Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of January 28th - February 3rd,  2000

In the Beginning was the Word...

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   Over the last few weeks, we've been taking an extensive look at some very old traditions. While the nature of our investigation has fallen somewhat short of scientific inquiry, it's interesting to speculate about customs which extend back so far that even legend barely remembers them. The Age of Gemini was the last time we experienced an Air sign of this magnitude. As we now approach the Age of Aquarius, we are once again entering an Air sign element. For those who would like to learn about the future, understanding how these energies once manifested could be very helpful.


Another, more youthful Sumerian Heavenly Observer


Sumerian Heavenly Observer

   The Age of Gemini ran from approximately 6400 to 4300 BC. The first peoples to emerge from the shadows of Mesopotamian prehistory were the Sumerians, who worked with and developed the fertile Tigris Euphrates river valley some time before 3000 BC. They, in turn, may have been preceded by several older cultures between 5000 and 3000 BC, which laid the foundations upon which these Sumerians built. These forerunners remain anonymous, however, whereas the Sumerians are known through written records which they left behind to us.

   If we are looking for clues to some of the predominate religious themes and beliefs of this Age of Gemini, it would be to the Sumerians that we should turn. This Sumerian legacy came to an end around 2350 BC, when they were overpowered by their northern neighbors, the Semitic Akkadians.

   There is, in fact, evidence of an Air sign theme holding a position of pre-eminence among the Sumerians. A supreme deity of this land was Enlil, worshipped in Mesopotamia down until c. 1750 BC. His name translates as Lord Wind. During the third millennia BC, he was definitely the most important god of southern Mesopotamia. He was invoked to bless cities, and to ensure prosperity and abundance. He was a god of the hurricane and flood, or, as some like to call it, the deluge.

   As the supreme deity, Enlil was eventually assimilated into Marduk, many of whose qualities were in turn absorbed by Zeus, Jupiter, and finally, the God of the New Testament. Enlil was called 'the King of the Land' or 'Lord of all Regions'. If Enlil is our Lord of Air, derived from the constellation Gemini (on the Vernal Equinox between 6400-4300 BC), it would make sense he would be associated with the East. Not unsurprisingly, although Enlil had a reserved promenade in the heavens, he normally resided on the Great Mountain of the East.

   In examining all our artifacts across the centuries over the last few weeks, we have lost touch with one important component; Gemini is the power of communication, the power of speech. Oral traditions from these periods may have been lost, but these represented the very heart and breath, the very soul of life during the Age of Gemini.

   Vernal Equinox + Gemini = In the beginning + the Word.

   The word of Enlil is a breath of wind, the eye sees it not.
His word is a deluge which advances and has no rival.
His word above the slumbering skies makes the earth to slumber.
His word when it comes in humility destroys the country.
His word when it comes in majesty overwhelms houses
and brings weeping to the land.
At his word the heavens on high are stilled.

   Enlil: part of the pre-Biblical Word of God.



   These two winged deities seated with a sacred tree are not an uncommon motif in Assyro-Babylonian mythology. First, the figures are often paired, in an obvious symbol for Gemini; their wings underscoring the Air motif that we have been looking at for weeks.


Two winged protective genii,
blessing the Tree of Life as Enlil or Bel

or Bel?

   As the Age of Gemini gave way to the Age of Taurus, Air motifs increasingly gave way to Earth images. The tree of life itself is sometimes called Enlil, sometimes Bel, the god of the Earth of the Babylonians. We will be examining this metamorphosis from Age to Age in the weeks ahead, watching as a dominant cultural motif first merges with, and finally gives way to, a whole new celestial image. Even in the earliest ages, this is one of the clearest representations of both the advantages, and disadvantages, of the mythic system. Bas-relief from Nimrud, c. 900 BC.


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