Samhain Goddesses – Hel – Norse

Hel

 

In the Poetic EddaProse Edda, and Heimskringla, Hel is referred to as a daughter of Loki. In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of the realm of Niflheim. In the same source, her appearance is described as half blue and half flesh-colored and further as having a gloomy, downcast appearance. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.

Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel’s potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th-century Old English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, that she may have been considered a goddess with potential Indo-European parallels in Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali or that Hel may have become a being only as a late personification of the location of the same name.

Domain

The gods had abducted Hel and her brothers from Angrboda’s hall. They cast her in the underworld, into which she distributes those who are sent to her; the wicked and those who died of sickness or old age. Her hall in Helheim is called Eljudnir, Home of the Dead. Her manservant is Ganglati and her maidservant is Ganglot (which both can be translated as “tardy”). She has a knife called “Famine”, a plate called “Hunger”, a bed called “Disease”, and bed curtains called “Misfortune”.

Etymology

The Old Norse feminine proper noun Hel is identical to the name of the location over which she rules, Old Norse Hel. The word has cognates in all branches of the Germanic languages, including Old English hell (and thus Modern English hell), Old Frisian helle, Old Saxon hellia, Old High German hella, and Gothic halja. All forms ultimately derive from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic feminine noun *xaljō or *haljō (‘concealed place, the underworld’). In turn, the Proto-Germanic form derives from the o-grade form of the Proto-Indo-European root *kel-, *kol-: ‘to cover, conceal, save’.

The term is etymologically related to Modern English hall and therefore also Valhalla, an afterlife ‘hall of the slain’ in Norse Mythology. Hall and its numerous Germanic cognates derive from Proto-Germanic *hallō ‘covered place, hall’, from Proto-Indo-European *kol-.

Related early Germanic terms and concepts include Proto-Germanic *xalja-rūnō(n), a feminine compound noun, and *xalja-wītjan, a neutral compound noun. This form is reconstructed from the Latinized Gothic plural noun *haliurunnae (attested by Jordanes; according to philologist Vladimir Orel, meaning ‘witches’), Old English helle-rúne (‘sorceress, necromancer’, according to Orel), and Old High German helli-rūna ‘magic’. The compound is composed of two elements: *xaljō (*haljō) and *rūnō, the Proto-Germanic precursor to Modern English rune. The second element in the Gothic haliurunnae may however instead be an agent noun from the verb rinnan (“to run, go”), which would make its literal meaning “one who travels to the netherworld”.)

Proto-Germanic *xalja-wītjan (or *halja-wītjan) is reconstructed from Old Norse hel-víti ‘hell’, Old English helle-wíte ‘hell-torment, hell’, Old Saxon helli-wīti ‘hell’, and the Middle High German feminine noun helle-wīze. The compound is a compound of *xaljō (discussed above) and *wītjan (reconstructed from forms such as Old English witt ‘right mind, wits’, Old Saxon gewit ‘understanding’, and Gothic un-witi ‘foolishness, understanding’).

Attestations

Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, features various poems that mention Hel. In the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, Hel’s realm is referred to as the “Halls of Hel.” In stanza 31 of Grímnismál, Hel is listed as living beneath one of three roots growing from the world tree Yggdrasil. In Fáfnismál, the hero Sigurd stands before the mortally wounded body of the dragon Fáfnir, and states that Fáfnir lies in pieces, where “Hel can take” him. In Atlamál, the phrases “Hel has half of us” and “sent off to Hel” are used in reference to death, though it could be a reference to the location and not the being, if not both. In stanza 4 of Baldrs draumar, Odin rides towards the “high hall of Hel.”

Hel may also be alluded to in Hamðismál. Death is periphrased as “joy of the troll-woman” (or “ogress”) and ostensibly it is Hel being referred to as the troll-woman or the ogre (flagð), although it may otherwise be some unspecified dís. The Poetic Edda also mentions that travelers to Hel must pass by her guardian hound Garmr.

Prose Edda

Hel is referred to in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In chapter 34 of the book Gylfaginning, Hel is listed by High as one of the three children of Loki and Angrboða; the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and Hel. High continues that, once the gods found that these three children are being brought up in the land of Jötunheimr, and when the gods “traced prophecies that from these siblings great mischief and disaster would arise for them” then the gods expected a lot of trouble from the three children, partially due to the nature of the mother of the children, yet worse so due to the nature of their father.

High says that Odin sent the gods to gather the children and bring them to him. Upon their arrival, Odin threw Jörmungandr into “that deep sea that lies round all lands,” Odin threw Hel into Niflheim, and bestowed upon her authority over nine worlds, in that she must “administer board and lodging to those sent to her, and that is those who die of sickness or old age.” High details that in this realm Hel has “great Mansions” with extremely high walls and immense gates, a hall called Éljúðnir, a dish called “Hunger,” a knife called “Famine,” the servant Ganglati (Old Norse “lazy walker”), the serving-maid Ganglöt (also “lazy walker”), the entrance threshold “Stumbling-block,” the bed “Sick-bed,” and the curtains “Gleaming-bale.” High describes Hel as “half black and half flesh-coloured,” adding that this makes her easily recognizable, and furthermore that Hel is “rather downcast and fierce-looking.”

In chapter 49, High describes the events surrounding the death of the god Baldr. The goddess Frigg asks who among the Æsir will earn “all her love and favour” by riding to Hel, the location, to try to find Baldr, and offer Hel herself a ransom. The god Hermóðr volunteers and sets off upon the eight-legged horse Sleipnir to Hel. Hermóðr arrives in Hel’s hall, finds his brother Baldr there, and stays the night. The next morning, Hermóðr begs Hel to allow Baldr to ride home with him, and tells her about the great weeping the Æsir have done upon Baldr’s death. Hel says the love people have for Baldr that Hermóðr has claimed must be tested, stating:

“If all things in the world, alive or dead, weep for him, then he will be allowed to return to the Æsir. If anyone speaks against him or refuses to cry, then he will remain with Hel.”

Later in the chapter, after the female jötunn Þökk refuses to weep for the dead Baldr, she responds in verse, ending with “let Hel hold what she has.” In chapter 51, High describes the events of Ragnarök, and details that when Loki arrives at the field Vígríðr “all of Hel’s people” will arrive with him.

In chapter 5 of the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, Hel is mentioned in a kenning for Baldr (“Hel’s companion”). In chapter 16, “Hel’s […] relative or father” is given as a kenning for Loki. In chapter 50, Hel is referenced (“to join the company of the quite monstrous wolf’s sister”) in the skaldic poem Ragnarsdrápa.

Heimskringla

In the Heimskringla book Ynglinga saga, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Hel is referred to, though never by name. In chapter 17, the king Dyggvi dies of sickness. A poem from the 9th-century Ynglingatal that forms the basis of Ynglinga saga is then quoted that describes Hel’s taking of Dyggvi:

I doubt not
but Dyggvi’s corpse
Hel does hold
to whore with him;
for Ulf’s sib
a scion of kings
by right should
caress in death:
to love lured
Loki’s sister
Yngvi’s heir
o’er all Sweden.

In chapter 45, a section from Ynglingatal is given which refers to Hel as “howes’-warder” (meaning “guardian of the graves”) and as taking King Halfdan Hvitbeinn from life. In chapter 46, King Eystein Halfdansson dies by being knocked overboard by a sail yard. A section from Ynglingatal follows, describing that Eystein “fared to” Hel (referred to as “Býleistr’s-brother’s-daughter”). In chapter 47, the deceased Eystein’s son King Halfdan dies of an illness, and the excerpt provided in the chapter describes his fate thereafter, a portion of which references Hel:

Loki’s child
from life summoned
to her thing
the third liege-lord,
when Halfdan
of Holtar farm
left the life
allotted to him.

In a stanza from Ynglingatal recorded in chapter 72 of the Heimskringla book Saga of Harald Sigurdsson, “given to Hel” is again used as a phrase to referring to death.

Egils saga

The Icelanders’ saga Egils saga contains the poem Sonatorrek. The saga attributes the poem to 10th century skald Egill Skallagrímsson, and writes that it was composed by Egill after the death of his son Gunnar. The final stanza of the poem contains a mention of Hel, though not by name:

Now my course is tough:
Death, close sister
of Odin’s enemy
stands on the ness:
with resolution
and without remorse
I will gladly
await my own.

Gesta Danorum

In the account of Baldr’s death in Saxo Grammaticus’ early 13th century work Gesta Danorum, the dying Baldr has a dream visitation from Proserpina (here translated as “the goddess of death”):

The following night the goddess of death appeared to him in a dream standing at his side, and declared that in three days time she would clasp him in her arms. It was no idle vision, for after three days the acute pain of his injury brought his end.

Scholars have assumed that Saxo used Proserpina as a goddess equivalent to the Norse Hel.

 

Source

Mythology Wikia

 

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Samhain Goddesses – The Morrigan – Celtic

The Morrígan

The Morrígan or Mórrígan, also known as Morrígu, is a figure from Irish mythology. The name is Mór-Ríoghain in Modern Irish. It has been translated as “great queen”, “phantom queen” or “queen of phantoms”.

The Morrígan is mainly associated with war and fate, especially with foretelling doom, death or victory in battle. In this role she often appears as a crow, the badb. She incites warriors to battle and can help bring about victory over their enemies. The Morrígan encourages warriors to do brave deeds, strikes fear into their enemies, and is portrayed washing the bloodstained clothes of those fated to die. She also has some connection with sovereignty, the land and livestock. In modern times she is often called a “war goddess” and has also been seen as a manifestation of the earth- and sovereignty-goddess, chiefly representing the goddess’s role as guardian of the territory and its people.

The Morrígan is often described as a trio of individuals, all sisters, called ‘the three Morrígna’.  Membership of the triad varies; sometimes it is given as Badb, Macha and Nemain while elsewhere it is given as Badb, Macha and Anand (the latter is given as another name for the Morrígan). It is believed that these were all names for the same goddess. The three Morrígna are also named as sisters of the three land goddesses Ériu, Banba and Fódla. The Morrígan is said to be the wife of The Dagda, while Badb and Nemain are said to be the wives of Neit.

She is associated with the banshee of later folklore.

Etymology

There is some disagreement over the meaning of the Morrígan’s name. Mor may derive from an Indo-European root connoting terror or monstrousness, cognate with the Old English maere (which survives in the modern English word “nightmare”) and the Scandinavian mara and the Old East Slavic “mara” (“nightmare”); while rígan translates as ‘queen’. This can be reconstructed in the Proto-Celtic language as *Moro-rīganī-s.   Accordingly, Morrígan is often translated as “Phantom Queen”. This is the derivation generally favoured in current scholarship.

In the Middle Irish period the name is often spelled Mórrígan with a lengthening diacritic over the o, seemingly intended to mean “Great Queen” (Old Irish mór, ‘great’; this would derive from a hypothetical Proto-Celtic *Māra Rīganī-s). Whitley Stokes believed this latter spelling was due to a false etymology popular at the time. There have also been attempts by modern writers to link the Morrígan with the Welsh literary figure Morgan le Fay from the Matter of Britain, in whose name mor may derive from Welsh word for “sea”, but the names are derived from different cultures and branches of the Celtic linguistic tree.

