Greeks traced 1st creation of world back to female source – GAIA • Also continual pattern of renewal seen in plant and animal life, made possible by a female source. • Associated fertility of the soil, reproductive capacities of wild animals, and sexual attraction between men & women with female divine beings.
Followed pattern found in the Ancient Near East. In Mesopotamia, the widely honored goddess known as Inanna, Ishtar, or Astarte presided over sexuality and fertility. Similar powers ascribed to the Phrygian goddess CYBELE and the Egyptian goddess ISIS. • Represent single religious figure whose cults and myths spread across racial and linguistic lines to exert enormous influence – The GREAT GODDESS.
Greek myth differed - divided the functions of the Great Goddess among a group of goddesses. The one most closely related to those of the Great Goddess found in other parts of the Mediterranean world is DEMETER.
Mother goddess who oversaw fruitfulness of agriculture, especially wheat. • RECAP: –meter – ‘mother’, De- never convincingly explained – some take it to mean ‘wheat’, making her the “wheat mother” • Both in myth and cult closely linked to her daughter Persephone, the two called simply “the goddesses”.
Name of Persephone has no clear etymology, often simply called KORE, “daughter” or “girl”. • Theory: The two goddesses were probably aspects of a single figure and were often called the Two Demeters or the Two Goddesses.
Observations: • Perplexing myth: Ancient times – interpreted as an agricultural allegory. Hades identified with the earth & Persephone (or Kore) with grain buried in the earth. Kore’s return interpreted as the growth of the wheat crop. • According to modern scholars – does not correspond with facts of Greek agriculture. • In hymn P/K returns in spring. Wheat crop is placed in the ground in the autumn, sprouts and grows through the wet winter. Does not sprout in spring. • Some argue that the seed, Kore, is placed in underground containers during the 4 hot sterile summer months, and brought out for autumn planting. Agrees better with P/K spending 1/3 of the year in the house of Hades and 2/3 on earth. BUT disagrees with how the ancients understood the story. • One level – human story exemplifies condition of Greek women. Persephone’s fate resembles that of Greek girls, at age 14, were married to war-hardened men twice their age, whom they scarcely knew. Sudden loss of virginity – symbolized by the picking of the narcissus flower- is death to childhood. Demeter’s fate is also typical of many Greek women. • Parallels to Near Eastern myths suggest further interpretations of the story of Demeter and Persephone AND of the dual nature of Dionysus.
FERTILITY & Roots of Classical Myth: • Development of Classical Myth’ • Prior to earliest alphabetic (classical) written records – poems of Homer c. 750 B.C., scholars have attempted to reconstruct myths or religious beliefs of prehistoric times. • Comparitive material, both archaeological and linguistic. • Figurines with exaggerated sexual organs and plump buttocks and breasts. • Oldest free standing sculptures in the world • Male figures with erect penis are also found, in far fewer numbers.
Catal Huyuk figure. • C. 6500-5700BC • Perhaps oldest agricultural community in the world. • Woman giving birth while sitting in a throne. Leopards.
Elements of classical mythology developed from myths of neighboring and earlier cultures – especially in the Middle East • Tradition of prehistoric female figurine attested from the Aegean islands of the Cyclades. • SHOW FIGURE. • Cycladic Mother figurine. C. 3000BC, 3rd millennium. • Sharp angles, planes. Found in graves of both men and women, may have been believed to have had magical power to produce new life.
Mesopotamian:INANNA and DUMUZI • INANNA “Queen of heaven”, Goddess of Love and War • Lover: shepherd God DUMUZI
Inanna in the underworld • Sister ERESHKIGAL ruled underworld • Inanna decided to go to underworld: motive unclear from remnants of hymn – may have wanted to become queen of the dead (already queen of the living), or to bring the dead back to life. • Fearing her, I. left instructions with prime minister NINSHUBUR • If did not return in 3 days, N. was to go to UR city of the moon-god NANNA and beg for I’s life. I unsuccessful there, he was to go to ERIDU, city of the clever god ENKI who knows the “food of life and the “water of life”.
Entered underworld and came to the temple of Erishkigal made of lapis lazuli (VERY important material in the ancient world). • Threatened gatekeeper to be allowed in. Gives gatekeeper a false explanation. • Before admitting her the GK went inside to consult with Ereshkigal. • She instructed the GK to lead I inward through the 7 gates of the underworld, but he was to follow “the ancient rites.”
At each gate, guards forced Inanna to remove a piece of her clothing or jewelry. At the 1st her crown, 2nd earrings, 3rd necklace, 4th brooches, 5th girdle of birthstones around her waist, 6th the bangle son her wrists and ankles, 7th her dress. • When she came into the presence of E. she was naked and complained of her treatment, but was told that it was the way of the underworld and to shut up and not question the rites of the underworld.
I pulled E from the throne and sat down herself, but the • Annanunaki gods, the seven dread judges of the underworld, condemned her to death and she at once turned into a side of meat, green with decay and was hung on a stake. Meanwhile, on earth, all sexual activity came to a halt.
When I. did not return, her minister N., did as he was instructed, rejected by both Enlil and Nanna, he finally went to the clever Enki. Enki created 2 sexless creatures KURGARRA and KALATURRA, gave them the food and water of life (AMBROSIA to the Greeks?) and instructions.
Buzzing over the gates of the underworld like flies or slipping under like lizards they came to E’s chamber. They found the queen of the dead sick with grief for the little children of the world who had died before their time, and joined her in lamentation. In gratitude for their sympathy E offered them anything they wanted (folktale motif of the hasty oath) – replied that they wanted the piece of green meat hanging in the corner, E. tried to dissuade them with other offers but they insisted. E. had no choice.
They threw the water and food of life on the meat, and Inanna was brought back to life. I. was allowed to leave underworld, only if she found someone else to take her place. (Folktale motif of the substitute sacrifice). Demons followed to ensure that she complied.
In 1st 2 cities, local gods were mourning for her in sackcloth and dirt, in country of DUMUZI, Inanna’s husband, instead of mourning for her or grieving he was dressed in finery and sitting on a throne. Inanna looked at him with a look of death and shouted to the demons, “take this one!”
Dumuzi cried out for help to the sun god UTU, lord of justice, Inanna’s brother, but demons got him anyway – trapped in his own sheepfold – one struck him with a piercing nail and the second with a shepherd’s crook. Butter churns overturned. Dumuzi struck dead and sent to underworld. One day each year her could return to the world above where rituals would be performed in his honor.
DYING GOD AND SACRED MARRIAGE: • Irrigation agriculture. • Impregnating water, receptive life-giving earth. From earth grow life-sustaining crops, cut down at harvest only to grow again. Cycle of life, death and renewal of life. • Cycle of life, death & renewal of life embodied ion Inanna, descent to underworld – end of fertility on earth – return = resurrection of herself AND life on earth. Renewed life can be purchased only at price of another’s death – consort DUMUZI logic of ritual sacrifice.
Metaphor: water/earth = semen/womb. Dumuzi connected to milk – overturning of butter churns – flowing milky white stuff like semen. Inanna like earth sequentially fruitfull and barren and fertile again. Dumuzi like necessary but expendable stuff that makes it fertile.
Association between human sexuality and agricultural productivity acted out in fact in important ritual of Mesopotamian religion. SACRED MARRIAGE (Greek hieros gamos) • king took on identity of Dumuzi and a priestess enacted the role of Innanna. • within the temple on top of the ZIGGURAT, “Dumuzi” and “Inanna” really did have sexual intercourse to guarantee a rich natural harvest