Friday, April 24, 2009

Further Explorations of the Word MA

From Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: Tiamat Sumero-Babylonian "Goddess Mother" (Dia Mater), from whose formless body the universe was born at creation; personification of The Deep, or Tohu Bohu. Babylonians later claimed their municipal god Marduk, Tiamat's son, divided her into heavens above and earth below, as did Marduk's imitator, the biblical God. But the original division was made by the Mother herself, as in the ancient Pelasgian myth of her Aegean counterpart, Eurynome.(1) In derivative Hebrew myths, Tiamat became Tehom, The Deep; and this is how she appears in the Bible (Genesis 1:2). [Gen. 1:2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. -- King James Version. And from the Living Bible, which is a paraphrase of the Bible in modern English, Gen. 1:1-2: When God began creating the heavens and the earth, (2) the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors".] Patriarchal writers forgot that "The Deep" was a personified womb, a Middle-Eastern version of Kali whose being before creation was "formless." [I visualize it as the center "dot" in the "bindu." In Hindu mythology, although it may have older roots, it is from the bindu that all what we know as creation/universes sprung, rather like the "Big Bang" theory, KA-BOOM.] Most creation myths incorporated the idea of formlessness, in the darkness before the birth that brought "light" and the splitting of the Mother's body, so she became both heaven and earth. The Bible's account is based on the same archetype. In Egypt, Tiamat was Temu or Te-Mut, oldest of deities, mother of the archaic Ennead of four female elements: Water, Darkness, Night, and Eternity.(2) [The Ennead consisted of four paired goddesses and gods, each sister and brother, representing the earliest "Netjer" who were - I'm working from memory here so I hope this is right! - the offspring of that primeval creative force, akin to The Great Goddess or, in biblical terms, that Spirit of "God" roving about the face of the waters. Here is an interesting translation of Gen. 1:2 from the Bible used by the Jehovah's Witnesses, which is called The New World Translation: Gen. 1:2: Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of the water deep; and God's active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters. I have many different Bibles in my collection :)] She was also Nun, Naunet, or Ma-Nu, the great fish who gave birth to the universe and the gods. [Cf. Jonah inside the great fish's belly for "three" days, only to be "reborn" again by regurgitation]. In repeated cycles of becoming, she periodically swallowed up both gods and universes and gave them rebirth - like Kali.(3) Tiamat's firstborn child seems to have been a duplicate of herself, Mummu, translated either "churning" or "mother." The combination recalled the ancient notion that solid earth was made from "churning" the primordial fluid, like making butter from milk.(4) [Cf. Axis Mundi]. Some myths gave Tiamat a male consort, Apsu, similar to Jupiter Pluvius: a Father Heaven whose job it was to fertilize the Mother's abyss with seminal rain. But he was not her superior, not even her equal. Even in the chaotic conditions before creation, Tiamat was the true source of life. Her consort was subordinate, not even necessary.(5) Various myths said Tiamat alone produced the fluid of creation, which was not semen but her menstrual blood, flowing continuously for three years and three months.(6) Its great reservoir was the Red Sea - comparable to Kali's "ocean of blood"- the eastern shore of which is still called Tihamat by the Arabs. Babylonians said their god Marduk divided his mother Tiamat into two parts, upper waters and lower waters. Likewise, the Jewish God "divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which wre above the firmament" (Genesis 1:7). The Jewish god also divided the Red Sea, which was likened to Tiamat herself. The idea of dividing waters was not original with the Jews. Goddesses did it before gods. The Hindu Goddess Bindumati, "Mother of Life," divided the waters of the Ganges.(7) The Goddess Isis divided the waters of the river Phaedrus, to cross dry-shod.(8) Even an insignificant Egyptian wizard named Zazamonkh divided the waters of a lake to retrieve a courtesan's lost pendant.(9) Yahweh's miracle on behalf of the Israelites was fairly common in contemporary lore. By dividing Tiamat, Marduk established the Diameter (horizon), which was the Greek version of Tiamat's name, meaning Goddess-Mother [Dia Mater]. We still say a diameter divides a whole circle. Though Marduk was supposed to have slain his mother, the Ocean of Blood, he still maintained the menstrual calendar in Babylon, celebrating sabbaths and months of the year according ot the moom's phases.(10) Modern scholars tend to ignore Tiamat's maternal Creatress nature, describing her as nothing more than a "dragon of chaos" slain by Marduk. It is seldom emphasized that this was a myth of matricide, or that the Goddess was the one who created the world. Some traditions indicate that Marduk's murder of his mother may have been motivated by jealousy, like Cain's murder of Abel. Mother Tiamat had overlooked Marduk and chosen another of her sons, Kingu, to be her consort and the king of the universe. [She] exalted among the gods, her sons, that she had borne, Kingu, and made him greatest among them all . . . .placed him on a throne, saying, "By my charm and incantation I have raised thee to power among the gods. The dominion over all the gods I intrusted [sic] to thee. Lofty thou shalt be, thou my chosen spouse; great be thy name in all the world." She then gave him the Tablets of Destiny, and laid them on his breast.(11) Jealous Marduk not only killed Tiamat; he also deposed, castrated, and killed Kingu, and made the first man on earth out of Kingu's blood - which tends to show that Kingu was once the name of the sacrificed god-king, whose blood had the "feminine" power to make life.(12) [Cf. the Christian doctrines related to the sacrifice of Christ's life (blood) and the benefits of "Life's Water" flowing from the resurrected Christ/God.] Kingu was identified with the moon. Chaldeans called him Sin, the Moon-god of Mount Sinai. Apparently he still had the tablets of the Law given him by Tiamat (as Mother Rhea gave sacred tablets of the Law to Minos on Mt. Dicte), for the Old Testament claims he passed them on to Moses. In Southern Arabia, the Goddess was assimilated to Ishtar. The eyes of her idol Tehama wwere said to flow with tears each year as she bewailed the death of Tammuz.(13) Notes: (1) Graves, G.M., 1, 27. (2) Budge, D.N., 211. (3) Neumann, G.M., pl. 91; Erman, 252. (4) Brandon, 22. (5) Stone, 26. (6) Assyr. & Bab. Lit., 301. (7) Rawson, A.T., 74. (8) Budge, G.E., 2, 191. (9) Erman, 40. (10) Hooke, M.E.M., 45. (11) Assyr. & Bab. Lit., 287. (12) Larousse, 54. (13) Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 279.

