kali ma and a brief introduction to the doctrine of the five koshas

Kali. The ancient name of India’s most powerful goddess evokes images of death and the bloody dismemberment of demons.
       The story of Kali is a parable illustrative of the practice of suppressing the restless mind, that enemy that keeps us from enlightenment and joy. She is called forth by the gods to do battle against a peculiar kind of demon, one which resides within many of us, called Raktabija, (lit. “seed of blood”) Every time the gods slay him, the blood drops fall on the battle field and up springs another wretched demon.
      Siva, deep in meditation, cannot be disturbed, as doing so can cause calamity for the one disturbing him. the gods plead with Parvati, his wife, and she becomes Kali, the fierce aspect. Reddened eyes, fangs, a lolling tongue representing the Shakti energy, black skin, wild unbound hair, naked, riding a lion, she attacks Raktabija by spreading her tongue over the battlefield, drinking all of the blood as the clones are slain.
      Raktabija whines and pleads that she doesn’t fight fairly, similar to how our own mind whines about how life is unfair, with its inevitable rush towards the shaman’s death of enlightenment. She kills him and drinks the last of his blood, and then, drunk on the demon’s blood, begins a rampage across the cosmos.  Siva is awoken by the chaos of the scene and the alarmed demigods urge him to stop her. He hides among the carnage. As she crushes the bodies and tears them apart, she steps on him and annihilates his form, which causes her to immediately transform into an auspicious aspect, as she realizes what she has done to her beloved husband.  She brings him back to life, effectively rebooting the universe.

 

Kali
An attempt at cosmology, from John Zephaniah Holwell (1711-98), ‘Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Hindostan, etc.
 
 
 
Brahma, Siva and Vishnu adoring Kali
Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma Adoring Kali India, Himachal Pradesh, Basohli, circa 1740

 

Kali and Siva
above: Kali and Siva from The Mutational Alchemy Tarot by m1thr0s and Izi Ningishzidda
 

Her worship began in Bharat, (India),  as the supreme mother,  one to take comfort in, a loving figure who embodies everything, everywhere, including the forces of nature like death, time and passion.  In the masculine sects devoted to Siva or Vishnu, she is given a high place of honor as the most powerful  weapon of the most high,  and as the fierce aspect of Parvati, wife of  Siva in India’s most  popular  sect. To the Tantric adept, she represents supreme ultimate reality, bliss, ascension to godhead and is the one to whom we must ultimately surrender to safely and appropriately meet the cascading onslaught of an ever changing world.

Strong, Fierce, Naked Woman

 
Sarva Buddha Dakini (Dakini of All the Buddhas) or (Tibetan) Naro Kandhoma, Sino-Tibetan culture, early 19th century, copper alloy, hammered high relief, black and red lacquer, red paint, gilt. Accession number 2011.63. Part of the tantric art exhibit Honored Father-Honored Mother, Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, Texas, USA. Photo by Joe Mabel
Sarva Buddha Dakini (Dakini of All the Buddhas) or (Tibetan) Naro Kandhoma, Sino-Tibetan culture, early 19th century, copper alloy, hammered high relief, black and red lacquer, red paint, gilt. Accession number 2011.63. Part of the tantric art exhibit Honored Father-Honored Mother, Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, Texas, USA. Photo by Joe Mabel
 
