside, the great lion of the high plain, the muscular, the hefty, the burly strength of Enlil—Cakkan, the king of the hills.

He built the sheepfolds, carried out their cleaning, made the cow-pens, bestowed on them the best fat and cream, and brought luxury to the gods’ dining places. He made the plain, created for greenery, achieve prosperity. Enki placed in charge of all this the king, the good provider of E-ana [Inanna’s temple, the House of Heaven], the friend of An, the beloved son-in-law of the youth Suen, the holy spouse of Inana the mistress, the lady of the great powers who allows sexual intercourse in the open squares of Kulaba—Dumuzid-ucumgal-ana, the friend of An.

He filled the E-kur [mountain house], the house of Enlil, with possessions. Enlil was delighted with Enki and Nibru [the city of Nippur] was glad. He demarcated borders and fixed boundaries. For the Anuna [Anunnaki] gods, Enki situated dwellings in cities and disposed agricultural land into fields. [ETCSLtranslation : t.1.1.3 Enki and the world order]

Enki is a troubleshooter, a good-humored mediator, and a compassionate friend to humankind. He is said to be one of man’s creators. As the story Enki and Ninmah starts, trouble is brewing among the gods:

[T]he senior gods oversaw the work, while the minor gods were bearing the toil. The gods were digging the canals and piling up the silt in Harali. The gods, crushing the clay, began complaining about this life.

At that time, the one of great wisdom, the creator of all the senior gods, Enki lay on his bed, not waking up from his sleep, in the deep engur, in the subterranean water, the place the inside of which no other god knows.

The primeval mother, Namma, wakes Enki up and tells him he needs to create a worker to relieve the minor gods. First, he tries delegating:

And after Enki, the fashioner of designs by himself, had pondered the matter, he said to his mother Namma: “My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the abzu; the birth-goddesses [?] will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant; and let Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana, Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug, …… and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother, after you have decreed his fate, let Ninmah impose on him the work of carrying baskets.”

Enki and Ninmah drank beer, their hearts became elated, and then Ninmah said to Enki: “Man’s body can be either good or bad and whether I make a fate good or bad depends on my will.”

Enki answered Ninmah: “I will counterbalance whatever fate — good or bad — you happen to decide.” Ninmah took clay from the top of the abzu in her hand and she fashioned from it first a man who could not bend his outstretched weak hands. Enki looked at the man who cannot bend his outstretched weak hands, and decreed his fate: he appointed him as a servant of the king.

The drunken Ninmah continues making creatures with problems: a man who can’t close his eyes, [some say he can’t stop blinking], one with two broken feet, one with paralyzed feet, one who can’t hold back his urine [some say semen], and so on, six creatures in all. Enki finds a job for each one—a way to earn their bread.

Then Enki takes a turn at making a worker:

Enki devised a shape with head, …… and mouth in its middle, and said to Ninmah: “Pour ejaculated semen into a woman’s womb, and the woman will give birth to the semen of her womb.” Ninmah stood by for the newborn ……. and the woman brought forth …… in the midst ……., this was Umul: its head was afflicted, its place of …… was afflicted, its eyes were afflicted, its neck was afflicted. It could hardly breathe, its ribs were shaky, its lungs were afflicted, its heart was afflicted, its bowels were afflicted. With its hand and its lolling head it could not not put bread into its mouth; its spine and head were dislocated. The weak hips and the shaky feet could not carry [?] it on the field—Enki fashioned it in this way.

Enki insists that the creature he made should have a livelihood, just as he gave “bread” to the creatures Ninmah made, and seems to suggest that Umul should build Enki’s house. Enki is well pleased with the way things turn out, saying to Ninmah:

Remove Umul from your lap…. let my penis be praised, may your wisdom be confirmed….

There are too many subsequent pieces missing from the tablet to tell whether this creature, Umul, is the final model called man. According to Sumerian mythology, Adapa was the first man, the counterpart of the biblical Adam, and he sounds nothing like this first creature made by Enki. Adapa is one of the seven antedeluvian sages, wise and accomplished and too loyal to his creator, Enki, for Adapa’s own good, or the good of humankind.

In the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, Enki (Ea) is present at the creation of man, making suggestions, but it is his son Marduk (to whom Enki is said to have voluntarily passed his power) who does the creating.

