Ishtar, Inanna, & Ancient Astrology
Many might be interested in some information that I came across awhile
back that might shed some light on this for you. Some may have seen
part of this already. Someone in a shamanic echo was asking about how
scorpions and spiders were related to each other in dreams, and what
meaning the scorpion had, especially in regards to an earth goddess. I
ran across a reference in one of those 'feminist revisionists'" books
<G> and the statement was made that the Scorpion was found nearly world
wide associated with an old Mother Goddess and the constellation
Scorpio. I think it might provide some of the connections you are
So I found a book that wasn't cross-referenced by that author, which is
recognized in its field (astronomical history) and was surprised to find
that it wasn't an exageration.
Richard Hinckley Allen, _Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning_, Dover
Publications, Inc., New York:1963. The book was originally published by
G.E. Stechert in 1899, under the former title: _Star-Names and Their
Meanings_. I consider this a reliable source to balance a perhaps more
"revisionist" view since it was written during a period by an expert who
probably never questioned it theologically and reported facts as facts.
Bear with me, the first part becomes significant as you go along.
SCORPIO, or SCORPIUS, the SCORPION,
was the reputed slayer of the Giant, exalted to the skies and now rising
from the horizon as Orion, still in fear of the Scorpion, sinks below
it; although the latter itself was in danger, --Sackville writing in his
Induction to the _Mirror of Magistrates_, in 1565.
Whiles Scorpio, dreading Sagittarius' dart
Whose bow prest bent in flight the string had slipped
Down slid into the ocean flood apart.
Classical authors saw in it the monster that caused the disastrous
runaway of the steeds of Phoebus Apollow when in the inexperienced hands
For some centuries before the Christian era it was the largest of the
zodiac figures, forming with the [Greek name] it's Claws, --the
_prosectae chelae_ of Cicero, now our Libra,--a double constellation, as
Porrigit in spatium signorum membra duorum;
and this figuring has been adduced as the strongest proof of Scorpio's
great antiquity, from the belief that only six constellations made up on
the earliest zodiac, of which this extended sign was one.
With the Greeks it universally was [Greek]; Aratos, singularly making
but slight allusion to it, added [Greek]; while another very appropriate
term with Aratos was [Greek], the Great Sign. This reported magnitude
perhaps was due to the mytholgical necessity of greater size for the
slayer of great Orion, in reference to which that author characterized
it as [Greek] 'appearing huger still.'
The Latins occasionally wrote the word _Scorpios_, but usually
_Scorpius_, or Scorpio; while Cicero, Ennius, Manilius, and perhaps
Columella gave the kindred African title Nepa, or Nepas, the first of
which the Alfonsine Tables copy, as did Manilus the Greek adjective,
[G], Walking Backward. Astronomical writers and commentators, down to
comparatively modern times, occasionally mentioned its two division
under the combined title Sorpius cum Chelis; while some representations
even showed the Scales in the creature's Claws.
Grotius said that the Barbarians called the Claws Graffias, and the
Latins, according to Pliny, Forficulae.
In early China it was an important part of the figure of the mighty but
genial Azure Dragon of the EAst and of spring, in later days the
residence of the heavenly Blue Emperor; but in the time of Confucius it
was Ta Who, the Great Fire, a primeval name for its star Antares; and
Shing Kung, a Divine Temple, was applied to the stars of the tail. As
member of the early zodiac it was the _Hare_, for which, in the 16th
century, was substituted, from Jesuit teaching, _Tien He_, the Celestial
Sir William Drummond asserted that in the zodiac which the partriarch
Abraham knew it was an Eagle; and some commentators have located here
the biblical Chambers of the South, Scorpio being directly opposite the
Pleiades on the sphere, both thought to be mentioned in the same passage
of the _Book of Job_ with two other opposed constellations, the Bear and
Orion; but the original usually is considered a reference to the
southern heavens in general. Aben Ezra identified Sorpio, or Antares,
with the K'sil of the Hebrews; although that people generally considered
those stars as a Scorpion, their Akrabh, and, it is claimed, inscribed
it on the banners of Dan as the emblem of the tribe whose founder was 'a
serpent by the way." When thus shown it was as a _crowned Snake_ or
_Basilisk_. A similar figure appeared for it at one period of Egyptian
astronomy; indeed it is thus met with in moder times, for Chatterton,
that precocious poet of the last centruy, plainly worte of the Scorpion
in his line, " The slimy serpent swelters in his course;" and long
before him Spenser had, in the _Faeirie Queen_, " and now in Ocean deepe
Orion flying fast from hissing snake, His flaming head did hasten for to
But the Denderah zodiac shows the typical form.