Sources

Glosses and glossaries

The earliest sources for the Morrígan are glosses in Latin manuscripts, and glossaries (collections of glosses). In a 9th century manuscript containing the Vulgate version of the Book of Isaiah, the word Lamia is used to translate the Hebrew Lilith. A gloss explains this as “a monster in female form, that is, a morrígan“. Cormac’s Glossary (also 9th century), and a gloss in the later manuscript H.3.18, both explain the plural word gudemain (“spectres”) with the plural form morrígna. The 8th century O’Mulconry’s Glossary says that Macha is one of the three morrígna.

Ulster Cycle

The Morrígan’s earliest narrative appearances, in which she is depicted as an individual, are in stories of the Ulster Cycle, where she has an ambiguous relationship with the hero Cú Chulainn. In Táin Bó Regamna (The Cattle Raid of Regamain), Cúchulainn encounters the Morrígan, but does not recognise her, as she drives a heifer from his territory. In response to this perceived challenge, and his ignorance of her role as a sovereignty figure, he insults her. But before he can attack her she becomes a black bird on a nearby branch. Cúchulainn now knows who she is, and tells her that had he known before, they would not have parted in enmity. She notes that whatever he had done would have brought him ill luck. To his response that she cannot harm him, she delivers a series of warnings, foretelling a coming battle in which he will be killed. She tells him, “it is at the guarding of thy death that I am; and I shall be.”

In the Táin Bó Cúailnge queen Medb of Connacht launches an invasion of Ulster to steal the bull Donn Cuailnge; the Morrígan, like Alecto of the Greek Furies, appears to the bull in the form of a crow and warns him to flee. Cúchulainn defends Ulster by fighting a series of single combats at fords against Medb’s champions. In between combats the Morrígan appears to him as a young woman and offers him her love, and her aid in the battle, but he rejects her offer. In response she intervenes in his next combat, first in the form of an eel who trips him, then as a wolf who stampedes cattle across the ford, and finally as a white, red-eared heifer leading the stampede, just as she had warned in their previous encounter. However Cúchulainn wounds her in each form and defeats his opponent despite her interference. Later she appears to him as an old woman bearing the same three wounds that her animal forms sustained, milking a cow. She gives Cúchulainn three drinks of milk. He blesses her with each drink, and her wounds are healed. He regrets blessing her for the three drinks of milk which is apparent in the exchange between the Morrígan and Cúchulainn, “She gave him milk from the third teat, and her leg was healed. ‘You told me once,’ she said,’that you would never heal me.’ ‘Had I known it was you,’ said Cúchulainn, ‘I never would have.'” As the armies gather for the final battle, she prophesies the bloodshed to come.

In one version of Cúchulainn’s death-tale, as Cúchulainn rides to meet his enemies, he encounters the Morrígan as a hag washing his bloody armour in a ford, an omen of his death. Later in the story, mortally wounded, Cúchulainn ties himself to a standing stone with his own entrails so he can die upright, and it is only when a crow lands on his shoulder that his enemies believe he is dead.

Mythological Cycle

The Morrígan also appears in texts of the Mythological Cycle. In the 12th century pseudohistorical compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn she is listed among the Tuatha Dé Danannas one of the daughters of Ernmas, granddaughter of Nuada.

The first three daughters of Ernmas are given as Ériu, Banba, and Fódla. Their names are synonyms for Ireland, and they were married to Mac Cuill, Mac Cécht, and Mac Gréine, the last three Tuatha Dé Danann kings of Ireland. Associated with the land and kingship, they probably represent a triple goddess of sovereignty. Next come Ernmas’s other three daughters: Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan. A quatrain describes the three as wealthy, “springs of craftiness” and “sources of bitter fighting”. The Morrígu’s name is also said to be Anand, and she had three sons, Glon, Gaim, and Coscar. According to Geoffrey Keating‘s 17th century History of Ireland, Ériu, Banba, and Fódla worshipped Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan respectively.

The Morrígan also appears in Cath Maige Tuired “Battle of Mag Tuired”. On Samhain, she keeps a tryst with the Dagda before the battle against the Fomorians. When he meets her she is washing herself, standing with one foot on either side of the river Unius. In some sources she is believed to have created the river. After they have sex, the Morrígan promises to summon the magicians of Ireland to cast spells on behalf of the Tuatha Dé, and to destroy Indech, the Fomorian king, taking from him “the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valour”. Later, we are told, she would bring two handfuls of his blood and deposit them in the same river (however, we are also told later in the text that Indech was killed by Ogma).

As battle is about to be joined, the Tuatha Dé leader, Lug, asks each what power they bring to the battle. The Morrígan’s reply is difficult to interpret, but involves pursuing, destroying and subduing. When she comes to the battlefield she chants a poem, and immediately the battle breaks and the Fomorians are driven into the sea. After the battle she chants another poem celebrating the victory and prophesying the end of the world.

In another story she lures away the bull of a woman named Odras. Odras then follows the Morrígan to the Otherworld, via the cave of Cruachan. When Odras falls asleep, the Morrígan turns her into a pool of water that fed into the Shannon River.

Nature and role

The Morrígan is often considered a triple goddess, but this triple nature is ambiguous and inconsistent. These triple appearances are partially due to the Celtic significance of threeness.[1] Sometimes she appears as one of three sisters, the daughters of Ernmas: Morrígan, Badb and Macha. Sometimes the trinity consists of Badb, Macha and Anand, collectively known as the Morrígna. Occasionally Nemain or Fea appear in the various combinations. However, the Morrígan can also appear alone, and her name is sometimes used interchangeably with Badb.

The Morrígan is mainly associated with war and fate, and is often interpreted as a “war goddess”. W. M. Hennessy’s “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War”, written in 1870, was influential in establishing this interpretation. Her role often involves premonitions of a particular warrior’s violent death, suggesting a link with the banshee of later folklore. This connection is further noted by Patricia Lysaght: “In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb“. Her role was to not only be a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of war. Most often she did this by appearing as a crow flying overhead and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors. In some cases, she is written to have appeared in visions to those who are destined to die in battle by washing their bloody armor. In this specific role, she is also given the role of foretelling imminent death with a particular emphasis on the individual. There are also a few rare accounts where she would join in the battle itself as a warrior and show her favouritism in a more direct manner.

The Morrígan is also associated with the land and animals, particularly livestock. Máire Herbert argues that “war per se is not a primary aspect of the role of the goddess”. Herbert suggests that “her activities have a tutelary character. She oversees the land, its stock and its society. Her shape-shifting is an expression of her affinity with the whole living universe”. Patricia Lysaght notes that Cath Maige Tuired depicts the Morrígan as “a protectress of her people’s interests” and it associates her with both war and fertility. According to Prionsias Mac Cana, the goddess in Ireland is “primarily concerned with the prosperity of the land: its fertility, its animal life, and (when it is conceived as a political unit) its security against external forces”.[10] Likewise, Maria Tymoczko writes “The welfare and fertility of a people depend on their security against external aggression” and notes that “Warlike action can thus have a protective aspect”.[5] It is therefore suggested that the Morrígan is a manifestation of the earth- and sovereignty-goddess, chiefly representing the goddess’s role as guardian of the territory and its people. She can be interpreted as providing political or military aid, or protection to the king—acting as a goddess of sovereignty, not necessarily of war.

It has also been suggested that she was closely linked to the fianna and that these groups may have been in some way dedicated to her. These were “bands of youthful warrior-hunters, living on the borders of civilized society and indulging in lawless activities for a time before inheriting property and taking their places as members of settled, landed communities”. If true, her worship may have resembled that of Perchta groups in Germanic areas.

There is a burnt mound site in County Tipperary known as Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna (‘cooking pit of the Mórrígan’). The fulachtaí sites are found in wild areas, and usually associated with outsiders such as the fianna, as well as with the hunting of deer. There may be a link with the three mythical hags who cook the meal of dogflesh that brings the hero Cúchulainn to his doom. The Dá Chich na Morrigna (‘two breasts of the Mórrígan’), a pair of hills in County Meath, suggest to some a role as a tutelary goddess, comparable to Anu, who has her own hills, Dá Chích Anann (‘the breasts of Anu’) in County Kerry. Other goddesses known to have similar hills are Áine and Grian of County Limerick who, in addition to a tutelary function, also have solar attributes.

Arthurian legend

There have been attempts by some modern authors of fiction to link Morgan le Fay with the Morrígan. Morgan first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s Vita Merlini “The Life of Merlin” in the 12th century. In these Arthurian legends, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Morgan is portrayed as an evil hag whose actions set into motion a bloody trail of events that lead the hero into numerous instances of danger. Morgan is also depicted as a seductress, much like the older legends of the goddess and has numerous sexual encounters with Merlin. The character is frequently depicted of wielding power over others to achieve her own purposes, allowing those actions to play out over time, to either the benefit or detriment of other characters.

However, while the creators of the literary character of Morgan may have been somewhat inspired by the much older tales of the goddess, the relationship ends there. Scholars such as Rosalind Clark hold that the names are unrelated, the Welsh “Morgan” (Wales being the source of the Matter of Britain) being derived from root words associated with the sea, while the Irish “Morrígan” has its roots either in a word for “terror” or a word for “greatness”.

 

 

Source

Wikipedia

Samhain Gods – Osiris – Egyptian

Osiris

Osiris the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and rebirth in ancient Egyptian religion. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned deity with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive atef crown, and holding a symbolic crook and flail. (He was one of the first to be associated with the mummy wrap. When the brother cut him up into pieces after killing him Isis, his wife, found all the pieces and wrapped his body up.) Osiris was at times considered the eldest son of the god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son. He was also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning “Foremost of the Westerners”, a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was also sometimes called “king of the living”: ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones”. Through syncretism with Iah, he is also the god of the Moon.

Osiris was considered the brother of Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus the Elder, and father of Horus the Younger. The first evidence of the worship of Osiris was found in the middle of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, although it is likely that he was worshiped much earlier; the Khenti-Amentiu epithet dates to at least the first dynasty, and was also used as a pharaonic title. Most information available on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the Pyramid Texts at the end of the Fifth Dynasty, later New Kingdom source documents such as the Shabaka Stone and the Contending of Horus and Seth, and much later, in narrative style from the writings of Greek authors including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus.

Osiris was the judge of the dead and the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. He was described as “He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful” and the “Lord of Silence”. The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death – as Osiris rose from the dead so would they in union with him, and inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. By the New Kingdom all people, not just pharaohs, were believed to be associated with Osiris at death, if they incurred the costs of the assimilation rituals.

Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year. Osiris was widely worshipped until the decline of ancient Egyptian religion during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.

Etymology of the name

Osiris is a Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek Ὄσιρις IPA: [ó.siː.ris], which in turn is the Greek adaptation of the original name in the Egyptian language. In Egyptian hieroglyphs the name appears as wsjr, which some Egyptologists instead choose to transliterate ꜣsjr or jsjrj. Since hieroglyphic writing lacks vowels, Egyptologists have vocalized the name in various ways as Asar, Yasar, Aser, Asaru, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, Usire or Ausare.