After a divine council meeting discusses the igigi problem, Marduk gets ready to create man, acting on the council’s wishes:

On hearing the words of the gods, the heart of Marduk moved him to carry out the works of a craftsman. He opened his mouth, he spake to Ea that which he had planned in his heart, he gave counsel [saying]:

“I will solidify blood, I will form bone. I will set up man, ‘Man’ [shall be] his name. I will create the man ‘Man.’ The service of the gods shall be established, and I will set them [the gods] free….”

Enki/Ea suggests that one god should “suffer destruction that men may be fashioned.” Since a god named Kingu had recently tried to take over as leader of the gods, being defeated only after a huge battle [see Tablet of Destinies], the divine council has no trouble in deciding which of the gods should suffer destruction.

“Let him who created the strife be given [as sacrifice], I will cause the axe in the act of sinking to do away his sin.”

They bound him in fetters [they brought] him before Ea, they inflicted punishment on him, they let his blood, From his blood he [Ea] fashioned mankind for the service of the gods, and he set the gods free. After Ea had fashioned man he … laid service upon him. [For] that work, which pleased him not, man was chosen….

The Epic of Atrahasis (a hero king) tells the story of the creation of man somewhat differently:

When the gods, like man, bore the work, carried the labor-basket—the labor-basket of the great gods—the work was heavy, much was the distress.
The seven great Anunnaki caused the Igigi to bear the work.

Forty more years they bore the labor night and day. They wearied, complained, grumbled in the workpits. “Let us confront the throne-bearer that he may remove from us our heavy labor….”

They set fire to their implements, to their spades [they set] fire, their labor-baskets into the flames they threw. They held them [as torches]; they went to the gate of the shrine of hero Enlil. It was night; at mid-watch the house was surrounded; the god did not know. It was night; at mid-watch the Ekur was surrounded; Enlil did not know.

When Enlil wakes up to find his house surrounded by irate minor gods, the Divine Council is called together to address the problem. Enki has a suggestion:

“While [Nintu the birth-goddess] is present, let the birth-goddess create the offspring, let man bear the labor-basket of the gods.”

They called the goddess and asked [her], the midwife of the gods, wise Mami: “you are the birthgoddess, creatress of man. Create lullu-man, let him bear the yoke. Let him bear the yoke, the work of Enlil; let man carry the labor-basket of the gods.”

Nintu opened her mouth and said to the great gods, ‘It is not properly mine to do these things. He is the one who purifies all; let him give me the clay, and I will do (it).”

Enki opened his mouth and said to the great gods: “At the new moon, the seventh day, and the full moon, I will set up a purifying bath. Let them slaughter one god. Let the gods be purified by immersion. With his flesh and blood let Nintu mix the clay. God and man—let them be inseparably mixed in the clay; till the end of time let us hear the ‘drum.’ Let there be spirit from the god’s flesh; let her proclaim ‘alive’ as its sign; for the sake of never-forgetting, let there be spirit.” In the assembly, “Aye,” answered the great gods, the administrators of destiny.

At the new moon, the seventh day, and the full moon, he set up a purifying bath. We-ila, who had rationality, they slaughtered in their assembly. With his flesh and blood Nintu mixed the clay. Till the end [of days they heard the drum]. From the flesh of the god there was spirit. She proclaimed “alive” as its sign. For the sake of not-forgetting there was a spirit.

After she had mixed the clay, she called the Anunnaki, the great gods. The Igigi, the great gods, cast their spittle on the clay. Mami opened her mouth and said to the great gods, “You commanded me a task—I have completed it. You slaughtered a god together with his rationality. I have removed your heavy labor, have placed your labor-basket on man. You raised a cry for mankind; I have loosened your yoke, have [established] freedom.”

They heard this speech of hers; they ran around and kissed her feet. “Formerly we called you ‘Mami.’ Now, may ‘Mistress of all the gods’ be your name. They entered the house of destiny, Prince La and wise Mami. With the birth goddesses assembled, he trod the clay in her presence. She recited the incantation again and again. Ea, seated before her, prompted her. When she finished her incantation, she nipped off fourteen pieces of clay. Seven pieces to the right, seven to the left, she placed. Between them she placed the brick.

[Missing lines here are known, from other versions, to describe how fourteen birth goddesses shaped the clay, making seven males and seven females, arranged in pairs.]

The birth goddesses were assembled; Nintu was seated. She counted the months. At the destined [moment], they called the tenth month. The tenth month came. The end of the period opened the womb.

Her face was beaming, joyful. Her head covered, she performed the midwifery. She girded her loins; she made the blessing. She patterned the flour and laid down the brick.

“I have created, my hands have done it….”

