- The Holy Land
Ancient ritual the world over conceived the terrestrial ruler as the incarnation of the Universal Monarch. By the same principle each local city or kingdom became a transcript of the god-king’s primeval domain. The sanctified territory on earth was laid out according to a cosmic plan, revealed in remote times.
On this priority of the cosmic dwelling all major traditions concur. A celestial Sumer and Akkad preceded the organization of the actual Mesopotamian kingdoms. And such settlements as Eridu, Erech, Babylon, and Lagash took their names from a heavenly city occupied by the central sun.
Every Egyptian town—Heliopolis, Herakleopolis, Memphis, Abydos, Thebes, Hermopolis—mirrored a prototype, a “city in which the sun shone forth in the beginning.” So did Egypt as a whole, according to the ritual, reproduce the dwelling gathered together and unified by the creator.
Hebrew tradition knew a heavenly Jerusalem which gave its name to the terrestrial city; and what the Hebrews claimed of their city, the Muslims claimed of Mecca. The Chinese declared their kingdom to be a copy of the celestial empire, and each capital city imitated the same plan.
In unison, diverse traditions of the Near East, Europe, Asia, and the Americas recall a Holy Land par excellence, founded and ruled by the creator himself. From this Saturnian kingdom every nation took instruction in the ideals of kingship and in the proper organization of the sacred domain.
The Mother Land
In the creation myth the great god raised a circular plot of “earth” from the cosmic waters. The enclosure was Saturn’s paradise—the kingdom of heaven—appearing as a vast wheel or throne turning about the stationary god.
In seeming reference to the fertile soil around us, the Latin poet Virgil celebrates the “mother of harvests” and “the mighty mother of men.” But he gives the great goddess of fertility an intriguing title: “Saturn’s Earth.”
Why Saturn’s Earth? The curiosity increases when one notices that the Sumerian An, Enki, and Ninurta—all identified as Saturn— rule “in the Ekur.” The translators render Ekur as “earth.”418 So also did Chinese astronomy deem Saturn the planet of the “earth,”419 while the Phoenician Saturn is said to have dwelt “in the centre of the earth.”
The Egyptian “earth god” is Seb (or Geb). That is, writes Budge, “the earth formed his body and was called the ‘house of Seb. 420 ‘“ But if Seb’s body was the earth, why did the Greek historian Plutarch translate Seb as Kronos (Saturn)?421
What connection of the planet Saturn and the “earth” might have justified this identity? Of course the common English translation, “earth,” naturally suggests to the modern mind our planet suspended in space. But to the ancients no such detached view was possible. They knew only a terrestrial region, however large or small. In archaic ritual, the terms which experts translate as “earth” mean literally “land,” “place,” “province”; and the only region which the ancients considered worthy of sanctification as the “land” was their own unified state or nation—all else belonging to the “barbarians.”
But every sacred “land” organized around a religious-political centre proclaimed itself a copy of the primeval dwelling in heaven. Thus the Egyptian ta, often rendered as “earth,” refers first and foremost to the heavenly province of the creator—the ta ab (“pure land”), ta nefer (“beautiful land”), ta sheta (“mysterious land”), ta ankhtet (“land of life”), or ta ur (“great land”). Such terms are synonymous with ta Tuat, the “land of the Tuat,” the cosmic dwelling of Osiris or Re. In naming terrestrial Egypt ta, the Egyptians gave their homeland the name of the cosmic “place” par excellence.
Ta signifies the cosmic dwelling “gathered together” by the creator. That the Egyptians conceived the ta as the “body of Seb” corresponds with everything we have learned of the primeval enclosure. Of equal significance is Seb’s hieroglyphic symbol, the egg . The myths say that the egg of Seb is that from which the sun first shone forth (i.e., it is the same as the revolving egg of Atum, the egg of the Cosmos). This so-called “world egg” has no connection with our planet.
Nor did the Sumerian Ekur, “earth,” denote our planet. As observed by Jensen, Langdon, and others, the Ekur appears as the celestial home of the creator.422 Ake Sjoberg and E. Bergmann state the identity bluntly.423 The Sumerians knew this celestial domain as the ki”—the place” or “the land”—invoked as ki-sikil-la, the “pure land” or “pure place,” and ki-gal, “great land.”424
The Sumerian ki was the Assyrian Esara, the supreme “place.” Rather than familiar geography, the term refers to the created land of cosmic beginnings. Thus Esara, according to Jensen, was used with special reference to “the earth as it appeared at the creation.”425 Equivalent is the “celestial land” of Hindu myth,426 or the “pure land” of the Buddhists.427 No greater mistake could be made than to seek a geographical location of this lost land.
Ancient cosmology locates the primordial “place,” not “down here,” but at the celestial pole, the centre and summit. In Egyptian thought, states Clark, the celestial pole is “that place” or “the great city.” Here dwells the “Master of the Primeval Place.” 428 When the god in the Coffin Texts proclaims, “I am the creator who sits in the supreme place,” the reference is to the polar abode, Clark tells us.429 Iranian astronomy drew on the same tradition when it designated the celestial pole as Gah, which means simply “the place,” the dwelling of “the Great One in the Middle of the Sky.”430
In Iranian cosmology it is Saturn who occupies the polar Gah, “place”—just as it is Saturn who, in the form of the polar An, rules the Sumerian “pure place.” Hence, one could properly call this domain “Saturn’s Land,” or “Saturn’s Province.” And this simple relationship enables us to understand why the ancients, who regarded their own sacred territory as a duplication of the celestial dwelling, extolled the fertile soil as “Saturn’s Earth.”
The Egyptian Paradise
A clarification of the Egyptian concept will help to illuminate the general tradition. One of the features of the Egyptian ta, “land,” which has encouraged its identification with our earth is its mythical character as a garden or field of abundance. To reside in the ta is to live in the Garden of Hetep. Many descriptions of this primeval domain do indeed sound very much like a terrestrial paradise. The land is filled with wheat or barley, and the inhabitants drink of beer and cool waters. In the Book of the Dead, the deceased king announces, “I know the names of the domains, the districts and the streams within the Garden of Hetep
. . . there is given to me the abundance . . .”431 The Pyramid Texts depict the deceased king drinking oil and wine and living off “the bread of eternity” and “the beer of everlastingness.”432
The Egyptians deemed the meadow of peace and plenty at once the ancestral land and the future home of those yet to pass beyond. Many writers, of course, recognize the Garden of Hetep as an early—perhaps the earliest—mythical expression of the lost paradise. Its underlying nature, however, has yet to be penetrated by the conventional schools.