Several proposals have been made for the etymology and meaning of the original name; as Egyptologist Mark J. Smith notes, none are fully convincing. Most take wsjr as the accepted transliteration, following Adolf Erman:

  • John Gwyn Griffiths (1980), “bearing in mind Erman’s emphasis on the fact that the name must begin with an [sic] w“, proposes a derivation from wsr with an original meaning of “The Mighty One”. Moreover, one of the oldest attestations of the god Osiris appears in the mastaba of the deceased Netjer-wser (from nṯr-wsr “Powerful God”).[citation needed]
  • Kurt Sethe (1930) proposes a compound st-jrt, meaning “seat of the eye”, in a hypothetical earlier form *wst-jrt; this is rejected by Griffiths on phonetic grounds.
  • David Lorton (1985) takes up this same compound but explains st-jrt as signifying “product, something made”, Osiris representing the product of the ritual mummification process.
  • Wolfhart Westendorf (1987) proposes an etymology from wꜣst-jrt “she who bears the eye”.
  • Mark J. Smith (2017) makes no definitive proposals but asserts that the second element must be a form of jrj (“to do, make”) (rather than jrt (“eye”)).

However, recently alternative transliterations have been proposed:

  • Yoshi Muchiki (1990) reexamines Erman’s evidence that the throne hieroglyph in the word is to be read ws and finds it unconvincing, suggesting instead that the name should be read ꜣsjr on the basis of Aramaic, Phoenician, and Old South Arabian transcriptions, readings of the throne sign in other words, and comparison with ꜣst(“Isis”).
  • James P. Allen (2000) reads the word as jsjrt but revises the reading (2013) to jsjrj and derives it from js-jrj, meaning “engendering (male) principle”.

Appearance

Osiris is represented in his most developed form of iconography wearing the Atef crown, which is similar to the White crown of Upper Egypt, but with the addition of two curling ostrich feathers at each side (see also Atef crown (hieroglyph)). He also carries the crook and flail. The crook is thought to represent Osiris as a shepherd god. The symbolism of the flail is more uncertain with shepherds whip, fly-whisk, or association with the god Andjety of the ninth nome of Lower Egypt proposed.

He was commonly depicted as a pharaoh with a complexion of either green (the color of rebirth) or black (alluding to the fertility of the Nile floodplain) in mummiform (wearing the trappings of mummification from chest downward).

Early mythology

The Pyramid Texts describe early conceptions of an afterlife in terms of eternal travelling with the sun god amongst the stars. Amongst these mortuary texts, at the beginning of the 4th dynasty, is found: “An offering the king gives and Anubis”. By the end of the 5th dynasty, the formula in all tombs becomes “An offering the king gives and Osiris“.

Father of Horus

Osiris is the mythological father of the god Horus, whose conception is described in the Osiris myth (a central myth in ancient Egyptian belief). The myth describes Osiris as having been killed by his brother, Set, who wanted Osiris’ throne. His wife, Isis finds the body of Osiris and hides it in the reeds where it is found and dismembered by Set. Isis retrieves and joins the fragmented pieces of Osiris, then briefly brings Osiris back to life by use of magic. This spell gives her time to become pregnant by Osiris before he again dies. Isis later gives birth to Horus. As such, since Horus was born after Osiris’ resurrection, Horus became thought of as a representation of new beginnings and the vanquisher of the usurper Set.

Ptah-Seker (who resulted from the identification of Creator god Ptah with Seker) thus gradually became identified with Osiris, the two becoming Ptah-Seker-Osiris. As the sun was thought to spend the night in the underworld, and was subsequently “reborn” every morning, Ptah-Seker-Osiris was identified as king of the underworld, god of the afterlife, life, death, and regeneration.

Ram god

Osiris’ soul, or rather his Ba, was occasionally worshipped in its own right, almost as if it were a distinct god, especially in the Delta city of Mendes. This aspect of Osiris was referred to as Banebdjedet, which is grammatically feminine (also spelt “Banebded” or “Banebdjed“), literally “the ba of the lord of the djed, which roughly means The soul of the lord of the pillar of continuity. The djed, a type of pillar, was usually understood as the backbone of Osiris.

The Nile supplying water, and Osiris (strongly connected to the vegetable regeneration) who died only to be resurrected, represented continuity and stability. As Banebdjed, Osiris was given epithets such as Lord of the Sky and Life of the (sun god) Ra, since Ra, when he had become identified with Atum, was considered Osiris’ ancestor, from whom his regal authority is inherited. Ba does not mean “soul” in the western sense, and has to do with power, reputation, force of character, especially in the case of a god.

Since the ba was associated with power, and also happened to be a word for ram in Egyptian, Banebdjed was depicted as a ram, or as Ram-headed. A living, sacred ram was kept at Mendes and worshipped as the incarnation of the god, and upon death, the rams were mummified and buried in a ram-specific necropolis. Banebdjed was consequently said to be Horus’ father, as Banebdjed was an aspect of Osiris.

Regarding the association of Osiris with the ram, the god’s traditional crook and flail are the instruments of the shepherd, which has suggested to some scholars also an origin for Osiris in herding tribes of the upper Nile. The crook and flail were originally symbols of the minor agricultural deity Andjety, and passed to Osiris later. From Osiris, they eventually passed to Egyptian kings in general as symbols of divine authority.

Mythology

Plutarch recounts one version of the Osiris myth in which Set (Osiris’ brother), along with the Queen of Ethiopia, conspired with 72 accomplices to plot the assassination of Osiris. Set fooled Osiris into getting into a box, which Set then shut, sealed with lead, and threw into the Nile. Osiris’ wife, Isis, searched for his remains until she finally found him embedded in a tamarisk tree trunk, which was holding up the roof of a palace in Byblos on the Phoenician coast. She managed to remove the coffin and retrieve her husband’s body.

In one version of the myth, Isis used a spell to briefly revive Osiris so he could impregnate her. After embalming and burying Osiris, Isis conceived and gave birth to their son, Horus. Thereafter Osiris lived on as the god of the underworld. Because of his death and resurrection, Osiris was associated with the flooding and retreating of the Nile and thus with the yearly growth and death of crops along the Nile valley.

Diodorus Siculus gives another version of the myth in which Osiris was described as an ancient king who taught the Egyptians the arts of civilization, including agriculture, then travelled the world with his sister Isis, the satyrs, and the nine muses, before finally returning to Egypt. Osiris was then murdered by his evil brother Typhon, who was identified with Set. Typhon divided the body into twenty-six pieces, which he distributed amongst his fellow conspirators in order to implicate them in the murder. Isis and Hercules (Horus) avenged the death of Osiris and slew Typhon. Isis recovered all the parts of Osiris’ body, except the phallus, and secretly buried them. She made replicas of them and distributed them to several locations, which then became centres of Osiris worship.

Worship

Annual ceremonies were performed in honor of Osiris in various places across Egypt. These ceremonies were fertility rites which symbolised the resurrection of Osiris. E.A. Wallis Budge stated “Osiris is closely connected with the germination of wheat; the grain which is put into the ground is the dead Osiris, and the grain which has germinated is the Osiris who has once again renewed his life.”

Death or transition and institution as god of the afterlife

Plutarch and others have noted that the sacrifices to Osiris were “gloomy, solemn, and mournful…” (Isis and Osiris, 69) and that the great mystery festival, celebrated in two phases, began at Abydos commemorating the death of the god, on the same day that grain was planted in the ground (Isis and Osiris, 13). The annual festival involved the construction of “Osiris Beds” formed in shape of Osiris, filled with soil and sown with seed.

The germinating seed symbolized Osiris rising from the dead. An almost pristine example was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter.

The first phase of the festival was a public drama depicting the murder and dismemberment of Osiris, the search of his body by Isis, his triumphal return as the resurrected god, and the battle in which Horus defeated Set.

According to Julius Firmicus Maternus of the fourth century, this play was re-enacted each year by worshippers who “beat their breasts and gashed their shoulders…. When they pretend that the mutilated remains of the god have been found and rejoined…they turn from mourning to rejoicing.” (De Errore Profanorum).

The passion of Osiris was reflected in his name ‘Wenennefer” (“the one who continues to be perfect”), which also alludes to his post mortem power.

Ikhernofret Stela

Much of the extant information about the rites of Osiris can be found on the Ikhernofret Stela at Abydos erected in the 12th Dynasty by Ikhernofret (also I-Kher-Nefert), possibly a priest of Osiris or other official (the titles of Ikhernofret are described in his stela from Abydos) during the reign of Senwosret III (Pharaoh Sesostris, about 1875 BC). The ritual reenactment of Osiris’s funeral rites were held in the last month of the inundation (the annual Nile flood), coinciding with Spring, and held at Abydos/Abedjou which was the traditional place where the body of Osiris/Wesir drifted ashore after having been drowned in the Nile.

The part of the myth recounting the chopping up of the body into 14 pieces by Set is not recounted in this particular stela. Although it is attested to be a part of the rituals by a version of the Papyrus Jumilhac, in which it took Isis 12 days to reassemble the pieces, coinciding with the festival of ploughing. Some elements of the ceremony were held in the temple, while others involved public participation in a form of theatre. The Stela of I-Kher-Nefert recounts the programme of events of the public elements over the five days of the Festival:

  • The First Day, The Procession of Wepwawet: A mock battle was enacted during which the enemies of Osiris are defeated. A procession was led by the god Wepwawet (“opener of the way”).
  • The Second Day, The Great Procession of Osiris: The body of Osiris was taken from his temple to his tomb. The boat he was transported in, the “Neshmet” bark, had to be defended against his enemies.
  • The Third Day: Osiris is Mourned and the Enemies of the Land are Destroyed.
  • The Fourth Day, Night Vigil: Prayers and recitations are made and funeral rites performed.
  • The Fifth Day, Osiris is Reborn: Osiris is reborn at dawn and crowned with the crown of Ma’at. A statue of Osiris is brought to the temple.

Wheat and clay rituals

Contrasting with the public “theatrical” ceremonies sourced from the I-Kher-Nefert stele (from the Middle Kingdom), more esoteric ceremonies were performed inside the temples by priests witnessed only by chosen initiates. Plutarch mentions that (for much later period) two days after the beginning of the festival “the priests bring forth a sacred chest containing a small golden coffer, into which they pour some potable water…and a great shout arises from the company for joy that Osiris is found (or resurrected). Then they knead some fertile soil with the water…and fashion therefrom a crescent-shaped figure, which they cloth and adorn, this indicating that they regard these gods as the substance of Earth and Water.” (Isis and Osiris, 39). Yet his accounts were still obscure, for he also wrote, “I pass over the cutting of the wood” – opting not to describe it, since he considered it as a most sacred ritual (Ibid. 21).

In the Osirian temple at Denderah, an inscription (translated by Budge, Chapter XV, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection) describes in detail the making of wheat paste models of each dismembered piece of Osiris to be sent out to the town where each piece is discovered by Isis. At the temple of Mendes, figures of Osiris were made from wheat and paste placed in a trough on the day of the murder, then water was added for several days, until finally the mixture was kneaded into a mold of Osiris and taken to the temple to be buried (the sacred grain for these cakes were grown only in the temple fields). Molds were made from the wood of a red tree in the forms of the sixteen dismembered parts of Osiris, the cakes of ‘divine’ bread were made from each mold, placed in a silver chest and set near the head of the god with the inward parts of Osiris as described in the Book of the Dead (XVII).