Twelve hundred years later, man has vastly increased in population, and the gods can’t get any sleep for all the noise. They decide to wipe out humans with a plague, but this only decreases the population temporarily, so 1200 years later the gods send a drought to try to keep the population down. Twelve hundred years later, they have to send a famine. Twelve hundred years after that, they decide to send the deluge to wipe everybody out. But Enki finds a way to warn one man, Utnapishtim, the “Sumerian Noah”. (But that’s another story.)

Enki knows the secrets of immortality and can raise the dead. The caduceus (from the Greek meaning herald’s staff) is his symbol, [as it is later for Mercury, Hermes, and Osiris]—two snakes entwined around a rod (which some think represents the two strands of DNA and/or [chakrahs/kundalini yoga]), often surmounted by another potent symbol, the winged globe [Sitchin, p. 240, says it is a Niburu symbol]. The caduceus is said to raise the dead and can be compared to Moses’s bronze serpent, which was built on orders from Yahweh so as to cure the snakebitten Israelites who looked at it.

61-80. Enki, the king of the Abzu, rejoicing in great splendour, justly praises himself: “My father, the king of heaven and earth, made me famous in heaven and earth. My elder brother, the king of all the lands, gathered up all the divine powers and placed them in my hand. I brought the arts and crafts from the E-kur, the house of Enlil, to my Abzu in Eridug. I am the good semen, begotten by a wild bull, I am the first born of An. I am a great storm rising over the great earth, I am the great lord of the Land. I am the principal among all rulers, the father of all the foreign lands. I am the big brother of the gods, I bring prosperity to perfection. I am the seal-keeper of heaven and earth. I am the wisdom and understanding of all the foreign lands. With An the king, on An’s dais, I oversee justice. With Enlil, looking out over the lands, I decree good destinies. He has placed in my hands the decreeing of fates in the place where the sun rises. I am cherished by Nintur. I am named with a good name by Ninḫursaĝa. I am the leader of the Anuna gods. I was born as the firstborn son of holy An.”

After the lord had proclaimed his greatness, after the great prince had eulogised himself, the Anuna gods stood there in prayer and supplication:

“Praise be to Enki, the much-praised lord who controls all the arts and crafts, who takes decisions!”

In a state of high delight Enki, the king of the Abzu, rejoicing in great splendour, again justly praises himself: “I am the lord, I am one whose word is reliable, I am one who excels in everything.”

“At my command, sheepfolds have been built, cow-pens have been fenced off. When I approach heaven, a rain of abundance rains from heaven. When I approach earth, there is a high carp-flood. When I approach the green meadows, at my word stockpiles and stacks are accumulated. I have built my house, a shrine, in a pure place, and named it with a good name. I have built my Abzu, a shrine, in ……, and decreed a good fate for it. The shade of my house extends over the …… pool. By my house the suḫur carp dart among the honey plants, and the eštub carp wave their tails among the small gizi reeds. The small birds chirp in their nests.”

“The lords pay heed …… to me. I am Enki! They stand before me, praising me…. In my Abzu, sacred songs and incantations resound for me. My barge ‘Crown’, the ‘Stag of the Abzu’, transports me there most delightfully. It glides swiftly for me through the great marshes to wherever I have decided, it is obedient to me. The stroke-callers make the oars pull in perfect unison. They sing for me pleasant songs, creating a cheerful mood on the river. Niĝir-sig, the captain of my barge, holds the golden sceptre for me. I am Enki! He is in command of my boat ‘Stag of the Abzu’. I am the lord! I will travel! I am Enki! I will go forth into my Land! I, the lord who determines the fates….”


“I will admire its green cedars. Let the lands of Meluḫa, Magan and Dilmun look upon me, upon Enki. Let the Dilmun boats be loaded (?) with timber. Let the Magan boats be loaded sky-high. Let the magilum boats of Meluḫa transport gold and silver and bring them to Nibru for Enlil, king of all the lands.”

Enki sometimes takes the form of monsters:

The head is the head of a serpent,
From his nostrils mucus trickles,
His mouth is beslavered with water;
The ears are like those of a basilisk,
His horns are twisted into three curls,
He wears a veil in his head band,
The body is a suh-fish full of stars,
The base of his feet are claws,
The sole of his foot has no heel,
His name is Sassu-wunnu,
A sea monster, a form of Ea.[fn 79]


Enki's Symbol, the Caduceus.

Sumerian cylinder seal imprint honoring Enki.

Sumerian cylinder seal imprints thought to show Enki.