 
In the mid 1990′s  I worked for a couple of lesbians, one of whom was a pro psychic. I was a visual merchandiser at their metaphysical shop in Seattle. I first encountered a statuary murti of Kali in bronze at the back of the shop, and, besides a picture of baby Krishna in the ritual room, it was the only murti in the shop. Remembering my upbringing at the beautiful ISKCON temple grounds in Vancouver, Canada,  I knew the proper action was to decorate the altar out of respect for her power.  I went outside and found some marigolds planted by the local city council. This had the curious effect of upsetting one of the two women, who insisted that I shouldn’t be picking flowers, while the psychic defended me, saying I was only trying to show respect. I simply told them  if you didn’t pick marigold heads they would stop blooming so profusely anyways. Kali seemed to know this as well, although her collection of demon heads and transmuted blood dharma may perhaps yield a very different crop.
      I remember my teacher Yashoda when I was five years old telling me the fearsome story of Kali to us girls. The naked and violent woman who killed the demons and saved the world seemed like a difficult bargain, and I didn’t feel too confident in the demigods abilities anymore. When I was much older as an adult, a Buddhist told me only the fierce aspects of deity would be useful in the Kali Yuga – the age of the demon Kali, not the goddess Kali (The demon’s name is pronounced KAY-LEE instead of KAH-LEE).   We were all enthralled by the story – Hindu tales are filled with incredibly wrought imagery and distinctive archetypal riches. At the time I was only familiar with one other strong and fierce woman in stories – the demon Putana who killed infants she babysat in Vrindavan, and who tried to kill Krishna. This image had left an indelible impression on my mind, after all, who could wish to harm the adorable and radiant baby Krishna? This was the Lord of Creation we awoke to worship among splendor, singing and harmony each sunrise at the Ashram.

 

Above: The Death of the Demoness Putana, Page from a dispersed Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of Lord Krishna), ca. 1610 India (Rajasthan, Bikaner) The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Above: The Death of the Demoness Putana, Page from a dispersed Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of Lord Krishna), ca. 1610
India (Rajasthan, Bikaner) The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Krishna defeats the demon’s plans, and sucks the life right out of her poisoned breast. The beautiful woman turns into her hideous demon form, and it was pictured as above in the book.  It was really horrible to look at then as it is now.  I wondered if this powerful goddess Kali that the great gods had called forth was also ugly – the difference between demon and goddess seemed fuzzy at best. So I asked  about  this  new  terror,  Kali, “Was she ugly?” Yashoda seemed taken aback and answered, “No! She was very beautiful. She was the most beautiful goddess and the most powerful. She defeated the demon Mahishasura and saved the universe.”  This caused me to be quite pensive, because I had to consider the nature of beauty, and why you could both save and endanger the universe in the same story.  I had not yet given a proper accounting to the factor of Siva.

Ramprasad Sen

Kali is the model of the very best mother, the terror of demons, the warm and wet embrace of life.  She conquers all in her mastery of time.  She is death, yet the joyful death of eternal life and rebirth in her ecstasy. The poet Ramprasad Sen, considered a Hindu saint, was very devoted to Kali, whose blackness he likened to the color of the sky or ocean, which appears dark from afar, but when you take in your hands, is clear. His entire life was devoted to the worship of Kali, through song, sacrifice and poetry.  His poetry is beautiful.
 
 
Why is Mother Kali so radiantly black?
 
Because she is so powerful, that even mentioning her name destroys delusion.
 
Because she is so beautiful,
Lord Shiva, Conqueror of death, lies blissfully vanquished, beneath the red soled feet.
 
There are subtle hues of blackness,
But her bright complexion is the mystery that is utterly black, overwhelmingly black, wonderfully black.
 
When she awakens in the lotus shrine within the heart’s secret cave, her blackness becomes the mystic illumination that causes the twelve petal blossom there to glow more intensely than golden embers.
 
Her lovely form is the incomparable Kali- black blacker than the King of Death.
Whoever gazes upon this radiant blackness falls eternally in love and feels no attraction to any other, discovering everywhere only her.
 
This poet sighs deeply, “Where is this brilliant lady, this black light beyond luminosity?
 
Though I have never seen her, simply hearing her name, the mind becomes absorbed completely in her astonishing reality.
Om Kali! Om Kali! Om Kali!