To anyone willing to consider the entire context of Egyptian evidence, it should be clear that the primeval land produced by the creator and imbued with overflowing abundance was celestial. Those who attain the Garden of Hetep reach the heaven of the creator. The deceased king in the Pyramid Texts goes “to see his father Osiris.” He announces: “I have gone to the great island in the midst of the Sekhtet Hetepet [Garden of Hetepet] on which the swallow-gods alight; the swallows are the Imperishable Stars . . . I will eat of what you eat. I will drink of what you drink, and you will give satiety to me at the pole . . . You shall set me to be a magistrate among the Khu, the Imperishable Stars in the north of the sky, who rule over offerings and protect the reaped corn, who cause this to go down to the chiefest of the food-spirits who are in the sky.”433
Let us analyze this important text, which combines several Egyptian interpretations of the celestial garden. As used above, the term Hetepet signifies “abundance” or “food offerings.” so that the Garden of Hetepet is the Garden of Abundance or Garden of Food Offerings in heaven. Hetepet possesses a root sense of “gathering together” or “uniting” (much like temt, “collecting,” “gathering together”), a meaning which is vital to the symbolism as a whole.
Hetepet is, of course, inseparable from hetep, “rest,” “standing in one place.” The Garden of Hetepet is the Garden of Hetep. One can reasonably speak of the Garden as the dwelling of rest and abundance (i.e., “peace and plenty”), gathered together by the creator. The symbolism is, as I shall attempt to show, much deeper than standard interpretations would suggest.
In the midst of the celestial garden is the “great island,” whose inhabitants—the swallow-gods—are the Akhemu-Seku (“never-corrupting” ones), here translated as “the Imperishable Stars.” The Egyptians also called these divinities Akhemu-Urtu (“never-resting” ones), conventionally identified as circumpolar stars who, revolving around the polar axis, never sink beneath the horizon. But the foregoing text identifies these gods as more than “stars” (in the modern sense of the word). They are the Khu (“words of power” or “light spirits”), which erupted directly from the creator. There is a vast body of evidence to show that these secondary light gods were themselves the abundant “food” or “offerings” of the celestial garden and that this is what the above hymn means when it speaks of the “food-spirits.”
The flowing beer (or wine) and the field of grain (wheat, barley, corn) are, in fact, indistinguishable from the primeval sea of words (secondary gods) which sprang from the creator and which the great god gathered together to form the enclosure of the primeval island—his own “body.” On the “great island in the midst of the Garden of Hetepet” the fiery particles (Khu, Akhemu-Urtu) “alighted,” collectively forming the enclosure. If, in one myth, the god’s shining “words” congealed into the island, in another, the isle was produced from the luminous “grain of heaven.” The “words of power,” the “grain,” and the “company of the gods” represented interrelated mythical interpretations of the primeval matter ejected by the creator. In the imagination of the Egyptians the creator collected the grain from the celestial field (sometimes called the Sekhet-Sasa or “Field of Fire”), and produced the enclosure as the “granary of the gods”—the house of abundance which every king hoped to
attain upon death. The grain served as the “dough” from which the creator fashioned his dwelling; and it is this crucial relationship which explains the interconnected meanings of the Egyptian term paut or pautti—signifying at once the “primeval matter” (company of gods) and “dough” or “bread.” The creator organized the company of gods (the grain) into the revolving Cosmos, conceived as a celestial land of abundance.
primeval matter = creative “words” = secondary gods = grain of heaven (dough, bread)
In their ceremonies the Egyptians reenacted the creation on a microcosmic scale by fashioning ritual dough cakes used in offerings to the dead. These cakes of paut symbolized the created “land” or “earth,” produced from the overflowing grain of heaven. Thus, while the Egyptian ta means “land,” ta also means “bread” or “cakes.” Such interrelated terminology pervades the Egyptian language. A review of this usage reveals two consistent principles:
- The lesser gods (children, servants, assistants) coincide with the “dough”—the beer and grain which erupted from the creator. (Prior to unification as the “land,” or Cosmos, the fiery particles compose the sea of Chaos and thus may be termed “fiends” or “demons” of )
- The organized dwelling (“land,” “city,” “place,” “domain”) coincides with the “granary” and the molded “cake” or “bread” of heaven.
Here are a few of the many examples:
The “children” of the great god are the pert, “things which appear”; but pert also means “grain.” The texts describe the beer and grain (the children) as pert er kheru, “appearing at [or as] the words” of the creator. Thus, while akhib means “to speak,” akhabu signifies “grain,” and the inhabitants of the heavenly dwelling are the Akhabiu.
Similarly, seru means at once “grain” and “princes” or “chiefs”; both uses are inseparable from ser, “to command,” and serui, “flame.” Properly understood the “grain” and the “princes” refer to the same fiery material mythically perceived as the creator’s flaming “commands.”
Though heq signifies the “ale’ or “beer” spit out by the creator, it also means “to command.”
If aut is “radiance” or “glory” (compare khu), the same word signifies “abundance.” But aut derives from au, “children.” The abundant wheat and barley—i.e., the light spirits who glorify the creator—are brought forth as the god’s own offspring.
Henu means the “servants” of the great god, who “go round about” (hennui); but henu also denotes “abundance.” The lush growth of the celestial abode is the hen, but the same word signifies the “glory” or “majesty” of the ruling divinity. From the notion that the celestial lights “glorify” the creator, it is a very short step to the idea that they “praise “ him or “sing prayers” to him. Thus hen means also “to praise.”
Accordingly, the word tebhu means “abundance” but also “prayers.” (One should not attempt to distinguish the “prayers” from the praying gods; those who glorify the great god are the glory.)
So also does senem mean, at once, “abundance” and “to pray,” “adore.”
While “grain” is shert, the related term sherriu signifies the “little gods.”
Fenkhu means “abundance,” but the same word denotes the inhabitants of the celestial land.
Ahau means “food” but also the dwellers in the “land.”
Hetepet means “abundance,” while the hetepetiu are the secondary gods. Khefa is “food,” but the Kheftiu are the “fiends” of Chaos (eventually organized into the unified dwelling).
Betu means the “grain” or “barley” of heaven, but also the “demons.”
Just as the secondary gods compose the “limbs” or “members” of the central sun, so does the grain. An Egyptian term for “grain” is atpet, manifestly derived from at, “limb,” and pet, “heaven.” The grain becomes the “limbs of heaven” (or of the Heaven Man).