Sumerian knowledge bringer: Ea; from Project Gutenberg’s Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by Donald A. Mackenzie:

A distinctive and characteristic Sumerian god was Ea, who was supreme at the ancient sea-deserted port of Eridu. He is identified with the Oannes of Berosus,[31] who referred to the deity as “a creature endowed with reason, with a body like that of a fish, with feet below like those of a man, with a fish’s tail”. This description recalls the familiar figures of Egyptian gods and priests attired in the skins of the sacred animals from whom their powers were derived, and the fairy lore about swan maids and men, and the seals and other animals who could divest themselves of their “skin coverings” and appear in human shape. Originally Ea may have been a sacred fish. The Indian creative gods Brahma and Vishnu had fish forms. In Sanskrit literature Manu, the eponymous “first man”, is instructed by the fish to build a ship in which to save himself when the world would be purged by the rising waters. Ea befriended in similar manner the Babylonian Noah, called Pir-napishtim, advising him to build a vessel so as to be prepared for the approaching Deluge. Indeed the Indian legend appears to throw light on the original Sumerian conception of Ea. It relates that when the fish was small and in danger of being swallowed by other fish in a stream it appealed to Manu for protection. The sage at once lifted up the fish and placed it in a jar of water. It gradually increased in bulk, and he transferred it next to a tank and then to the river Ganges. In time the fish complained to Manu that the river was too small for it, so he carried it to the sea. For these services the god in fish form instructed Manu regarding the approaching flood, and afterwards piloted his ship through the weltering waters until it rested on a mountain top.[32]”

As “Shar Apsi”, Ea was the “King of the Watery Deep”. The reference, however, according to Jastrow, “is not to the salt ocean, but the sweet waters flowing under the earth which feed the streams, and through streams and canals irrigate the fields”.

Ea was their instructor. Berosus states that, as Oannes, he lived in the Persian Gulf, and every day came ashore to instruct the inhabitants of Eridu how to make canals, to grow crops, to work metals, to make pottery and bricks, and to build temples; he was the artisan god–Nun-ura, “god of the potter”; Kuski-banda, “god of goldsmiths”, &c.–the divine patron of the arts and crafts. “Ea knoweth everything”, chanted the hymn maker. He taught the people how to form and use alphabetic signs and instructed them in mathematics: he gave them their code of laws. Like the Egyptian artisan god Ptah, and the linking deity Khnumu, Ea was the “potter or moulder of gods and man”. Ptah moulded the first man on his potter’s wheel: he also moulded the sun and moon; he shaped the universe and hammered out the copper sky. Ea built the world “as an architect builds a house”.

Ea, whose name is also rendered Aa, was identified with Ya, Ya’u, or Au, the Jah of the Hebrews. “In Ya-Daganu, ‘Jah is Dagon'”, writes Professor Pinches, “we have the elements reversed, showing a wish to identify Jah with Dagon, rather than Dagon with Jah; whilst another interesting name, Au-Aa, shows an identification of Jah with Aa, two names which have every appearance of being etymologically connected.” Jah’s name “is one of the words for ‘god’ in the Assyro-Babylonian language”.[38]

Ea was “Enki”, “lord of the world”, or “lord of what is beneath”; Amma-ana-ki, “lord of heaven and earth”; Sa-kalama, “ruler of the land”, as well as Engur, “god of the abyss”, Naqbu, “the deep”, and Lugal-ida, “king of the river”. As rain fell from “the waters above the firmament”, the god of waters was also a sky and earth god.

The Authentic Experience of Ancient Gods

Ahura Mazda is the highest god in Zoroastrianism, creating and upholding truth.

Ahura Mazda is the highest god in Zoroastrianism, creating and upholding truth.

Religion has been part of all societies,1 but why? A lot of intellectual discourse has tackled the subject, much of it reaching the conclusion that people just need to have gods and so they make them up. But even a quick scan of ancient religious history will show that authentic experience of something awesome—perhaps not “God” or “gods,” perhaps beings with technology so advanced it seems like magic—inspired the creation and growth of religions around the world.

It was easy for religion to take root, both because authentic experience makes for enthusiastic converts and proselytizers, and because religion indeed fills some human needs. Ancient people expected to deal with the normal troubles of life on their own, but, as Rodney Stark writes in Discovering God, they hoped that the gods would help them with the forces beyond human control:

[P]rimitive peoples … call upon the supernatural for rain, for help in finding game, and for safe voyages. In doing so, they acknowledge the fundamental principle that the supernatural is the only plausible source of many things that human beings greatly desire. Therein lies one key to the universality of religion—its capacity to overcome the generic limitations of human power by invoking entities or forces that transcend nature. Whether it is a Bantu priest in Nigeria chanting that Awwaw grant a good harvest, or a Baptist congregation in Georgia singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,” religion offers an alternative means to achieve greatly desired ends, when direct methods fail or do not exist.

