The Layered Cosmos

Introduction: From gazing at the stars in night sky, the movements of the sun and moon, the rare blankets of clouds bringing rain, and even indeed, the observation of sources or water springing from the ground (the watery realm beneath); the Sumerians and later Babylonians evolved a layered view of the cosmos. The Babylonian ziggurats (stepped pyramids) were an earthly reflection of this order and the Kassite (ruled Babylon circa 15~12th century BC) boundary stone (Kudurru) we will consider on the right reflects the resident powers of these layers. The inscriptions of the Kassite Kings were written mainly in Sumerian, and their letters and contracts in Babylonian reflecting their continuation, with the addition of their own gods, of the old Sumero-Babylonian order. We will mostly use the Babylonian names.


Kassite Kudurru
Kassite Kudurru (boundary stone)

Ishtar (planet Venus), Sin (Moon) and Shamash (sun)
(powers/deities associated with Sumer - Akkad)

Joseph Campbell in his book The Way of the Seeded Earth p38-9 gives tells us how Inanna (Ishtar) as the planet Venus, as evening star, follows the sun at night into the netherworld and, as morning star, heralds the sun's reemergence.
In one myth,where Inanna's amorous advances are rebuffed by Gilgamesh (associated with the sun) who cites the subsequent fates of her previous lovers as just cause, Inanna enraged succeeds in her petition of highest heaven (Anu) that the divine Bull of Heaven, Gugalanna, (associated with the constellation of Taurus) is sent against him. Gilgamesh defeats and dismembers the bull to the horror of its consort, Inanna's dread sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Netherworld. Eventually, Inanna descends to the netherworld to make atonement to her sister , the eventual upshot of which is that she is only let return to the day world if her own beloved consort, Dumuzi, the Shepherd, spends half the year in her realm.
The constellation Taurus appears above the horizon at the spring equinox from circa 3200 BC onward and the important barley harvesting ceremony, akitu, used occur at this time. After the summer solstice begins a period of mourning signifying that Dumuzi must die and enter the underworld.


Anu, Lord of the Great Above, Enlil, Lord of the Air and Ea (Enki) of the House of Water
( powers/deities associated with Sumer and Akkad)

Hugh Thurston in his Early Astronomy p66 indicates that in the Mul-Apin Tablets, the sun is described as being in the realm of Ea in the cold period of winter; of being in the realm of Anu for the Spring and Autumn; and of being in Enlil in the hot harvest period of Summer. So as well as their anthropomorphic roles in Mesopotamian mythology, with their associated powers and qualities, these deities also represent three distinct regions of the firmament.


Marduk, Nabu and Ninhursag Ninlil
(powers/deities associated with Babylonian Civilisation)

In comparison to the separation of heaven and earth, Anu from Ki (the earth) by their son Enlil, the fashioning by Marduk of the cosmos from the parts of the carcass of Tiamat, goddess of the abysmal waters,is a much more violent affair. Thorkild Jakobsen in his A History of Mesopotamian Religion associates this with the rise of importance of kingship and its secular role in contrast with the more passive religious roles of the priest-kings of Sumer. The Amorites were a nomadic people who infiltrated Mesopotamia from Syria and whose patriarchal society is reflected in significant rehashing of Sumerian and Akkadian myths. Their kingdom of Babylon becAme preeminent under the rule of Hammurabi.


Guardians of the Four World Quarters

The peculiar hawk's head on the left is Zamama of Kish. The double lion head is Ninib of Nippur. The two figures on the right have not, as far as we know, being identified but appear to be war gods. The original great Sumerian city of Uruk established a wide network of colonies dominating the north south river trade routes and also the overland east-west trade routes. Within a few centuries many of these colonies were overrun and the maintenance of trade routes became one of the main preoccupations of the Sumer-Akkad city states and indeed civilisation in general. By the time of the Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian Empires annual military campaigns to pacify or expand territories were the norm.


Below Ground: Gula &the Scorpion Guardians

The Cosmic Serpent rises from behind Gula (patroness of herbs, healing and fertility) and her dog, defender of homes, sits at her feet. A Scorpion Archer stands guard at the uttermost bounds of the earth, protecting the rising and setting suns from daemonic forces.


Four Elements in the Abysmal Sea

Everything came into being from the abysmal sea. On the right is the lamp of Nusku representing fire; Ramman-Adad (fourth paragraph) representing wind; the scorpion the death dealing representative of earth is associated with Gula above and finally the tortoise, associated with Ea (Enki), representing the watery element.

A History of Mesopotamian Religion - (The Treasures of Darkness) - Thorkild Jacobsen - Yale University Press - 0-300-02291-3
Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East - Michael Roaf - Checkmark Books - 0-8160-2218-6
Early Astronomy - Hugh Thurston - Springer-Verlag - 0-387-94107-X
The Mythic Image - Joseph Campbell - Princeton-Bollingen - 0-691-01839-1

Word Sleuth:

*weghos (PIE) - way,path:-

The old PIE root is manifested in English way and German weg. However if we look eastwards, in Sanskrit we have marga. About which, discussing the difference between temporal art and the religious iconography of India's myriad gods and goddesses, Joseph Campbell writes:

In contrast to the figures in works of secular art (desi) they [images of the gods] open the mind to brahman and are know themselves, as the path or the way (marga). The sanskrit marga is derived from mrg, to hunt (by following the track of an animal through the forest to its lair), the animal to be found through contemplation of the image of a god being, of course, that indwelling golden person (purusha) which is one's own eternal portion. (The Way of the Seeded Earth vol1 p29)
Further east we find the notion in Chinese tao or dao, The Way, a comprehensive philosophy of life which unlike the introverted philosophies of India is very much imbued with awe at the physical wonder of the world. Further east again in Japan the word reverts again to many different paths with the word   - dō . It retains its abstract sense and can be found in the names of many disciplines such as Bushidō 武士道 - the Way of the Warrior; Chadō 茶道 - the Way of Tea; Jūdō  柔道  -the Gentle Way; Kendo 剣道  - the Way of the Sword, Aikidō 合気道 - roughly, the Way of Harmonising (with) Life Energy. The indigenous Japanese pantheistic religion is called Shinto 神道, roughly, the way of the spirit/s.
The dash and lower part of the character denotes movement and the right part of the character denotes chief/main. So the kanji in its most prosaic sense means main road.

Title: A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters - Authors: Kenneth G. Henshall - Pub: Charles E.Tuttle Company - ISBN: 4-8053-0509-6
Title: The Way of the Seeded Earth I - The Sacrifice - Authors: Joseph Campbell - Pub: Perennial Library - ISBN: 0-06-096350-6
Title: Wikipedia Articles - Authors: Various - Pub: Wikipedia, - ISBN: n/a