Thus nepu signifies “limb” or “flesh,” while neper means “grain.” The primeval abode is Nepert, i.e., the land formed from the grain.
Gathered together by the creator, the grain becomes the enclosure of the primeval land—the “granary” or the
“bread” of the gods (symbolized by the dough cakes employed in the rites of the dead). Thus, while shen ( , ) denotes the “bond” or “cord” in which the great god dwells, shena means at once “granary” and “body” (the god’s body encompasses the grain). Shenti also means “granary,” but the same word signifies “garment.” (The garment—belt, girdle, collar—is the organized band of grain.) Symbolizing this celestial enclosure are the shens, or sacrificial cakes.
Peq is a name of the celestial land; and the great god’s garment (=land) is peqt. But peqt also means the “cake” of the gods.
Similarly, sesher is the god’s garment, while seshert denotes the cake or bread of heaven.
Qefenu is a name of the god’s dwelling, while qefen signifies the sacred “cake.”
Nes means both “grain” and “fire.” (The field of grain is the field of fire.) In the rites the grain is fashioned into the nest or sacrificial cake. But nest also denotes the “throne” of the creator. (Creator’s throne = primeval land;)
The benet are light-spirits who accompany the creator. Helping to explain the term is the related word bennut, signifying the “matter” or “fluid” which erupted from the solitary god. This primeval matter forms the sacred cake, for “cake” or “bread” is bennu. Bener, a name of the created land, derives from the same root.
The “food-spirits” gathered together to form the primeval enclosure are the “builders” of the god’s home. Thus, the “beer” which flows from the creator is aqet, but aqet also denotes a “builder” or “mason”—i.e., one of the aqetu who fashion the celestial dwelling.
The language repeats the same connections again and again:
- secondary light gods = celestial abundance (grain, beer, )
- unified dwelling of god = celestial abundance (grain, land, body, garment, beer, etc.) gathered into organized form, i.e., as “cake” or “bread.”
It is clear that, in Egyptian ritual, the sacred cakes meant much more than mere “bread.” The cakes were symbols of the great god and his creation—the Garden of Abundance. The celestial prototype of the cake was the island of beginnings, which the creator organized from a previously chaotic sea of “beer and grain.” That the Egyptians conceived the unified “land” or celestial “bread” as the body of the creator is crucial to the symbolism; in eating the cake, or in drinking the sanctified beer, the initiates symbolically enjoyed the abundance of the primeval age, or, what is the same thing, they consumed the body of the creator. (I shall not distract from the present discussion by elaborating parallels in later religious symbolism.)
The interrelated terminology identifies the primeval ta, “land,” with the enclosure of the central sun . The Egyptians knew that the primeval garden lay within the circle of the Aten. (“Thou makest thy creations in thy great Aten,” reads the Litany of Re.)434 Thus the Egyptians denoted the garden of Re by combining the Aten glyph with
the glyph for “garden”: .
The significance of such imagery seems to have escaped mythologists: the lost “homeland” of global lore was the original dwelling of the sun-god. Of the Egyptian han or “homeland,” Reymond writes: “The Sun-God was believed to operate from his birthplace . . . In its essential nature the primeval sacred domain was the very place from which the Radiance issued first.”435 This “sacred domain” was the island of ta, the celestial earth.
Egyptian sources term the created domain Neter-ta—the “Holy Land” or “God’s Earth.” Here occurred the primordial dawn. That is, it was from Neter-ta that the stationary sun shone forth. A hymn to Amen-Re, for example, invokes the sun-god as the “Beautiful Face, who comest [shines] from Neter-ta.”436 No wonder that Egyptologists confuse this Holy Land with the terrestrial east—the place of the solar sunrise!
The exact counterpart of the Egyptian Neter-ta is the Sumerian Dilmun, the “clear and radiant” dwelling of the gods, ruled by the Universal Monarch Enki. Dilmun, according to Sumerian hymns, is “the place where the sun rises.” 437 And many thousands of miles from Mesopotamia the natives of Hawaii recall an ancestral land, Tahiti Na, “our peaceful motherland: the tranquil land of Dawn.”438 So also did the Hindus, Persians, Chinese, and many American Indian tribes conceive the lost paradise as the place of the “sunrise.”439
The World Wheel
That Saturn, the primeval sun, first shed its light from the circle of the created “earth” will explain why the celestial land often appears as a great wheel revolving around stationary sun. It may be called alternately the “world wheel,” “world mill,” or “chariot.” And this turning wheel of the Holy Land is consistently represented by the signs and .
Hindu descriptions of the cosmic wheel affirm that the ancient sun stands at the centre, as the Chakravartin or “wheel-turner.” From the stationary pivot of the wheel, the Universal Monarch “directs the movement without participating in it himself,” states Guenon.440
On the Buddhist iconography of the world wheel, Coomaraswamy writes: “He whose seat is on the lotiform nave or navel of the wheel, and himself unmoving sets and keeps it spinning, is the ruler of the world, of all that is natured and extended in the
middle region, between the essential nave and the natural felly.”441 The organized “world” lies within the ever-turning rim . The Buddhists regard this sacred domain as both an ancestral paradise and “the situation of the Goal,”442 the heaven reached by the deceased.
Buddhist myths say that a plot of “land” congealed out of the cosmic waters to form a band around the great father, becoming the “golden wheel”: “The surface of these waters, just as in the Brahmanical cosmology and in Genesis, is stirred by the dawn wind of creation. The foam of the waters solidifies to form the golden circle (Kancana-mandala) or ‘Land of Gold’ (Kancana-bhumi), the same as Hsuan-tsang’s ‘golden wheel’ and representing ‘the foundations of the earth’ . . . The surface of the Land of Gold is the Round of the World.”443
That the world wheel stood at the stationary pole is confirmed by the Buddhist account of the primeval “wheel king”—owner of a “wheel whose steadfastness was the measure of his fitness to rule.” He was “a universal king,” “a righteous king ruling in righteousness, lord of the four quarters of the earth.” (The four quarters were the four divisions of the wheel .) The myth states not only that the revolving wheel remained in a stationary position, but that a fall from its fixed place would mean the death of the ruler. “If the Celestial Wheel of a Wheel-turning king shall sink down, shall slip down from its place, that king has not much time to live . . .”444 That is, of course, exactly what happened: the wheel fell, the Universal Monarch died, and the world was thrown into confusion.