The earliest religions—lost in prehistory and based, perhaps, on real experiences—were more sophisticated than most of the religions they later spawned, and they were more morality-based than later versions. Most stories about gods show them as wrapped up in their own lives, giving little or no thought to the welfare of humanity or individual humans, or to humans' morality or lack of it. Exceptions are the “bringers of civilization,” divine teachers, deities or demigods whose role is to help, such as Oannes.

The failure of humans to pay proper tribute to the gods—such as neglecting to make sacrifices—gets attention, but instead of striking deficient humans dead, the gods tend to destroy the whole city (much as a few annoying ants might encourage us to take out a whole anthill).

Gods and goddesses around the world have usually been thought of as a lot like humans, except with superpowers and immortality. They have humanlike needs and desires, and display the whole range of emotions and behaviors, for better and worse. Often, the gods are depicted as human or humanoid forms, with perhaps a pair of wings and eagle head and talons to show they can fly.

Since creation stories of many societies state that humans were made from divine matter—often the blood, spit, or semen of a god or gods — deities that look more or less like us are not necessarily reflecting a lack of imagination on the part of those depicting them; it would be reasonable for ancient gods to look a lot like humans, and in ancient stories, including Bible stories, they are able to pass as human when visiting Earth. Homer writes, “The gods, likening themselves to all kinds of strangers, go in various disguises from city to city, observing the wrongdoing and the righteousness of men.”

Kamadhenu is a Hindu bovine goddess, the source of all prosperity.

Kamadhenu is a Hindu bovine goddess, the source of all prosperity.

But it's obvious when looking at depictions of gods that the ancients sometimes had a hard time figuring out what they were seeing, or hearing described. “It's a bird, it's a plane….” Of course, planes were beyond the understanding of ancient people, as were machines generally. If it moves, it's a human or other animal. If it flies, it has to be a bird, but, wait, it's long like a snake, and omigosh it's breathing fire! If it's operating a weapon, it must have hands. If it makes loud noise, it must have a mouth.

Descriptions of the gods are often at least partly descriptions of the vehicles in which the gods travel (see Divine Chariots) —leading to some odd-looking gods, and perhaps leading to the invention of gods with multiple aspects, avatars—magically transforming from fiery serpent to human form as they step out of or slide off of their fiery serpent, or thunderbird, or silver eagle, or flying elephant.

In another realm from most gods and goddesses is the high god, or creator god, a feature of many ancient religions. The high god creates the universe and/or Earth. In many cases, he or she or they afterwards withdraw into remotest heaven, leaving “down-to-Earth” gods to take on the day-to-day work of running the worldly creation.

Jupiter Ammon, shown on this terracotta slab from the first century CE, was one of the many versions of Jupiter, who was equated  with the Egyptian high god Amun after Rome conquered Egypt.

Jupiter Ammon, shown on this terracotta slab from the first century CE, was one of the many versions of Jupiter, who was equated with the Egyptian high god Amun after Rome conquered Egypt.

Almost without exception, societies that emphasize high-god beliefs feature many gods, who are all subordinate to the high deity. Adherents seemed to find the lesser gods more real, more relevant and accessible compared to the abstract and omnipotent high gods. The monotheist religion of high god Yahweh required that the various gods who were originally in his pantheon be downgraded to divine beings, such as angels and demons, since there could only be one god (see Yahweh’s Roots in Polytheism).

Many scholars believe that the prevalence of high god beliefs is the result not of ancient people around the world making up similar stories, but of essentially the same, authentic, ancient revelations (encounters with “God” or “gods”) being experienced by many primitive cultures globally.

High gods usually are sky deities or sky fathers, ruling over the other gods from the heavens. But many, many other gods are also able to fly, and they put in a lot of time in the sky.

1. Rodney Stark, Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief (USA: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), 38.

The Nile god pouring water over the soul of Osiris.

The Nile god pouring water over the soul of Osiris.

Ravana is a king (or “demon king”) of ancient Lanka, whose main claim to fame is kidnapping Sita, Rama’s wife. Rama is an avatar of Vishnu and king of the Indian city of Ayodhya, and the story of how he gets Sita back is told in the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana (Rama’s Journey).

