Death and Rebirth In Myths and Nature

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many cultures have stories of death and rebirth. In Japan, Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, has to be coaxed from her cave to bring back the light. Meanwhile, the Hittite God, Telepinus, has to be coaxed from his mountains to bring back the rains. Among various Native American nations, Corn Mother has to be sacrificed to be reborn as corn for the people. The Inuit of the Arctic tell stories about Sedna, from whose broken body comes the bounty of their land.

Why do these disparate cultures have myths of death and rebirth? One could argue that they explain the cycles of life on earth. Daily, the sun rises and sets, and then rises again. In Ancient Egypt, Tawerat of Egypt acted as midwife to the daily rebirth of the sun.

However, these myths go beyond simply explaining the daily or seasonal cycles. They make explicit the delicate balance between the needs of people and nature. To keep the balance of life, deep harmony has to exist between the two. Lest they upset it, people need to be reminded of their relationship with nature. Myths are more than stories; they are theology.

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The Enuma Elish: History as Mythology

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During the Bronze Age in Mesopotamia, empires rose and fell. In the Enuma Elish, the creation story of the Babylonians, this is told in mythic terms. One part of the Enuma Elish tells of the rise of the Sumerians. Their generation of Gods were Anu (An), Enlil (Ellil), and Enki (Ea), who focused on developing agriculture and decreeing divine law. While Anu ruled the Gods, Enlil granted kingship, and Enki created people. These Gods had overthrown Tiamat of the Saltwater and Apsu of Sweet Water, the original Gods of the Ubaid people of the late Stone Age.

The Sumerians drained the swamps, dug out the canals, and began irrigation. They tamed the “sweetwater” thereby killing Apsu as a God. Moreover, they transformed the salt marshes into farmland. Then in 2330 BCE, Sargon of the Akkadians established the first empire. He began the first dynasty by deciding that his son should rule next. This was the beginning of having males be the heads of families as father figures (paterfamilias).

Then came the dark times, starting in 2218-2047 BCE, when the Gutians invaded from Iran. The wars between the Sumerians, Akkadians, Elamites and Assyrians became endless. The Enuma Elish describes this time as Tiamat raising an army, and defeating Enlil and the other Gods. Through continuous irrigation, salt made the land of the Mesopotamians infertile. Faced with dwindling resources including water, the various cities fought each other to gain these precious resources for their peoples. During this awful time, the suffering people wrote lamentations describing their misery — bodies melting in the sun and cities shrouded in smoke.

Into this war-torn landscape came the Amorites, who adopted the Sumerian culture and established their main city of Babylon. Under their king, Hammurabi, the Babylonians cemented their empire and imposed law and order in Mesopotamia. The Babylonians described their victory in the Enuma Elish. The Sumerian Gods, Enki and Enlil cede their power to Marduk, their principal God. Then He defeats Tiamat, and remakes the Cosmos with her body.

Like Marduk, Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE), who expanded the Babylonian Empire, established order. He wrote down and organized existing laws of various cities into the Code of Hammurabi. These statutes consisted of 282 laws, which ranged from setting wages to punishments for stealing to arranging for divorce. His reign was one of peace and prosperity.

Works Used:
Baigent, Michael, “Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Bear & Company: Rochester (VT). 2015.
Black, Jeremy and Green, Anthony, “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary.” University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992.
Jacobsen, Thorkild, “The Treasures of Darkness.” Yale University Press, New Haven, 1976.
Mark, Joshua, “Sumer.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 28, April 2011. Web. https://www.ancient.eu/sumer/. <accessed 12 October 2018.>
Siren, Christopher, “Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web.
https://stason.org/TULARC/education-books/assyro-babylonian-mythology/index.html. <accessed 12 October 2018.>
–, “Sumerian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web. http://humanpast.net/files/sumerianmyths.htm. <accessed 12 October 2018.>

Gods of the Month: Acca Larentia of Rome

On the Larentalia (December 23), the famen (priest) of Quirinalis (the Divine Romulus) performs the rites of parentiatio at the gravesite of Acca Larentia. This Goddess is considered to be a Divine Ancestor of Rome. However, She has three conflicting myths about Her being a Founder of Rome.