One is reminded of the Zoroastrian world wheel called the Spihr. This ever-turning wheel was the “body” of Zurvan, or Time, the planet Saturn. Throughout the primordial epoch, the wheel of the Spihr remained in one spot; and its fall coincided with the collapse of the prosperous age.445
In many myths Saturn’s earth-wheel acquires the poetic form of an enormous mill churning out abundance. An old Icelandic tradition, for example, knew the mill as the fabulous possession of Amlodhior Frodhi under whose rule mankind enjoyed peace and prosperity. Recruited by Frodhi to work the mill were two giant maidens, who day and night turned the massive wheel, grinding out gold and happiness. But like all fabled wheels, Frodhi’s mill eventually broke down, causing the death of the great monarch.
As shown by de Santillana and von Dechend, Frodhi was the planet Saturn.446 The authors (whose work is titled Hamlet’s Mill) review widespread traditions of the cosmic mill—from Iceland to Finland to India to Greece—finding many unexpected connections with the same remote planet. (Not once, however, do the two writers wonder whether the tradition of the Saturnian wheel may have originated in the actual observation of a band around the planet.)
As the possession of the Universal Monarch, the mill lies in the farthest north and is regularly identified with the “pole” or “axis” of the world. The Finnish Kalevala locates the mill (here called the Sampo) on a great rock in “North Farm,” the polar garden of plenty. The hero Ilmarinen:
. . . forged the Sampo skillfully: on one side a grain mill, on the second side a salt mill, in the third a money [i.e., gold] mill.
Then the Sampo ground away, the lid of many colours went round and round.447
This cosmic mill, too, broke down, bringing wholesale disorder. And if the Finnish Sampo is a late and fanciful version of the mill, the linguists now recognize the Sampo’s connection with the older skambha of Hindu ritual.448 In the Atharva Veda the Skambha (meaning “pole”) appears as the “golden embryo” and the “frame of creation,” a mill-like edifice “which poured forth the gold within the world.” The Vedic hymn equates the mill (Skambha) with the whole creation. The body of the Skambha houses the life elements and the gods; it is the “ancient one” or “great monster,” whose veins are the four quarters of the world (i.e., ). That the cosmic mill is at once the Universal Monarch’s body and the created paradise will immediately explain why, in the general tradition, the collapse of the great wheel coincides with the death of the god-king and the sinking of the lost land into the waters of the Abyss.
Nothing so confuses the underlying theme as the habit, begun long ago, of conceiving the primordial wheel, or island of “earth,” in terrestrial terms. Could the landscape familiar to the ancients have produced the many interrelated images of the turning wheel?
The One-Wheeled Chariot
The great god sits enthroned within the celestial earth as in a one-wheeled chariot. Thus, in Scandinavian rock carvings the symbol —the universal sign of the world wheel—may either appear alone or as the wheel of a celestial wagon. All ancient sun-gods seem to own such a wheel or chariot. The one-wheeled chariot of the Hindu Surya clearly answers to the same
cosmic form as “the high-wheeled chariot” of the Iranian Mithra.449 An early form was the famous sun wheel of the Babylonian Shamash.
15. The wheel of Shamash, held in place by a cord
- Triptolemus riding on a single
- The wheel of
- Hebrew Yahweh on a single
Greek art depicts the great father Dionysus seated upon a one-wheeled chariot, much like that of the old god Triptolemos. In the Astronomica of Hyginus one finds Triptolemos remembered as “the first of all to use a single wheel.” 450 Argive tradition held that the father of Triptolemos was Trochilos, “he of the wheel,” whom some identified as the inventor of the first chariot. The Greeks of Chios knew the primeval god Gyrapsios, “he of the round wheel.” 451 Obviously, none of these wheels or wheel gods can be separated from the famous wheel of Ixion, set loose in a celestial conflagration. The Hebrew Yahweh similarly sits upon a single wheel.
While modern commentators offer competing interpretations of the cosmic wheel—the chariot of the gods— few stop to notice the link with Saturn. Cook, for example, after a prolonged study of ancient wheel symbolism, acknowledges Kronos (Saturn) as the old wheel or “disk” bearer, but is not inclined to draw any conclusions from this.452 The “inventor” of the wheel, or “chariot,” was the now-distant planet. This is what the Chinese tell us when they report that the god- king Huang-ti, who is identified with the planet Saturn, was the first to use the wheeled chariot. In more than one of the illustrations presented here the cosmic wheel serves as the throne of the ruling god. L’Orange calls this “the throne chariot,” noting many examples in the ancient Near East.453 One of the divinities to sit upon such a chariot (or wheel-throne) is the Hebrew Yahweh, whose seat is “the wheel of the throne of his glory.”454 (The god’s revolving throne is the circle of “glory”—that is, his own “halo.”)
If later art showed the god on the wheeled seat, the original motif has the god in it, for the throne revolves around the god. Here, for example, is a verse from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, revealing a little noticed aspect of the cosmic throne: “O my Seat, O my Throne, come ye to me, and go ye round about me, O ye gods. I am a sah [luminous body], therefore let me rise up [shine] among those who follow [go around] the great god.455 When the deceased king attains the celestial throne he stands within the revolving circle of the gods, the “followers” of the central sun. The Edfu texts call this the “throne-of-gods,” for the divine assembly itself forms the wheel of the throne.456
19. The Celtic god of the wheel.
- Anglo-Saxon Seater, with
Denoted by the throne or wheel-throne is the plot of ta, “land,” which first emerged from the cosmic sea. The creator brought forth the revolving circle of earth as his “primeval seat.” Reymond writes: “The Earth was caused to emerge from Nun by virtue of the radiance of the Sun-God who was believed to dry up the water around his primeval seat.” 457 This plot of created “earth” was the han or “homeland,” which the texts call neset, the “throne.”458
The implications reach far beyond Egypt and bear directly on the wide-ranging myths of cosmic chariots and primeval mills noted above. What one usually regards as two separate themes—the “chariot of the sun” and the “world wheel”—converge in a single image: the wheel of Saturn, the primeval sun. That the ancients denoted the “sun wheel” and the created “earth” by one and the same sign was no coincidence.
The City of Heaven
The Saturn myth tells us not only that the planet-god ruled the Holy Land as the first king but that he founded the first city. Saturn’s “city” means “Saturn’s Earth.”
