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The Age of Taurus, Literary Myth Theory

The Age of Taurus, Literary Myth Theory

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Published by Zavier Mainyu

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Published by: Zavier Mainyu on Oct 08, 2011
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01/21/2013

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Sumerian Goddess Myths (4000 -2400 BCE)
 This unit will focus on studying some of the popular myths and archetypes of the ancient Iraq, specifically in the southern region called Sumer. The earlySumerians were master irrigators, and their mythology was tied to the earth. The literature in this unit promotes various nature myths that explained thearrangements and structures of their agrarian surroundings. Because of theimportance of fertility and birth to this culture, the female was prioritized,often symbolized by a cow or bull — a universal fertility symbol.
 MAP SOURCE:
http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/o/x/oxf3/map_sumer.gif  
 
3344
 
K
Unit 1
Unit 1 Introduction
Prof. Stephen Hagin
 
K
 
Symbolic Connections in WL 
 
K
 
12th edition
 
K
 
Kennesaw State University
 
“Mesopotamia” means the “Land Between the Rivers,” in this case the Tigris and Euphrates.If you look at a satellite map of the Near East, you’ll notice a clear distinction betweendesert and fertile lands. The cultures that lived here became great because they weretechnologically resourceful, building irrigation canals, dams, and levees that seized control of marshy swampland and converting it to a hospitable and idyllic environment. This region iscalled the
Fertile Crescent
because of these intricate river systems that brought nourishing waters to an otherwise dry land.If you think about the way people lived their lives before the arrival of the
Sumerians
(about4500-4000 BCE), we would find several cultures establishing homes on rich farmlands, but also many nomadic clans of hunters and gatherers. One problem with hunting and gathering is that these cultures may only eat what they can caught, which meant that their foodsources were inconsistent and unpredictable at best. Living their daily existence in a constant state of fear prevented them from burgeoning into great civilizations. It also meantthat they moved around a lot and never firmly established a home or a cultural tie to oneregion. In prehistory, humans, in essence, lived more like animals. Nomadic cultures of hunters would prey on sacred animals that were abundant, such as thebuffalo were to the Native American tribes of the Midwest. These hunters would performrituals and ceremonies that either encouraged the gods to continue providing these animalsfor mankind’s survival, or they would pray to the animals themselves, as the creatures weresometimes considered to be gods incarnate that were willingly sacrificing their own lives forthe humans.The Sumerians, on the other hand, were able to develop a highly advanced culture due to therelative comfort and control of their food supplies. They engineered an elaborate system of canals and dikes to direct the flow of water from the boggy swampland of southern Iraq totheir fields, allowing them to change a wasteland into a cultural and commercial paradise.The Sumerians also invented dry underground storehouses for their grains, often allowing them to save enough food to feed their communities for seven years in case of drought. Thisreliable stream of food allowed them to devote time to developing art, writing, law, andstorytelling. As the first culture to invent writing, the Sumerians were able to immortalizetheir culture for us to study today. Their writing was called
cuneiform
, made by pressing sharpened reed tips into wet clay tablets which would then be placed atop their roofs to allow the sun to bake them dry. Most of their writings were simple records of businesstransactions, sort of like getting a rock for a receipt, but thousands of narrative tabletsexist, at least in part, that contain the mythology of a distant and odd pantheon.Most mythological cultures viewed their universe in three main parts: the
heavens
, the
earth
, and the
underworld
. In ancient Sumer, these locations were brought to life by the
 
Unit 1 Introduction
K
 
3355
 
gods of these designated functions:
An
(sky),
Ki
(earth), and
Kur
(underworld). As you readfurther in the unit, you will see that these names also become incorporated into the names of other characters and locations too:
An
, for example, also make up part of the names
Inanna
  and
 Nanna
;
Enki
is composed of the components
En
(=lord) and
Ki
(=earth); and
Kur
will appear in the names of some strangely invented creatures called the
kurgarra
creatures,who can freely pass into and out of the underworld.You will also notice many references to mountains, but you will learn that these aredifferent kinds of mountains, if you look closely. One type is simply high ground on which their temples were constructed (
hursag 
= foothills). These highland areas afforded securityfrom devastating floods that sometimes would inundate the entire area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Mesopotamia), thereby making them suitable locations for worship.Another type of mountain would be a reference to the Zagros Mountains, which are locatedin western Iran. From Sumer, you could look to the east and see these mountains in thedistance, where the sun (
Utu
, or
Shamash
) was said to rise from the mountains.Later in history, these mountains would supply a steady stream of warriors who invadedMesopotamia for their resources, since the mountain people had no organized agriculture.Therefore, the mountain range became synonymous with evil, as evil people kept sweeping downhill from there. The mountain became the visible embodiment of the underworld,perhaps an extension of it. We see references top the mountains in
 Enki and the World Order
.Creation is couched into sexual terms in Sumer, a natural extension of their agriculturallivelihoods. In their attempt to understand their surroundings, the Sumerians noticed thecontinual act of creation all around them, always made possible by the joining of oppositeforces. By applying these ideas to human terms (by
anthropomorphizing
nature to make itmore accessible to humans), the myths join us humans to the greater world of life. Yes, we are biased when we look at other creatures through human eyes, but this allows us tounderstand our nature better.Throughout this unit, focus on both the interactions of the characters as well as theirgrowth and development. The union of 
Enki
(water) and
 Ninhursag
(earth) should appear tobe a perfect match and thereby fostering new life. Notice that Enki (a masculine god) useshis water (his semen) to fertilize Ninhursag (a female womb force) and their variousdaughters. Why would the gods engage in sex like humans do? By adapting humancharacteristics onto these forces of Nature, we acknowledge that we see ourselvesintimately connected to the world around us. Humans cannot understand Nature until wesee ourselves in it or if Nature appears to act in more familiar (human) terms.Also take note of 
Inanna’s
growth from a little girl into a powerful goddess of love and war.She begins as a prepubescent girl dreaming about her future as a woman, but these realities also frighten her until she experiences the power of her sexuality and femininity in the laterstories. Her collected powers and maturity culminate in her greatest challenge: her descentinto the underworld where she nudges the cosmos to continue creation after the harvest.The alternating influence of the earth and underworld explain the cycles of life.

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