Judgment

The idea of divine justice being exercised after death for wrongdoing during life is first encountered during the Old Kingdom in a 6th dynasty tomb containing fragments of what would be described later as the Negative Confessions performed in front of the 42 Assessors of Ma’at.

With the rise of the cult of Osiris during the Middle Kingdom the “democratization of religion” offered to even his humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a person’s suitability.

At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges. If they led a life in conformance with the precepts of the goddess Ma’at, who represented truth and right living, the person was welcomed into the kingdom of Osiris. If found guilty, the person was thrown to a “devourer” (such as the soul-eating demon Ammit) and did not share in eternal life.

The person who is taken by the devourer is subject first to terrifying punishment and then annihilated. These depictions of punishment may have influenced medieval perceptions of the inferno in hell via early Christian and Coptic texts.

Purification for those who are considered justified may be found in the descriptions of “Flame Island“, where they experience the triumph over evil and rebirth. For the damned, complete destruction into a state of non-being awaits, but there is no suggestion of eternal torture.

Divine pardon at judgement was always a central concern for the ancient Egyptians.

During the reign of Seti I, Osiris was also invoked in royal decrees to pursue the living when wrongdoing was observed, but kept secret and not reported.

Greco-Roman era

Hellenization

The early Ptolemaic kings promoted a new god, Serapis, who combined traits of Osiris with those of various Greek gods and was portrayed in a Hellenistic form. Serapis was often treated as the consort of Isis and became the patron deity of the Ptolemies’ capital, Alexandria. Serapis’s origins are not known. Some ancient authors claim the cult of Serapis was established at Alexandria by Alexander the Great himself, but most who discuss the subject of Serapis’s origins give a story similar to that by Plutarch. Writing about 400 years after the fact, Plutarch claimed that Ptolemy I established the cult after dreaming of a colossal statue at Sinope in Anatolia. His councillors identified as a statue of the Greek god Pluto and said that the Egyptian name for Pluto was Serapis. This name may have been a Hellenization of “Osiris-Apis”. Osiris-Apis was a patron deity of the Memphite Necropolis and the father of the Apis bull who was worshipped there, and texts from Ptolemaic times treat “Serapis” as the Greek translation of “Osiris-Apis”. But little of the early evidence for Serapis’s cult comes from Memphis, and much of it comes from the Mediterranean world with no reference to an Egyptian origin for Serapis, so Mark Smith expresses doubt that Serapis originated as a Greek form of Osiris-Apis’s name and leaves open the possibility that Serapis originated outside Egypt.

Destruction of cult

The cult of Isis and Osiris continued at Philae until at least the 450s CE, long after the imperial decrees of the late 4th century that ordered the closing of temples to “pagan” gods. Philae was the last major ancient Egyptian temple to be closed.

 

Source

Wikipedia

Samhain Gods – Anubis – Egyptian

Anubis

 

Anubis is the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists have identified Anubis’s sacred animal as an Egyptian canid, the African golden wolf.

Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts. Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer. By the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 – 1650 BC) he was replaced by Osiris in his role as lord of the underworld. One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart,” in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead. Despite being one of the most ancient and “one of the most frequently depicted and mentioned gods” in the Egyptian pantheon, Anubis played almost no role in Egyptian myths.

Anubis was depicted in black, a color that symbolized both rebirth and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming. Anubis is associated with Wepwawet (also called Upuaut), another Egyptian god portrayed with a dog’s head or in canine form, but with grey or white fur. Historians assume that the two figures were eventually combined. Anubis’ female counterpart is Anput. His daughter is the serpent goddess Kebechet.

Name

“Anubis” is a Greek rendering of this god’s Egyptian name. In the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 BC – c. 2181 BC), the standard way of writing his name in hieroglyphs was composed of the sound signs jnpw followed by a jackal over a ḥtp sign:

i n
p
w C6

A new form with the “jackal” on a tall stand appeared in the late Old Kingdom and became common thereafter:

i n
p
w E16

Anubis’ name jnpw was possibly pronounced [a.ˈna.pʰa], based on Coptic Anoup and the Akkadian transcription 𒀀𒈾𒉺<a-na-pa> in the name <ri-a-na-pa> “Reanapa” that appears in Amarna letter EA 315. However, this transcription may also be interpreted as rˁ-nfr, a name similar to that of Prince Ranefer of the Fourth Dynasty.

History

In Egypt’s Early Dynastic period (c. 3100 – c. 2686 BC), Anubis was portrayed in full animal form, with a “jackal” head and body.  A “jackal” god, probably Anubis, is depicted in stone inscriptions from the reigns of Hor-Aha, Djer, and other pharaohs of the First Dynasty.  Since Predynastic Egypt, when the dead were buried in shallow graves, “jackals” had been strongly associated with cemeteries because they were scavengers which uncovered human bodies and ate their flesh. In the spirit of “fighting like with like,” a “jackal” was chosen to protect the dead, because “a common problem (and cause of concern) must have been the digging up of bodies, shortly after burial, by jackals and other wild dogs which lived on the margins of the cultivation.”

The oldest known textual mention of Anubis is in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – c. 2181 BC), where he is associated with the burial of the pharaoh.

In the Old Kingdom, Anubis was the most important god of the dead. He was replaced in that role by Osiris during the Middle Kingdom(2000–1700 BC). In the Roman era, which started in 30 BC, tomb paintings depict him holding the hand of deceased persons to guide them to Osiris.

The parentage of Anubis varied between myths, times and sources. In early mythology, he was portrayed as a son of Ra. In the Coffin Texts, which were written in the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181–2055 BC), Anubis is the son of either the cow goddess Hesat or the cat-headed Bastet. Another tradition depicted him as the son of Ra and Nephthys. The Greek Plutarch (c. 40–120 AD) stated that Anubis was the illegitimate son of Nephthys and Osiris, but that he was adopted by Osiris’s wife Isis:

For when Isis found out that Osiris loved her sister and had relations with her in mistaking her sister for herself, and when she saw a proof of it in the form of a garland of clover that he had left to Nephthys – she was looking for a baby, because Nephthys abandoned it at once after it had been born for fear of Seth; and when Isis found the baby helped by the dogs which with great difficulties lead her there, she raised him and he became her guard and ally by the name of Anubis.

George Hart sees this story as an “attempt to incorporate the independent deity Anubis into the Osirian pantheon.” An Egyptian papyrus from the Roman period (30–380 AD) simply called Anubis the “son of Isis.”

In the Ptolemaic period (350–30 BC), when Egypt became a Hellenistic kingdom ruled by Greek pharaohs, Anubis was merged with the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The two gods were considered similar because they both guided souls to the afterlife. The center of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name means “city of dogs.” In Book XI of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, there is evidence that the worship of this god was continued in Rome through at least the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt’s animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (Anubis was mockingly called “Barker” by the Greeks), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in the heavens and Cerberus and Hades in the underworld. In his dialogues, Plato often has Socrates utter oaths “by the dog” (kai me ton kuna), “by the dog of Egypt”, and “by the dog, the god of the Egyptians”, both for emphasis and to appeal to Anubis as an arbiter of truth in the underworld.

Roles

Protector of tombs

In contrast to real wolves, Anubis was a protector of graves and cemeteries. Several epithets attached to his name in Egyptian texts and inscriptions referred to that role. Khenty-imentiu, which means “foremost of the westerners” and later became the name of a different wolf god, alluded to his protecting function because the dead were usually buried on the west bank of the Nile. He took other names in connection with his funerary role, such as tpy-ḏw.f “He who is upon his mountain” (i.e. keeping guard over tombs from above) and nb-t3-ḏsr “Lord of the sacred land”, which designates him as a god of the desert necropolis.

The Jumilhac papyrus recounts another tale where Anubis protected the body of Osiris from Set. Set attempted to attack the body of Osiris by transforming himself into a leopard. Anubis stopped and subdued Set, however, and he branded Set’s skin with a hot iron rod. Anubis then flayed Set and wore his skin as a warning against evil-doers who would desecrate the tombs of the dead. Priests who attended to the dead wore leopard skin in order to commemorate Anubis’ victory over Set. The legend of Anubis branding the hide of Set in leopard form was used to explain how the leopard got its spots.

Most ancient tombs had prayers to Anubis carved on them.

Embalmer

As jmy-wt “He who is in the place of embalming”, Anubis was associated with mummification. He was also called ḫnty zḥ-nṯr “He who presides over the god’s booth”, in which “booth” could refer either to the place where embalming was carried out or the pharaoh’s burial chamber.

In the Osiris myth, Anubis helped Isis to embalm Osiris. Indeed, when the Osiris myth emerged, it was said that after Osiris had been killed by Set, Osiris’s organs were given to Anubis as a gift. With this connection, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers; during the rites of mummification, illustrations from the Book of the Dead often show a wolf-mask-wearing priest supporting the upright mummy.

Guide of souls

By the late pharaonic era (664–332 BC), Anubis was often depicted as guiding individuals across the threshold from the world of the living to the afterlife. Though a similar role was sometimes performed by the cow-headed Hathor, Anubis was more commonly chosen to fulfill that function. Greek writers from the Roman period of Egyptian history designated that role as that of “psychopomp”, a Greek term meaning “guide of souls” that they used to refer to their own god Hermes, who also played that role in Greek religion. Funerary art from that period represents Anubis guiding either men or women dressed in Greek clothes into the presence of Osiris, who by then had long replaced Anubis as ruler of the underworld.

Weighing of the heart

One of the roles of Anubis was as the “Guardian of the Scales.” The critical scene depicting the weighing of the heart, in the Book of the Dead, shows Anubis performing a measurement that determined whether the person was worthy of entering the realm of the dead (the underworld, known as Duat). By weighing the heart of a deceased person against Ma’at (or “truth”), who was often represented as an ostrich feather, Anubis dictated the fate of souls. Souls heavier than a feather would be devoured by Ammit, and souls lighter than a feather would ascend to a heavenly existence.

 

Source

Wikipedia

 

Pagan Studies of the Gods & Goddesses: Freya, Norse Goddess of love, beauty, magic (seidhr), fertility, war and death.

Freya

Norse Goddess of love, beauty, magic (seidhr), fertility, war and death.

Freya (Old Norse Freyja, “Lady”) is one of the preeminent goddesses in Norse mythology. She’s a member of the Vanir tribe of deities, but became an honorary member of the Aesir gods after the Aesir-Vanir War. Her father is Njord. Her mother is unknown, but could be Nerthus. Freyr is her brother. Her husband, named Odr in late Old Norse literature, is certainly none other than Odin, and, accordingly, Freya is ultimately identical with Odin’s wife Frigg (see below for a discussion of this).

