The Sacred Fifty
We must return to the treatise 'The Virgin of the World'. This
treatise is quite explicit in saying that Isis and Osiris were sent
to help the Earth by giving primitive mankind the arts of
And Horus thereon said:
'How was it, mother, then, that
Earth received God's Efflux?'
And Isis said:
'I may not tell the story of (this)
birth; for it is not permitted to describe the origin of thy
descent, O Horus (son) of mighty power, lest afterwards the
way-of-birth of the immortal gods should be known unto men -
except so far that God the Monarch, the universal Orderer and
Architect, sent for a little while thy mighty sire Osiris, and
the mightiest goddess Isis, that they might help the world, for
all things needed them.
' 'Tis they who filled life full of life. 'Tis they who caused
the savagery of mutual slaughtering of men to cease. 'Tis they
who hallowed precincts to the Gods their ancestors and spots for
holy rites. 'Tis they who gave to men laws, food and shelter.'
They are also described as teaching men
how to care for the dead in a specifically Egyptian way, which
inclines one to wonder how a Greek could conceivably have written
this unless during the Ptolemaic period:
"Tis they who taught men
how to wrap up those who ceased to live, as they should be.'
Now anyone knows this is Egyptian and not Greek practice. What
Neoplatonist would include such a statement unless it were actually
taken from an early source which he used, and which had been written
by someone actually living in Egypt?
The treatise ends this long section with:
' 'Tis they alone who, taught by
Hermes in God's hidden codes, became the authors of the arts,
and sciences, and all pursuits which men do practice, and givers
of their laws.
' 'Tis they who, taught by Hermes that the things below have
been disposed by God to be in sympathy with things above,
established on the earth the sacred rites over which the
mysteries in Heaven preside. [The absence here of a blatant
propaganda for astrology argues a pre-Ptolemaic date for this
treatise; after the Greek and Babylonian influx a mild statement
like this would have been almost impossible to make without the
author dragging in all the paraphernalia of the astrology-craze
of late Egypt.]
' 'Tis they who, knowing the destructibility of (mortal) frames,
devised the grade of prophets, in all things perfected, in order
that no prophet who stretched forth his hands unto the Gods,
should be in ignorance of anything, that magic and philosophy
should feed the soul, and medicine preserve the body when it
'And having done all this, my son, Osiris and myself perceiving
that the world was (now) quite full, were thereupon demanded
back by those who dwell in Heaven . . .'
And in the treatise Isis claims that the
'Black Rite' honors her and 'gives perfection'.
It is also
concerned with the mysterious thing called 'Night' Who weaves her
web with rapid light though it be less than Sun's'. It is made plain
that 'Night' is not the night sky because it moves in the Heaven
along with 'the other mysteries in turn that move in Heaven, with
ordered motions and with periods of times, with certain hidden
influences bestowing order on the things below and co-increasing
We must scrutinize the description of what is labeled 'Night' in
this treatise. This description makes it perfectly clear that
'Night' is not 'night', but a code word. For it is said to have
'light though it be less than Sun's'. The dark companion of Sirius
is a star and has light, though less than the sun. Also 'Night' said
'to weave her web with rapid light' which specifically describes the
object as being in motion.
Since Sirius B orbits Sirius A in fifty
years, it moves more rapidly even than three of our sun's planets in
our own solar system - Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus. Of these three,
Uranus is the most rapid, and its orbit about the sun takes
eighty-four years. So here is a star orbiting more rapidly than a
planet! That may indeed be said to constitute 'weaving a web with
Now to turn to the Sumerian culture, or, more properly, the
Sumero-Ukadian culture. It was roughly contemporaneous with ancient
Egypt and I had already suspected its basic religious concepts to be
so similar to those of Egypt that I imagined them to have a common
origin. Then I discovered that Wallis Budge thought the same thing
from his point of view as a distinguished Egyptologist.
I am not aware of any Sumerologists
having dealt with this particular problem. Far more attention has
been given to the known trading links which existed between Sumer
and the Indus valley civilization, and also to the problem of
deciding where Dilmun was located. Kramer thinks Dilmun was the
Indus valley; Bibby follows Peter B. Cornwall and thinks it was the
island of Bahrein in the Persian Gulf.
But to the Sumerians this land, which
lay in a direction seemingly other than that of Egypt, had immense
importance. consequently, it has tended to monopolize the attention
of modern scholars investigating Sumerian geographical references.
Kramer thinks that the land Magan' was probably Egypt and that
Sargon even sent his armies there.
The basic Egyptian astronomy and the basic Sumero-Akkadian astronomy
(this assumes a continuity of some sort, as there is no overtly
astronomical treatise from the early period of Sumer) are identical.
For the multitude of variations at a less basic level, one may
consult Professor Otto Neugebauer's the Exact Sciences in Antiquity.
But Neugebauer's interests lie with late material, as he admits, and
he does less than justice to the earlier material, skimming over it
quickly and making little of some things which are important.
Here is an example of his attitude
expressed in his own words near the beginning of Chapter V:
'Our description of Babylonian
astronomy will be rather incomplete. The historical development
will be given in bare outline. As in the case of Egypt, a
detailed discussion of the few preserved early texts would
require not only too much room but would also unduly exaggerate
their historical importance. For the late period, however, the
opposite situation prevails.'
Well, at least Professor Neugebauer is
honest about his preferences.
Having nodded in the direction of an authority who has voluntarily
abdicated, we proceed. For our evidence we turn to E. A. Speiser's
translation1 of the Akkadian creation epic know as
the Enuma elish from the first two
words of the text which mean 'When on high . . . '
At the very beginning of this text we
He constructed stations for the
Fixing their astral likenesses as constellations.
He determined the year by designating the zones:
He set up three constellations for each of the twelve
After defining the days of the year [by means] of (heavenly)
He founded . . ., etc.
In other words, the text gives a system
identical with that recorded in the Egyptian star clocks. Twelve
months composed of three ten-day weeks each, resulting in thirty-six
constellations or 'decans' designating astral likenesses of gods.
The text specifically states that there
are twelve months consisting of three periods each (unless one
strains the point enormously and maintains on no grounds whatsoever
that these three periods are unequal, they must be of ten days each
- hence 'ten-day weeks' as in Egypt), and that a constellation or
'zone' of the sky applies to each of these 'weeks'.