Kircher called the whole constellation [Gk] _Statio Isidis_, the bright
Antares having been at one time a symbol of Isis.
The Arabians knew it as Al Akrab, the Scorpion, from which have
degenerated Alacrab, Alatrab, Alatrap, Hacrab, --Riccioli's Askrab and
Hacerab; and similarly it was the syrians' Akreva. Riccioli gave us
Acrobo _Chaldaeis_, which may be true, but in this Latin word he
probably had reference to the astrologers.
The Persians ahd a Scorpion in their Gherzdum or Kdum, and the Turks, in
their Koirughi, Tailed, and Uzun Koirughi, Long tailed.
The Akkadians called it Girtab, the Seizer, or Stinger, and the Place
where One Bows Down, titles indicative of the creature's dangerous
character, although some early translators of the cuneiform text
rendered it the _Double Sword_. With later dwellers on the Euphrates it
was the symbol of darkness, showing the decline of the sun's power after
the autumnal equinox, then located in it. Always prominent in that
astronomy. Jensen thinks that it was formed there 5000 B.C., and
pictured much as it now is; perhaps also in the semi-human form of two
Scorpion-men, the early circular Altar or Lamp being shown grasped in
the Claws, as the Scales were in illustatoins of the 15th century. In
Babylonia this calendar sign was identified with the eigth month, Arakh
Savna, our October-November.
Early India knew it as Ali, Vicrika, or Vrouchicam, --in Tamil,
Vrishman; but later on Varah Mihira siad Kaurpya, and Al Biruni, Kaurba,
both from the Greek Scorpios. On the Cingalese zodiac it was Ussika.
Dante designated it as Un Secchione, "Formed like a bucket that is all
ablaze; and in the _Purgatorio_ as Il Friddo Animal of our motto, not a
mistaken reference to the creature's nature, but to its rising in the
cold hours of the dawn when he was gazing upon it. Dante's translator
Longfellow has something similar in his own _Poet's Calendar_ for
October: On the frigid Scorpion I ride.
Chaucer wrote of it, in the _Hous of Fame_ as the Scorpioun; his
Anglo-Norman predecessors, Escopiun; and the Anglo-Saxons, Throwend.
Caesisu mistakenly considered it one of the Scorpions of Rehobam; but
Novidius said that it was "the scorpion or serpent whereby Pharaoh, King
of Egypt, was enforced to let the children of Israel depart out of his
country;" of which Hood said "there is no such thing in history." Other
Christians of their day changed its figure to that of the Apostle
Bartholmew; and Weigel, to a Cardinal's Hat.
In some popular books of the present day it is the Kite, which it
resembles as much as a Scorpion.
Its symbol is now given as [Astrological symbol], but in earlier times
the sting of the creature was added, perhaps so showing the feet, tail
and dart; but the similarity in their symbols may indicate that there
has been some intimate connection, now forgotten, between Scorpio and
the formerly adjacent Virgo.
Ampelius assigned to it the care of Africus, the Southwest Wind, a duty
which, he said, Aries and Sagittarius shared; and the weather-wise of
antiquity thought that its setting exerted a malignant influence, and
was accompanied by storms; but the alchemists held it in high regard,
for only when the sun was in this sign could the transmutation of iron
into gold be performed. Astrologers, on the other hand, although they
considered it a fruitful sign, "active and eminent," knew it as the
accursed constellation, the baleful source of war and discord, the
birthplace of the planet mars, and so the House of Mars, the Martis
Sidus of Manilus. But this was located in the sting and tail; the
claws, as [Gk] Jugum, or the Yoke of the Balance, being devoted to
Venus, because this goddess united persons under the yoke of matrimony.
It was supposed to govern the region of the groin in the human body and
to reign over Judaea, Mauritania, Catalonia, Norway, West Silesia, Upper
Batavia, Barbary, Morocco, Valencia, and Messina; the early Manilius
claiming it as the tutelary sign of Carthage, Libya, Egypt, Sardinia,
and other island of the Italian coast. Brown was its assigned color,
and Pliny asserted that the appearance of a comet hre portended a plague
of reptiles and insects, especially of locusts.
Although nominally in the zodiac, the sun actually occupies but nine
days in passing through the two portions that project upwards into
Orhiuchus, so far south of the ecliptic is it; indeed, except for these
projections, it could not be claimed as a member of the zodiac.
Scorpon is famous as the region of the sky where have appeared many of
the brilliant temporary stars, chief among them, perhaps, that of 134
BC., the first in astronmical annals, and the occasion, Pliny siad of
the catalogue of Hipparchos, about 125 BC. The Chinese She Ke confirmed
this appearance by its record of the "strange star" in June of that
year, in the sieu Fang, marked by [.....] and others in Scorpio.