The great god lives
fixed in the middle of the sky . . .
dweller in the city.459
This is the pronouncement of the Egyptian Coffin Texts. The cosmic city is the Primeval Place: “I have come to this city, the region of the ‘First Time’ to be . . . a dweller in ‘this land.’460 “ Thus the Egyptians invoke a celestial Memphis, “the divine emerging primeval island”; a celestial Thebes, “the island emerging in Nun which first came into being”; a celestial Hermonthes, “the high ground which grew out of Nun,” or “the egg which originated in the beginning”461; a celestial Elephantine, the “city in the midst of the waters,” or the “throne of Re”462; and a celestial Abydos, the ta-ur or “Great (Primeval) Land.”463
The integrated symbolism—though at times complex—never departs from the underlying idea of an enclosure around the central sun. The imagery concerns “the original state of the world,” rather than a terrestrial city, states Clark. 464 Depicted is the city of the “dawn” or of the “sun’s coming forth.” The tradition is universal. Mention Erech and historians naturally think of the ancient city in southern Mesopotamia. But the Erech invoked in the ritual is no terrestrial habitation. It is:
Erech, the handiwork of the gods, The great wall touching the sky,
The lofty dwelling place established by Anu.465
The creator An (Anu)—who is the planet Saturn—dwelt in the uru-ul-la, “the city of former times”—not a city on earth but the embryo of the Cosmos, according to Van Dijk.466 Ruling from the “midst of heaven,” An shines as “the hero of the sacred city on high.”467 This is the “city founded by An . . . Place where the great gods dine, filled with radiance and awe . . .” 468 The hymns call it “the great city,” and “the place where the sun rises.”469
All Mesopotamian traditions describe the celestial city as the original garden of abundance—“the dais of plenty . . . the pure place . . . Its heart like a distant shrine . . . Its feasts flow with fat and milk, are rich with abundance.”470
Thus did the Sumerians recall the lost land of Dilmun as “the primeval city”:
Dilmun, the city thou hast founded . . . Lo, thy city drinks water in abundance. Lo, Dilmun drinks water in abundance.471
Egyptian and Mesopotamian descriptions of the cosmic city make clear that this habitation was the same enclosure as the lost paradise, and the identity persists in Hebrew and Muslim thought, which continually associates Adam’s paradise with a cosmic Jerusalem. The light of the Jerusalem above was provided by God himself. “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure fold, like unto glass.” 472 One of the Psalms glorifies the celestial Jerusalem as “Sublime in elevation in the uttermost north . . . the City of the King.”473 The heavenly city lay at the cosmic centre; it was the first thing created by God; and it was surrounded by the primeval sea. The image, observes Faber, is “plainly borrowed from the garden of Eden.”
The Hebrews also preserved the tradition of a primordial city of Tyre, similarly identified with Eden. 474 In Ezekiel we read:
“O Tyre, you have said,
‘I am perfect in beauty.’
Your borders are in the heart of the seas . . . You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering.”475
This equation of the cosmic city and the original paradise finds numerous parallels in other traditions. The Persian vara fashioned by Ahura Mazda is at once the first city and the lost paradise. 476 The “all-containing city of Brahma” at the pole merges into the paradisal plain of Ila;477 the Imperial City of the Chinese Shang-ti coincides with the mythical paradise of Kwen-lun;478 while the Mexican lost city of Aztlan (“surrounded by waters”) and the Mayan lost city of Tula (the “enclosure” in the sea) both appear as gardens of abundance.479
A coherent pattern unifies what are often assumed to be unrelated myths and symbols: the created “earth,” the lost paradise, the wheel of the sun, the revolving throne, and the cosmic city. While the mythical formulations vary, all point to the same band housing the central sun.
Surely it is of significance that, while these images are often dissociated in later myths, they constantly overlap in the earliest versions. The Aztecs may have forgotten that the lost city was the throne of the creator; and perhaps many Greek cults no longer remembered that the Island of the Blessed was the turning wheel of the sun, but such connections are central to the world’s oldest cosmologies.
The interrelationships are clearly evident in the image of the mother goddess, who unites in a single personality the varied aspects of the celestial earth: paradise, wheel, throne, and city.
The Egyptian great mother—whether called Isis, Nut, Hathor, Mut, or Neith—is nebt en neter ta, “the Lady of the Holy Land” or “the Lady of God’s Earth.” The “island of earth,” according to the Pyramid Texts, lies “between the thighs of Nut.”480 If one permits the Egyptian concept to illuminate later symbolism of the “mother earth” one sees that the supposed distinction between earth goddesses and sky goddesses lacks foundation. “God’s Earth” means Saturn’s Earth, and this mother land, circumscribed by the womb of the goddess, is the enclosure of the central sun .
Nor can one fail to notice that the hieroglyph for the goddess Nut —“the holy abode—“is the form of a wheel and an obvious prototype of the “world wheels” so common to Eastern symbolism. Isis, in the classical age, was also symbolized by a wheel.481
Mesopotamian cults represented the goddess Ishtar, “the womb,” by a wheel. The Hindu goddess Rta is the “wheel of law” controlling the cosmic cycle, while the goddess Ila personifies the chakra or world wheel. The name of the Celtic goddess Arianrhod means “silver wheel.” One is reminded also of the iynx wheel of Aphrodite and the wheels of Tyche, Nemesis, and Fortuna, all of which appear to reflect a common idea. As the stable, ever-turning circle of the Cosmos, the goddess eventually became the abstract “wheel of Mother Nature.”482
And when one realizes that the wheel served as the great father’s revolving throne it can come as no surprise to discover that, in the archaic terminology, “throne” and “goddess” are synonymous. “The seated great mother,” states Neumann, “is the original form of the
- The goddess Nemesis, with wheel of
‘enthroned goddess,’ and also of the throne itself. As mother and earth woman the Great Mother is the ‘throne’ pure and simple . . . The king comes to power by ‘mounting the throne’ and so takes his place on the lap of the Great Goddess, the earth—he becomes her son.”483
In the Hindu kingship rites reviewed by Hocart, “the king is made to sit on a throne which represents the womb.”484 But the identity of the throne and womb is as old as human language: the Egyptian hieroglyph for Isis, the womb of heaven, is a simple throne .