Since three times twelve equals
thirty-six, we have thirty-six decans, each of which is 'designated'
by a constellation. And also as in Egypt, each decan is an 'astral
likeness' of a great god. It is surprising that no scholar has seen
that this passage in the Enuma elish describes the Egyptian
star-clock system down to the last detail.
No doubt also the five 'epagomenal' days left over in order to fill
out this resulting 360-day year to a 365-day year are referred to in
the line: 'After defining the days of the year of (heavenly)
figures,' which is again identical with the Egyptian tradition where
the five left-over days are each assigned to five different gods or
heavenly figures and thus defined. In Egypt these five left-over
days are called 'the days upon the year'. These five days are also
extremely important in Maya astronomy. But if we get into a
discussion of Maya astronomy, we shall be stirring up a hornets'
nest. It is not relevant to the purposes of this book.
We can see that the astronomical systems in Egypt and Sumer were
absolutely identical in their fundamentals. Now these similarities
between Egypt and Sumer are a far different matter from similarities
of names of gods and religious concepts. One can always maintain
that people in different parts of the globe spontaneously produce
identical sounds when awe-struck by divine concepts. 'Everybody
around the world says "Ma!" to Mother,' as we have all heard many
But an astronomical system of this kind
is a complex set of specific data.
The fact that this Akkadian text
tentatively dated by Speiser at the Old Babylonian period (i.e. the
early part of the second millennium B.C.) records an astronomical
system of this complexity which is identical with that of the
Egyptian star clocks can be said to prove either contact between
these two civilizations or a common derivation for the system. And
it suggests a date which could serve as an upper limit. Culture
contact during which this information was shared could not have been
Let any latest date accepted for the
writing of the Enuma elish serve as an upper limit. If this
be done, we find the first millennium Bug. as the upper limit, even
for those who require incontrovertible physical proof. The contact
between Egypt and Sumer must have been considerably earlier if
direct, or it may not have been a contact, but rather a common
derivation (which was Wallis Budge's favored idea).
The Egyptian star clocks date from at least the reigns of Seti I
(1303 1290 Bug.) and Ramses IV (1158 - 1152 Bug.) of the XlXth and
XXth Dynasties respectively, on the walls of whose tombs they are
found. Therefore these star clocks are at least as old as 1300 Bug.
and seem to go back to the very origins of Egyptian culture. By the
first millennium b.c. they had been changed and a fifteen-day week
substituted for the ten-day week.
Other innovations took place as well at
later dates, and the system fell into a considerable decay and
became, it seems, a relic. I should imagine that a rise in the
popularity of the sun god Ra made stars and especially Sirius seem
less important. In any case, the innate integrity of the Sirius
system in Egypt began to rot away and be ignored by the first
millennium b.c, as it was superseded by ideas more obvious and less
esoteric to impatient priests.
Perhaps when this began to happen some
purists may have gone off to other places where they hoped to retain
the traditions without interference from decadent Pharaohs. We shall
return much later to this idea, with some surprising information.
But let us return to Sumer and continue in hot pursuit. In Tablet VI
of the Enuma elish we find an interesting passage. In it are
mentioned the Anunnaki, who were the sons of An (An means 'heaven'),
also known as Anu the great god. These Anunnaki were fifty in number
and were called 'the fifty great gods'. Nearly always these Anunnaki
were anonymous, the emphasis being on their number and their
greatness and their control over fate.
No certain identification of any
important Sumerian god with any one of
the Anunnaki exists except
peripherally (as I shall describe later). In fact, all Sumerologists
have been puzzled by the Anunnaki. They have not been 'identified'
and no one knows exactly what is meant by them. They recur often
throughout the texts, which makes it all the more annoying that
nowhere are they explicitly explained.
But their apparent importance to the Sumerians cannot be questioned.
In an early Sumerian fragment (from a time long before the
civilization of the Babylonians) of the material concerning the epic
hero Gilgamesh, entitled 'Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living', we
find an antecedent to the tradition of the Argonauts of the Greeks.
This fragment appears in a translation by Kramer.2
In fact, I feel it is safe to say that
this Sumerian fragment is the earliest known form of the story of
that hero who was later to be named Jason. In the story from this
fragment, the hero, Gilgamesh, wishes to go to the 'land of the
living', which is described as being in the charge of the sun god
Utu. In the story of Jason and the Argonauts, the hero, Jason,
wishes to search for the golden fleece, which is known to be a solar
In the Sumerian fragment we also find
the surprising line:
'The hero, his teeth are the teeth
of a dragon.'
In the Jason story, the hero, Jason,
sows the dragon's teeth! (So does Cadmus in another Greek tale which
we shall examine later.) In the Jason story, Jason is accompanied on
his quest by the fifty Argonauts.
In the Sumerian fragment, Gilgamesh is accompanied by fifty
companions also! Here is the relevant passage (in which Gilgamesh is
'Who has a house, to his house! Who
has a mother, to his mother! 'Let single males who would do as I
(do), fifty, stand by my side.' Who had a house, to his house;
who had a mother, to his mother, Single males who would do as he
(did), fifty, stood at his side. To the house of the smiths he
directed his step, The . . . , the . . . -axe, his 'Might of
Heroism' he caused to be cast there. To the ... garden of the
plain he [directed] his step, The . . . -tree, the willow, the
apple tree, the box tree, the . . . [-tree] he [felled] there.
The 'sons' of his city who accompanied him [placed them] in
The fifty companions are mentioned
several times. The fragmentary text is extremely broken and
confused. Further light on the motif of sowing the dragon's teeth
seems to come from a passage where Gilgamesh, who has for some
unknown reason been asleep, was awakened, girded himself, stood like
a bull on the 'great earth' and:
'He put (his) mouth to the ground,
(his) teeth shook.'
Note that it is at least open to
question that the mouth and the teeth are actually his, and the word
'his' is both times in parentheses, put thus by the translator.
But here is the entire passage:
He put (his) mouth to the
ground, (his) teeth shook.
'By the life of Ninsun, my mother who gave birth to me, of
my father, 'May I become as one who sits to be wondered at
on the knee of Ninsun,
my mother who gave birth to me.'
