I want to look here at the Ziggurat as the basis for Alchemical tradition, this proving to date back to Sumeria. As the basis for this i'll be
quoting research from the specialist Sumerian forum Enenuru
, attempting to present this in a form in which it can be readily understood by the general reader, and also expanding upon and
clarifying certain aspects.
Frankfort (Kingship and the Gods, p. 323) takes the ziggurat to mean: the "mountain," as a symbol of the earth, the Netherworld, or the place
To add to this, in order to understand the ziggurats association with the five planets, Sun and Moon, which will be presented, it should be understood
that the ziggurat was based upon a magical mountain seen at the horizon, shortly before sunrise or after sunset, that this is the zodiacal light cone
along the ecliptic plane, and thus the planetary objects were seen to track along and through this, in their risings and settings.
The basic colour scheme for a ziggurat, rendered in glazed brickwork, was along these lines;
So, first of all, how should the colour scheme look. Scholars have mostly relied on the account of the Greek Herodotus, who described the
battlements of the Median city Ecbatana. The battlements were in this order, from the outer/lower to the inner/higher:
white - black - dark red - blue - light red - silver - gold
The assumption that Mesopotamian towers would have followed this scheme is not without reason. The ziggurat found at Khorsabad has preserved four
levels, and possibly originally had seven. The four levels are coloured: white at the bottom, then black, then reddish purple, then blue fourth. Also
found were fragments of enamelled bricks that were vermilion, silver-gray, and gold; so if there were an extra three levels then they could have been
coloured with these bricks.
As for the ziggurat at Ur, Leonard Woolley had this to say:
The shrine, as we have seen, was bright blue, shining in the sun. The top was red: it was built of large lightly fired bright red bricks and was
covered with plaster of the same colour. Below this the whole ziggurat, walls and steps alike, was black, the brickwork covered with a thin coat of
bitumen applied with a brush. Below this again was the white-washed columned wall of the court.
These colours are considered to have association with the Heavely bodies, the Deities which represented them, and also natural substances which could
Gold - Sun
Silver - Moon
Light Red - Mercury
Blue - Venus
Dark Red - Mars
Black - Saturn
White - Jupiter
Gold - Sun/Šamaš -------- Gold
Silver - Moon/Sin --------- Silver
Light Red - Mercury/Nabû - Copper?
Blue - Venus/Ištar -------- Lapis
Dark Red - Mars/Nergal --- Red gold?
Black - Saturn/Ninurta ----- Lead
White - Jupiter/Marduk ---- Electrum?
Of course in alchemy there is the inter-relationship and fluctuation between the elements to consider, in terms of the potential for transformation,
and likewise it was an aspect of the ziggurat tradition that Inanna or Ishtar would be the personification of this vitalization, and thus dependent
upon which crown she was wearing she could represent any or all.
Ištar is described as both a palm tree and as a ziggurat, and a luminescent one at that. According to Parpola (following the Kabbalistic
meditation on colours and garments of the sefirot) the seven colours of the ziggurat are the seven garments of Ištar, so that when she descends to
the netherworld she undresses, and when she ascends she puts the garments back on. He compares this to the Mithraic ascent of the soul:
the initiate climbs "a ladder with seven gates," the first (of lead) associated with Saturn, the second (of tin) with Venus, the third (of bronze)
with Jupiter, the fourth (of iron) with Mercury, the fifth (of electrum) with Mars, the sixth (of silver) with Moon, and the seventh (of gold) with
Thus representative of the ziggurat, and the axis of the sacred tree as a whole, and the transformation through levels.
If Venus wears a black crown - Saturn stands in front of her
If Venus wears a white crown - Jupiter stands in front of her
If Venus wears a green crown - Mars stands in front of her
If Venus wears a red crown - Mercury stands in front of her
If Venus wears a rainbow crown - a rainbow lies crosswise in front of her
If Venus wears the Sun's crown - she becomes very bright, Saturn stands in front of her
If Venus wears the Moon's crown - she is very small, Mercury stands in front of her
The choice of colours for the planets is interesting, and seemingly not altogether based upon direct observation, in that Venus as blue is probably
indicative of her role as a Sky Goddess ruling by day, as much as any referance to her twilight and nocturnal activities, whilst Saturn as black is
perhaps indicitve of his position at the edge of the known cosmos, the vastness of space and time and the unknowable.
A ziggurat needn't have seven levels, but if for example you only had four, that would probably put Venus in the top bunk;
That can also be seen her in terms of her eight pointed star and Nin/lady standard
Likewise if you construct a fifth level, this will relate to Mercury/Nebu, and the cult of scribes with their nibs and seals;
The Sumerian approach then was quite straightforward and not so difficult to understand, after all the ideas originated over 5,000 years ago.
To understand how this tradition then went on to become the Western Alchemic Tradition one will need to trace its path through Mithraism and
Hellenistic Gnosticism, and this paper does that wonderfully well;
The Seven Gods of Destinies
The mythological concept of the seven gods forming an assembly for decreeing
the destinies for the whole world and writing them down on the Tablet of Destinies formed the backbone of the later practice of horoscopy, which
only in the Achaemenid period. The planets were associated with the gods already in the second millennium BCE Mesopotamian celestial omen texts. The
planetary gods were treated as persons, because the protases of celestial omens
refer to the actions or appearances of the planets and stars not appropriate to
inanimate objects, but rather as anthropomorphic beings with agency and feeling
In the Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft magic series Maqlû, the mountain of the same function appears as the city Zabban, which has two
gates—one for the rising of the sun and the second for the setting of the sun. The name of the city can also be read Sapp°n, and be connected with
Northwest Semitic Sap°n, biblical •°phôn, the cosmic abode of the deities El and Baal in Ugaritic texts
. In this cosmic locality on the horizon are the cosmic gates through which the sun and other heavenly bodies pass when they enter and leave the sky
and return to the netherworld. It is situated on a cosmic shore where its quay and pass (n±biru) serve as entry points through which cosmic
travellers and ghosts pass without hindrance from the netherworld into the heavens, and where witches may be temporarily
edit on 10-4-2013 by Kantzveldt because: (no reason given)