The primary concern of the Gilgimish epic is of of the journey to the Masu mountains, the descent of Gilgimish into the underworld, his search for the plant of Life, his entrance into the Heavenly realms, along the road of the sun, ie ecliptic plane;
The Mashu mountains I give to you freely (!),
the mountains, the ranges, you may traverse ...
In safety may your feet carry you.
The gate of the mountain ..."
As soon as Gilgamesh heard this
he heeded the utterances of the scorpion-being.
The mountain is called Mashu.
Then he reached Mount Mashu,
which daily guards the rising and setting of the Sun,
above which only the dome of the heavens reaches,
and whose flank reaches as far as the Netherworld below
Along the Road of the Sun he journeyed
As noted in the opening post, i consider the mountain of the horizon that appears before sunrise and after sunset the zodiacal light, as this is in conjunction with the ecliptic plane, so again factors under consideration, the ecliptic plane/Mlky Way interesction with the horizon, the primary role of Venus, the zodiacal light, as all seen here;
It's the importance of the mountain symbolism i now want to look at, as i believe this is of the utmost importance in realising what the ziggurat represented, and its central role in Sumerian culture.
Here is what they wrote of their ziggurats;
House of terrifying radiance, iiterior full with princely divine powers, a beaming light which shines, exuding great awesomeness, foundation of heaven and earth, shrine where destiny is determined, floating in the heavens like a princely barge, the heroes make their way straight into its interior and perform its oracle rites perfectly, the true house of youth....for him who declares that he is of the mountain, the house comes forth like the daylight
E-unir (House which is a ziqqurat), grown together with heaven and earth, foundation of heaven and eart
O ......, shrine where destiny is determined, ......, foundation, raised with a ziqqurat, ......, settlement of Enlil, your ......, your right and your left are Sumer and Akkad. House of Enlil, your interior is cool, your exterior determines destiny. Your door-jambs and architrave are a high mountain, your projecting pilasters a dignified mountain. Your peak is a ...... peak of your princely platform. Your base serves heaven and eart
O E-melem-huc (House of terrifying radiance) exuding great awesomeness, Ec-mah (Magnificent shrine), to which princely divine powers were sent from heaven, storehouse of Enlil founded for the primeval divine powers, worthy of nobility, lifting your head in princeship, counsellor of E-kur, pillar of the surroundings, your house ...... the platform with heave
O E-mu-mah (House with a magnificent name), rising mountain of heaven, your holy sides and your great foundation are most precious. Interior full with princely divine powers, a beaming light which shines, shrine with your back to the blue sky and your prominent front to all people, in the Land it represents a binding agreement and a single track. Magnificent river with open mouth gathering together your ...... divine powers, your base is great in awesomeness, a righteous hill grown in a broad place.
O E-sikil (Pure house) whose pure divine powers are supreme in all lands, whose name is high and mighty, magnificent dwelling of the warrior, holy house of Ninazu, house of the holy divine powers! House, your divine powers are pure divine powers, your lustration is a cleansing lustration. The warrior refreshes himself in your dwelling. Ninazu dines on your platform
Good house, built in a good location, house Kec, (some mss. add here: good house,) built in a good location, floating in the heavens like a princely barge, like a holy barge furnished with a ...... gate, like the boat of heaven, the platform of all the lands! ...... from the riverbank like a ...... boat cabin! House roaring like an ox, bellowing loudly like a breed-bull! House in whose interior is the power of the Land, and behind which is the life of Sumer!
Its king is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth. The hero Ninurta is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth. The offspring (?) of Ninlil is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth. The lord, the hero (?) of the E-kur, is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth. The offspring (?) of Enlil is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth. Lord Acimbabbar is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth. The princely son of the E-kur is worthy of Enlil the king in the true house of youth
The recurring theme in the hymns is of a mountain, foundation of Heaven and Earth, coming forth as the dawn, restorer of youth, shining with radiance, full of Divine powers, floating in the Heavens. If the mountain of the horizon is then taken as the premise for the ziggurat, there follows the associations of a place, path, stairway, gateway granting ascension to the Heavens, or descent into the dark, tangled levels of the Underworld/Abzu, this in relationship to the sun descending into the underworld at sunset and being reborn/youth restored, at sunrise...these would be aspects of the sacred mountain.
One can add to that again the Deities of the sun, moon and five planets would ascend into the mountain at sunset and emerge from beneath at sunrise, as well as the stars of the constellations, and that ziggurat becomes a mighty powerful symbolic structure to create in the centre of your city...a ritual focus for the daily cosmic mysteries.
To furthur clarify, the zodiacal light will always be in conjunction with the ecliptic plane, and manifest before and after sunrise/sunset, though not always easily seen, dependant upon atmospheric conditions.
The Milky Way will only move into conjunction with the ecliptic plane at particular times of year, when this occours shifts over time.
At present as is well known the conjunction with the Scorpio/Saggitarius point will occour at the Winter Solstice, what is less well known is that the Gemini/Taurus point will be in conjunction at the Summer solstice, and it's this that according to the iconography the Sumerians seemed the more interested in , or so it seems to me.
edit on 23-4-2012 by Kantzveldt because: add
edit on 23-4-2012 by Kantzveldt because: Add
edit on 23-4-2012 by Kantzveldt because: typo