Apart from the fact that Gilgamesh's
desire to sit on the knee of his mother, the goddess Ninsun, is
similar to Horus sitting on the knee of his mother, the goddess Isis
as a constant motif in Egyptian art, there seems to be here an
obscure but significant reference to the fact that if the hero puts
his mouth to the ground and his teeth shake, he can invoke a kind of
rebirth in strength.
I suspect that the translation needs to
be worked on further, but it is difficult, as there are so many
words in Sumerian whose meanings are not precisely understood.
Whether or not it is Gilgamesh's own mouth and teeth that are being
discussed here, the fact is that Gilgamesh seeks strength by putting
some teeth to the ground - either his or someone else's.
previously in the same tale, there has been the clear statement:
'The hero, his teeth are the teeth
of a dragon', we may assume that Gilgamesh's own teeth are
probably being referred to - his own teeth which have previously
been described as being dragon's teeth!
Now in the lines following the putting
of the teeth to the ground, we learn that Gilgamesh needs to summon
strength by putting his teeth to the ground because he needs to
fight. In the story of the Argo, Jason sows the dragon's teeth in
the ground, and from them spring up armed soldiers who begin to
fight - as is also the case in the story of Cadmus. So we see that
in the two Greek myths, as also in this Sumerian fragment, the
dragon's teeth go to the ground and a fight ensues where the hero
has acquired superhuman strength.
Later in this book we shall see the
precise explanation of where this curious jumble originated, that it
is specifically derived from an Egyptian sacred pun, and what it all
Meanwhile we must stay at our present level of enquiry. This book is
an anabasis, or journey upward.
Let us look a little closer at the story of Jason and the golden
fleece. The golden fleece was given to Phrixus and Helle by the god
Hermes. The Egyptian god Anubis became known to the Greeks as their
Furthermore, Diodorus Siculus (IV, 47)
and Tacitus (Ann. VI, 34) explain the golden fleece's origin by
saying that Phrixus and Helle (who flew away on the golden ram's
back to Colchis, Helle falling in the Hellespont on the way and
giving that body of water its name) really sailed in a ship with a
ram's head on the prow, rather than having ridden the magical ram of
The fact that the more widespread myth
which had an actual ram in the story maintained specifically that
they flew on the golden ram, could refer to the idea of a celestial
boat. Thus everyone is correct.
In any case, this boat would definitely have been a boat of Egypt,
which to the Sumerians would have been called a 'Magan-boat', if we
accept what Kramer and others believe, namely, that Magan is Egypt.
And the boat was a 'gift from Hermes' - in other words from Anubis.
No wonder, then, that the Sirius-related fifty is connected with the
golden fleece as well as Anubis.
It is worth mentioning also that the
fifty Argonauts were also called the Minyae, its they were all
related to each other and of the same family, descended all of them
from Minyas, who had been the king of the Minyan city of Orchomenus
in Boeotia, in Greece. So Jason and the Argonauts, fifty in number,
all shared a kind of shadowy anonymity somewhat reminiscent of the
fifty Anunnaki of Sinner, as they were often referred to simply as
'the Minyae' - a group of fifty related oarsmen in a celestial boat.
Later on we shall look extremely closely at the Argo story and also
at the connections between the land Colchis, the object of its
quest, and ancient Egypt? as attested for us by the historian
Herodotus. But we must complete our look at the story of Gilgamesh
and the Land of the Living. For even a boat is mentioned in that
fragment, corresponding to the Argo.
My equating a moment ago of the Argo
with an Egyptian celestial barque must now be seen in conjunction
with the following passage in which Gilgamesh's boat is specifically
referred to as the 'Magan-boat'! I might add that the trees which
Gilgamesh cut down and which his fifty companions 'placed in their
hands' according to the text were probably their oars! (The text is
too broken for anything at all to be certain, even punctuation,
among the fourteen lines which follow that particular passage.)
Here, then, is the passage about the
lor me another will not die, the
loaded boat will not sink, The three-ply cloth will not be
cut, The ....... will not be overwhelmed,
House (and) hut, fire will not destroy.
Do thou help me (and) I will help thee, what can happen to
After it had sunk, after it had sunk,
After the Magan-boat had sunk,
After the boat, "the might of Magilum", had sunk,
In the . . . , the boat of the living creatures, are seated
those who come out
of the womb;
Come, let us go forward, we will cast eyes upon him, If we
(And) there be fear, there be fear, turn it back, There be
terror, there be terror, turn it back, In thy . . . , come,
let us go forward.'
I must emphasize that there is confusion
here, In a footnote Kramer emphasizes that from the line 'After it
had sunk' it is no longer certain that Gilgamesh is still speaking.
It is not clear whether the Magan-boat has really sunk or whether
this is a statement injected by Gilgamesh's 'faithful servant5 who
immediately before the passage just quoted had told Gilgamesh:
'O my master, journey thou to
the "land", I will journey to the city,
I will tell thy mother of thy glory, let her shout,
I will tell her of thy ensuing death, [let her] shed bitter
What seems to happen is that Gilgamesh
here tells his frightened servant (who just previously in the text
is described as 'terror-stricken') that no other will die for him
and that 'the loaded boat will not sink'. Then the servant would
seem to break in again in his terror with his hypothetical tale to
Gilgamesh's mother with 'After it had sunk . . ,' Then Gilgamesh
again speaks, beginning with, 'Come, let us go forward . ..'
The phrase 'those who come out of the womb' to describe those who
are seated in the Magan-boat may be meant to refer to those who are
children of the goddess Nintu (also known as Ninmah, Ninhursag, and
Ki - 'earth').
This, combined with the strange
reference to teeth, seems to refer to the children of the
earth-goddess springing from the womb of the earth - for Ki, the
earth- goddess (ki means 'earth' in Sumerian) is also Nintu or 'the
goddess who gives birth'. (Ninmah means 'the great goddess' and
Ninhursag means 'the goddess of the hill, a hursag or hill having
been erected by her son - and she was named after it by him in
commemoration of a significant mythical event; in Egypt Anubis is
also called 'Anubis of the Hill', about which I shall have much to
say later on, but suffice it here to note that if the Sumerians were
to speak of'Anubis of the Hill they would call him Anpu-hursag.)