 

Freya is famous for her fondness of love, fertility, beauty, and fine material possessions – and, because of these predilections, she’s considered to be something of the “party girl” of the Aesir. In one of the Eddic poems, for example, Loki accuses Freya (probably accurately) of having slept with all of the gods and elves, including her brother.[1] She’s certainly a passionate seeker after pleasures and thrills, but she’s a lot more than only that. Freya is the archetype of the völva, a professional or semiprofessional practitioner of seidr, the most organized form of Norse magic. It was she who first brought this art to the gods,[2] and, by extension, to humans as well. Given her expertise in controlling and manipulating the desires, health, and prosperity of others, she’s a being whose knowledge and power are almost without equal.

 

Freya presides over the afterlife realm Folkvang. According to one Old Norse poem, she chooses half of the warriors slain in battle to dwell there. (See Death and the Afterlife.)

 

Freya the Völva

Seidr is a form of pre-Christian Norse magic and shamanism that involved discerning the course of fate and working within its structure to bring about change, often by symbolically weaving new events into being.[3] This power could potentially be put to any use imaginable, and examples that cover virtually the entire range of the human condition can be found in Old Norse literature.

 

In the Viking Age, the völva was an itinerant seeress and sorceress who traveled from town to town performing commissioned acts of seidr in exchange for lodging, food, and often other forms of compensation as well. Like other northern Eurasian shamans, her social status was highly ambiguous – she was by turns exalted, feared, longed for, propitiated, celebrated, and scorned.[4]

 

Freya’s occupying this role amongst the gods is stated directly in the Ynglinga Saga, and indirect hints are dropped elsewhere in the Eddas and sagas. For example, in one tale, we’re informed that Freya possesses falcon plumes that allow their bearer to shift his or her shape into that of a falcon.[6]

 

During the so-called Völkerwanderung or “Migration Period” – roughly 400-800 CE, and thus the period that immediately preceded the Viking Age – the figure who would later become the völva held a much more institutionally necessary and universally acclaimed role among the Germanic tribes. One of the core societal institutions of the period was the warband, a tightly organized military society presided over by a chieftain and his wife. The wife of the warband’s leader, according to the Roman historian Tacitus, held the title of veleda, and her role in the warband was to foretell the outcome of a suggested plan of action by means of divination and to influence that outcome by means of more active magic, as well as to serve a special cup of liquor that was a powerful symbol of both temporal and spiritual power in the warband’s periodic ritual feasts.[7][8]

 

One literary portrait of such a woman comes to us from the medieval Old English epic poem Beowulf, which recounts the deeds of King Hroðgar and his warband in the land that we today know as Denmark. The name of Hroðgar’s queen, Wealhþeow, is almost certainly the Old English equivalent of the Proto-Germanic title that Tacitus latinised as “veleda.”[9] Wealhþeow’s “domestic” actions in the poem – which are, properly understood, enactments of the liquor ritual described above – are indispensable for the upkeep of the unity of the warband and its power structures. The poem, despite its Christian veneer, “hint[s] at the queen’s oracular powers… The Hrothgar/Wealhtheow association as presented in the poem is an echo of an earlier more robust and vigorous politico-theological conception.”[10]

 

This “politico-theological conception” was based on the mythological model provided by the divine pair Frija and Woðanaz, deities who later evolved into, respectively, Freya/Frigg and Odin. Woðanaz is the warband’s chieftain, and Frija is its veleda. In addition to the structural congruencies outlined above, Wealhþeow and Freya even own a piece of jewelry with the same name: Old English Brosinga mene and Old Norse Brísingamen (both meaning something like “fiery/glowing necklace”). That both figures refer to the same ancient archetype, whether on the human or the divine plane, is certain.

 

Freya and Frigg

While the late Old Norse literary sources that form the basis of our current knowledge of pre-Christian Germanic religion present Freya and Frigg as being at least nominally distinct goddesses, the similarities between them run deep. Their differences, however, are superficial and can be satisfactorily explained by consulting the history and evolution of the common Germanic goddess whom the Norse were in the process of splitting into Freya and Frigg sometime shortly before the conversion of Scandinavia and Iceland to Christianity (around the year 1000 CE).

 

As we’ve noted above, the Migration Period goddess who later became Freya was the wife of the god who later became Odin. While somewhat veiled, this is ultimately still the case in Old Norse literature. Freya’s husband is named Óðr, a name which is virtually identical to that of Óðinn (the Old Norse form of “Odin”). Óðr means “ecstasy, inspiration, furor.” Óðinn is simply the word óðr with the masculine definite article (-inn) added onto the end. The two names come from the same word and have the same meaning. Óðr is an obscure and seldom-mentioned character in Old Norse literature. The one passage that tells us anything about his personality or deeds – anything beyond merely listing his name in connection with Freya – comes from the Prose Edda, which states that Óðr is often away on long journeys, and that Freya can often be found weeping tears of red gold over his absence.[11] Many of the surviving tales involving Odin have him traveling far and wide throughout the Nine Worlds, to the point that he’s probably more often away from Asgard than within it. Many of Odin’s numerous bynames allude to his wanderings or are names he assumed to disguise his identity while abroad. Thus, it’s hard to see Freya’s husband as anything but an only nominally distinct extension of Odin.

 

Freyja and Frigg are similarly accused of infidelity to their (apparently common) husband. Alongside the several mentions of Freya’s loose sexual practices can be placed the words of the medieval Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, who relates that Frigg slept with a slave on at least one occasion.[12] In Lokasenna and the Ynglinga Saga, Odin was once exiled from Asgard, leaving his brothers Vili and Ve in command. In addition to presiding over the realm, they also regularly slept with Frigg until Odin’s return.[13][14] Many scholars have tried to differentiate between Freya and Frigg by asserting that the former is more promiscuous and less steadfast than the latter,[15] but these tales suggest otherwise.

 

Frigg is depicted as a völva herself. Once again in Lokasenna, after Loki slanders Frigg for her infidelity, Freya warns him that Frigg knows the fate of all beings, an intimation of her ability to perform seidr.[16] Frigg’s weaving activities are likely an allusion to this role as well. And, as it turns out, Freya is not the only goddess to own a set of bird-of-prey feathers for shapeshifting – Frigg is also in possession of one.[17]

 

The word for “Friday” in Germanic languages (including English) is named after Frija,[18] the Proto-Germanic goddess who is the foremother of Freya and Frigg. None of the other Germanic peoples seem to have spoken of Frija as if she were two goddesses; this approach is unique to the Norse sources. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that in the Norse sources we find a confusion as to which goddess this day should have as its namesake. Both Freyjudagr (from Freyja) and Frjádagr (from Frigg) are used.

 

The names of the two goddesses are also particularly interesting in this regard. Freyja, “Lady,” is a title rather than a true name. It’s a cognate of the modern German word Frau, which is used in much the same way as the English title “Mrs.” In the Viking Age, Scandinavian and Icelandic aristocratic women were sometimes called freyjur, the plural of freyja.[19] “Frigg,” meanwhile, comes from an ancient root that means “beloved.”[20] Frigg’s name therefore links her to love and desire, precisely the areas of life over which Freya presides. Here again we can discern the ultimate reducibility of both goddesses to one another: one’s name is identical to the other’s attributes, and the other name is a generic title rather than a unique name.

 

Clearly, then, the two are ultimately the same goddess. Why, then, are they presented as nominally distinct in the late Old Norse sources? Unfortunately, no one really knows.

 

Looking for more great information on Norse mythology and religion? While this site provides the ultimate online introduction to the topic, my book The Viking Spirit provides the ultimate introduction to Norse mythology and religion period. I’ve also written a popular list of The 10 Best Norse Mythology Books, which you’ll probably find helpful in your pursuit.


Originally Published on Norse Mythology for Smart People

References:

[1] The Poetic Edda. Lokasenna, stanzas 30, 32.

[2] Snorri Sturluson. Ynglinga Saga 4. In Heimskringla: eða Sögur Noregs Konunga.

[3] Heide, Eldar. 2006. Spinning Seiðr. In Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes and Interactions. Edited by Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert, and Catharina Raudvere. p. 166.

[4] Price, Neil S. 2002. The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. p. 279-328.

[5] Snorri Sturluson. Ynglinga Saga 4. In Heimskringla: eða Sögur Noregs Konunga.

[6] Ellis-Davidson, Hilda Roderick. 1964. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. p. 117.

[7] Tacitus, Cornelius. Germania 8.

[8] Enright, Michael J. 1996. Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tène to the Viking Age.

[9] Ibid. p. 192.

[10] Ibid. p. 66.

[11] Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda. Gylfaginning 35.

[12] Saxo Grammaticus. The History of the Danes.

[13] The Poetic Edda. Lokasenna, verse 26.

[14] Snorri Sturluson. Ynglinga Saga 3. In Heimskringla: eða Sögur Noregs Konunga.

[15] See, for example: Grimm, Jacob. 1882. Teutonic Mythology, Volume 1. Translated by James Steven Stallybrass. p. 302.

[16] The Poetic Edda. Lokasenna, verse 29.

[17] Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda. Skáldskaparmál 18-19.

[18] Ellis-Davidson, Hilda Roderick. 1964. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. p. 111.

[19] Grimm, Jacob. 1882. Teutonic Mythology, Volume 1. Translated by James Steven Stallybrass. p. 300.

[20] Orel, Vladimir. 2003. A Handbook of Germanic Etymology. p. 114.

Freyja

Definition
by Emma Groeneveld

Freyja (Old Norse for ‘Lady’, ‘Woman’, or ‘Mistress’) is the best-known and most important goddess in Norse mythology. Beautiful and many-functioned, she features heavily as a fertility goddess stemming from her place in the Vanir family of the gods (the other and main one is the Æsir family) along with her twin brother Freyr and father Njord, and stars in many myths recorded in Old Norse literature as lover or object of lust. She lives in Fólkvangr (‘Field of the People’), rides a carriage drawn by cats, and is connected not just with love and lust but also with wealth, magic, as well as hand-picking half of all fallen warriors on battlefields to go into Odin’s hall of Valhalla – the other half being selected by Odin himself. She likely played an important role in old Scandinavian religion.

 

FAMILY
Freyja is part of the Vanir family of the gods who handle all things fertility-related, including harvests (her brother Freyr); wind, sea, and wealth (her father Njord); and her own expertise regarding love, lust, and wealth, too. Her mother appears to have been giant-daughter and wife of Njord, Skadi, and while originally Freyja may have been paired in a brother-sister married couple with Freyr, Icelandic mythographer Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241 CE) – our most comprehensive source when it comes to Norse mythology – has her down as wife of Ódr, who she has two daughters with; Hnoss and Gersimi (Gylfaginning, 35). These names both mean something along the lines of ‘preciousness’ or ‘treasure’ and were possibly used in later poetry as manifestations of Freyja herself.

 

Ódr is said to have gone traipsing around on long journeys, inexplicably leaving Freyja behind, who would then search for him while weeping golden tears; this tale dates back to at least as early as the 10th century CE. He and Odin are commonly thought to have originally been one and the same person, with Ódr functioning as a shortened form of Odin.

