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What Would God Drive?

font size="1">sourcehariot of Fire, woodcut for 'Die Bibel in Bildern', 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
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Chariot of Fire, woodcut for ‘Die Bibel in Bildern’, 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Divine chariots are described quite a bit in the Bible. They are often hard to distinguish from descriptions of Yahweh himself, who was known for making big noisy fiery spectacles in the sky. In fact, as many people have noted, Yahweh behaved a whole lot like a jet airplane.

Below are some descriptions of divine chariots in the Bible (you may also be interested in my post about vehicles of other deities).

Isaiah 66:5 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.

Psalms 68:17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.

Jeremiah 4:13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.

Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.

2 Kings 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

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'Viktor Vasnetsov. The Flying Carpet (1880). Oil, canvas. 165x297 сm. a depiction of the hero of Russian folklore, Ivan Tsarevich, on exhibit at the Nizhny Novgorod Art Museum.'

In an experience reminiscent of flying carpets, Zechariah reports:

Zechariah 5:1 Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
2 And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.

A cubit is about the size of a typical forearm, about 20 inches.

In the book of Acts, Peter gets take-out delivered by Yahweh:

Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

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Mystic Wheel (Ezekiel's Vision) by Fra Angelico, circa 1451.

And then there’s Ezekiel’s wheel, the Biblical prophet’s famous encounter with the physical “word of God” and his very detailed (if odd) description of it, which so many people have interpreted as describing a spaceship.

Ezekiel 1:1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2 In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,
3 The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.
23 And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.
24 And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.
25 And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

We can’t blame Ezekiel for being confused; it sounds as if he just had no frame of reference for what he was seeing. Even modern-day people having encounters with “UFOs” have trouble understanding and describing what they have seen, and try to make sense of it by comparing it to things they do understand—in Ezekiel’s case, “living creatures” and wheels. For info on various interpretations of Ezekiel’s vision, see the section on the Book of Ezekiel on Wikipedia’s Ancient Astronauts page.

sourceEzekiel's Wheel. Woodcut for 'Die Bibel in Bildern', 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
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Ezekiel’s Wheel. Woodcut for ‘Die Bibel in Bildern’, 1860, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
sourceEzekiel's Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia.
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Ezekiel's Wheel in St. John the Baptist Church in Kratovo, Macedonia.
source'Engraved illustration of the 'chariot vision' of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his 'Icones Biblicae' (a.k.a. 'Iconum Biblicarum').'
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'Engraved illustration of the 'chariot vision' of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his 'Icones Biblicae' (a.k.a. 'Iconum Biblicarum').'
sourceThe Vision of Ezekiel, oil on wood by Raffaello Sanzio, 1518.
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The Vision of Ezekiel, oil on wood by Raffaello Sanzio, 1518.
Zechariah sees two chariots come out from between two mountains of brass.
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Zechariah sees two chariots come out from between two mountains of brass.

Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;
3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.
4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.
7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.

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Legend of St Francis, Vision of the Flaming Chariot, by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE.
In another painting by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE, St. Francis is receiving stigmata from a divine creature and/or chariot. It's often hard to tell the gods from their vehicles.source
In another painting by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1300 CE, St. Francis is receiving stigmata from a divine creature and/or chariot. It's often hard to tell the gods from their vehicles.
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'God in Majesty' from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry.
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According to Babelfish's translation from the Russian caption, 'Paternity of icon (Yaroslavl, 17 c.) of.jpeg FATHERLAND Yaroslavl'. Third quarter OF XVII v. Tree, levkas, the tempera.'
A sun god drives his divine chariot across the sky.
A sun god drives his divine chariot across the sky.
This painting is reportedly at the altar of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, circa 1350.
This painting is reportedly at the altar of the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, circa 1350.
A detail from the above painting.
A detail from the above painting.
A second vehicle from the above painting.
A second vehicle from the above painting.
sourceElijah and the Chariot of Fire, painting by Antonio Cifrondi.
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Elijah and the Chariot of Fire, painting by Antonio Cifrondi.
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God Is an Astronaut

Read for Free Online: God Is An Astronaut. No registration needed.
gGodIsanAstronautbookcover

It is easy, with a bit of scholarly research, to prove that Yahweh, the God of the Jews and Christians, started out as a thunder god worshipped by polytheistic ancient Semites. It’s also easy to show that Biblical descriptions of Yahweh almost always resemble an inhabited flying machine more than a living being.