Basically in the goddess who gives birth, and also in the
earth-goddess, we thus find antecedents to the soldiers springing up
from the dragon's teeth sown in the earth, and also the throwing
over his shoulder of the 'earth's bones' (stones) by Deukalion, the
Greek Noah, with the stones becoming men much as the teeth did in
the other stories. (And teeth are bones!)
In fact there are several points of contact other than this one
between the Deukalion and Jason stories. For the ark of Noah is a
concept which is identical with that of the ark of Deukalion, and
both are magical ships in which sit 'those who come out of the
womb', in the sense that they repopulate the world after the deluge.
And both arks, but particularly that of Deukalion, are concepts
related to the Argo.
(As anyone who has read the full Epic of
Gilgamesh will know, the ark of Noah in the Middle East before
either the Hebrews or the name Noah even existed, was the ark of
Ziusudra or the ark of Utnapishtim, and it occurs as an established
element of the mythical background brought into the Epic.)
For the ark of Deukalion rested on the
mountain by the sacred oracle grove of Dodona, from which the Argo
received its cybernetic guiding timber. Also, of course, the origin
of the story of the flood and the ark (containing as it does
'archetypes' of all living creatures in pairs, and the word arche in
Greek being definitely related to ark, as we shall see all too well
much later in this book) is Sumerian at least, if not even before
that something else (which we shall see in due course).
But it was from this early source that
the Greeks obtained their Deukalion and the Hebrews their Noah -
both of which are extremely late forms of an exceedingly ancient
story, which existed thousands of years before there were such
things as either Greeks or Hebrews in existence. (Anyone really
interested in the origins of Greek and Hebrew civilizations should
read Professor Cyrus Gordon's brilliant book The Common Background
of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations3)
Now the point of going into all this is really to show that the
Argonaut motif of fifty heroes in a boat on a heroic quest exists in
Sumer and forms a complement to the 'fifty great gods'. For if the
Magan-boat's fifty heroes are seated, as the Anunnaki usually are,
and are 'those who come forth out of the womb', and thus children,
so to speak, of Nintu, 'the goddess who gives birth', then they may
be directly equated with the Anunnaki.
For the Anunnaki, as the children of An,
would also be the children of An's ancient consort Ki or Nintu. In
other words, the fifty heroes are heroic counterparts of the
celestial Anunnaki. The corollary of this is, that the fact that
there are fifty Anunnaki is not so likely to be a coincidence as
might have been thought. This brings out all the more the immense
significance of the number fifty.
The number occurs also in 'Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World'.
There Gilgamesh dons armor which weighs 'fifty minas'. And in this
tale also Gilgamesh has fifty companions. In the later Babylonian
version the fifty companions are omitted from the story. At that
date the true nature of the symbolism of fifty must have been
In his book The Sumerians, Kramer points out4 that
cultic and symbolic weapons, maces with fifty heads, were fashioned
by the ruler Gudea.
If we return for a moment to the intriguing hursag of the Sumerians,
the strange 'hill', we must recall that Ninhursag the goddess of the
hill is identical with Nintu the goddess who gives birth. Those are
two separate names for the same deity. Now it is interesting to note
that in Egyptian the word tu means 'hill', so that if we take the
word nin which means 'goddess' and add the Egyptian tu
we have 'the goddess of the hill', which in fact is a synonym.
This is by no means the end of this interesting investigation. For
if we note that the Egyptian form of Horus (the son of Isis and
Osiris) is Heru (which is a bit like Hero, isn't it?) and the
traditional usage in Egyptian is to speak continually of
Heru-sa-something which means Horus-the-son-of-something, then we
shall note that the strange and puzzling word hursag might really be
the Egyptian Heru-sa-Agga, which means 'Horus the son of Agga9.
It so happens that Agga is an Egyptian
synonym for Anubis. And 'Anubis of the Hill' has already been
mentioned. What is more, the word hursag in its older Sumerian form
is indeed hursagga, as may be seen in The Babylonian Genesis,
Chapter 2, by Alexander Heidel, 'A Sumerian Creation Account from
Nippur', where we read of the goddess Ninhursagga.
It also happens that Agga is in fact a reputable Sumerian name.
There is in translation a short 115-line text entitled 'Gilgamesh
and Agga' from the Sumerian period.5 In line eighty of this text is
the mention of a 'magurru-boat', which is referred to in much the
same way as the Magan-boat in 'Gilgamesh and the Land of the
Just as in that previous text the Magan-boat
was being discussed as to whether or not it would sink, so in this
latter text the 'magurruboat' is being discussed as to whether or
not it would have its prow cut down.
Curiously, as in the other tale, in this
one also the boat is described as having had the worst fate actually
occur, for in line ninety-eight we learn that 'the prow of the
magurru-boat was cut down', just as in the previous text we
'After the Magan-boat had sunk,
/After the boat, "the might of Magilum", had sunk.'
The connections between Egyptian and
Sumerian words in sacred contexts become so multifold that it is
impossible to ignore the continuities between the two cultures. Let
us look, for instance, at the curious phenomenon of the cedar which
Gilgamesh is always being claimed to have cut down. In 'Gilgamesh
and the Land of the Living' Gilgamesh says: 'I would enter the land
of the cutdown cedar' and later he is described as he 'who felled
the cedar', etc. That is
an early Sumerian text. In the actual Epic proper, as we have it,
Gilgamesh goes to the Cedar Mountain and slays the monster Humbaba
(or Huwawa) in 'the cedar mountain, the abode of the gods'. In
Tablet V we read:
[Gilgamesh] seized [the axe in
[. . . and] felled [the cedar].
[But when Huwawa] heard the noise,
[He] became angry: 'Who has [come],
[Has slighted the trees, which] had been grown in my
And has felled the cedar?'
In Chapter XXII of
Hamlet's Mill, Santillana and
von Dechend identify Huwawa with the planet Mercury.
Now, remembering that Huwawa is also the god of the cedar forest, it
is interesting to note that in Egyptian the word seb means
'cedar' and also means 'the planet Mercury'!