But the same mother goddess encloses the cosmic city. The determinative of “city” in the Egyptian hieroglyphs is simply the sign of the “holy abode” , the goddess Nut. The Pyramid Texts invoke the goddess, “in this your name of ‘settlements,’ . . . in this your name of ‘City.’485 “ while the Book of the Dead extols the great mother as “Lady of terrors, lofty of walls.”486
The Egyptian city-goddess finds a close parallel in the Babylonian goddess Ura-azaga, whose name means “brilliant town.”487 Tyro, the mother goddess of the Tyrians, gave the Greeks their word tyrsis, “walled city.”488 To enter the celestial city is to find shelter in the primeval womb. Thus the refuge of Delphi is “the womb” and Jerusalem “the city of the heavenly womb.”489
In the New Testament (Book of Revelation) one finds a fascinating equation of primeval goddess and primeval city. In his vision, John beholds “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication . . . and upon her forehead was a name written, ‘MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Who was this “mother of harlots”? The angel explains: “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” 490 The language points to the ancient rites of kingship, in which every local ruler took as his consort the city (womb) on the cosmic waters.
In ranging over the myths and symbols of the created earth, paradise, wheel, throne, and city, one thus remains in the shadow of a single mother goddess, who contains within her womb the first organized domain in heaven, the island of Saturn’s Cosmos .
The Enclosure as Prototype
In dealing with the myths and symbols of the Holy Land one must reckon with the distinction—not always spelled out in ancient literature—between the celestial prototype and the terrestrial copy. Every sacred kingdom or city derives its character from the primeval dwelling, so that whatever was said of the enclosure above was also said of the imitative form constructed by men.
“From the concordant testimony of all the traditions,” writes Guenon, “a conclusion emerges very clearly: the affirmation that there exists a ‘Holy Land’ par excellence, prototype491 of all other ‘Holy Lands,’ the spiritual centre to which all other centres are subordinated.”
Through identification, the sacred history of the race or nation merges with the history of the gods, for each organized community viewed itself as a duplication of the celestial “race.” Each line of historical kings leads back to a first king who is not a man, but Saturn, the supreme power of heaven; in the same way, the race as a whole traces its ancestry to a generation of gods or semidivine beings who inhabited the “earth” raised in the creation. By this universal tendency, Saturn’s paradise becomes the ancestral land, the place where history began. Does not every nation claim that its ancestors descended from a race of gods, who occupied a happy garden at the centre and summit?
It was with the utmost seriousness that the ancients laid out their first political settlements, taking the cosmic habitation as the prescribed plan. The purpose was to establish Saturn’s kingdom on earth, repeating the creator’s defeat of Chaos and founding a central authority whose power extended to a protective “border” separating the kingdom of light from the powers of darkness and disorganization (the “barbarians”).
Accordingly, the first sacred cities were organized as circular enclosures around the ruling lord. Ritual requirements superseded practical considerations, and even when geography and growth prevented or distorted the purely circular form, the sacred city was still conceived as a revolving enclosure. Symbolically, every Egyptian city lay within the shield or protective border of Nut (the “Great Protectoress”). The Babylonian map shows the land as a circle around a centre. “Here,” concludes Eliade, “the earthly abode is the counterpart (mehret) of the heavenly abode.”492
Hebrew thought repeatedly insists that the terrestrial Jerusalem was but a likeness of the city first constructed by God. “A celestial Jerusalem was created by God before the city was built by the hand of man . . . The heavenly Jerusalem kindled the inspiration of all the Hebrew prophets,” observes Eliade.493 The distinction between the local and the primordial city receives emphatic statement in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, when God asks, “Dost thou think that this is that city of which I said: ‘On the palms of my hands have I graven thee’? This building now built in your midst is not that which is revealed with me, that which was prepared beforehand here from the time when I took counsel to make Paradise . . .”494 (Again, note the equation of the city—Jerusalem and paradise.)
Equally clear is the primacy of the archetypal city in Hinduism, according to Eliade. “All the Indian royal cities, even the modern ones, are built after the mythical model of the celestial city, where, in the age of gold ( in illo tempore), the Universal Sovereign dwelt . . . Thus, for example, the palace fortress of Sigiriya, in Ceylon, is built after the model of the celestial city Alakamanda and is ‘hard of ascent for human beings’“495
Symbolically, each Hindu settlement stood within the mandala or “circle,” delineating a consecrated space magically protected from the invading forces of disintegration.496 The sanctified area, observes Tucci, “by the line of defense which circumscribes it, represents protection from the mysterious forces that menace the sacred purity of the spot . . .” This protective circle is “above all, a map of the cosmos.”497
As documented by L’Orange, the circle around a centre was the ideal form of sacred cities in the Near East, as typified by the residential cities of Darabjird and Firuzabad, whose circular form served as a precedent for the “Round City” of Baghdad. The ideal pattern derived from the ancient conception of the Cosmos, states L’Orange.498
The same symbolism attaches to the Roman mundusa trench dug around the spot on which a new city was to be built. The enclosure served as a protective bond, ordaining the city as a renewal of the primeval homeland.499 In the old documents the Roman cities were the urbes, from orbis, “round.”500
The consistent pattern of the sacred territory shows the influence of a universal prototype. Yet few researchers take the prototype seriously. When the creation myths speak of a primordial Heliopolis, Erech, or Jerusalem, the analysts think only of the terrestrial city. One can, with far greater assurance, insist that the local habitation never produces, on its own, a cosmic myth of any kind.
In Egypt, it is the primeval sun who rules the original Heliopolis, Memphis, Thebes, Herakleopolis, just as it is the primeval sun who governs as the first king of Egypt as a whole. The city and kingdom repeat, on different scales, the same history and this fact alone is sufficient to show that the “history” is not local but universal. If the myths say that
Egypt was “gathered together” from the primeval matter, forming an island around the sun, they say the same of the sacred city, whatever its name.501
That the ancients often forgot the distinction between their own city or kingdom and the celestial prototype was a natural result of the inseparable bond between the two. The local habitation inherited the mythical character of the celestial, so that the divergent actual histories of ancient nations lead back to one universal history.
It is in this sense that one must understand the legends of the first kings and primeval generations. Many Egyptian texts, for example, refer to a remote time in which the land was ruled by the “followers of Horus.” An inscription of a King Ranofer (just prior to the Middle Kingdom) recalls “the time of your (fore)fathers, the kings, Followers of Horus.” A text of Thutmose I speaks of great fame the like of which was not “seen in the annals of the ancestors since the Followers of Horus.” The Turin Papyrus places this primeval generation prior to the first historical king, Menes.502
Did these mythical “ancestors” actually rule terrestrial Egypt? In truth the “Followers of Horus” means, not a generation of mortals, but the assembly of the gods. The “ancestors” were the light-spirits of the celestial city, encircling and protecting the central sun. Just as the myths translate the Universal Monarch into the first king of Egypt, so also do they express the god-king’s companions as a primeval race from which all Egyptian nobility might claim descent. Every Holy Land on our earth was assimilated to the same celestial kingdom and every race to the same generation of gods.