 

Historically

Achieving the perfection of the body of light is part and parcel of achieving union and perfect harmony with Kali. This is exactly what her yantra is telling us.  Kali and Siva comes from a very ancient class of archetype, probably prehistoric.
       In recorded history in the Vedas she is called upon to win wars and defeat enemies of the worshiper, not unlike Inanna’s role in ancient Sumer, the Graeco-Roman Cybele, Egypt’s Sekhmet, or Persia’s Anahita. While Inanna, Sekhmet, Cybele, Anahita and Durga both share certain characteristics of the archetypal mother goddess humans have identified – association with lions,  might and stunning beauty, the goddess Kali differs slightly, she is both more alien and more personal at the same time.
      Kali’s  lover  characteristics  are understated,  we  don’t  see  her  in   the  act  of  creation  that  we know.    She  is  depicted  tearing demons  apart,  having  a heyday with tearing even their already lifeless corpses apart so that  the gods begin to panic.   This is  when she kills her husband,   Siva who has thrown himself into her path in an attempt to stop her rampage and stabilize the world.
      In this act we are shown  an aspect  of   Kali named Dhumavati in  the  Mahavidyas doctrine of the 10 aspects of Devi, meaning literally “She who widows herself”.  After crushing his chest she brings him back to life, and at this instant becomes one of her ten aspects – Tara, an auspicious creatrix. Kali is defined by care that takes extreme measures, not by her delicacy. Indians have tried to convey her vision, which encompasses all of femininity in one terrible, powerful image.
     In another version, Siva hides among the piles of demon corpses and shape shifts into an infant. Upon hearing his cries, Kali  stops to breastfeed the child, showing her role as the mother, unable to resist the maternal instinct.
     Known as the great mother, Kali is said to nurture universe before birth and after death.  The same goes for the tiny microcosm of a human soul.  She is the one who takes care of us when we die and before we are born. Of what relevance is she to us in our day to day life then?
     The spirit, our spirit, which is unborn, is always in Kali’s direct realm and within her powers to mend and rejuvenate. Experiences which try the heart and bring us towards her, tipping the balance of karma in our favor in return for earthly injustices committed against us.
      Kali and Siva predate the Vedas and the presence of Brahma and Vishnu in India, a remnant of an older time period where Tantra was popular under the ruler-ship of the Vratyas – the native India’s female counterpart to the male Hierophants of the Rites of Eleusis. It’s not clear when the marriage of Kali and Siva occurred, or whether the religion was always as it is today – with worship of the yoni and lingam central to the theology. This is certainly a response to the importance of the sexual act in spirituality.
 
 
108 Siva Lingams
A stone sculpture depicting the yoni and 108 siva lingams. Photo: Pratheep http://pratheep.com/
 
 
 Kali is intrinsically linked to the 64 current, as she is the supreme goddess from which the 64 dakinis emanate and surround Siva. Temples dedicated to the Tantric worship of Siva and his consort have him at the center, surrounded by the dakinis, sometimes in a courtyard as at Hirapur, pictured below. Dakinis were linked with the sky and flying, and so the temple had no roof.
 
 
64 Yogini Temple
Chausath Yogini temple known as Mahamaya temple. Photo Credit: Soumendra Barik
 
 
 
One example of matrimonial revisionism occurring  in history was the story of Nergal and Ereskigal in Northern and Southern Mesopotamia.  Nergal was an Northern war god, identified with pestilence, and as the sun, and especially the noonday sun, a terrible thing in the arid and hot Iraqi plain. Ereskigal was a Sumerian chthonic deity, the ruler of the underworld and a powerful force in her own right, who could bring the dead back to life en masse, (think zombie apocalypse) a trick which she threatened the sky gods with from time to time. Both Ereskigal and Nergal were much too powerful to ignore or diminish, and so a marriage was arranged through storytelling and repetition.  The tale remains as one of the great tales of the ancient world. Such marriages help us to identify the character of particular nations.
      Similarly, we can identify Kali by her marriage to Siva – whether or not it was a revisionist accounting of prehistoric beliefs.  Siva is the destroyer, who can annihilate whole universe.  Kali is brought in only for special cases where absolute unbridled ferocity is necessary, in the case of the major demon that the triumvirate cannot stop.
     In Saivism, Siva and Sakti are said to be joined like two cotyledons in a seed. When Kali steps on Siva, the masculine force of heaven, and kills him, they are united and the powers of creation and destruction are at their peak. The reason for this is because Kali is the one who waits after death. Siva interrupts and closes the infinite cycle of destruction by entering her realm completely with his death.  It only lasts for a moment, but that moment is golden. Kali reveals Siva’s unlimited power in a way like no other image.
 