The subject is far more complicated than
that, but I wanted to note the further source of an Egyptian pun for
yet another crucial Sumerian motif. In other words, Huwawa is
connected with both Mercury (the planet) and the cedar, because the
planet Mercury and the cedar are both called by the same name in
Egyptian - namely, seb.
Let us now put aside the enigmatic monster-god Huwawa and turn to
the Epic of Gilgamesh for another purpose. But in doing so let us
note Kramer's opinion in his essay 'The Epic of Gilgamesh and Its
Sumerian Sources',6 that 'the poem was current in substantially
the form in which we know it, as early as the first half of the
second millennium B.C.'
Let us recall that, in an early Sumerian
fragment, Gilgamesh's mother was the goddess Ninsun 'who is versed
in all knowledge', and upon whose knee he wanted to sit (like Horus
on the knee of Isis).
In the First Tablet we read: Indeed, Gilgamesh
arose to reveal dreams, saying to his mother:
'My mother, last night I saw a
dream. There were stars in the heavens;
As if it were the host of heaven [one] fell down to me.
I tried to lift it, but it was
too heavy for me;
I tried to move it away, but I
could not remove [it].
The land of Uruk was standing
[The land was gathered around
[The peop]le pressed to [ward
[The men th]ronged around it,
[. . .] while my fellows kissed
I bent over it [as] [over] a
woman [And] put it at [thy] feet,
[And thou thyself didst put] it
on a par with me.'
There is another version of this (both
as translated by Heidel)7 at the beginning of Tablet II in the Old
Babylonian version which is older than the above Assyrian version
and preserves more of the original significance: Gilgamesh arose to
reveal the dream, Saying to his mother:
'My mother, last night I felt
happy and walked about Among the heroes.
There appeared stars in the
[The h]ost of heaven fell down
I tried to lift it but it was
too heavy for me;
I tried to move it, but I could
not move it.
The land of Uruk was gathered
While the heroes kissed its feet.
I put my forehead [firmly] against [it],
And they assisted me.
I lifted it up and carried it to thee.'
Kramer translates the two versions
somewhat differently.8 One of the most important changes occurs in
his translation of what Heidel before him had rendered as 'the host
of heaven'. Kramer renders 'An' not as 'heaven' but as An (or Anu),
the god who was the father of the Anunnaki. And the word which
Heidel renders as 'host' he comments on in a footnote at
As regards ki-sir, there are too many possible meanings.
Furthermore, the one adopted for this passage ('the ki-sir of
Ninurta' earlier than our passage) should also apply to ... the
war-god Ninurta, and the sky-god Anu, Enkidu, and something that
fell down from heaven. The common assumption that the author may
have used in these passages the same term in more than one sense is
In the earlier edition I tried to justify for kisru the rendering
'liegeman' for the several passages in question. I now withdraw that
suggestion. The correct sense, I believe, is indicated by the use of
the term in medical contexts as 'concentration, essence', cf. E.
Ebeling, JCS, IV (1950), 219. 'Essence', or some nuance of this
term, could well be applied to deities as well as to missiles from
heaven. Our poet had in mind, no doubt, some specific allusion, but
the general meaning appears clear enough, Kramer, then, renders 'the
host of heaven' as 'the essence of An', He says:
'Like the essence of Anu it descends
He adds another footnote to comment on
the word 'it' in this sentence:
'One of the stars?'
Kramer also changes the last lines in
the first version:
'[I] was drawn to it as though
to a woman.
And I placed it at [thy] feet,
For thou didst make it vie with me.'
The emphasis here on being 'drawn to it' may be important.
[The wise mother of Gilgamesh, who] is versed in all
Says to her lord;
[Wise Ninsun], who is versed in
Says to Gilgamesh: 'Thy rival, -
the star of heaven.
Which descended upon thee like
[the essence of Anu];
[Thou didst seek to lift it], it
was too stout for thee;
[Thou wouldst drive it off], but
couldst not remove it;
[Thou didst place] it at my
[For it was I who made] it vie
Thou wert drawn to it as though
to a woman -'
Let us look once again at part of the
second version, this time as Kramer gives it:9
'My mother, in the time of night I
felt joyful and I walked about In the midst of the nobles. The
stars appeared in the heavens. The essence of Anu descended
towards me. I sought to lift it; it was too heavy for me! I
sought to move it; move it I could not!'
All this, which we have examined here in
two translations each of two versions, was worth seeing from these
several angles. It helps us cover all the possibilities of meaning.
It should be obvious that the reference is clearly to a star
connected with 'the essence of Anu' which 'draws him towards it' and
is in the area of the (fifty) heroes - and is super-heavy.
Thus we see that in Sumer both the concepts of the heavy star (later
al Wazn) and of the figure 'fifty' associated somehow with that star
In Tablet V of
the Enuma elish we read10 about
the Anunnaki and
something called 'the Bow Star' which is their brother and is in the
midst of them as they are seated in the celestial regions. This Bow
Star is also the daughter of Anu, who raises it up in their midst.
(Remember 'the essence of Anu'.) What is being referred to seems to
Remember the Egyptian goddess Sati (or
Satis) with her bow, who was one of the three goddesses (one was
Sothis and the third was Anukis) riding in the celestial barque of
Sothis (Sirius). Also recall the other connections of the bow with
Sirius, even in China. (And here one must refer to the book Hamlet's
Mill for many examples.11)
Now with particular reference to the
three goddesses which Neugebauer claims are versions of Sothis ('The
goddess Satis, who like her companion Anukis is hardly to be taken
as a separate constellation but rather as an associate of Sothis'),
note the following emphasis on three names for the star, only one of
which is 'Bow Star':
The fifty great gods took their
The seven gods of destiny set up the three hundred [in
Enlil raised the bo[w, his weapon, and laid (it) before
The gods, his fathers, saw the net he had made.
When they beheld the bow, how skilful its shape,
His fathers praised the work he had wrought.
Raising [it], Anu spoke up in the Assembly of the gods,
As he kissed the bow: 'This is my daughter!'
He mentioned the names of the bow as follows:
'Longwood is the first, the second is [. . .];
Its third name is Bow-Star, in heaven I have made it shine.'
He fixed a place which the gods, its brothers, [. . .].