The World Navel
Through identification with Saturn’s dwelling, each terrestrial kingdom or city of antiquity distinguished itself as the Middle Place, the centre from which history took its start. Symbolically each local Holy Land became the omphalos or “navel of the world.”
Thus, the mythic navel constitutes a global motif of archaic symbolism. As documented in the separate studies of Roscher and Muller,503 the ancient cities of Babylon and Nineveh (as well as Baghdad), Jerusalem, Hebron Bethel, Shechem, and the entire land of Palestine; numerous Greek cities (including Athens); the Muslim city of Mecca; and countless other cities of Asia and Europe were styled “the navel” or “the centre of the earth.”
Just as the Egyptians conceived their land as the “middle-earth” (Aguipte). the Chinese proclaimed their empire to be the “Kingdom of the Middle.”504 Early Japanese sources call Japan the centre of the earth—or the “middle kingdom of the reed plain,” while the Mongolians regard their home as “the Middle Place.”505 Peoples of northern Siberia know the Yenisei as “the centre of the world,”506 Ireland was once the kingdom of the Mide or “Middle.”507
In faraway Easter Island the natives speak of their land as the “navel.”508 And in the Americas, the Zuni call (or once called) their town “the Middle Place”; the Inca city of Cuzco signified “the navel of the earth”509; so also did the Chickasaw of Mississippi regard their territory as “the centre of the earth.”510
The reader may respond: isn’t it perfectly natural that a people, seeing other lands and nations distributed around them, would come to regard their own as the “centre”? This is, of course, a common explanation of the universal habit. On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that the concept of the world navel reflects something more than narrow vision or tribal arrogance.
The acknowledged religious centre of the Greeks was Delphi, on the steep slopes of Mount Parnassus. Here was located the omphalos (“navel”), revered as the Seat of Apollo and “the centre of the earth.” But among the Greeks, Delphi was not alone in claiming distinction as the omphalos. Similar claims were made for world navels in the Peloponnesus, at Elis, at Thessaly, and at Crete. Both the Aetolians and Epirotes were called omphalians or “people of the navel.”511
Many competing seats of Apollo appear as the omphalos, according to Roscher.512 Rather than suggest narrow- mindedness, such repeated claims confirm a consistent memory: from high antiquity the idea must have been passed down that Apollo’s throne occupied the “centre.” All local shrines certainly shared this tradition. But one must not mistake the imitation for the original. Just as one might say of Apollo’s statue, “This is the god Apollo,” without intending a literal identification, so could the cult worshippers say of the local shrine, “This is the throne of Apollo at the earth navel.” That the statement comes from more than one locality only reinforces the general tradition. The truth was observed by W. T. Warren long ago when he declared Delphi to be “a memorial shrine, an attempted copy of the great original.”513
Clearly, the “great original”—the god’s primeval home—was not of our earth. Apollo, the polar sun, was not the only god to occupy this centre. In Mexico, a Nahuatl hymn extols the god Ometeotl as:
Mother of the Gods, Father of the Gods, the old God
distended in the navel of the earth, engaged in the enclosure of turquoise
He who dwells in waters the colour of the bluebird.514
A Babylonian hymn located the god Ea at the “centre of the earth”:
The path of Ea was in Eridu, teeming with fertility. His seat (there) is the centre of the earth;
his couch is the bed of the primeval mother.515
Similarly, the Egyptian Osiris “sits in judgement on the Primeval Mound, which is in the middle of the world,” states Clark. 516 In the ancient account of Sanchuniathon, the great god El (Kronos/Saturn) acquires supremacy “in a certain place in the center of the earth.”517
The earth navel, in the original tradition, is the inaccessible dwelling at the cosmic summit which is why the Hindus could say of the fire god Agni,518 “He is the head and summit of the sky, the centre [Nabhi, navel] of the earth.” Hebrew and Muslim thought constantly identifies the throne of Yahweh and Allah with the “navel of the earth,” but this navel is above, for the Muslim text states of the Ka’ba, or earth navel: “Know that the centre of the earth, according to a tradition on the authority of the Prophet, is the Ka’ba: it has the significance of the navel of the earth, because of its rising above the level of the earth.”519
Another source relates, “Tradition says: the polestar proves the Ka’ba is the highest situated territory; for it lies over against the centre of heaven.”520 Both Jerusalem and Mecca, as earth navels, lie at the cosmic summit. “The centre of the earth and the pole of heaven, both are intimately connected with the throne,” observes Wensinck.521
Similarly, Gnostic traditions surveyed by Jung consider the polar region both “the seat of the highest gods” and “the navel of the world.”522 That the Greek omphalos received the appellation “axis” indicates an obvious connection with the pole.523
In all of these traditions, of course, one has to contend with the confusion between the celestial earth and what we call “earth” today. It can hardly be doubted that ancient races eventually came to use the phrase “world navel” in connection with the terrestrial landscape. The original concept of the navel, however, is not complicated by ambiguous meanings of the “earth.” In the original tradition, the created earth is the navel, pure and simple; Saturn’s Cosmos appeared as a central enclosure or “navel” of dry ground rising from the primordial waters. So it is not surprising to find that the symbol of the navel was the enclosed sun , the sign of the world wheel. “The concentric circles or the dot-in-circle denoted, in the Mediterranean area, the omphalos, the navel of the earth,” states Butterworth.524 (Thus, in organizing their sacred cities in the form of a wheel the ancients expressed the cities’ character as “navel.”
The enclosed sun , according to Neumann, served as “the life symbol of the womb-navel-centre.”525 It would be difficult to improve upon this definition. To reside within the life-containing navel is to dwell in the womb of the mother goddess, for the omphalos, as discerned by Uno Holmberg, is “the representative of the Great Mother” not only in classical symbolism but in Hindu and Altaic ritual also.526
Hence Delphi, the Greek omphalos. signifies “the womb.”527 The spouse of Hercules is Omphale, the female personification of the omphalos.528 In the same way, Hindu ritual constantly identifies the mystic yoni or “womb” with the navel: Agni is “born from the yoni or navel of the earth,”529 while Brahma is the “navel-born.”530
Such symbolism connects the famous navel with the primeval enclosure. Saturn’s band, marking out the stable, revolving island which appeared in the cosmic waters, came to be remembered as the cosmic centre—where mythical history began.