The first is that Acca Larentia is a very old Etruscan Goddess who cares for the Beloved Dead and their living families. This benevolent Goddess is the Mother of the Lars. Besides being a Household God, She is a Goddess of the Underworld.

When Rome was expanding its borders in Central Italy, they created a second myth. Acca Larentia, a human, was the mistress of Hercules. Later, she married Tarrutius, a rich Etruscan. When her husband died, Acca Larentia donated his lands to Rome. This was the basis of the Roman claim on disputed territories. After Acca Larentia died, She became a Divine Ancestor.

When Augustus reformed the Roman religion, he changed what Acca Larentia, the human was. She became the wife of Faustulus, the shepherd. Together, they adopted Romulus and Remus and raised them to manhood.

In all these myths, Acca Larentia is tied to Rome and to the Ancestors. I see Her as the Mother of the Lars. She cares for Our Dead and for us, the living. For me, She is a Goddess of my household.

Salve Acca Larentia
Mother of the Lars
Mother of the Beloved Dead
Guardian of the Living
Guardian of the Dead
Goddess of the Underworld
Goddess of the Household
Salve Acca Larentia!

Gods and Archetypes: Archetypes and Postmodern Spirituality

The term “Archetypes” came into common use from Carl Jung’s work. He hypothesized that there is a deeper layer “under” the unconscious of the individual. According to Jung, the “Collective Unconscious” is universal to humankind. The Archetypes (Note 1) who are the organizing principles of Time, Space, and Matter are created by “Collective Unconscious.” Jung added that religious experiences are linked to the experiences of the Archetypes.

Since Jung’s theories are ingrained in popular culture, many people have added on their own concepts of Archetypes. In “The Fire of the Goddess,” Reiki Master Katlin Koda, who believes in the Sacred Feminine, defines Archetypes as “An energetic imprint that lives with in the collective unconscious and carries specific qualities, such as priestess, mother, and teacher.” (Note 2)

Meanwhile, Caroline Myss, noted medical mystic, has a different point of view. She writes that Archetypes are not “entities with which we have some sort of interactive relationship… They are impersonal patterns of consciousness that forms the essence of human nature. However, archetypes are an active part of our consciousness.” (Note 3)

In devising their Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator (PMAI) for psychologists to use (Note 4), Carol Pearson and Hugh Marr, both Jungian psychologists, interpret Archetypes to be the original patterns of roles and stories of humans. They write, “Archetypes are the psychological structures reflected in symbols, images, and themes common to all cultures and all times…. The PMAI is devised to help people to better decode the underlying logic of their life.” Therefore, each person can revise their story to attain their special gifts.

Neo-Shaman Linda Star-Wolf speaks of Archetypes as cosmic energy. According to her, the Akashic Records (Note 5) hold the Archetypes in the sacred archives. Since humans vibrate at a different energy than the Archetypes, They feed people their stories. Reflecting Pearson and Marr’s ideas, she says that people then rework the stories and upload them back to the Akashic Records. For example, Star-Wolf claims that she and her late husband lived the Archetypal Story of Osiris and Isis, in a cosmic dance between the Transmuter and the Mother, respectively.

Core-Shamanist Hank Wesselman writes, “The goal of the authentic mystic … is to access the true transpersonal archetypes – the ‘lights beyond the form.’” He says that the “collective unconscious is a field that contains within itself the Akashic Records, the collective wisdom and experience of all humanity in our long journey across time.” (Note 6)

If it seems that Jung’s Archetypes have become the basis for religious beliefs, it is because he, himself, was an occultist. After receiving visions of the coming World War, He had a near-psychotic breakdown in 1913. Retreating into mysticism, Jung created his own cosmology with God being reborn in the human psyche. Some of his ideas do reflect Theosophy (Note 7), since Jung knew prominent Theosophists such as Alice Bailey. Although, Jung did have his differences with this system of religious-science or science religion, he did agree with its concept of divinity within humans.