A footnote says of the word 'its' in the
last line: 'Referring to the Bow, as indicated by the feminine
possessive prefix in line 94.' (In Egyptian the word Sept, which is
the name of the star Sirius, also has the meaning 'a kind of wood',
though whether this could be 'longwood' or not is anyone's guess.)
After Anu had decreed the fate
of the Bow,
And had placed the exalted royal throne before the gods,
Anu seated it in the Assembly of the gods.
The phrase 'the Assembly of the gods'
invariably refers to the seated assembly of the fifty Anunnaki. So
it is clearly stated, we see, that this 'Bow Star' -the daughter of
An - was placed by An on the exalted royal throne in the midst of
the fifty Anunnaki. In Egypt, Isis as Sothis was also pictured as
seated on a white royal throne in the heavens. She too was the
daughter of the sky god. Recall also that the hieroglyph for Ast (or
Isis) is a throne. And the hieroglyph for her husband Asar (or
Osiris) is a throne above an eye.
Before proceeding, we had better see who 'the seven gods of destiny'
are. They are often referred to as the seven Anunnaki of the
underworld. This, we shall see, also relates to the Sirius question.
But the use of Anunnaki in this way underscores the total anonymity
of the term 'Anunnaki'. Needless to say, none of these seven
Anunnaki is ever identified as an individual god. They are always
'the seven' underworld gods who determine destiny.
The strictly celestial Anunnaki are also
known as the Igigi. No Sumerologist has satisfactorily explained all
this. It is terribly imprecise and confusing - unless one had a
structure to supply which fits under the cloth and matches the
contours and can thereby be accepted as a tentative basis of
Now let us try to think of what we know is connected with the
celestial Anunnaki and Sirius which also fits into this idea of
there being seven Anunnaki-gods in the underworld. Remember that in
both Sumer and Egypt each god of significance in astronomical terms
has his own ten-day period or 'week'. If we multiply seven (gods)
times ten days we get seventy days. Is there any basis for this
length of time being of significance for the underworld in either
Sumer or Egypt? Yes! In Egypt the underworld is called the Duat (or
Tuat) and the seventy-day period is very significant there and
relates intimately to Sirius, as we have seen in our fairytale.
Parker and Neugebauer say12:
'It is here made clear that Sirius (Sothis)
gives the pattern for all the other decanal stars.'
Sirius was, astronomically, the
foundation of the entire Egyptian religious system. Its celestial
movements determined the Egyptian calendar, which is even known as
the Sothic Calendar. Its heliacal rising marked the beginning of the
Egyptian year and roughly coincided with the flooding of the Nile.
(Plutarch says the Nile itself was sometimes called Sirius.)
This heliacal rising was the occasion of
an important feast. One can imagine a kind of New Year-cum-Easter.
The heliacal rising was the occasion when Sirius again rose into
visibility in the sky after a period of seventy days of being out of
sight, during which time it was conceived of as being in the Duat,
or underworld. A further connection with Anubis comes in here, as
Anubis was conceived of as embalming Sothis for these seventy days
in the Duat. But as we all know, an embalmed mummy is supposed to
come alive again.
And this is what happens to the mummy of
Sothis. Sothis is reborn on the occasion of her heliacal rising.
Parker and Neugebauer also say:13
'During the entire time of its
purification it (Sothis, the star) was considered dead and it
was only with its rising again out of the Duat that it could
once more be considered as living.'
The Egyptians stubbornly clung to the
traditional seventy days as the prototype of an underworld
experience, despite its inconvenience, and, as we have already seen,
'Sirius gives the pattern for all the other decanal stars'. In fact,
it was the practice through all of Egyptian history for there to be
a period of precisely seventy days for the embalming of a human
mummy - in imitation of Sirius. Even during the late Ptolemaic
period, the embalming process invariably lasted the precise period
of seventy days.
Thus we find the explanation of the seven Anunnaki of the
underworld! It is also interesting to note that in ancient Mexico
the underworld was thought to have seven caves.
It is worth noting that in the story Etana,14 about the legendary
King Etana not long after the Great Flood, who had to ascend to
heaven in order to have something done about his inability to have
children (and thereby managed to have a son and heir), mentions 'the
divine Seven' and describes them as Igigi, emphasizing the apparent
interchangeability of the terms Igigi and Anunnaki.
Also 'the great
Anunnaki' are described as 'They who created the regions, who set up
In the 'Descent of Ishtar to the Nether World' 15 the Anunnaki are
described as being brought forth (they are referred to as if they
were stuffed animals being brought out of a closet, dusted off, and
displayed in a taxidermists' contest) and seated on thrones of gold.
Once more the throne concept appears. It seems all the Anunnaki ever
do is sit and be symbolic.
Good little Anunnaki, like poodles, sit and smile at Anu. They are
never given personalities, poor fellows. I might mention that in
this story the nether world is described as having seven gates
leading to seven successive rooms (or caves). It is obvious that the
period of seventy days during which Sirius was 'in the underworld'
to the Egyptians led to a breaking down of the seventy days into
ten-day weeks, each with a god, giving seven gods.
But these seven gods of the underworld
must not have personalities lest there be the distraction of
personal qualities to detract from the purely numerical significance
of the concept. And of course the seven rooms of the seven gods are
successive, leading from 'week' to 'week' until Sirius again rises.
So we see yet another essential link between the early Sumerian
concepts and the Egyptian concepts.
When will Professor Neugebauer take
notice of this and cease ruminating among the late Babylonians and
In later times the god Marduk usurped the central position of the
pantheon from all the other gods in Babylon. The Enuma elish is
largely a description of this process and is basically written to
Marduk, telling of his honors. This was quite an innovation, a real
centralization of power.
'The black-headed people', which is how
the Sumerians usually referred to themselves in their writings (when
the context is sufficiently pious they meekly call themselves 'the
beclouded'; it is also interesting to note that the Egyptians were
known as 'the melampodes' or 'the black-footed people' to the
Greeks!) obviously didn't take to the rise of Marduk with unanimous
acclaim. In many ways the Enuma elish is a blatant propaganda tract
for Marduk, alternately trying to convert and to denounce the
Here we see the author trying to woo
Let his sovereignty be
surpassing having no rival.