ATTRIBUTES
One of Freyja’s attributes has already been mentioned: her cat-drawn carriage with which she zooms around the Norse mythological cosmos. Another is a garment – a coat, cloak or dress-like thing – made out of falcon feathers. Possibly, the boar Hildisvíni should also be counted among Freyja’s attributes; the Hyndluljóð poem has her riding said boar, and a boar connection, in general, is made more plausible by the fact that her brother Freyr is also associated with a boar, in his case named Gullinborsti. Sýr, another name of Freyja’s, is sometimes translated as ‘sow’, too, but it also might mean ‘to protect’, ‘to shield,’ in which case it would negate this third boar link. Germanic mythological powerhouse H. R. Ellis Davidson adds another animal: “Horses were certainly associated with the fertility pair Freyr and Freyja, and said to be kept in their holy places” (104). Her last – but not least – attribute is the necklace Brísingamen.

 

FREYJA’S MANY ROLES
The baseline of Freyja’s various functions comes from her role as fertility goddess as per her Vanir descent. Specifically, her other name Horn (Hǫrn, or Härn) probably comes from Old Norse horr, which means flax or linen. This was an important product which began being cultivated early on in Scandinavia and was thought to ward off evil and give fertility to humankind. Flax manufacture was a female affair, and as bridal dresses were made of linen, Freyja became a sort of defender of love and weddings, too. Another one of her names, Gefn, is Old Norse for ‘giver’, bringing to mind a role as a goddess of plenty.

 

The handed-down mythology emphasises Freyja’s role in all things related to sexuality (apart from childbirth, with which she seems unconcerned). For one, she often features as an irresistible object of lust, mainly in the eyes of the giants. The giant Thrym, for example, is only cool with returning the hammer he has stolen from Thor if he gets Freyja for his own. Besides her being the ‘price’ of many things – which the other gods try to avoid paying, as such – other myths reinforce Freyja’s supposed free and considerable sexuality. Although Loki in the Lokasenna poem badmouths everyone around him and accuses all the goddesses of various sexual acts, Freyja is reprimanded by Loki as follows:

 

Be silent, Freyja! | for fully I know thee,

Sinless thou art not thyself;

Of the gods and elves | who are gathered here,

Each one as thy lover has lain. (30)

 

She also consents to sleep with four dwarves in turn in order for them to hand over the Brísingamen to her and is accused in the Hyndluljóð poem of being the hero Óttar’s lover. Presumably, then, early Scandinavians looked to Freyja in matters of love and lust.

 

To make things even better, Freyja is also a goddess of wealth, as attested to by the many poetic references that link her to treasure. Her tears are said to be made of gold, even being synonymous with the material:

 

Gold is called Freyja’s Tears (…). So sang Skúli Thorsteinsson:

Many a fearless swordsman

Received the Tears of Freyja.

(Skáldskaparmál, 37)

 

The fact that Freyja’s daughters’ names Hnoss and Gersimi mean ‘preciousness’ or ‘treasure’ could arguably be seen as the “product of poetic convention in which Freyja was recognized as the source of treasure: perhaps as the weeper of golden tears, perhaps as a goddess ruling over wealth” (Billington & Green, 61).

 

Her connection with magic is also well-known, and Snorri Sturluson relays how it was Freyja who first taught the shamanistic magic called seiðr to the Æsir. Finally, the way Freyja chooses slain warriors to be on her as opposed to Odin’s team carries her into more ferocious spheres, functioning as a goddess of death and perhaps even battle itself. Which god selects you seems to boil down to social or personal status, or perhaps comes from the fact that both the Vanir and the Æsir needed someone to fulfil this role on the battlefield. This link between Freyja and Odin, as well as Odin’s own strong proficiency with magic, helps illustrate how Odin and Ódr, Freyja’s husband, could plausibly have originally been the same person.

 

MYTHS INVOLVING FREYJA
As evidenced above, there are plenty of myths recorded in the Old Norse sources that are keen to dive into the subject of Freyja. The Hyndluljóð poem emphasises she was more than just a pretty face; in it, Freyja visits wise-woman Hyndla asking her to unravel the hero Óttar’s ancestry, soaking up this knowledge. However, in the Þrymskviða (the ‘Lay of Thrym’, a poem possibly composed in the 12th or 13th century CE and found in the Poetic Edda), her desirability is once again a core theme. The story tells of Thor’s hammer being stolen by the giant Thrym, who will not return the hammer unless he gets his hands on Freyja. Freyja refuses to tag along, however, giving up the Brísingamen to help Thor disguise himself as her. After almost giving things away because Thor gorged himself to such an extent at the wedding banquet so as to raise suspicion – his burning eyes not helping either – Loki luckily smooth-talks his way out of it and ensures they get the hammer back. For good measure, Thor kills Thrym and a bunch of other giants on his way out.

 

As for other giant-related myths, the giant Hrungnir boasts he would bodily move Valhalla into Jotunheimen (the realm of the giants), sink Asgard (the realm of the gods), and kill all the gods except for Freyja and Sif, who he will take home with him (Skáldskaparmál, 17). In the tale of the Giant Master Builder, a giant offers to build walls around Asgard as long as he gets Freyja, the sun and the moon. Regarding her necklace Brísingamen, which is assigned to Freyja by Late Old Norse sources (13th and 14th centuries CE), the most famous myth concerns its theft (most commonly by Loki) but is preserved in such a fragmentary and tricky way that it is now rather hard to come up with one comprehensive story. The most detailed version is also the youngest and thus not the pinnacle of reliability: the Sǫrla Þáttr, which survives in the 14th century CE Flateyjarbók, describes how Freyja sleeps with four dwarves to get the Brísingamen, and how Odin then forces Loki to steal the necklace from her. Loki enters her bedroom as a fly, stings her so she moves her hand off of the necklace, and grabs it. By contrast, Snorri Sturluson has Loki and Heimdall fighting each other over the necklace (Skáldskaparmál, 8).

 

CULT OF FREYJA
As a fertility goddess, Freyja would have taken up a central role in old Scandinavian religion, playing a part in the circle of life. J. P. Schjødt explains her special position:

 

Freyja is one of the few individual goddesses who has had a major role in the more official religious cult (whereas many female deities seen as collectives played a part in both myth and ritual). She incorporates many traits that can be found in fertility goddesses all over the world, among whom is a clear connection also to death. (Brink & Price, 221)

 

The Old Norse sources do not specifically detail the existence of a cult of Freyja per se, but the large number of place-names in Sweden and Norway related to her name, such as Frøihov (from Freyjuhof, ‘Freyja’s temple’) and Frǫvi (from Freyjuvé, ‘Freyja’s shrine’), show clear worship, perhaps even pointing to a public cult as opposed to the domestic cult one would expect of a goddess of love. It is clear that the people of Iceland on the cusp of conversion to Christianity around the year 1000 CE still had Freyja clearly on their mind. The Íslendingabók states that Hjalti Skeggjason, a supporter of Christianity, was outlawed for blasphemy after calling Freyja a bitch (in this case a female dog, but taken to mean he wanted to call her a whore) at the Althing parliament. She was obviously still important enough for people to not successfully get away with these sorts of things.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Groeneveld
Emma has studied History & Ancient History. During her Master’s she focused on Herodotus as well as the juicy politics of ancient courts, but more recently she has been immersing herself in everything prehistoric. She both writes and edits for AHE.

 

Originally published on Ancient History Encyclopedia

On Thursday, August 30,We Celebrate the Goddess Ishtar

glittery pentacle ^.^

On Thursday, August 30,We Celebrate the Goddess Ishtar

 

The origin of this babylonian-assyrian main goddess was a semitian vegetation- and moon goddess with lower influence, but when these tribes arrived at the land of the sumerian kingdom, her cult reached the sumerian capital Uruk. The sumerian people identified Ishtar easily with their own goddess Inanna. After some time Ishtar became in the second millenium the highest and widest worshipped goddess of the Babylonians. The myths of Inanna became the myths of Ishtar:

Ishtars reign was not depending on a male consort, she reigned absolute on her own and united in her all the aspects of femininity. Her position in the Babylonian pantheon was the highest, but her family relations are a bit confusing: Ishtar was daughter of the moon goddess Ningal and her consort Nanna (akk. Sin), who were the Citygods of Uruk. In other traditions she appears to be the daughter of the sky god Anu, later she also became his wife.

She was also the sister of the sun god Utu/Marduk and the underworld goddess Ereschkigal (“Mistress of the great under”). She appeared in person wearing a zodiac belt together with hunting dogs like Diana or riding on a lion, her holy animal.

She was the Queen of heaven (Scharrat Schame) and the mother, who had born the world and still remained a virgin.

Her consort or husband was Tammuz ( sum.: Dumuzi), river god of Euphrates and Tigris, who was meanwhile also her son and her brother. When the world began, Tammuz (faithful son) came together with Ishtar in the world. She bore him, she made love with him and she remained a virgin. When Tammuz died in the summer and all vegetation died with him, Ishtar was looking for him all over the world. She finally found him in the underworld and brought him back to life (see Celtic believe). Tammuz was reborn and the vegetation could flourish again. Then the ritual-festival of the “Holy Marriage” was celebrated at the time of the autumn equinox, when in the Near-East the first rain fell again.

For the assyrian people she was mainly a war goddess (Lioness of the battle), but also the love and the sexual life belonged to her realm of influence. Moreover she was the Goddess of justice and healing.

This Akkadian/Babylonian Great Goddess represents a later and more complex development of the Sumerian Inanna, and her son/lover Tammuz plays the role of the vegetation-god. She is not only an embodiment of sexuality and fertility, a “Lady of Battle” and a goddess of healing, but it is also she who bestowed the ancient kings with the right to rule over her/their people. Her fame reached into the Hittite and Hurrian lands of Anatolia, to Sumeria, Egypt and to the Assyrians. Here especially – in Assyria and Egypt – she was revered as a goddess of Battle and is depicted with bow, quiver and sword; her prowess is symbolised by her lioness-steed.

In other sacred texts Ishtar is described as having “sweet lips” and a “beautiful figure” and it is clear that she takes much pleasure in love. Significantly, when she descends to the Netherworld all sexual activity ceases everywhere on earth. In this aspect her familiar and symbolic animal is the dove. Ishtar was also thought to rule the menstrual/ovarian cycle.

In the Old Testament her worship is regarded as an abomination, and it is Ishtar’s worshipers and her ishtarishtu (sacred prostitutes) who were to be found even at the doors of the Hebrew god’s great temple, much to the consternation of his priests and prophets.