 
jasmine multiflorum
Jasminum multiflorum
English: Downy Jasmine. Photo: Atamari
 
Kali translates as “The Black One”,  while Siva is called Mallikarjuna ” The Lord White as Jasmine”.  In Western Hermeticism, Kali with Siva would represent the union of the fifth element’s  two parts, Black Akasha and White Akasha.  Kali is represented by the Red Hibiscus flower. This is used in offerings to her throughout India and outside in her many foreign temples and shrines. The medicinal properties include lowering blood pressure and they contain a high content of vitamin C.
 
Hibiscus
Red Hibiscus ‘Psyche’ in Chennai (Tamil Nadu) during Spring. Photo: Aravindan Shanmugasundaram

 

 

 Sri Krsna as Kali

It is not without coincidence that Krsna’s name means “black” as there are two reasons for equating Krsna with Kali. The first is that Krsna is repeatedly named as the supreme god, as Kali is in Shakti belief.  Kalya is given as Krsna’s name when he is represented as the popular Jagganath (literally “Lord of the Universe”) form, a small limbless idol with large white eyes and a red painted smile accompanied by his brother Balarama and his sister Subhadra. This form of worship is very old. Originally the idols were comprised of Jagganath and his consort, until the white skinned Balarama was added to appease Saivite sects.   In Tantra, Krsna is said to be a Lila expression of the goddess Lalita Tripurasundari, the red goddess, underscoring her importance.  (lit. “She Who Plays” – another of the ten devi forms called the Mahavidyas) She is considered as a red flower in all forms.

published before 1923 and public domain in the US.
Jagganath, right, with his elder brother Balarama and sister Subhadra. British Museum. Artist Unknown, India
Kali is famously said to be the goddess who does not give us what we expect. Instead she gives us what we need. This goes for all life, everywhere, which it is her task to sustain indefinitely. So what we get is an archetype that transcends  earth into outer space and exists outside the boundaries of time. She cares about us only inasmuch as it balances whole universe. If she did not care about entire universe in respect to individual wants, she would not be known as the Great Mother.
      We find that the TwinStar behaves in much the same way, given the limited amount of time with which we have had a chance to observe its effects on viewers. It goes straight for your weakest link, and pushes you through the dharma, sometimes violently – especially if you do not have right thinking or right actions.  We have observed that sometimes it does not want a viewer examining it, other times it does. People say remarkable things about it, then seem to completely forget what they have done or why Abrahadabra is important. It happens so frequently – and never to long time participants – that it has become a comedy routine we all sort of laugh about when a newbie jumps on board and begins waxing poetic about the TwinStar. Like the devotees of Kali, they are in for far more than they bargained for, as it sets to work absorbing their dharma.
      To those of us who have seen the sparkling effulgence of the TwinStar in action, the power is on par with Siva’s tandav, and it would seem a good match with Kali’s ancient sigil. A few weeks ago m1thr0s decided to revisit Kali’s yantra, as a gift for his young daughter. What he found was an extremely important marriage between the Tetractys and the Kali Yantra, which pushes the Body of Light topic into the spotlight.

     Her yantra parallels the doctrine of the five koshas, which is of immense importance to students of the Body of Light,  so she is more than a simple adjutant of the most high consciousness, although this is half of god.  She is an important teacher pertaining to the map towards star consciousness, which as  of yet we don’t know very much about. Below is the image of the TwinStar and the Kali Yantra. Note the five rings which I will talk about in later curriculum from The Abrahadabra Institute – these are the koshas, the layers of the Body of Light.