May he shepherd the black-headed ones, his creatures.
To the end of days, without forgetting, let them acclaim his
Here, however, we see a more authoritarian approach, where
the sugary smile dissolves:
May he order the black-headed to re[vere him],
But the next moment, compromise comes again in the form of a
mock- tolerance :
Without fail let them support their gods!
Their lands let them improve, build their shrines,
Let the black-headed people wait on their gods.
In other words, the author despairs and goes into a sulk.
For his next words indicate the sentiment, 'We don't need
them, we'll go it alone':
As for us, by however many names we pronounce it, he is our
Let us then proclaim his fifty names!
In other words, the supporters of Marduk
thought the best way to glorify their god was to give him fifty
names. Then, with any luck, he would be omnipotent.
As Marukka, Marduk 'gladdens the heart of the Anunnaki, appeases
their [spirits]'. All the fifty names are given, along with short
comments following each. In a footnote Speiser says, revealingly,
'The text etymologizes the names in
a manner made familiar by the Bible; the etymologies, which
accompany virtually every name on the long list are meant to be
cabalistic and symbolic rather than strictly linguistic,
although some of them happen to be linguistically sound.'
The list ends and we read in the text:
With the title 'Fifty' the great
Proclaimed him whose names are fifty and made his way
This final note adds a last flourish of
emphasis to the importance to the supreme god of the title 'Fifty'
as well as the designation by fifty names.
There is one cluster of names among the fifty given which is of
particular interest. They are Asaru, Asarualim, Asarualimnunna, and
the group of three centered round the similar name Asaruludu (the
other two being Namtillaku and Namru).
I suspect these names of being related
to the Egyptian Asar (Osiris). We have already seen how the An of
Egypt was known in Sumer not only as An but as Anu, picking up a 'u'
ending. It is therefore not so senseless to see in Asaru a Sumerian
form of Asar, with the same 'u' ending added. But the Egyptians
themselves also had an Asaru, or more precisely, an Asar-uu, whom
Wallis Budge describes as 'a form of Osiris worshipped in lower
Since Asaru in Sumer corresponds to Asar-uu in Egypt, what about the
Sumerian Asaruludu? In Egyptian a vegetative Osiris would be known
as Asar-rutu but as is well known, the liquid V and '1' are in
Egyptian entirely interchangeable and represented by the same
So Asar-rutu could just as well be
Asar-lutu, and the lingual 't' as opposed to a dental 't' is
pronounced rather like a 'd', being a softer sound. If we merely
transliterate it thus, we have Asar-ludu. It would mean, 'Osiris of
the growing plants'.
And in fact, in the Sumerian text, we find Asaru described as,
'bestower of cultivation . . . creator of grain
and herbs, who causes vegetation to sprout'.
Immediately after one of the Asaru-names of Marduk in the Enuma
elish we find that his thirteenth name is Tutu. It so happens that
Tutu is the name of an Egyptian god. Wallis Budge describes him as
'a lion-god, son of Neith'. (Wallis Budge says that Neith was: 'One
of the oldest goddesses of Egypt. She was the goddess of hunting and
weaving, but was identified with many other goddesses such as Isis,
Meh-urt, and their attributes were assigned to her.'17)
There is even an Egyptian precedent for
the use of Tutu as one name of a god who has many names. The
Egyptian monster of darkness, Apep,
'possessed many names; to
destroy him it was necessary to curse him by each and every name by
which he was known.'
To make quite sure that this should be done
effectively, the Papyrus of Nesi-Amsu adds a list of such names, and
as they are the foundation of many of the magical names met with in
later papyri they are here enumerated . . .18 And one of these is
Tutu. Surely this almost identical preoccupation with the need to
enumerate every one of the magical names of a god in both countries
must have common origins - especially as the name Tutu is in the
lists of both countries.
It is important to look even closer at the Egyptian god Tutu. In
Heidel's translation of the Enuma elish he gives for Asaruludu the
early Sumerian epithet namshub as opposed to the late Babylonian
form namru - both meaning 'bright', and in the text further
explained as, 'The bright god who brightens our way'.'
In a footnote Heidel explains:
'The poets are here apparently
playing on the Sumerian term shuba, which is equated with the
Babylonian words ebbu, ellu, and namru, all of which mean
Now, what is so interesting is that in
Egyptian the word shu means 'bright' and also describes the sun god
- who is indeed a 'bright god who brightens our way'. So we see that
shu in Egyptian means the same as shuba in Sumerian. Furthermore,
both are made to apply to a description of the sun. Also the
Sumerian shuba is made to refer to Asarluhi, and we may now take
note of the further surprising fact that the Egyptian god' Tutu is,
according to Wallis Budge:
'a form of the god Shu, whose symbol
was a lion walking'.19
So as we examine the material we find an
increasingly complex weave of common patterns in Egypt and early
Sumer both linguistically and in religion- astronomy. Later in the
book we shall see this all reach a meaningful climax.
'The Black Rite' concerned something called 'Night' which was
apparently an object that moves in heaven along with 'the other
mysteries in turn that move in heaven, with ordered motions and
periods of times'. It has less light than the sun and it 'weaves a
web with rapid light'.
Sirius B moves in heaven with ordered motion and period, has less
light than our sun, and distinctly weaves a web with its rapid
motion, since it revolves round Sirius A in much less time than the
planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto revolve around our own sun.
'Night' may thus refer to Sirius B, just as may 'black Osiris' and
In really early times the basic concepts of Egyptian astronomy and
Sumerian astronomy were identical. Later many differences appeared.
Authorities on ancient astronomy tend to give short shrift to the
earlier times, hence the similarities between the two cultures in
this particular field have tended to go unremarked.
In Egypt and Sumer (Babylonia) there were identical systems of
dividing the calendar year into twelve months each composed of three
weeks which lasted ten days apiece. Each week had a constellation of
the night sky associated with it (which in modern parlance we might
describe as 'being a kind of zodiac'). Thirty-six of these weeks
added up only to 360 days, which was less than a year, so the
365-day year was obtained by adding on five extra days at the end.
Identical systems of such complexity in these two cultures mean that
the relationship between Egypt and Sumer must be explored further.
