Sumerian Mists (Part 3 of 3)

“He created these worlds, the upper waters (ambhas), light (marici), death (mara), the terrestrial waters (ap). The upper waters are beyond the sky, the sky is their support. Space is the world of light, the earth the world of death. The lower waters are under the earth”.

-Aitareya Upaniṣad

“Originally there was nothing but the waters. The waters generated the Real (Satya) and the Real is the Immense Being (Brahmā) “.

-Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad

First an image that shows the Cosmos according to the Sumerian mythology:

cosmologia_sumera

There is written, from top to bottom:

Primordial Sea (Nammu)
Sky (An)
Terrestrial Ocean (Abzu)
Earth (Ki)
Hell (Kur)
Primordial Sea (Nammu)

The Primordial Sea (Nammu) is the Universe: uncreated, eternal and infinite, enclosing the creatress matter of all that will come into being, primeval amniotic fluid that has given form to all that has been, that is and that will be. The Sky (An) is the Starry Sky above the Solar System. The Terrestrial Ocean (Abzu) is the “maelstrom” created around the Sun by the orbits of the planets of the Solar System. The Earth (Ki) is the ideal plane composed by the four pillars or corners of the year, i.e. the Ecliptic. Hell (Kur: another proof that the Kur of which I speak in my previous article is indeed the realm of death) is the Starry Sky below the Solar System.

***

The myth about Baldr’s death is composed by the dreams premonitory of his death, the oath imposed to all living creatures to not harm him, the deities that jokingly try to harm him knowing his invulnerability, his eventual death by the hands of Höðr, the search in Hel to bring him back and the cry of all that exists to allow his return in the world of the living.

Baldr’s death:
baldr_lies_dead

The Sumerian mythology contains a poem called “The Dream of Dumuzi” that is in many ways is strikingly similar to Baldr’s myth summarized above: in this poem the god Dumuzi has premonitions of his destiny by means of dreams that show his imminent death. He knows he will be killed by a band of brigands but hopes nevertheless to avoid what will be inevitable and asks to all living beings to cry for him; on several occasions the god is captured by the brigands but manages to escape and at the end he seeks refuge in a pen in the desert but the brigands capture him and destiny is fulfilled; after Dumuzi’s death follows the ritualistic lamentation and Geshtinanna, his sister, starts searching for him in the realm of death, in the end succeeding in bringing him back to life.

The similarities with the myth of Baldr’s death are many: the title of the poem reminds of the Eddic poem “Baldrs Draumar” (“Baldr’s dreams”), then we have the premonitions of death during sleep, the attempts to avoid death, the participation of all living creatures, the fulfillment of destiny despite the efforts to avoid it and the final search in the realm of death to bring the god back to life. We can quite easily draw a parallel between the deities trying repeatedly to harm Baldr, until his eventual death, and the brigands that capture more times Dumuzi without being able to kill him, until when they finally succeed in their purpose.

Other equivalent myths are those about the resurrections of Osiris and Lemminkäinen. In the Egyptian mythology, Seth kills Osiris and dismembers his body into fourteen parts to then scatter them throughout Egypt: Isis then collects all the body parts and reassembles them, in this way resurrecting Osiris. In the Kalevala, Lemminkäinen goes to Tuonela, the realm of death, to pass a test and win the hand of his future wife, but he is killed and his body torn to pieces and thrown into the infernal river: then the mother of Lemminkäinen descends into the realm of death and recovers all the parts of his son’s body, reassembles the corpse and brings it back to life.

Lemminkäinen is brought back to life by his mother:
lemminkaisenaiti

Höðr, Seth and the other entities that kill the Sun God symbolize Autumn and Winter, the seasons when the Sun grows old and temporarily dies. Baldr, Dumuzi, Osiris and Lemminkäinen symbolize the temporarily dead Sun during the Winter Solstice (the word “solstice” comes from Latin “solstitium” [“sun stop”], indeed the Sun starts again to climb up or down the horizon only after some days of apparent immobility following the Solstices, whereby the wintry rebirth occurs effectively only in coincidence with Yule, and that’s why many deities come back to life exactly three days after their seasonal death) and the child that, after accomplishing the initiation ritual, comes out from the burial mound: both are reborn on Yule’s day.

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