Warning…the image you are about to view will accelerate your dharma!

tskaliyantra01
Above: Kali Yantra TwinStar by m1thr0s 2013

In the Vedas, most importantly to be understood for this image we are viewing, Kali is named as the black tongue of Agni, the fire god. Agni’s importance cannot be overstated. He is the first god mentioned in the oldest Indian text, the Rig Veda. The Hermeticists refer to Fire as the first element. (At least in the tetragrammal system where fire=spirit). I’m proposing that the TwinStar can be primarily identified with Agni and with the secret alchemical formula for fire in this image, Kali reveals the true nature of the TwinStar.

bašmu/ušum, muš huššu, nirah by us4-he2-gal2

Editor’s note: This is a great article retrieved from Abrahadabra Forums. No, we’re not bringing the forums back, but this little gem written by Bill over at enenuru.net was too precious to keep hidden away in the Abrahadabra archives.  – Izi Ningishzidda

Hey Abrahadabra: Well, it seems I’m always presenting complicated and touchy explanations here, I suppose it may give the impression that everything about Sumer is laborious.. I would agree many things are, but I guess as I’ve remarked before, your particular focuses here may exaggerate this impression as the netherworld gods and the snake gods are elusive (and so a stressful subject to discuss.)

So I’m putting something together to delineate between the Ušumgal and the Mus hussu. The iconography and mythology of both of these creatures is more often vague and more often in some process of change than in stable and concise condition; the nomenclature associated with both, as we witness it in this or that article, is in a steady state of flux between Sumerian, Akkadian and differing modern conventions for rendering ancient text; the associations of both creatures revolve around the same deities, but for different reasons which may at points have more to do with the shifting social-political climate of Mesopotamia than with appreciable religious sentiment. For reasons such as these it can be difficult to explain concrete distinctions between the two. To begin with, I am intending to quote a large section from the enenuru Ningishzida thread, (reply #47) – in that post I had referred to a discussion given by Anthony Green who understands the snakes at Ningishzida’s back as the Bašmu snakes, possibly to be identified with today’s species cerastes cerastes. I will then update this material with some new insights from F.A.M. Wiggermann from his book “Mesopotamian Protective Spirits” (MPS) (the book I should mention, is extremely technical and focused on a very narrow range of ritual texts). Hopefully below my modified look at Bašmu should also add explanations for Ušum and Ušumgal which I hadn’t worked in before, and the dissections with Mus Hussu will stand out.

On the Identity of the Ušumgal

From Enenuru:

“In regards to the snakes at Ningishzida’s back, we can turn again to A. Greens article found in CANE vol. 3, specifically pg. 1844. Near the bottom Green states:

“Another underworld god was Ningishzida. As he was the personal deity of Gudea, ruler of Lagash, he is depicted in the art of that time- for example, on Gudea’s own cylinder seal, where the god introduces the ruler to the water-god Enki. Ningishzida is represented with horned Bašmu snakes (the horned viper Cerastes cerastes) rising from his shoulders (see fig.5 no. 4).”

When we refer to “fig.5 no.4” , which is on pg. 1848, we see that no.4 is a little drawing of a horned snake. The accompanying information tells us, that this image is attested from the Akkadian (?) period, down to the Kassite period. It’s proposed identity, its names in semitic language, are 1. bašmu and 2. ušumgallu and the proposed translation for both is “poisonous snake.”

Wiggermann adds important information on the topic of the identity and nomenclature of the Horned viper – in his more concise discussion from MPS, he explains that the Sumerians had two terms, ušum and muš-ša3-tur3 – the first a horned snake with front feet, the second a horned snake without front feet.

For these two terms, the Akkadians had only one term: bašmu. (We see that above, Green states bašmu and ušumgal are the semitic terms, proving that Assyriologists contradict each other all the time – more on the ušumgul later.) So what this means is that, yes, ušum is another word for the snakes at Ningishzida’s shoulder, footed sort or no.

The Character of the Ušum, Bašhmu

The earliest texts from which we may get a sense of this creature are the Early Dynastic incantations (2600), these are a favorite reference source of mine despite that they are currently only published in German and often are somewhat inexplicable in any case.