(Previous post in this series: Gods and Archetypes: Jung and Postmodern Spirituality

Notes:
Note 1: “Archetype” is an explanatory paraphrase of the Platonic eidos. For our purposes this term is apposite and helpful, because it tells us that so far as the collective unconscious contents are concerned we are dealing with archaic or- I would say- primordial types, that is, with universal images that have existed since the remotest times. The term “representations collectives,” used by Levy-Bruhl to denote the symbolic figures in the primitive view of the world, could easily be applied to unconscious contents as well, since it means practically the same thing.

Another well-known expression of the archetypes is myth and fairytale. But here too we are dealing with forms that have received a specific stamp and have been handed down through long periods of time. The term “archetype” thus applies only indirectly to the “representations collectives,” since it designates only those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted to conscious elaboration and are therefore an immediate datum of psychic experience. From Carl Jung, “Archetypes of Collective Unconscious.”

Note 2: Katlin Koda, “Fire of the Goddess.” P. 189
Note 3: Caroline Myss, “Archetypes.” P. 18
Note 4: Carol Pearson and Hugh Marr, “What Story Are You Living?” P. 14-15. They developed the PMAI based on Jung’s Archetypes and Joseph Campbell’s work, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).”
Note 5: A concept from Theosophy, the Akashic records are the records of every soul, past, present, and future. Theosophists believe that they exist in a plane of existence called the etheric plane. These records can be accessed through deep meditation.
Note 6: Hank Wesselman and Sandra Ingerman, “Awakening to the Spirit World.” P. 172-3.
Note 7: For more information on Theosophy: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/gdpmanu/ryan-wh/wit-hp.htm “What is Theosophy” from The Theosophical Society.

Works Used:
Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities.”
Katlin Koda, “Fire of the Goddess.”
Caroline Myss, “Archetypes.”
Carol Pearson and Hugh Marr, “What Story Are You Living?”
Romanian Association for Psychoanalysis Promotion (AROPA), Resources for Carl Jung. http://carl-jung.net/index.html
Linda Star-Wolf, “Soul Whispering.”
Hank Wesselman and Sandra Ingerman, “Awakening to the Spirit World.”

Each-Uisge (Water-Horse): Be Cautious, Be Aware

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More tales of European lake monsters.

Throughout the lands surrounding the North Sea, stories abound of dreaded lake monsters who lurk below the surface. These tales describe many of the monsters as “water-horses.” This beast resembles a seal with two sets of flippers, a long neck and a small head. People usually divide “water-horses” into two types – the long-necked Nessie and the maned Each-Uisge. While Nessie of Loch Ness is more benign, the Each-Uisge, also of Scotland, is more sinister. Haunting lakes and lochs, this shapeshifter kills and eats unwary humans (leaving only the liver). The Each-Uisge usually lures people by pretending to be a docile horse.

From ancient times, the Each-Uisge has filled people with dread and fear. The Picts depicted Him in all his ferocity their pictographs. The Romans recorded deadly sightings of this beast during their time in Britain. Described as a glistening black horse with a greenish patina, the Each-Uisge would appear on the roadside as a tame horse. Seeing relief, the weary traveler would mount Him, only to find themselves firmly affixed to the beast’s back. After that, the “horse” would quickly trot off. When the Each-Uisge smelled water nearby, He would race into the lake drowning the unfortunate victim.

One blood-curdling account tells the killing of several children by the Each-Uisge. This creature had appeared to several children as a pretty pony. As each child sat on his back, the “pony” would lengthen it to fit more children. When commanded by the Each-Uisge mount, a frightened boy ran away. As the boy escaped, he heard his friends scream as they were drowned in the lake. The next day, the sorrowful villagers only found the children’s livers floating in the water.

The Each-Uisge is called by many names throughout the North Sea region. In Norway, this beast is Backahasten or Nokken, the “brook-horse.” In The Faroes, He is known as Nukur, and Nuggle in the Orkeys. The Irish call Him, the Capall-uisce, and the Manx, the Cabbyl-Ushtey.

In Wales, the Each-Uisge is known as the Ceffyl Dwr. This small beautiful “horse” lived in mountain pools. Once someone mounted Him, the Ceffyl Dwr would fly over the water and, then melt into a mist. After the victim drops into the water, He would reform and eat the body. At other times, this beast would transform into a frog and leap on the victim’s back.