Ravana is a king (or “demon king”) of ancient Lanka, whose main claim to fame is kidnapping Sita, Rama’s wife. Rama is an avatar of Vishnu and king of the Indian city of Ayodhya, and the story of how he gets Sita back is told in the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana (Rama’s Journey).

The Hindu Lord Vishnu is portrayed here in his universal form, Vishnu Vishvarupa. Source

The Hindu Lord Vishnu is portrayed here in his universal form, Vishnu Vishvarupa.

The Aztec god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl combines the deities Ehecatl, the wind god, and Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. Ehecatl is usually considered an aspect (similar to a Hindu avatar) of Quetzalcoatl. This illustration is from the Codex Borgia, a graphics-filled pre-Columbian divinatory and ritual manuscript painted on animal skins, 35 feet long, folded into 39 sheets. Source

The Aztec god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl combines the deities Ehecatl, the wind god, and Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. Ehecatl is usually considered an aspect (similar to a Hindu avatar) of Quetzalcoatl. This illustration is from the Codex Borgia, a graphics-filled pre-Columbian divinatory and ritual manuscript painted on animal skins, 35 feet long, folded into 39 sheets.

Amun, the Egyptian creator god, later merged with the sun god Ra to become Amun-Ra.

Amun, the Egyptian creator god, later merged with the sun god Ra to become Amun-Ra.


Possible representation of Quetzalcoatl wearing a conical cap with a skull in front and long earflaps, characteristic elements of the Huasteca culture, from Naranjo, Veracruz.

Possible representation of Quetzalcoatl wearing a conical cap with a skull in front and long earflaps, characteristic elements of the Huasteca culture, from Naranjo, Veracruz.

Thunder Gods, Such as Yahweh…

Thunder gods, such as Yahweh, are popular all over the world. Making big noise and throwing lightning bolts, they get people’s attention, and fearful obedience. Wind gods and sky gods may also be thunder gods—sky gods tend to speak with voices of thunder and cause strong winds. There is further overlap between thunder gods, weather gods, storm gods, war gods, fire gods, and sun gods. A lot of deities tend to be noisy and flaming, up in the sky.

japanese thunder godSource

This Two-Fold Paper Screen, from the Tokyo National Museum, painted by Tawaraya Sota in the 17th century, shows the Japanese thunder god, left, and Wind God, right.

Thunderbolts as divine retribution are popular not only in the Bible, but in many ancient cultures. The Hindu lightning god Indra has the thunderbolt Vajra as his preferred weapon. Teshub, the Hurrian sky and storm god, has a triple thunderbolt; Zeus has his thunderbolt, given to him by the Cyclopes; and the Norse thunder god Thor has his magic hammer, Mjölnir (Pulverizier), which not only zaps what he aims at, but returns to him so he can fire again. The Mayan god Huracan is sometimes depicted as three bolts of lightning, and, as his name suggests, he was known for creating powerful whirlwinds.

Amadioha, the thunder and lightning god of Nigeria’s Igbo people, administers justice using thunderstones he hurls down to Earth. He is still a popular god these days, and, as with Yahweh, people swear the truth of what they’re saying by asking the god to strike them dead by lightning if they lie. If Amadioha strikes someone dead with lightning, the priests reportedly see it as the god’s will, and take the dead person’s property, leaving the body unburied. If a person has been cursed in Amadioha’s name, he can only release himself by transferring the curse to a goat that he releases into the wild. This is reminiscent of the Old Testament scapegoat, to whom the high priest of Israel confesses all his people’s sins, before releasing it. The Igbo phrase that translates as “Amadioha will punish you” is like the “God will get you” of Yahweh’s followers.

Perkele, the name of the Finnish thunder god, is a frequently used swear word in Finland. “Management by Perkele” is an expression for a Finnish leadership approach that takes fast action instead of considering everyone’s point of view.

raijin netsukeSource

The Japanese Thunder God Raijin, right, is in the form of a netsuke, a kind of button used in 17th- and 18th-century Japan to fasten men’s purses to the sashes of their robes.

The Australian Aborigine god Mamaragan typifies thunder gods in that he speaks with a voice of thunder, rides a storm cloud, and throws lightning bolts. But his abode is not the high mountains or heavens like most thunder gods, rather just a puddle. The Chinese god Lei Gong specializes in thunder; he has four assistants to help him produce lightning, clouds, rain, and winds, including his wife, Dian Mu, the goddess of lightning, who uses mirrors to flash bolts across the skies. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder writes of nine Etruscan gods who were able to shoot thunderbolts of various colors.

mayan serpent godSource

A Mayan Serpent God Scene from the ruins at Yaxchilan.