As well as being renowned for her powers of creation, divine rulership, prophesy and desire, Ishtar was also regarded as a healer and we know that her effigy once was transported all the way to Egypt in order to heal the then sick Amenhotep III.
Resource
Shrine for the forgotten Goddesses

 

Goddesses for every occasion

glittery pentacle ^.^

Goddesses for every occasion

——————————————————————————–

Sunday Sunne, Frau Sonne, Aditi, Amaterasu, Arinna, Izanami, Ochumare

Monday Luna, Selene, Diana, Re, Gealach, Ida, Artemis, Yemaya, Erzulie

Tuesday Pingalla, Anna, Aine, Danu, Yngona, Bellona, Aida Wedo, Sun Woman

Wednesday Isis, Demeter, Ceres, Spider Woman, Bona Dea, Oya, Devi-Kali, Hella, Rhiannon, Coatlique

Thursday Juno, Hera, Kwan Yin, Mary, Cybele, Tara, Mawu, Waresa, Ishtar

Friday Freya, Astarte, Aphrodite, Erzulie, Eve, Venus, Isis, Diana, Chalchiuhtlique

Saturday Ops, Rhea, Tellus mater, Gaia, Eartha, Ge, Ashera, the Shekinah, Mary, Demeter, Herodias

——————————————————————————–

Goddesses of the Zodiac

 

Aries = Athena, The Morrigan, Minerva
Taurus = Hathor, Isis, Io, Venus, Selene
Gemini = Kali, Parvati, Tefnut, Leda
Cancer = Ix Chel, Ida, Selene, Luna
Leo = Arinna, Cybele, Neshto, Juno
Virgo = Kwan Yin, Bel, Inanna, Diana, Ishtar
Libra = Ishtar, Aphrodite, Dike, Themis
Scorpio = Pele, Tiamat, Ishara, Selket
Sagittarius = Artemis, Diana, Pingala
Capricorn = Awehai, Ida, Amalthea, Vesta
Aquarius = Mawu, Cybele, Sophia, Iris, Juno
Pisces = Nammu, Anuit, Aphrodite, Dione

——————————————————————————–

Goddesses of the Month

 

January = Juno, Hera, Hestia, Brigid
February = Brigid, White Buffalo Woman, Juno Februa
March = Ra-Nuit, Artemis, Minerva
April = Aphrodite, Ishtar, Artemis, Astarte, Eostre
Venus, Terra , Erzulie
May = Maia, Flora, Tanith, Bel, Mary, Hera
June = Ishtar, Athena, Demeter, Juno, Persephone,
Luna, Hera, Mawu
July = Ishtar, Apet, Athena, Demeter, Persephone,
Spider Woman.
August = Ishtar, Ceres, Lakshmi, Hesperus
September= Hathor, Ishtar, Yemaya, Menkhet, Pomona
October = Hathor, Demeter, Ceres, the Horae
November = Sekhmet, Demeter, Diana, Kali, Astrae
December = Vesta, Hestia, Befana, Sekhmet, Oya

Hestia 26 December – 22 January
Bridhe 23 January – 19 February
Moura 20 February – 19 March
Columbina 20 March – 17 April
Maia 18 April – 15 May
Hera 16 May – 12 June
Rosea 13 June – 10 July
Kerea 11 July – 8 August
Hesperis 9 August – 5 September
Mala 6 September – 2 October
Hathor 3 October – 30 October
Cailleach/
Samhain 31 October – 27 November
Astraea 28 November – 25 December

——————————————————————————–

Goddesses for the days of the Moon/month

 

1 (new moon) Hathor, Isis, Anahit, Selene, Juno, Lucina, Luna, Re,
Blodeuwedd.

2 Selene, Luna, the Mothers, Gos, Arstat, Saoka

3 Athena, the Witch of Gaeta, Rata

4 Hathor, Isis, Selene, Luna

5 Maat, the Erinyes, Eric, Terra, the Eumenides

6 Artemis, Erzulie, the Mothers

7 the Sabbatu, Leto, Luna, Arstat

8 Selene, Luna, Ata Bey

9 Rhea, Selene, Spider Woman

10 Anahit, Anaitis, White Buffalo Calf Woman

11 Kista, Athena, Minerva, Sophia, Changing Woman

12 Demeter, Oddudua, Dikaiosune

13 The Muses, Diana, Oya, the Corn Mothers

14 Ishtar, Selene, Gos, Aida Wedo, the Lady, the Great Mother

15 Ishtar, Luna, Mene, Anna Perenna, Mary, Hina, Arianrhod, Aradia, Diana, Cybele, Mah

16 Levanah, Selene, Luna, Kwan Yin, Chalchiuhtlique

17 Ashi Vanguhi, Arstat, Kista, Demeter, Luna, Aida Wedo

18 Ochumare, Mawu, Copper Woman

19 The Manes, Ashi Vanguhi, Minerva

20 Selene, Tonantzin, Coatlique, Mary

21 Drvaspa, Hera, Athene, Medusa

22 Re, Gealach, Rhiannon, Selene, Mayauel

23 Venus, Aphrodite, Oshun, Erzulie, Freya, Xochiquetzl

24 Daena, Kista, Ochumare, Maat, Sophia, Chang-O

25 Ashi Vanguhi, Ard, Kista, Athena

26 Arstat, Cerridwen, Copper Woman, Mother Holle

27 Diana, Hecate, Maman Brigette, Oya

28 Zamyad, Tellus Mater, Hemera, Eos

29 Hecate, Tonantzin, Nyx, Rhiannon, Eurydice

30 Hecate, Mene, Hecate Prosmna, the moon Goddess, the Dark Maiden, the Crone.

 

Ishtar

Witch Craft

Ishtar

 

Unto the queen of the gods,
into whose hands are committed the behest of the great gods,
unto the lady of Nineveh,the queen of the gods,
the exhalted one, unto the daughter of the moon-god,
the twin sister of the sun god, unto her who ruleth all kingdoms,
unto the goddess of the world who determineth decrees,
unto the Lady of heaven and earth who receiveth supplication,
unto the merciful goddess who hearkeneth unto entreaty,
who receiveth prayer, who loveth righteousness,

I make my prayer unto Ishtar
to whom all confusion is a cause of grief.
The sorrows which I see I lament before thee.
Incline thine ear unto my words of lamentation
and let thine heart be opened unto my sorrowful speech.

Turn thy face unto me,
O Lady, so that by reason thereof
the heart of thy servant may be made strong!

I, Ashur-nasir-pal, the sorrowful one, am thy humble servant;
I, who am beloved of thee, make offerings unto thee and adore thy divinity.
I was born in the mountains which no man knoweth;
I was without understanding and I prayed not of thy majesty.
Moreover the people of Assyria did not recognise and did not accept thy divinity.

But thou, O Ishtar, thou mighty Queen of the gods,
by the lifting up of thine eyes did teach me,
for thou didst desire my rule.
Thou didst take me from the mountains,
and didst make me the Door of my peoples,
and thou, O Ishtar, didst make great my name!
As concerning that for which thou are wrath with me,
grant me forgiveness.
Let thine anger be appeased,
and let thine heart be mercifully inclined towards me.

Assyria. W.H.Boulton, p. 154

 

Pagan Studies of the Gods and Goddesses: Maat: The Ancient Egyptian Goddess

Maat

 

The Ancient Egyptian Goddess of Truth, Justice and Morality

Maat, also known as Ma’at or Mayet, was a female goddess in the ancient Egyptian religion who represented truth, justice, balance and morality. The daughter of the Egyptian sun deity Ra and wife of the moon god Thoth, she served a kind of spirit of justice to the Egyptians. She decided whether a person would successfully reach the afterlife, by weighing their soul against her feather of truth, and was the personification of the cosmic order and a representation of the stability of the universe. The earliest writings where she is mentioned date back to the Old Kingdom of Egypt more than 2,300 years ago.

The Egyptian culture was centered on order, everything had its due place in the world. This included religion, society and seasonal changes. The goddesses Ma’at came to represent the concept of balance and order because many Egyptians needed to explain the world around them. She was the one that kept the stars in motion, the seasons changing and the maintaining of the order of Heaven and Earth. The opposing force of this was known in ancient terms as “isfet” or chaos. Ancient Egyptians considered the desert beyond the Nile River to be chaotic; whereas, the area close to the Nile was considered orderly. Together, these two forces brought balance to the world in which they lived and was an important part of everyday Egyptian life

Ma’at is usually depicted in the form of a woman seated or standing with outstretched wings attached to both her arms. In other instances she is seen holding a scepter in one hand and an ankh (the symbol of life) in the other. Her statue was a stone platform depicting a stable foundation on which order was built. A common symbol associated with her is an ostrich feather, which she is almost always shown as wearing in her hair. Often, the Feather of Ma’at was a distinctive feature of her headdress. Less frequently images of the goddess showed her without a head, instead replaced by the feather. In other images the feather alone conveyed her presence. This feather has come to symbolize her being, as well as the representation of balance and order, it became a hieroglyph for “truth.”

Ma’at was associated with the law in ancient Egypt. From the 5th dynasty (c. 2510-2370 BC) onwards, the Vizier responsible for justice was called the Priest of Maat and in later periods judges wore images of her. The ‘Spirit of Maat’ was embodied by the chief judge in charge of the Egyptian law courts. He had a dual role, serving as both a priest and working directly in the law courts and justice system. The “Priest of Ma’at” began court hearings whilst wearing the feather of Ma’at and all other court officials wore small golden images of the goddess as a sign of their judicial authority, also as a symbol that their judgement would be balanced and fair. Priests drew the Feather of Ma’at on their tongues with green dye, so that the words they spoke were truth. The priest would rule on the earthly punishment according to the nature of the law that had been broken. Punishments included imposing fines, corporal punishment and in extreme cases capital punishment. It was considered a crime against Ma’at if a person engaged in jealousy, dishonesty, gluttony, laziness, injustice, and ungratefulness. The guilty Egyptian was deemed to have violated the Spirit of Ma’at and would face a further judgment in the Underworld during the ceremony of justification in the Hall of the Two Truths. The ‘Spirit of Ma’at’ detailed in the wisdom literature contained practical guidance with examples and some rules applied in previous law cases. These kinds of instructional texts have been described as “Ma’at Literature”.

The Book of the Dead is a collection of funerary texts and spells from ancient Egypt designed to assist a person’s journey through the underworld, into the afterlife. Without these spells, it was believed a person could not proceed. In the book is a spell called the “Forty-Two Declarations of Purity” or the “Negative Confessions”. This spell is comprised of confessions the tomb owner believed he committed throughout his life. It was believed that any crimes committed against Ma’at should be written down as they could easily be forgiven. In the Hall of Ma’at is where the judgement of the dead was performed in which Ma’at played an important role. The ceremony, called the “Judgment of Osiris,” was named after Osiris, the god of the dead. When the dead were judged, it was the feather of Ma’at that their hearts were weighed against. If a balanced scale was struck, the deceased was deemed worthy to meet Osiris in Paradise. The weightlessness of their hearts indicated that their souls were not burdened with sin and evil. If the heart of the deceased was found to be heavier than the feather of Ma’at, it would be devoured by Ammit, the soul-eating monster depicted with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus. Other gods in the judgement hall who were part of the tribunal overseeing the weighing of the heart were also pictured holding a feather but the scales always represented Ma ́at.

Ancient Egyptians worshipped many gods, one was certainly Ma’at, although Egyptian archaeologists now believe she was perhaps more of a concept or an ideal. It’s reasonable to assume her principles aided the people of Egypt in being better individuals and that she could be compared to the conscience of a person. There was a small temple dedicated to Ma’at by Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, Egypt’s first female pharaoh, at the Karnak temple complex in Luxor Egypt. Largely in ruins, it still preserves inscriptions of some of the viziers of Ramesses III and XI. A previous Ma’at temple existed in this area, indicated by reliefs and stelae belonging to the reign of Amenhotep III. The temple is inside the Precinct of Montu, the smallest of three enclosures at Ipet-Isut.