No one is quite sure what the Each-Uisge is. Is this creature, an undiscovered mammal such as a new species of otter or seal? Or are the stories too fantastic for an ordinary animal? Whatever the Each-Uisge is, everyone will agree that He is deadly and vicious.

The Each-Uisge is real to those who believe the old myths. Something lives in those lakes, pools, and lochs; Something that will kill and eat you. Ignore the myths at your own peril. Be cautious and aware that not everything you encounter is benign.
—-
Note: The Kelpie is similar to the Each-Uisge, except that She dwells in rivers and waterfalls.

Lake Monsters: Expect the Unexpected

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Along with Water Gods are other Beings that dwell in lakes and rivers.

Throughout the world, mysterious “monsters” are often sighted in deep water lakes. Known as “Lake Monsters,” these freshwater beasts both frighten and intrigue people. Nessie of Loch Ness is the most famous representative of these animals.

Worldwide, there are about 1,000 lakes where Lake Monsters are often seen. Most of these lakes lie in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from the northern boreal forests to the southern hardwood forests. In contrast, sightings in the Southern Hemisphere have only been in Argentina and Bolivia.

Cryptozoologists have classifications for Lake Monsters, which they consider to be undiscovered or unknown animals. The most prevalent species of Lake Monsters is the “water horse.” Nessie is a typical long-necked water horse. This type has a small head on a long neck, with a rounded body and two sets of flippers. The water-kelpie (Each-Uisge) who drowns people is an example of a maned water horse. Other famous water horses include Champie of Lake Champlain (US), Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan (CA) and Storsie (Storsjoodjuret) of Storsjon Lake (SD). Rarer species of Lake Monsters include the giant beaver of Utah, the giant shark seen in Alaska, the giant turtle of Vietnam, and the mystery dinosaur seen in China. No one is sure what They are but scientists keep investigating to determine whether They exist or are only a myth.

Often sighted but never found, Lake Monsters exist just beyond human science. Various theories as to what They are range from prehistoric plesiosaurs to primitive whales. These beasts could be new species, unknown species, or simply mutated animals. Nobody knows for sure.

Whatever Lake Monsters are, They inspire fear and curiosity in people. Fear because of They attack and drown people. Many are vicious monsters who attack unsuspecting victims in the water. Curiosity since people want to know more about Lake Monsters. These elusive beasts pop up when people least expect them. Before anyone can react, these mysterious animals disappear from sight. Learn to expect the unexpected teach Lake Monsters. Just remember to be on guard lest They attack you.

Time as the Babylonians Saw It

archbab1 In Mesopotamia, a region long settled by other peoples, the Babylonians had to establish their dominance. By adopting various myths from the Sumerians, and then amending them, they created a sense of the long view of time. Into this invention of time stretching into the infinite past, the Babylonians inserted themselves, thereby breaking the timeline into two parts: before and after their arrival. They grafted the legacy of the Sumerians to themselves. Moreover, possessing a concrete sense of time, the Babylonians then subdivided it in a number of ways, each division of time serving a religious or imperial need. They bifurcated time into two distinct parts – one: circular and repeating, the other: an arrow into the future. These two splits of time complemented each other in the Babylonian mind.

Every New Year which began at the Spring Equinox, the Creation Myth (Enuma Elish) was read. This myth begins with the original creation of the world by Tiamat, the God of Chaos, and Apsu, the God of Waters. Later Enlil, a God from the succeeding generation becomes the “Father of the Gods.” Eventually, He cedes his powers to Anu, from yet a newer generation of Gods, who seeks to overthrow the original Gods. After Apsu is killed, Tiamat wages war on the newer Gods. In desperation, Enlil goes to Marduk, the principal deity of Babylon, for help. On the condition that He is made the Ruler of the Gods, Marduk agrees. After killing Tiamat, Marduk remakes the world from her body.

This creation story cements Babylon’s place in Mesopotamian history. After ages of rule by other peoples and their Gods, Mesopotamia is then recreated by the Babylonians. Generations of Gods follow each other ending with Marduk. Thus, Babylon becomes the terminus point for the timeless past, and the future that is now Babylon. The ritual of reading the Creation Myth every New Year was the intersection of circle with arrow time, and also the combination of both.