The ancient Roman religious deities, the Novensiles (sometimes identified as muses or as members of a divine council), specialize in “lightning readings”—revealing the divine intent behind lightning. Reportedly, Jupiter (or the Etruscan version, Tinia) can wield three types of lightning, from three different celestial regions. The first type, which he can use at his discretion, is perforating lightning,1 which is mild and meant as friendly persuasion or dissuasion.2 Crushing lightning, which is harmful, can be used only by approval of the Dii Consentes, a group of 12 major deities. Burning lightning, which is deadly, is used only by approval of the Dii Superiores et Involuti (hidden gods of the higher sphere).3

1. Massimo Pallottino, “The Doctrine and Sacred Books of the Disciplina Etrusca,” Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992), 43–44; Stefan Weinstock, “Libri fulgurales,” Papers of the British School at Rome 19 (1951), 125.
2. Georges Dumézil, La religion Romaine Archaïque (Paris 1974), 630, 633 (note 3), drawing on Seneca, Naturales Questiones 2.41.1–2 and 39.
3. Weinstock, Papers of the British School, 127.

codex borgia page 10Source

The Aztec Codex Borgia always has something interesting going on. These scenes constitute page 10 of the 1898 facsimile edition. See all 76 pages at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Codex_Borgia


Maruts. These Hindu storm gods number from two to 180 depending on the story. They are extremely warlike, with lightning, thunderbolts, and iron teeth. They roar like lions as their fiery red horses pull their golden chariots through the skies.

Dios Cocijo ( Zapotec god of the rain ) found at Monte Alban, in the Valley of Oaxaca, circa 200-500 CE.source

Cocijo, Zapotec god of the rain, from Monte Alban, in Oaxaca, circa 200-500 CE.

chariot of zeusSource

Zeus, the Greek version of Jupiter, is shown in his chariot, preparing to launch a lightning bolt.


Chaac, the Mayan god of rain, lightning, and thunder, is shown here reproduced from the Dresden Codex, the oldest known book written in the Americas, from the 11th or 12th century CE.

falling thunder godSource

Falling Thunder God.


Native American Thunderbird.


Thunderbirds Shooting Lightning, old sign.

modern-day thunderbirdsSource

Modern-Day Thunderbirds follow the leader.


The Norse Thunder God Thor, above, in his Germanic version as Donner, uses his hammer to summon the storm clouds in Richard Wagner’s opera, Das Rheingold.

sami offering to diermes or thorSource

Horagalles is the god of sky, thunder, lightning, the rainbow, weather, oceans, and lakes for the northern European Arctic indigneous Sami people. He is usually shown with a nail in his head and holding a hammer.

blackhawk spiritbeingSource

Haokah, above. In about 1880, the Lakota Sioux Chief Black Hawk illustrated a vision he had of himself as the horned thunder god Haokah, 'changed to a destroyer and riding a buffalo eagle.' The rainbow shown is the entrance to the spirit world, and the dots are hail.

papa and rangiSource

Papa (left) and Rangi. This Māori carving likely represents the primal creator couple, Papa the Earth Mother and Rangi the Sky Father, locked in embrace.


Mississippian birdman. 'A digital illustration by the artist Herb Roe, based on a S.E.C.C. design whelk shell engraving from Spiro, Oklahoma.'

The Aztec Suns

Page 14 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition. As in so much Aztec art, the question that leaps to mind is, 'What is going on here?' Click  for a bigger look.

Page 14 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition. As in so much Aztec art, the question that leaps to mind is, 'What is going on here?' Click for a bigger look.

The Aztecs believed that there had been four great cycles, or “Suns”, since the beginning of humankind, and that we are now in the Fifth Sun, the “Sun of Movement”, due to end soon with movement of the Earth that will kill almost everyone. Unfortunately, although the Aztecs knew that the Fifth Sun was already very old, having begun in the fourth millennium BCE, they had forgotten how to calculate exactly when the Fifth Sun will end. They thus conducted massive amounts of human sacrifices in hopes of postponing the end of the Fifth Sun. Since it continued to work for them, they came to believe that they were carrying out a divine mission to keep the Fifth Sun alive, which necessitated lots of war-waging so as to have plenty of humans to sacrifice.