Yahweh is described in the Bible as lightning, fire, noise, danger, a destroying warrior. The idea of Yahweh sending down a bolt of lightning to destroy those who offend him — the premise of many modern-day jokes — is well-supported in the biblical record as a reported actual event. For instance, in the famous Song of David, King David gives thanks to Yahweh for having helped him win a battle:

Psalms 18:13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

It doesn’t take much research to document that Yahweh was a member of a Divine Council, sharing dominion over the Earth with 69 other “Sons of El,” and that Yahweh was assigned the Hebrews as his people, and was extremely angry when his people worshipped other gods (other members of the Divine Council). It’s also easy to show that the other gods — if they survived at all in the minds of the populace — were eventually demoted to divine beings such as angels, since there could be only one god.

Obadiah 1:4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.

Yahweh’s determination to triumph over other gods is a major theme of the Old Testament — as is his determination to locate his people in a “land flowing with milk and honey” that was already, inconveniently, home to other tribes.

These are just a few of the basic facts that point to a truth more and more of us find obvious: God Is an Astronaut. It’s time for us to assess the “gods” from today’s perspective, and realize that, although our ancestors couldn’t understand, we now know that people in flying machines, who can do amazing things, are not gods. As writer/scientist Arthur C. Clarke says, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

In my free online book, God Is an Astronaut: Biblical Descriptions of God, Angels, and Divine Chariots, I get right to the heart of the issue. I provide the relevant Biblical texts, the relevant information you need to know about those texts, and documentation with endnotes to show how rock-solid the information is. Not only does the book make a convincing case that yes, of course, God is an astronaut; it also provides much evidence that angels, demons, divine councils, and divine chariots were various manifestations of the ancient astronaut experience.

Descriptions of the gods are often at least partly descriptions of the vehicles in which the gods travel — leading to some odd-looking gods, and perhaps leading to the invention of gods with multiple aspects, called avatars. Gods magically transform 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.

Divine chariots are described quite a bit in the Bible, and are also extensively described 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. The thunderbirds of the Native Americans are similar to the flying things called “gods” by very many ancient cultures — and similar to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds of today. Yahweh, along with other thunder gods, was known for making noisy fiery spectacles in the sky. In fact, as many people have noted, Yahweh behaved a whole lot like a flying vehicle.

Click to read God Is an Astronaut: Biblical Descriptions of God, Angels, and Divine Chariots.

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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.
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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.

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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?
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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'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.

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

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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).”

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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.
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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.
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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.
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Noah and the Deluge, with Details and Illustrations

Dove_Sent_Forth_from_the_Ark

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.

OR

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.

noahs-leak-Schnorr_von_Caro
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.”

Foster_Bible_Pictures_0021-
Foster_Bible_Pictures_0021-
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The Sumerian Noah Built an Ark

'The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the most famous of all cuneiform tablets. It is the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and describes how the gods sent a flood to destroy the world. Like Noah, Utnapishtim was forewarned and built an ark to house and preserve living things. After the flood he sent out birds to look for dry land. In the British Museum.'
‘The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the most famous of all cuneiform tablets. It is the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and describes how the gods sent a flood to destroy the world. Like Noah, Utnapishtim was forewarned and built an ark to house and preserve living things. After the flood he sent out birds to look for dry land. In the British Museum.’

In a great story that has survived the ages, Gilgamesh, a great King of Sumer, went looking for eternal life. He did not succeed, but he did bring back a tale from Utnapishtim (whose name means The Faraway) —himself a great king thousands of years before— about the deluge. Utnapishtim told how he had saved “the seed of all living things” in a boat he built after being forewarned by the god Ea, and how he and his wife had been made immortal in exchange for services rendered. Here are some excerpts from Tablet XI of the The Epic of Gilgamesh, “The Story of the Flood,” [older than Noah’s story], probably adapted from the ancient Epic of Atrahasis. Utanapishtim is speaking to Gilgamesh, having promised, “I will reveal to you, Gilgamesh, a thing that is hidden, a secret of the gods I will tell you!”

You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of the Euphrates. That city grew old and the gods that were in it were old. There was Anu, lord of the firmament {earth}, their father, and warrior Enlil their counselor, Ninurta the helper, and Ennugi, watcher over canals; and with them also was Ea. In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor. Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel {everyone talking at once}.” So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind. Enlil did this, but Ea warned me in a dream. —N.K. Sandars, translating The Epic of Gilgamesh

Another translation of The Epic of Gilgamesh continues Utnapishtim’s telling of the Deluge:

[Ea was bound by oath to not tell humans about the impending deluge, so instead he told it to a wall through which Utanapishtim could hear him.]
‘Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall!
O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu:
Tear down the house and build a boat!
Abandon wealth and seek living beings!
Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings!
Make all living beings go up into the boat.
The boat which you are to build,
its dimensions must measure equal to each other:
its length must correspond to its width.
Roof it over like the Apsu.
I understood and spoke to my lord, Ea:
‘My lord, thus is the command which you have uttered
I will heed and will do it.
But what shall I answer the city, the populace, and the Elders!’
Ea spoke, commanding me, his servant:
‘You, well then, this is what you must say to them:
“It appears that Enlil is rejecting me
so I cannot reside in your city (?),
nor set foot on Enlil’s earth.
I will go down to the Apsu to live with my lord, Ea,
and upon you he will rain down abundance,
a profusion of fowl, myriad(!) fishes.
He will bring to you a harvest of wealth,
in the morning he will let loaves of bread shower down,
and in the evening a rain of wheat!”‘
Just as dawn began to glow
the land assembled around me-
the carpenter carried his hatchet,
the reed worker carried his (flattening) stone,
… the men …
The child carried the pitch,
the weak brought whatever else was needed.
On the fifth day I laid out her exterior.
It was a field in area,
its walls were each 10 times 12 cubits in height,
the sides of its top were of equal length, 10 times It cubits each.
I laid out its (interior) structure and drew a picture of it (?).
I provided it with six decks,
thus dividing it into seven (levels).
The inside of it I divided into nine (compartments).
I drove plugs (to keep out) water in its middle part.
I saw to the punting poles and laid in what was necessary.
Three times 3,600 (units) of raw bitumen I poured into the bitumen kiln,
three times 3,600 (units of) pitch …into it,
there were three times 3,600 porters of casks who carried (vegetable) oil,
apart from the 3,600 (units of) oil which they consumed (!)
and two times 3,600 (units of) oil which the boatman stored away.
I butchered oxen for the meat(!),
and day upon day I slaughtered sheep.
I gave the workmen(?) ale, beer, oil, and wine, as if it were river water,
so they could make a party like the New Year’s Festival.
… and I set my hand to the oiling(!).
The boat was finished by sunset.
The launching was very difficult.
They had to keep carrying a runway of poles front to back,
until two-thirds of it had gone into the water(?).
Whatever I had I loaded on it:
whatever silver I had I loaded on it,
whatever gold I had I loaded on it.
All the living beings that I had I loaded on it,
I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat,
all the beasts and animals of the field and the craftsmen I
had go up.
Shamash had set a stated time:
‘In the morning I will let loaves of bread shower down,
and in the evening a rain of wheat!
Go inside the boat, seal the entry!’
That stated time had arrived.
In the morning he let loaves of bread shower down,
and in the evening a rain of wheat.
I watched the appearance of the weather–
the weather was frightful to behold!
I went into the boat and sealed the entry.
For the caulking of the boat, to Puzuramurri, the boatman,
I gave the palace together with its contents.
Just as dawn began to glow
there arose from the horizon a black cloud.
Adad rumbled inside of it,
before him went Shullat and Hanish,
heralds going over mountain and land.
Erragal pulled out the mooring poles,
forth went Ninurta and made the dikes overflow.
The Anunnaki lifted up the torches,
setting the land ablaze with their flare.
Stunned shock over Adad’s deeds overtook the heavens,
and turned to blackness all that had been light.
The… land shattered like a… pot.
All day long the South Wind blew …,
blowing fast, submerging the mountain in water,
overwhelming the people like an attack.
No one could see his fellow,
they could not recognize each other in the torrent.
The gods were frightened by the Flood,
and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu.
The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall.
Ishtar shrieked like a woman in childbirth,
the sweet-voiced Mistress of the Gods wailed:
‘The olden days have alas turned to clay,
because I said evil things in the Assembly of the Gods!
How could I say evil things in the Assembly of the Gods,
ordering a catastrophe to destroy my people!!
No sooner have I given birth to my dear people
than they fill the sea like so many fish!’
The gods–those of the Anunnaki–were weeping with her,
the gods humbly sat weeping, sobbing with grief(?),
their lips burning, parched with thirst.
Six days and seven nights
came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land.
When the seventh day arrived, the storm was pounding,
the flood was a war–struggling with itself like a woman writhing (in labor).
The sea calmed, fell still, the whirlwind (and) flood stopped up.
I looked around all day long–quiet had set in
and all the human beings had turned to clay!
The terrain was as flat as a roof.
I opened a vent and fresh air (daylight!) fell upon the side of my nose.
I fell to my knees and sat weeping,
tears streaming down the side of my nose.
I looked around for coastlines in the expanse of the sea,
and at twelve leagues there emerged a region (of land).
On Mt. Nimush the boat lodged firm,
Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway.
One day and a second Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway.
A third day, a fourth, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway.
A fifth day, a sixth, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway.
When a seventh day arrived
I sent forth a dove and released it.
The dove went off, but came back to me;
no perch was visible so it circled back to me.
I sent forth a swallow and released it.
The swallow went off, but came back to me;
no perch was visible so it circled back to me.
I sent forth a raven and released it.
The raven went off, and saw the waters slither back.
It eats, it scratches, it bobs, but does not circle back to me.
Then I sent out everything in all directions and sacrificed (a sheep).
I offered incense in front of the mountain-ziggurat.
Seven and seven cult vessels I put in place,
and (into the fire) underneath (or: into their bowls) I poured reeds, cedar, and myrtle.
The gods smelled the savor,
the gods smelled the sweet savor,
and collected like flies over a (sheep) sacrifice.
Just then Beletili arrived.
She lifted up the large flies (beads) which Anu had made for his enjoyment(!):
‘You gods, as surely as I shall not forget this lapis lazuli around my neck,
may I be mindful of these days, and never forget them!
The gods may come to the incense offering,
but Enlil may not come to the incense offering,
because without considering he brought about the Flood
and consigned my people to annihilation.’
Just then Enlil arrived.
He saw the boat and became furious,
he was filled with rage at the Igigi gods:
‘Where did a living being escape?
No man was to survive the annihilation!’
Ninurta spoke to Valiant Enlil, saying:
‘Who else but Ea could devise such a thing?
It is Ea who knows every machination!’
La spoke to Valiant Enlil, saying:
‘It is yours, O Valiant One, who is the Sage of the Gods.
How, how could you bring about a Flood without consideration
Charge the violation to the violator,
charge the offense to the offender,
but be compassionate lest (mankind) be cut off,
be patient lest they be killed.
Instead of your bringing on the Flood,
would that a lion had appeared to diminish the people!
Instead of your bringing on the Flood,
would that a wolf had appeared to diminish the people!
Instead of your bringing on the Flood,
would that famine had occurred to slay the land!
Instead of your bringing on the Flood,
would that (Pestilent) Erra had appeared to ravage the land!
It was not I who revealed the secret of the Great Gods,
I (only) made a dream appear to Atrahasis [Utanapishtim], and (thus) he heard the secret of the gods.
Now then! The deliberation should be about him!’
Enlil went up inside the boat
and, grasping my hand, made me go up.
He had my wife go up and kneel by my side.
He touched our forehead and, standing between us, he blessed us:
‘Previously Utanapishtim was a human being.
But now let Utanapishtim and his wife become like us, the gods!
Let Utanapishtim reside far away, at the Mouth of the Rivers.’
They took us far away and settled us at the Mouth of the Rivers.