In these earliest examples of Mesopotamian incantation text, the principal causes of problem illnesses are the Udug demon, Enki, and snakes. Snakes are an understandably object of fear for the ancients, and the mysterious and deadly power of venom was a subject of fear and awe – the image of the fierce venom spitting serpent is one often applied often the gods (who were much feared and at the same time revered). These earliest texts indicate a period in which period where Enki was especially associated with illness bringing snakes, a fact which comes to some surprise to readers of later Mesopotamian literature – later literature stresses this deities position as a lord of benevolent incantations .. however, the ancient world offers numerous examples of deities specially associated with both the power to cause and to cure illness i.e Apollo.. the logic may have run that the one with lordship over the weapon is the same who may heal, even if that is to do so little as to refrain from unleashing it. This ambiguity of nature, neither definitively good nor evil, is characteristic of Mesopotamian religion at large, and we see many “daimons”, entities who may act as agents of illness yet at the same time be employed protectively in other contexts. In any case, G. Cunningham writes a brief note about Enki’s association with snakes in the early incantation texts, to include the Ušum:

“Text 26 refers to ‘the snake of Enki’ (muš d.en-ki) while text 27 refers to ‘the place of the black snake in the middle of the abzu’ (ki muš-gi6 SU.AB sha) as well as mentioning the black dog, a horned snake, a serpent (the ušum) and Enki himself.”

As Wiggermann notes the ušum/bašhmu “is perhaps nothing more than “Venomous Snake”; a natural enemy of man mythologized.” The snake itself is therefore harmful, but it may nevertheless represent or be associated with deities who, while having the ability to inflict suffering, are essentially worshiped as protective deities (as in the case of Enki).

The Ušumgal

Now that we have defined the ušum/bašhmu, what then is the ušumgal? As I mentioned above, the word ušumgal is a combination of ušum (= snake or noble snake) and gal (great).

Ušumgal is often translation “dragon”. Wiggermann relates that the Sumerian ušumgal is written in Akkadian either by “bašmu” or by “ušumgallu” .. “it is a derivative from “ušum” and literally means “Prime Venomous Snake”… the foremost quality of an ušumgal (and probably of an ušum) is being a determined killer,killing probably with its venom, and frightening even the gods.. it is this quality that makes ušum(gal) a suitable epithet for certain gods and kings.”

The differences between ušumgal and the more general ušum seem very indistinct – while the latter is perhaps more representative of the mundane venomous snake, the former may be better understood as a more mythologized version, a chaos monster (this distinction is hard to assert for reasons that
will become apparent below).

Chaos and Chaos Monsters

Beginning in the Ur III period, incantations began to be directed not only against daimons and snakes (as in earlier periods) but also against chaos monsters. The beings were often a composite of different animal forms, and unlike daimons (but like snakes), they only caused harm – they embody disorder as well as cause it. ” Therefore the muš-ḫuš associated with Ninazu is a chaos-monster, which in some periods is treated like a daimon, is a bringer of sickness and disorder, and is targeted in incantations. (Ninazu here is similar to Enki, sometimes referred to as “king of Snakes” in some incantations, he is capable of releasing and restraining the serpents, again showing a dual nature).

Chaos Monsters are generally, but not always, composite creatures – they get their name as they are creatures that appear on lists of defeated opponents of the gods Ninurta or Marduk. These are deities who battled chaos and enemies of the divine order during the forming of the cosmos, enemies such as the seven-headed dog (ur-sag-imin), six-headed wild ram (šeg-sag-aš) or the ušumgal. Once defeated, they generally became sub-servant to divine will, but divine will was also interpreted as instrumental in bringing about human suffering (for in Mesopotamia, nothing could be acknowledged to escape the control of the triumphing gods of order, contradictory as this often ends up being.)