In its various forms, the Gilgamesh Epic highlights the nexus of time and immortality. Within this epic is the story of a Great Deluge. Like the Creation Story, the time in the Great Flood is broken into two halves, the world before Babylon and after. According to this myth, the list of Kings before the Flood numbered ten. After the Flood, the Kings reigned from the City of Kish (in Sumer), with reigns consisting of 300 years to 1,200 years. In this story, comes a sense of a long past, a rupture, and then the start of a new age. Because Kish had great symbolic significance, the myth allows Babylon to become the heir to the ancient civilization of Sumer. The story gives to the people of Babylonia, the sense of a great destiny. Babylon is the New World remade from the older world. Once more, time in Babylonian perception was broken, and then welded together again.

The Gilgamesh Epic, itself, focuses on the questions of death and immortality. After his friend, Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh comes to dislike death. Resolving to end death for all, he searches for the key of immortality. During his adventures, various Gods tell him to enjoy life and accept death gracefully. Through a series of mishaps, Gilgamesh is denied immortality for himself and his people. However, he realizes that his city will exist long after his death. His immortality would come from his legacy, which is his city. Babylonians saw this in terms of themselves as the legacy of Sumer. Again it was presented as endless time that was disrupted

In Babylon, the year was divided into two halves – summer and winter, in explicit circle time. In the myth of Ishtar’s Descent Into the Underworld, winter comes about when Ishtar sends her husband Tammuz to take her place in the Land of the Dead. In desperation, Tammuz then seeks help from his sister, Gestinana. After much negotiation with the Gods of the Underworld, both siblings decide to take each other’s place for six months at a time.

Ishtar’s husband, Tammuz was the God of Crops and Flocks. The Babylonians saw Him as the life blood of the land and the sheep. When He went into the Underworld, winter came. At that time his sister, Gestinana reemerged, and presided over the autumn harvest and wine making. She became the Goddess of Wine and Grapes.

At the Spring Equinox, the Babylonians started their New Year. To commemorate this, the King would enact a sacred marriage with the temple priestess of Ishtar. Their mating was to reaffirm the marriage of Ishtar, the Goddess of Fertility, with her husband, Tammuz. These marriage rites was to ensure that the King was accepted as one of the Gods, and blessed by Ishtar, who also blessed the crops. This was circle time, repeated every year at the same day.

In contrast, the Fall Harvest was the beginning of the Royal Year. At this time, the King offered First Fruits for the blessings of the Gods for him and his city. Afterwards, he would begin a project such as building a temple. Counting regnal years in Babylon started with the harvest, and was often named for the King’s latest project. The passage of time was demarked by the reigns of kings and their deeds. Again the Babylonian sense of time was divided into two parts, one for the Gods and the other for the kings. Regnal time was inserted as an arrow to the future into the circle time of the harvests.

In their daily lives, the Babylonians were very conscious of the passage of time. They measured days, months, and years (with a nineteen month calendar to tract solar and lunar eclipses). They used artificial time to track governmental and commercial activity for regnal years and fiscal years. Against this backdrop of dividing time into smaller units came the sense of timelessness that rose from living in Mesopotamia. Being conscious of being a part of a succession of kingdoms in the region, the Babylonians both merged their myths with the Sumerians, and divided them into two parts, before Babylon, and after.  Time for the Babylonians was to split into two parts, one an arrow pointing towards the future, whilst the other a circle that returned back to Babylon.

Works Used.
“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses.” U.K. Higher Education Project. 2011. Web.
Aveni, Anthony, “People and the Sky.” Thames and Hudson: New York. 2009. Print.
Cicero, Sandra, “A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot.” Llewellyn: Woodbury, MN, 2006. Print.
King, L.W., “Babylonian Religion and Mythology.” Wisdom Library. 1903. Web.
Siren, Christopher, “The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.” 2003. Web.
Sumerian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web.
Smitha, Frank, “Civilization in Mesopotamia.” Macrohistory and World Time Line2015. Web.