Graham Hancock, in his book Fingerprints of the Gods, discusses some of the many other “Noahs” around the world:

In other [Sumerian] tablets —some almost 5000 years old, others less than 3000 years old— the “Noah figure” of Utnapishtim is known variously as Zisudra, Xisuthros or Atrahasis. Even so, he is always instantly recognizable as the same patriarchal character, forewarned by the same merciful god, who rides out the same universal flood in the same storm-tossed ark and whose descendants repopulate the world….

According to Aztec mythology only two human beings survived [the deluge at the Destruction of the Fourth Sun]: Coxcoxtli and his wife Xochiquetzal, who had been forewarned of the cataclysm by a god. They escaped in a huge boat they had been instructed to build and came to ground on the peak of a tall mountain. There they descended and afterwards had many children who were dumb until the time when a dove on top of a tree gave them the gift of languages. These languages differed so much that the children could not understand one another.

[According to a] related Central American tradition, that of the Mechoacanesecs, …the god Tezcatilpoca determined to destroy all mankind with a flood, saving only a certain Tezpi who embarked in a spacious vessel with his wife, his children and large numbers of animals and birds, as well as supplies of grains and seeds, the preservation of which were essential to the future subsistence of the human race. The vessel came to rest on an exposed mountain top after Tezcatilpoca had decreed that the waters of the flood should retire. Wishing to find out whether it was now safe for him to disembark, Tezpi sent out a vulture which, feeding on the carcases with which the earth was now strewn, did not return. The man then sent out other birds, of which only the hummingbird came back, with a leafy branch in its beak. With this sign that the land had begun to renew itself, Tezpi and his family went forth from their ark, multiplied and repopulated the earth.

The Popol Vuh, an ancient sacred text of the Quiche Maya, also says there was a great flood “brought about by the Heart of Heaven” because humans did not “remember their Creator”:

[A] great flood was formed which fell on the heads of the wooden creatures…. A heavy resin fell from the sky … the face of the earth was darkened and a black rain began to fall by day and by night….