For persons attempting to distinguish between the ušumgul and the ušum, it is confusing to note that both forms of the horned snake appear in the lists of defeated chaos enemies, but G. Cunningham explains this in part:

“Snakes can also be regarded as similar to chaos-monsters, given that in Mesopotamian terms they are classified with the same conceptual continuum as chaos-monsters of the serpent-type such as the ušumgal.”

Conclusions from this post: While it’s possible to call either the ušumgal or the ušum a “dragon”, and this is not necessarily incorrect, the word is more of a convenient English term which may carry with it connotations which are inapplicable. The ušum in form is simply a horned serpent which may or may not possess forelegs (varying), and it’s mythologized big brother, the ušumgal, is the same if not larger. Now that I’ve clearly recognized the equivalence of the Sumerian ušum and Akkadian bašmu, the snakes which occupy Ningishzida’s shoulders and which are thought to possibly be his pre-anthropomorphic form, this suggests a new explanation to me about how he got his later role in exorcism.. When we recognize that in earliest incantations Enki, the principal lord of magic, was capable sending and restraining snakes, and again Ninazu’s similar capacity (he is called “king of snakes” while at the same time his importance as a healing god is apparent), Ningishzida’s association with the ušum/bašmu and its subservience to him may in the same way recommend this deity to exorcists always anxious for effective defenses against the fearsome venomous snakes. This suggestion would be an alternative to the possibility that his legitimation as an exorcist stems from his late appointment as Throne bearer in the Netherworld.

Wiggermann also hints of a snake that may have been even earlier associated with Ningishzida and the Muš huššu: Niraḫ.

The Transtigiridian influx

I’m fairly certain that I have detailed the Muš Huššu and the Transtigiridian influx before, but I will give a version of that information here again for the sake of being through and for delineating between this creature and the ušum.

In discussing Ophidian traits in Mesopotamia, which the Muš huššu and the gods this creature is associated with posses, it is important to recognize the influence of the lands lying to the east of the Mesopotamian plateau, across the Tigris (hence the term “transtigiridian”). Elamite culture, which occupied the Iranian highlands and held sway over cities along the current Iran/Iraq border, is known to have had special religious emphasis on snake deities, and this trickled into Mesopotamia proper. Recognizing this influence allows one to better understand how seemingly disparate deities from the North Eastern Mesopotamian city of Der seem to share things in common with snake gods from the Southern Mesopotamian plains such as Ningishzida – Der was on the border to Iran and thus acted as a transfer point.. as Wiggermann comments:

“It can of course not be denied that Ninazu and Ningišzida are Sumerian gods, but the evidence suggests that their Ophidian traits were developed under the influence of transtigridian religious ideas. In fact, as has been repeatedly shown, a religious interest in snakes in these regions goes back deep into prehistory and through the ages remains quite visible in the iconography of Elam and the Iranian mountains.”

More influential than Der on the Sumerian cults was likely Ninazu’s own city which also was close to the Iranian border – Ešhnunna. While the god also had a smaller cult center in the south of Sumer called Enegi, Wiggermann relates that the Ophidian lore that is attestable from the site of Enegi “is written mostly in foreign languages and appears to have been imported”, meaning that the snake god ideology at Enegi is again part of the greater influx from Der, Ešhnunna, and ultimately from the east.

The Muš huššu

The mušhuššu was the dragon of Ninazu, city god of Enegi and Ešnunna, and of his son Ningišzida. From Old Akkadian times onwards (2400 BC), Ninazu was succeeded in Ešnunna by Tišpak, whose traits mainly derive from Ninazu, including the association with muš huššu. It is from Tišpak that the muš huššu was taken, and given to Marduk, after the defeat of Ešnunna by Hammurabi (1900 BC). Muš huššu translates to “furious snake” or “aweful snake”, the creature had in earlier times lion parts and dragon parts, but over time “the lion parts are progressively replaced by snake parts” and the creature is called a “snake-dragon” by modern scholars.