Unlike the Aztecs, however, some of the earlier peoples had calculated exactly when a great movement of the earth could be expected to bring the Fifth Sun to an end…. [T]he Mayas, justifiably regarded as the greatest ancient civilization to have arisen in the New World, left behind a wealth of calendrical records. Expressed in terms of the modern dating system, these enigmatic inscriptions convey a rather curious message: the Fifth Sun, it seems, is going to come to an end on 23 December, AD 2012. —Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods

Or maybe not. At any rate, in his book, Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock quotes from “a rare collection of Aztec documents known as the Vaticano-Latin Codex:

First Sun, Matlactli Atl: duration 4008 years. Those who lived then ate water maize called atzitzintli. In this age lived the giants…. The First Sun was destroyed by water in the sign Matlactli Atl (Ten Water). It was called Apachiohualiztli (flood, deluge), the art of sorcery of the permanent rain. Men were turned into fish. Some say that only one couple escaped, protected by an old tree living near the water. Others say that there were seven couples who hid in a cave until the flood was over and the waters had gone down. They repopulated the earth and were worshipped as gods in their nations….

Second Sun, Ehecoatl: duration 4010 years. Those who lived then ate wild fruit known as acotzintli. This Sun was destroyed by Ehecoatl (Wind Serpent) and men were turned into monkeys…. One man and one woman, standing on a rock, were saved from destruction….

Third Sun, Tleyquiyahuillo: duration 4081 years. Men, the descendants of the couple who were saved from the Second Sun, ate a fruit called tzincoacoc. This Third Sun was destroyed by fire….

Fourth Sun, Tzontlilic: duration 5026 years…. Men died of starvation after a deluge of blood and fire….

An alternative description of the Four Suns is from the Sun Stone of Axayacatl, weighing 24.5 tons and dating from 1479 CE. It says that during the First Sun “lived the giants that had been created by the gods but were finally attacked and devoured by jaguars.” At the end of the Second Sun, “the human race was destroyed by high winds and hurricanes and men were converted into monkeys.” In the Third Sun, “everything was destroyed by a rain of fire from the sky and the forming of lava. All the houses were burnt. Men were converted into birds to survive the catastrophe.” At the end of the Fourth Sun, “destruction came in the form of torrential rains and floods. The mountains disappeared and men were transformed into fish.” At the end of the Fifth Sun, allegedly coming right up, “There will be a movement of the earth and from this we shall all perish.”

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_religion:

Aztec religion is the Mesoamerican religion practiced by the Aztec empire. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec calendar. It had a large and ever increasing pantheon; the Aztecs would often adopt deities of other geographic regions or peoples into their own religious practice. Aztec cosmology divided the world into upper and nether worlds, each associated with a specific set of deities and astronomical objects. Important in Aztec religion were the sun, moon and the planet Venus—all of which held different symbolic and religious meanings and were connected to deities and geographical places.

Large parts of the Aztec pantheon were inherited from previous Mesoamerican civilizations and others, such as Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, were venerated by different names in most cultures throughout the history of Mesoamerica. For the Aztecs especially important deities were Tlaloc the god of rain, Huitzilopochtli the patron god of the Mexica tribe, Quetzalcoatl the culture hero and god of civilization and order, and Tezcatlipoca the god of destiny and fortune, connected with war and sorcery. Each of these gods had their own temples within the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan–Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli were both worshipped at the Templo Mayor. A common Aztec religious practice was the recreation of the divine: Mythological events would be ritually recreated and living persons would impersonate specific deities and be revered as a god—and often ritually sacrificed.

Page 10 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition.

Page 10 of the Aztec Codex Borgia, from the 1989 facsimile edition.

Page 17 of the Codex Borgia.

Page 17 of the Codex Borgia.

Aztec ritual human sacrifice, page 141, Codex Magliabechiano.

Aztec ritual human sacrifice, page 141, Codex Magliabechiano.

Aztec Gods from the Digital Edition of the Florentine Codex created by Gary Francisco Keller.  Complete digital facsimile edition on 16 DVDs. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2008.

Aztec Gods from the Digital Edition of the Florentine Codex created by Gary Francisco Keller. Complete digital facsimile edition on 16 DVDs. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2008.
Aztec Gods from the Digital Edition of the Florentine Codex created by Gary Francisco Keller. Complete digital facsimile edition on 16 DVDs. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2008.

Aztec statue of the goddess Chicomecoatl, 1300-1521 CE.

Aztec statue of the goddess Chicomecoatl, 1300-1521 CE.