a reply to: Kantzveldt
There is some truth to the idea that Aššūr represents the celestial-axis. However, this only applies during the Assyrian occupation of Babylon
(727-625 BC). It was only during this brief period that Aššūr found prominence in the Babylonian Enuma Eliš
as a cultural redaction of the
primordial god Anšar, the prototypical sky-god and great grandfather of Marduk.
This, of course, was a political maneuver to belittle the waning cult of Marduk, which had begun to fall out of favor after Tukultī.apil.ešarra
(Tiglath Pileser) III, king of Assyria, sacked Babylon. In the Enuma Eliš
Anšar is the celestial axis, so by aligning Aššūr with Anšar
the Assyrians had, whether they knew it or not, effectively attributed the celestial axis to Aššūr.
This was a short-lived association though, as Nábû.ápal.uṣur (Nabopollasar) reclaimed Babylon in the name of the Chaldean empire roughly a
century later, and deposed both Marduk and Aššūr as king of the Anunnaki, in favor of the god of wisdom and writing, Nábû, who had found great
prominence among the Chaldean theologians.
The solar-disc of Aššūr is not a representation of the celestial axis though. It is representative of the flaming disc of the sun. The Sumerian god
Utu utilizes this same symbol, as well as the pictographic sun-disc, roughly 2000 years earlier in Sumerian and Akkadian art, two cultures who had no
knowledge of the celestial axis, as advanced astronomy of that nature began in Babylon, not Agade or Sumer.
Not that the Assyrian solar-disc couldn't have been adapted to represent the celestial axis during the brief Assyrian occupation of Babylon, that is
without a doubt possible, and in all honesty probable, as astronomy and astrology gained a lot of popularity during the Assyrio-Chaldean period.
In truth, the solar-disc is a combination of 3 symbols.
• The solar-disc of Utu forms the base symbol, around which the great Thunderbird forms (see # 2), and upon which the war-god rides (see # 3).
The reason for the use and absorption of Utu's symbol is that the Assyrians saw themselves as the rightful lords of Mesopotamia, and under the
auspices of Aššūr.bani.pal (Ašurbanipal) they damn near proved it, extending their empire to include Sumer, Agade, Assyria, Egypt, the Levant, and
parts of Anatolia and Elam. As Utu formerly represented justice and the divine law, his symbol was adapted to cement Assyria's right to rule.
• The Imdugud- or Anzû-bird, who represented the chaotic force of destructive Nature: thunderstorms, rockslides, hail, floods, torrential rains.
Some scholars associate this bird with Ninurta (see # 3), believing that Ninurta was the Imdugud prior to his metamorphosis into an Apotropaic figure
against such forces.
This, of course, in conjunction with the solar-disc of Utu, is representative of Assyria's mastery of the land and its once-chaotic forces. Again, by
the height of the empire under Ašurbanipal the Assyrians had become masters of Mesopotamia.
• Finally, riding upon the Imdugud is Ninurta-Aššūr, symbolic of war and martial power.
Assyria, of course, being history's first imperialistic empire, launching campaign after campaign in the name of resources and power. The assimilation
of Mesopotamia's greatest war-god into the symbol of Assyria's pride should come as no surprise. This same method being behind the assimilation of
Enlil and Inanna into Aššūr's "family" as well.
Justice, mastery of nature, and military might were Assyria's virtues, and their symbol, an amalgam of ancient pictographs, accurately displays
Next, the constellation you're referring to is called Ban, and it is actually the constellation of the goddess Inanna (her bow, a symbol long since
associated with her). The arrow of this bow is the constellation of Ninurta, whose prowess as a warrior, and use of archery when hunting his foes on
the plains, should make the association obvious.
Inanna and Ninurta have very interesting connections too, connections that exist solely in Assyria. According to Sumer Inanna was the daughter of the
sky-god An, and served as heirodule
in his temple, the É.ana
. By the dynasty of Agade Inanna had become the daughter of Nanna, the
moon-god, and been elevated to Queen of Heaven and goddess of love and war.
In Assyria though, Inanna was seen as the daughter of Ninurta, and unlike in Babylon, almost all of her sex-goddess qualities disappear, showing up
in Babylonia, leaving only a potent war-goddess in the North.
This masculinization of Inanna was even rendered artistically, as the "bearded Inanna" of Assyria, which became a cultural motif and fan-favorite of
people who don't understand Inanna's origins.
Ninurta and Inanna's relationship, being father and daughter, explains why the bow and arrow constellations were associated with each other.
Asarluḫi is an interesting figure too, actually, as he does not begin with his exorcist and magician capabilities. In the Sumerian era Asarluḫi
was a god of the River Ordeal, marking him as a god of justice and law. Alongside this, he was known as the "August Sage," implying wisdom and
knowledge of proper living. All of this creates an image of Asarluḫi as a type of judge, more than a magician or exorcist.
Asarluḫi really gained his power over magic and incantations when the village of Kuara, Asarluḫi's village, was absorbed by the expanding
city-state of Eridu (Enki's capital). When Asarluḫi was assimilated into the Eridu pantheon he became the "son of Enki" and thus attained additional
skills, adding magician and exorcist to his retinue of judge.
Asarluḫi was absorbed into the cult of Marduk though, there's no denying that. Although whether or not Asarluḫi was ever associated with the
celestial axis remains unknown to me. The Sumerians and Akkadians certainly make no mention of this. However, if you have evidence to support this I
would be very interested to know more about it.
In case you're wondering, Inanna, Ninurta, and Asarluḫi are three of the gods (among a large handful) whose origins and evolution across Mesopotamia
I am in the process of a dedicated study of. They are at the center of my own research paper, so if you want to learn more about them I'd be happy to
~ Wandering Scribe
edit on 24/10/14 by Wandering Scribe because: code, spelling, added Aššūr-image