As a totally irrelevant aside, I do believe that my given name, "Janet," which under traditional patriarchal interpretations is a derivative from "John," meaning something like "God's Gift [to men] ("Ja" = shortened name for God in Hebrew), is actually a derivative from the much older Naunet -- the "et" syllable denoted a female or the feminine in ancient Egyptian, much as "ette" denotes female or the feminine today in French). Perhaps the older name of "Nanette," which is out of style these days (as is my name, Janet), is an ancient carry-over from the times when the Goddess reigned supreme. Therefore, darlings, I am named after the Goddess of Creation, and not after "St. John." I always thought he was rather wimpy and - well, swishy. Oh, slap my face, I'm a bad girl for saying such a thing :)

Various myths said Tiamat alone produced the fluid of creation, which was not semen but her menstrual blood, flowing continuously for three years and three months.

Is this why the use of red ochre was so predominate in Neolithic times in sacred cave drawings and painted on stone, ivory and bone carvings -- to show life and a link to the Mother Goddess, from whom all life flowed through the sacred menstrual blood? Is this why the color "red" - as in "red blood" is associated with life and living? Is this why the mythical elixir of life, called "Soma" in Sanskrit and "Homa" in Pahlavi, was linked to menstrual blood? And is this why black (blood lacking oxygen from cessation of breathing, is a darkish, sort of black looking color = lack of life) is associated with funereal rites in many cultures to this day? I was going to put up an image of Tiamat with this post, but without exception those that I found were images of ugly beasts - sort of like Lizard-Dragons with huge claws and teeth -- ancestral memories of dinosaurs? Traditionalists would say I'm nuts for even thinking of such a thing, but based on the record -- actually lack thereof, to this point in time -- who's to really say? Wish I could live another 100 years to see what the archaeologists, paleontologists, anthropologists and historians come up with! Er - got sidetracked there for a second - back to finding an image of Tiamat: Since Tiamat is "formless" it occurred to me (duh, Jan!) that all images of her thus far discovered, without exception, were from much later times, after Marduk had "killed her off," and she was thereafter depicted as a monstrous being. As dondelion says, history is (re)written by the victors.

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