Wiggermann characterizes the Muš huššu as “perhaps an angel of death, killing with his venom” which is entirely consistent with an the behavior of snake creatures such as the ušum/bašhmu, the enemy of the exorcist in early incantation, or the ušumgal who like the Muš huššu is also a serpentine chaos monster, defeated by the warrior god (defeated opponents often enter the service of the gods.) It is worth emphasizing that nothing seems quite black or white with Mesopotamian religion, and that which was feared was also respected and so in some situations it was counted on as a protective force – the Muš huššu was used in some periods as an Apotropaic figure, on plaques or palace walls, to ward off evil doers. It’s not that it was incapable of evil doing itself – but if properly respected and revered would possibly unleash its venom on an uncontained enemy. The dragon is also mentioned in a hymn to the building of Ningirsu’s temple, a temple built in Lagash by Gudea (whose personal god was Ningishzida.) Below I have quoted part of that hymn, and I have pointed out the names of the snakes mentioned in [square brackets]:

http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.2.1.7&display=Crit&charenc=gcirc&lineid=t217.p84#t217.p84

722-729. The cedar doors installed in the house are Iškur roaring above. The locks of the E-ninnu are bisons, its door-pivots are lions, from its bolts horned vipers [ušum/bašmu] and fierce snakes [muš huššu] are hissing at wild bulls. Its jambs, against which the door leaves close, are young lions and panthers lying on their paws.

730-737. The shining roof-beam nails hammered into the house are dragons [ušum/bašmu] gripping a victim. The shining ropes attached to the doors are holy Niraḫ [Niraḫ] parting the abzu. Its …… is pure like Keš and Aratta, its …… is a fierce lion keeping an eye on the Land; nobody going alone can pass in front of it.

Wiggermann writes that after the defeat of Ešhnunna by Marduk, and that god’s assumption of the Muš huššu, Ninazu and Tišpak became associated with other snakes and dragons (ušum/bašmu, ušumgallu). The similarity between these creatures is attested again by this exchange, while at the same time it emphasizes that they are separate entities. When a god loses one, he has the other instead.

Wiggermann does not state that Ningishzida lost association with the Muš huššu as a result of the Babylonian campaign in Ešhnunna or that he became associated with the Ušum as a result (as the case with Ninazu).. In fact, I believe Ningishzida was associated with both creature at the same time, if we look to the Gudea era where the god is symbolized by 2 Mus huššu which flank coiled snakes (the Gudea cup) , or when the god is in anthropomorphic form
presenting Gudea to another god, the horned snakes (ušum) are at his shoulders – thus both creatures relate equally to the deity at that time. What is curious, is a statement of the authors that reads: “Ningishzida, the son of Ninazu, is associated with the [Muš huššu]; his proper animal, however, is the snake (d)Niraḫ.”

The snake Niraḫ, as we see in the above hymn, is connected with the Abzu and that environ, the semi-mythical underground fresh waters of the god Enki. It is distinct, or at least somewhat distinct, from the Ušum. This information, that Niraḫ should be Ningishzida’s animal, is for me somewhat unexpected – the ušum/bašmu is solidly placed as the snake at the god’s shoulders (see last post). I suspect the association with Niraḫ may be somewhat earlier.. while I am able to detail Niraḫ to some extent currently, I’m not at this time able to explain Wiggermann’s statement or how he connects the snake with Ningishzida.

site rebuild in progress…

Please bear with us while we rebuild our site. We have a lot of exciting changes to implement in 2014. We have attracted a great deal of attention spanning the 11+ years we have been online but that was only phase 1 of this open-source abrahadabra project in which a charismatic dialogue was ignited regarding the alchemy of (praeter-human) stars. Those who have been monitoring and/or participating in that dialogue can attest to what a tremendous success it has been overall. What we have planned for phase 2  is going to knock your socks off as we advance from the theoretical to the practical side of things and expedite the ancient hierophantic task of accelerated transmutation.

So a little patience will be greatly rewarded and we intend to work diligently to make this transition as seamless as possible for our dedicated friends and fellow students at large.

perseverance furthers,

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abrahadabra institute