In Sumer the 'fifty great gods' called the Anunnaki were anonymous
as individuals and only ever spoken of as 'the fifty great gods'
with the emphasis on their number. They were literally restricted to
the level of being a numerological cipher. They are continually
invoked and are of importance - but they never did anything but sit
on their thrones and 'be fifty'.
In an early Sumerian tale of their
epic hero Gilgamesh, we find him
accompanied in his adventures by fifty heroes, reminiscent of the
fifty Argonauts who accompanied Jason. 'His teeth are the teeth of a
dragon', we are told - reminiscent of Jason sowing the dragon's
teeth. And Gilgamesh also puts his teeth to the ground (that much we
can gather, but the passage is obscure and he may really be sowing
Each of his fifty heroic companions
carries a specially felled tree for the journey - and the only
reasonable purpose to go around carrying a tree seems to be that
these trees were used as oars, especially as there is an association
with a boat. This again is like the Argonauts. We thus seem to have
found a Near Eastern tale from which the tale of the Argonauts was
derived two thousand years or so later by the Greeks.
Gilgamesh somehow derives strength from putting his teeth to the
ground. In the Greek tale, Jason sows the teeth and they spring up
as strong soldiers - another parallel.
Anubis, who is now familiar to us from Egypt, was identified by the
Greeks with their own god Hermes (known in Latin as Mercury). Hermes
turned the Golden Fleece to gold originally, in the Greek myth. It
was this same Golden Fleece that Jason and the Argonauts sought in
their quest, and which they succeeded in seizing and taking away
In the early Gilgamesh tale of the Sumerians, Gilgamesh and his
fifty proto-Argonauts have some connection with a ship (the text is
tantalizingly fragmented) called 'the Magan-boat'. It should be
remembered that Magan is the Sumerian name for Egypt.
Hence the boat is connected with Egypt.
All the Greek Argonauts were related to one another and more or less
anonymous as individuals - reminiscent of the earlier Sumerian
'fifty heroes' accompanying Gilgamesh and also the 'fifty great
gods' known as Anunnaki.
The Greek ark of Deukalion came to rest after the Flood at Dodona,
from where the Argo received its guiding timber. The ark and the
Argo apparently were related in other ways too.
Professor Cyrus Gordon has written an important book on common
origins of Greek and Hebrew cultures from the Egyptian-Sumerian
milieu of the cosmopolitan world of the ancient Mediterranean (see
The 'fifty great gods' of Sumer, the Anunnaki, are invariably
seated. Sacred oarsmen or Argonauts are all, of course, invariably
seated while they are rowing. 'The fifty who sit' and 'the fifty who
sit and row' seem to be a motif.
The other element besides the eye in the Osiris-name hieroglyph is
the throne, which is the hieroglyph for Isis as well. The throne is
a divine seat. The Sumerians frequently intoned of the Anunnaki that
they were 'they who are seated on their thrones'; or sometimes for a
bit more drama, 'the fifty great gods took their seats'. (Of course
they did nothing even then.)
The Egyptian Anubis (Anpu) was a god 'of the hill'. The Sumerian god
Anu's wife was a goddess 'of the hill'.
The older form of the Sumerian word for hill, hursagga, may be
derived from the Egyptian Heru-sa-agga, where 'agga' refers to
Anubis (who was 'of the hill'). There are many other word and name
similarities between Egypt and Sumer.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh a dream of Gilgamesh is described where he
encounters a heavy star that cannot be lifted despite immense
effort. This star descends from heaven to him and is described as
connected with Anu (who is the god of heaven). Thus we find 'the
heavy star' concept in Babylonia long before the Arabs even existed
and were to have their star in the Great Dog (and the other in Argo)
called 'Weight' and described as 'the heavy star'.
Gilgamesh is drawn to this heavy star irresistibly, in a manner
described in a way that seems to hint at a kind of gravitational
attraction (to those, that is, who are conscious of a 'heavy star'
like Sirius B being gravitationally powerful as well as 'heavy').
The Epic of Gilgamesh refers to
'the essence of Anu' possessed by the star. The word rendered as
'essence' is used elsewhere in medical contexts referring to
'concentration, essence' - an intimation of super-dense matter? This
'concentrated star essence of Anu' was too heavy for Gilgamesh to
lift in his dream.
It must be recalled that Gilgamesh had his fifty companions in the
early versions of the Epic (they were discarded later, by Babylonian
times). Hence connected with Gilgamesh we find:
Fifty anonymous companions
seemingly important only as a numerological element in the
story and in later times discarded as useless,
A super-heavy star connected
with An (also an Egyptian name of Osiris, husband of Isis
who was identified with Sirius),
A description of the star as
being composed of a 'concentrated essence' and of having
extreme powers of attraction described in a manner
reminiscent of gravitational attraction.
These elements comprise almost a
complete description of Sirius B: a super-heavy gravitationally
powerful star made of concentrated super-dense matter ('essence')
with the number fifty associated with it (describing its period?) -
and connected with An (Anu), which we know to be linked in Egypt
(and Gilgamesh's 'Magan-boat' seems Egyptian) with Sirius.
Back to Contents
In Pritchard, Ancient Near
Also in Pritchard, ibid.
Pub. by W. W. Norton & Co., New
York, 1965. An earlier edition of this book had a different
title: Before the Bible.
The Sumerians, University of
Chicago Press, 1963, p. 67.
Also in Pritchard, op. cit.
Journal of the American Oriental
Society, 64 (1944), p. 11.
Heidel, Alexander, The Gilgamesh
Epic and Old Testament Parallels, University of Chicago
Pritchard, op. cit.
Ibid. Also see p. 514, Addenda:
New Text Fragments, in same vol.
de Santillana, Giorgio, and von
Dechend, Hertha, Hamlet's Mill, Macmillan & Company Ltd;
Egyptian Astronomical Texts,
Vol. I, p. 74.
Ibid., p. 73.
Pritchard, op. cit., p. 114.
Ibid. p. 106.
In Pritchard, ibid.
Book of the Dead, trans, by
Wallis Budge, p. 176, n.
Wallis Budge, The Gods of the
Egyptians, Vol. I, p. 326.
Wallis Budge, op. cit., Vol. I,