Fortunately, the Great Father and Great Mother survived to be fruitful and replenish the Earth.

Neptune, king of waters. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid's Metamorphoses Book I.
Neptune, king of waters. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book I.
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More than 500 ancient civilizations have deluge stories, including the Chibcas of central Colombia, Canarians of Ecuador, Tupinamba of Brazil, numerous Peruvian Indians, Araucnaians of Chile, Yamana and Pehuenche of Tierra del Fuego, Inuit of Alaska, Luiseno of California, Hurons, Montagnais (Algonquin), Iroquois, Chickawas, Sioux, Chinese, Chewong of Malaysia, Laotians, Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Australian Aborigines, Japanese, Hawaiians, Samoans, Greeks (Zeus, Prometheus, Deucalion, Pyrrha), Vedic Indians, and Egyptians.[fn Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods] Graham Hancock says that in a study of 86 deluge legends “(20 Asiatic, 3 European, 7 African, 46 American and 10 from Australia and the Pacific), the specialist researcher Dr. Richard Andree concluded that 62 were entirely independent of the Mesopotamian and Hebrew accounts.”

For a great look at Flood myths around the world, see mythencyclopedia.com.

Manabozho in the Flood.
Manabozho in the Flood.
A Deluge scene painted by Joseph-Désiré Court, 1827.

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

enlil
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.

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'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.]

ashursource
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):

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Mesopotamia and Its Gods

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'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.

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'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.

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'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.'
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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).

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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….”

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The Ziggurat of Ur.
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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.
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Quetzalcoatl

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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”.

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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.”

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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

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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

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Quetzalcoatl, left, and Tezcatlipo.
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Resplendent Quetzal (Male).
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'Quetzalcoatl, using the attributes of Ehecatl the wind god, thus representing the winds that bring the rain. Also known as the feathered serpent.'
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Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, 16th century CE.
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'Man in Serpent', Olmec stele from La Venta, in Mexico. Click to enlarge.
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Quetzalcoatl
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Elijah and Ahab’s Deadly Barbecue Contest

Elijah Barbecue ContestSource
Spoiler alert: Yahweh burns the sacrifice right on cue.

It’s easy to see why the miracles in the Bible (and in other religious texts) impressed the hell out of (or into) those observing them. But nowadays the miracles seem a lot more like parlor tricks. Here’s a quick look at one of my favorites:

The Bible tells the detailed story, in 1 Kings 18, describing the contest at Mount Carmel between the priests of Ba‘al, led by Ahab, and the priests of Yahweh, led by Elijah, to see whose god was best.

First, Elijah has Ahab gather all the “children of Israel” and all the 450 “prophets of Ba‘al” and the “400 prophets of the groves, which eat at Jezebel’s table” at Mt. Carmel (no word on how he accomplishes that). There, when his pleas that the heathen-worshipping Israelites switch to Yahweh fall on flat ears, Elijah proposes a contest—all the heathen prophets and their god Ba‘al versus Elijah and his god Yahweh. Whichever god can light his people’s fire, wins.

1 Kings 18:23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

So, although the heathens lay out a nice sacrifice and call on Ba‘al all morning long to light the fire, nothing happens. Elijah makes fun of them, causing them to express their pain via cutting, apparently not a new fad at all:

1 Kings 18:27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

So, the heathens carry on calling on Ba‘al until evening, without a sign from the god. So, Elijah says, here’s how it’s done:

1 Kings 18:29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.

After he has the altar and sacrifice nicely arranged, Elijah orders the heathens to pour 12 barrels of water all over it:

1 Kings 18:33 And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.

Once everything is soaking wet, Elijah calls on the Lord, telling him he’s prepared everything the way Yahweh told him to. At the perfect dramatic moment, Yahweh sends down his fire, which consumes “the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench”:

1 Kings 18:36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

Not surprisingly, Yahweh makes a lot of instant converts among the straying Israelites. To keep them converted, Elijah kills the 450 prophets of Ba‘al:

1 Kings 18:39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
40 And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

This barbecue miracle requires only an airplane with a zappy weapon.

The whole Biblical text of the story is below, including the weird stuff that came after (huge rainstorm, a small still voice…). Continue reading Elijah and Ahab’s Deadly Barbecue Contest

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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.
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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.
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Page 17 of the Codex Borgia.
Page 17 of the Codex Borgia.
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Aztec ritual human sacrifice, page 141, Codex Magliabechiano.
Aztec ritual human sacrifice, page 141, Codex Magliabechiano.
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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.
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