Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's a bit Fishy (Part 1)

Curious similarities in priestly headgear 
I recently delved back into some murky, ancient tomes, and came away with a distinctly fishy flavour. A heavenly, Godly, fishy flavour, in fact.  I even discovered something quite intriguing, and (I thought) original (but then I discovered someone else had already discovered it..damn the internet!)


 It started due to me picking up the sequel to a very strange book by Dan Simmons (of Hyperion fame), called Ilium.  The story deals with the classic Iliad, by Homer (the poet, not the cartoon...), but turns it on its head by setting things in the future, and throwing in a number of very sci-fi factors, including quantum teleportation and nano-tech.  It's a good read, but the main reason I mention it here, is that it made me question (again) the origins of the Gods.

I've long had a sort of suspicion about some of the older Godly pantheons, especially in the relationships between the gods/goddesses, and how some don't seem to fit into any particular groupings at all.  Add to this that some in general seem to be far more sympathetic to the 'human' condition, and you have a few interesting points to ponder.

Take for example, the Egyptian god Thoth. To me, he always seemed to be seperate from the rest of the gods, and in any examination of the Egyptian pantheon, he stands apart, not being 'related' to any other deities. According to one myth, Thoth was the voice of Ptah, as Ptah emerges from the 'cosmic egg'.  In another, Thoth, in the form of an ibis, laid an egg which 'gave birth' to Ra, Atum, and Khepri, among others.
In each case, it almost seems as though Thoth was already present, not seeming to actually come from anywhere.  Of course, the other significant attribute of Thoth, is that he provided humanity with:
Magic, Mathematics, Writing, Government, Oratory, and all of the Sciences.. So, quite a busy lad, really.
It is in this that I find a common theme with numerous other Gods in disparate cultures around the world.

  • Oannes, a Babylonian God (or, more accurately, a god-aspect of either Adapa, Nimrod or Dagon), was said to rise nightly and deliver his gifts of science, wisdom, writing, and various crafts to mankind (**Dagon is featured in the comparative pic at the beginning of this post...**)
  • Hermes (also Mercury, later conflated with Thoth as Hermes Trismegistus, founder of the alchemical arts, and attributed author of the core texts of alchemy)
  • Wotan/Odin, who hung himself on the World Tree for 9 days, and was pierced by his own spear (hmm, hung and pierced by a spear? interesting parallel there...), in order to learn the secrets of the Runes.
  • Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent (also often depicted as a man with white skin and a beard - odd choice for the god of a South American indian culture?) was also associated with the Morning/Evening Star (Venus), and had a direct or indirect hand in giving the gifts of the arts, various crafts, and all sorts of knowledge (including irrigation, agriculture, government) to mankind.  
The Chinese also had an entity who they believed founded their civilisation, the Fuxi (Fu Hsi). Depicted as an amphibious kind of being, with a fish or serpents tail, and having both male and female attributes, the Fuxi.  Fuxi and his sister Nuwa procreated the human race after a great flood (another interesting parallel) that wiped out the rest of their tribe/race.  Fuxi also taught his children and subjects fishing, cooking and hunting, instituted marriage, and in some myths, discovered the secrets of the I Ching.

After looking through this information, another kind of connection seemed to present itself.  Fuxi, Dagon/Oannes, and Quetzalcoatl all had overt 'amphibious' or watery themes (Quetzal was said to come from over the eastern seas, and would one day return in the same way, to bring further enlightenment or suchlike).  Wotan/Odin too, had some connections to the waters, having sacrificed his eye at Mimirs Well to gain wisdom, and bringing forth Midgard from the sea.
Hermes and Thoth seem to be exceptions.  Delving a little deeper, I found that one of the Oannes myths has the Oannes coming from a 'great egg', and had to return to this egg in the sea every night.  Thoth, if you remember, has associations with an egg, having apparently laid an egg that gave birth to some other dogs.
This is a tenuous association, I must admit, but it seems to be a connection on a broader scope.

So, this connection.. What could it be?

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