Many ancient traditions describe a circular ocean or river girdling the “earth.”
The gods, according to the Norse creation legend, “made the vast ocean, in the midst of which they fixed the earth, the ocean encircling it as a ring.”531 By the Greek Okeanos, “the whole earth is bound.”532 The Babylonians said of the nether river, “all earth it encloses.”533 Hebrew and Arabic cosmologies, according to Wensinck, hold that “the whole of the earth is round and the ocean surrounds it like a collar.”534
In spite of the widespread belief, certain classical writers grew skeptical. Of the famous ocean-stream the historian Herodotus announced: “For my part, I cannot but laugh when I see numbers of persons drawing maps of the world without reason to guide them; making, as they do, the Ocean-stream to run all round the earth.”535
Or again: “The boundaries of Europe are quite unknown, and there is not a man who can say whether any sea girds it round either on the north or on the east.”536 Such was the inevitable conclusion of historians and philosophers, once the “world” or “earth” lost its original cosmic meaning and passed into a figure of geography. Even today conventional treatments of the mythical ocean perpetuate the misunderstanding.
The cynics overlooked a most significant point: originally, the ocean encircled the creator as a girdle: Okeanos was no terrestrial river, but the “belt” around the cosmic deity. 537 The “land” which the ocean enclosed was the dwelling of the gods. Hesiod, for example, in his description of the shield of Hercules (an acknowledged figure of the Cosmos) identifies the ocean as the rim of the shield, enclosing a celestial paradise.
The shield was a wonder to see, “for its whole orb was a-shimmer with enamel and white ivory and electrum, and it glowed with shining gold.” Within the shield’s protective enclosure dwelt the great god and the lesser divinities: “There also was the abode of the gods, pure Olympus, and their assembly, and infinite riches were spread around in the gathering of the deathless gods.” The inhabitants of this circular land above celebrated a continual festival, for here grew grapes and corn in abundance. “And around the rim,” writes Hesiod, Ocean was flowing, with a full stream as it seemed, and enclosed all the cunning work of the shield.”538
As in the case of the world navel, the imagery makes sense only when one understands the created “earth” as the dwelling of the great god himself.
Egyptian sources remove all possible doubt as to the celestial character of the encircling stream. The Coffin Texts say of the Father of the Gods: “the river around him is ablaze with light.”539 The same circular river is called a lake of fire. Re appears as ami-mer-nesert, “he who is in his fiery lake”; while the throne of Horus is the “Lake of Double Fire.”540
Actually, the Egyptian ocean or lake is simply the Tuat, the dwelling of Osiris or Re:541 “This is the lake which is in the Tuat . . . This lake is filled with barley [i.e., grain, abundance]. The water of the lake is fire.”542
Containing the fiery waters of the Abyss, the celestial river or lake encircled the “world.” The Pyramid Texts invoke:
The Great Circle, in your name of “Great Surround,” an enveloping ring, in the “Ring that encircles the Outermost Lands,
A Great Circle in the Great Round of the Surrounding Ocean.543
In the Egyptian symbolism this watery circle is the band of the enclosed sun the band which circumscribed the outermost limit of the cosmic dwelling. The “ocean” in the above text is the Shen-ur, or “the great Shen.” In the
Egyptian language the shen bond or cord (
) signifies at once the band of the Aten and “ocean” or “river.” One can
properly term this circle of water “the river of the cosmic bond” or “the ocean of the cord.”
Pointing to the same interrelationships is the Egyptian word nut. Nut, the goddess, is the female personification of the Cosmos or shen bond; but nut also denotes “stream,” “river,” “sea.” The encircling river, as the border of the “Holy abode” (nut), thus gives rise to the phrase “the ocean, the border of Nut.”544 That nut further means “cord” and “city” only confirms the integrated symbolism.
In none of this symbolism is there any suggestion of a terrestrial ocean. As detailed by Reymond, the primeval waters form an enclosure around the resting place of the great god “perhaps resembling the channel which was made around sacred places later on.”545 Encircled by the celestial river, the province of beginning becomes the “island in the stream,”546 or the “pool.” (See, for example, the “pool of Hermopolis”; the celestial Abydos was the “pool of Maati.”)547
The mythical “waters” are inseparable from the primeval matter or company of gods which exploded from the creator, subsequently to be gathered into the circle of glory (khut). The radiant gods—or “Primeval Ones”—revolved around the border of the cosmic ocean or lake, for the Egyptians, according to Reymond, “imagined that, after the phases of the primary creation were completed, these Primeval Ones lived in the vicinity of the pool . . . Their resting place, however, is portrayed as of the most primitive appearance: the bare edges of the pool.”548 The gods occupy the border and revolve around it, as confirmed by the Book of the Dead: “‘Hail,’ say these gods who dwell in their companies and who go round about the Turquoise Pool.”549
Not in Egypt alone does the cosmic ocean form the band of the enclosed sun . Here is a Sumerian description of the Engur or “river” around the motionless lord Enki:
Thou River, creatress of all things,
When the great gods dug thee, on thy bank they placed mercy. Within thee Ea, King of the Apsu, built his abode.
They gave thee the Flood, the unequalled. Fire, rage, splendour, and terror . . .
O great River, far-famed River . . .550
These are the waters of the cosmic sea Apsu—“the waters which are forever collected together in the deep,”551 corresponding to the Egyptian dwelling gathered together by the creator. The oldest image of this encircling river or ocean is the ancient Sumerian sign for Kis (the all, the complete land, the Cosmos): . The band in this sign, according to Jeremias, represents the encircling ocean, the same river that is depicted encircling the “earth” (Cosmos) in the Babylonian world map.552 Like the Egyptian ocean the revolving stream forms the border of the celestial land.
As the womb of primeval birth, the Sumerian Engur, “River,” provides a close parallel to the Egyptian goddess Nut. Indeed, like Nut, the Sumero-Babylonian river goddess was conceived as the unifying cord. The waters of Engur (Apsu) compose the tarkullu, “rope,” or the markasu, “band,” bond,” holding together the created Cosmos.553 Like the Egyptians, the Sumero- Babylonians recalled the enclosure of the cosmic ocean as that which gave birth to the primeval sun. The god who “illuminates the interior of the Apsu” is Ninurta, the planet Saturn.554