 

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Ma’at

Ma’at (pronounced may-et) is the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, harmony, and balance (a concept known as ma’at in Egyptian) who first appears during the period known as the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – 2181 BCE) but no doubt existed in some form earlier. She is depicted in anthropomorphic form as a winged woman, often in profile with an ostrich feather on her head, or simply as a white ostrich feather. The feather of Ma’at was an integral part of the Weighing of the Heart of the Soul ceremony in the afterlife where the heart of the soul of the dead person was weighed in the scales of justice against the feather. Historian Margaret Bunson writes:

She maintained a vital role in the mortuary rituals of Egypt where she weighed the hearts of the deceased. This mortuary role evolved over the decades into the principle of ma’at, the desired right attitude, which remained the ethical and moral foundation of the Egyptian people. (152)

NAME & SIGNIFICANCE

Ma’at is said to have been born of the sun god Ra (Atum) at the beginning of creation through the power of Heka, who was magic personified. Her name means “that which is straight” implying order, justice, and harmony. She is thought to have been present from the beginning of time when, from the primordial waters of Nun, the ben-ben (first mound of dry land) rose with Atum (or Ra, the sun god) standing upon it in the presence of the invisible Heka. In the moment that Ra spoke the world into creation, Ma’at was born. Her spirit of harmony and balance infused the creation and caused the world to operate rationally according to purpose. The principle of ma’at was the operational function of life and that of heka (magic) the power source which allowed for it. It is for this reason that she is considered more of a concept than a goddess with a specific personality and story like Isis or Hathor. Ma’at’s spirit is the spirit of all creation, and if one is in tune with that spirit, one will live well and have good reason to hope for eternal peace in the afterlife; if one refused to live in accordance with the principles of Ma’at, then one suffered the consequences which one would have brought upon one’s self. Margaret Bunson comments on this, writing:

Ma’at was the model for human behavior, in conformity with the will of the gods, the universal order evident in the heavens, cosmic balance upon the earth, the mirror of celestial beauty. Awareness of the cosmic order was evident early in Egypt; priest-astronomers charted the heavens and noted that the earth responded to the orbits of the stars and planets. The priests taught that mankind was commanded to reflect divine harmony by assuming a spirit of quietude, reasonable behavior, cooperation, and a recognition of the eternal qualities of existence, as demonstrated by the earth and the sky. All Egyptians anticipated becoming part of the cosmos when they died, thus the responsibility for acting in accordance with its laws was reasonable. Strict adherence to ma’at allowed the Egyptians to feel secure with the world and with the divine plan for all creation. (152)

Her importance is signified by one of the means by which the Egyptians wrote her name. Although she was often identified by the feather symbol, she was also designated by a plinth. The plinth was commonly seen below the thrones of deities but not used to relay their personal names. The fact that Ma’at was signified by a plinth suggests, according to Egyptologist Geraldine Pinch, that Ma’at was considered the foundation upon which Egyptian society was built (160). Her significance is also demonstrated in iconography showing her constantly at the side of Ra in his heavenly barge sailing with him across the sky during the day and helping him defend the boat against the serpent Apophis by night.

The ancient Egyptians also invoked her name in stories of a long-lost past on earth when all things were beautiful and there was no injustice. Such stories usually have to do with the time of Osiris and Isis and their just and benevolent rule of the earth before Osiris was murdered by Set. In some cases, though, it is Ma’at who rules the earth alone as Pinch notes:

Egyptian myths of a golden age included a period when Ma’at was ruler of earth. She was sometimes said to have withdrawn to the heavens because she was grieved by the wicked behavior of humanity. Ma’at could still be thought of as living with an individual like his or her good angel and accompanying that person into the afterlife. Eventually “joining Ma’at” became a euphemism for dying. (160)

It is in her mortuary role that Ma’at is best known to most people in the modern day. One of the most iconic images of ancient Egypt is the ceremony known as The Weighing of the Heart of the Soul in which Ma’at and her white feather of truth were most important.

MA’AT’S WHITE FEATHER OF TRUTH

The Egyptians believed strongly that every individual was responsible for his or her own life and that life should be lived with other people and the earth in mind. In the same way that the gods cared for humanity, so should humans care for each other and the earth which they had been provided with. This philosophy is evident in every aspect of Egyptian culture from the way they constructed their cities to the balance and symmetry of their temples and monuments. If one lived harmoniously in the will of the gods, then one was living in harmony with the concept of ma’at and the goddess who embodied that concept. One was free to live however one wanted, of course, and completely ignore the principle of ma’at, but eventually one would face the trial which awaited everyone: judgment in the Hall of Truth (also known as The Hall of Two Truths) in the afterlife. Wilkinson comments on this:

Her role was multifaceted but embraced two major aspects. On the one hand, Ma’at represesnted the universal order or balance – including concepts such as truth and right – which was established at the time of creation. This aspect is the basis of her relationship with Ra – for she is the order imposed upon the cosmos created by the solar demiurge and as such is the guiding principle who accompanied the sun god at all times…As a natural corollary of her identity with right balance and harmony Ma’at also actively represented the concept of judgement. In the Pyramid Texts the goddess appears in this role in dual form as ‘the two Ma’ats’ judging the deceased king’s right to the thrones of Geb [the rule of the earth] and in the later funerary literature it is in the Hall of the Two Truths (the dual form of Ma’at) that the judgment of the deceased occurs. The gods themselves, acting as the judges of the divine tribunal, are called ‘the council of Ma’at.’ (150)

To the Egyptians, the soul consisted of nine separate parts: the Khat was the physical body; the Ka one’s double-form; the Ba a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens; Shuyet was the shadow self; Akh the immortal, transformed self; Sahu and Sechem aspects of the Akh; Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil; Ren was one’s secret name. All nine of these aspects were part of one’s earthly existence. When one died, the Akh (with the Sahu and Sechem) appeared before the god Osiris in the Hall of Truth and in the presence of the Forty-Two Judges to have one’s heart (Ab) weighed in the balance on a golden scale against Ma’at’s white feather of truth.

One would need to recite the Negative Confession (those actions one could honestly claim one had never committed in life) and then one’s heart was placed on the scale. If one’s heart was lighter than Ma’at’s feather, one waited while Osiris conferred with the Forty-Two Judges and the god of wisdom, Thoth, and, if considered worthy, was allowed to pass on through the hall and continue one’s existence in paradise; if one’s heart was heavier than the feather, it was thrown to the floor where it was devoured by the monster Ammut (the gobbler), and one then ceased to exist. No one could escape judgment, and the king of the land would have to stand before the scales of Ma’at and Osiris just as the lowest slave of field hand would also.

If one passed through judgment and avoided any of the pitfalls and traps set by demons and the forces of chaos, one arrived at The Field of Reeds, a paradise where one was greeted by those loved ones who had gone before and which was a mirror image of one’s life on earth. Margaret Bunson describes this afterlife:

Eternity itself was not some vague concept. The Egyptians, pragmatic and determined to have all things explained in concrete terms, believed that they would dwell in paradise, in areas graced by lakes and gardens. There they would eat the “cakes of Osiris” and float on the Lake of Flowers. The eternal kingdoms varied according to era and cultic belief but all were located beside flowing water and blessed with breezes, an attribute deemed necessary for comfort. The Garden of A’Aru was one such oasis of eternal bliss. Another was Ma’ati, an eternal land where the deceased buried a flame of fire and a scepter of crystal – rituals whose meanings are lost. The goddess Ma’at, the personification of cosmic order, justice, goodness, and faith, was the protector of the deceased in this enchanted realm, called Hehtt in some eras. Only the pure of heart, the uabt, could see Ma’at. (86-87)

In some images, the goddess is seen atop the scales at the moment of judgment and, in others, she is present near Osiris but she is always there even if only in the form of her feather placed on the scales. In the afterlife, she was thought to help those who had stood for her principles and lived their lives accordingly.

WORSHIP OF THE GODDESS

Although she was considered a very important deity, Ma’at had no temples and no official clergy (as was the case with Heka). She was honored by a small shrine set up in the temples of other gods. Even the one temple known to be erected in her honor by Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) was built within the temple precinct of the god Montu. The people venerated the goddess by living according to her principles and bringing whatever gifts they wanted to offer to her shrines in the temples of the other gods. Wilkinson writes,

Even the title ‘priest of Ma’at’ is often regarded as an honourific which may have been given to those who served as magistrates or who dispensed judicial decisions on her behalf and who apparently wore small golden images of the goddess as a sign of their judicial authority. (152)

The only “official” worship of Ma’at was when the king of Egypt made sacrifice to her upon ascending to the throne and “presented Ma’at” to the gods by offering a small image of her. In doing so, the king was asking for her help in maintaining divine balance in his rule. If the king could not achieve balance and promote harmony, then it was a clear sign that he was not fit to rule. Ma’at – and the vital concept she embodied – was crucial to the king’s success.

She was an important and all-pervasive figure in the Egyptian pantheon, even though very few stories are told of her and she had no temple or cultic following. The gods were said to live off Ma’at and, as the scholar Richard H. Wilkinson notes, most of the images of the king presenting Ma’at to the other gods at his coronation “are essentially identical to those in which the king presents food, wine, or other forms of sacrifice to the gods” (152). The gods would have, in fact, lived off Ma’at in that they were all bound by their own laws to observe harmony and balance and encourage those values in the human beings they cared for.

Temples to Ma’at were the temples of all the other gods because Ma’at was the underlying cosmic principle which made the lives of humans and gods possible. One worshiped the goddess Ma’at by living a life in accordance with the highest principles of justice, order, and harmony keeping in mind one’s neighbors and the earth one had been given to tend. Although goddesses like Hathor and Isis were more popular, and even eventually took on many of Ma’at’s attributes, she remained an important deity throughout Egypt’s history and defined the cultural values of the country for centuries.

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*First article*
By Bryan Hilliard
Published on Ancient Origins

References
“Ancient Egyptian Gods | Ma’at.” Ancient Egyptian Gods | Ma’at. http://www.kingtutone.com/gods/maat/
“Ma’at, Goddess of Egypt.” Egyptian Goddess Maat ***. http://www.landofpyramids.org/maat.htm
Seawright, Caroline. “Ma’at, Goddess of Truth, Balance, Order.” Ma’at, Ancient Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Order.
“Ancient Egypt: The Mythology – Feather.” Ancient Egypt: The Mythology – Feather. http://www.egyptianmyths.net/feather.htm
“Ancient Egypt: The Mythology – Ma’at.” Ancient Egypt: The Mythology – Ma’at. http://www.egyptianmyths.net/maat.htm

 

*Second article*
APA Style
Mark, J. J. (2016, September 15). Ma’at. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Ma’at/

Chicago Style
Mark, Joshua J. “Ma’at.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified September 15, 2016. https://www.ancient.eu/Ma’at/.

MLA Style
Mark, Joshua J. “Ma’at.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 15 Sep 2016. Web. 13 Aug 2018.

License
Written by Joshua J. Mark, published on 15 September 2016 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.