Serviss thinks it conceivable that the strange outburst of these novae
in and near Scorpio may have had some effect in causing this
constellation to be regarded by the ancients as malign in its influence.
But this character may, with at least equal probablity, have come from
the fiery color of its _lucida_, as well as from the history of the
constellation in connection with Orion, and the poisonous attributes of
its earthly namesake.
In southern latitudes Scorpio is magnificently seen in its entirety,
nearly 45 degrees,--Gould catolguing in it 184 naked-eye stars.
Along its northern border, perhaps in Orphiuchus, there was, in very
early days, a constellation, the Fox, taken from the Egyptian sphere of
Petosiris, but we know nothing as to its details.
"Antares" The Ariabians Kalb al Akrab, the Scorpion's Heart, which
probably preceded the [Gk] and Cor Scorpii of Greece and Rome
In Buffie Johnson's _Lady of the Beasts_ (Harper, San Francisco, 1981)
pgs 332-335, there are illustrations and photos of statuatary and
pottery which show the representation of the Scorpion Goddess, as
Selket, a woman with the lower torso taking the shape of a scorpion wiht
a raised tail. On her head is the "horned" headdress with the disk
between the horns,the horns and sun disk of Isis. (New Kingdom 1570-332
bce). A Stamp seal showing two scorpions protecting the rosette of the
goddess Inanna, from Sumer, ca 3300 bce, and a statue of Selket wearing
a scorpion on her head, as well as a drawing from Ur, ca 2400 bce
showing the goddess giving birth guarded by scorpions.
In the _Book of the Dead_ seven scorpions accompany Isis, when her son
Horus was bitten by one scorpion of the most deadly species, her
scorpion friends saved her son out of love for her...and bit the son of
a woman who had refused to help, then with her magic, Isis then saved
the bitten boy. (A classic shamanism motif(. Selket is shown as
beneficial when associated with Isis, and it is possible that the
"other" woman is Isis's dark aspect.
Selket symbolizes resurrection into a new life beyond earthly existence.
"Gathering the setting sun into her outstretched arms she becomes the
link between the living and the dead and helps the dead accomodate
themselves to their new land. In another aspect, Selket isunited with
Sirius, as a consequence the star if placed in her crown." (ibid. p.
334) Johnson also compares Chamunda, the scorpion deity of the central
Indian tradition with the other scorpion goddess with the endowment of
poison which indicates her connection with death and rebirth.
"The Scorpion expresses the vital spirit in humans which, transformed,
becomes the divine pneuma. One of its symbols is the scorpion which
stings itself to death (E. A. Wallis Budge, _The Gods of the Egyptians_
vol. 2 (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1969), 377-78.
"The association between serpent and scorpion, both sudden and dangerous
stingers, appears in the Babylonina and Greek astrological sign of
Scorpio, which corresponds to the Ctyptian sign of the autumn equinox,
the serpent. In esoteric traditions, the scorpion is recognized as a
spiritual insect rhough its gift of self-immolation and rebirth. The
venom of the scorpion is said to contain its own antidote."
the Scorpion as the dual Mother, the one who gave birth to and then
"swallowed" the divine son (sun) is found in Egyptian myth as the
Scorpion which killed Horus, sending him to his midwinter death and
resurrection as his Mother Isis gave him rebirth. Spirits of the four
points of the year were called Sons of Horus and placed as small images
on the pharoah's tombs...a man, bull, lion and scorpion or
serpent...which seem to have become the four angels of the Apocalypse.
Istar, Babylonian, "Star" was the Great Goddess who appears as
Ashtoreth, Anath, Asherah. She was refered to as the Great Whore, and
described in Revelation 17:5 as Babylon the Great, the Mother of
Harlots. Another of her titles was the Goddess Har, who called herself
the compassionate prostitute.
Interestingly enough, in the Voluspa there is mention of the Hall of
Har, where Gullveig was mentioned as being, who was "held up by spears"
and who supposedly started the war between the Vanir and the Aesir by
being attacked in the hall of Har...which is usually translated as
Odin. <G> There might be a better explanation, now that I think of
it... I wonder how I missed that before.
Anyway, Ishtar was also called in Bablyonian prayers: The Light of the
World, Leader of Hosts, Opener of the Womb, Righteous Judge, Lawgiver,
Goddess of Goddesses (Vanadis?), Bestower of Strength, Framer of all
Decrees, Lady of Victory, Forgiver of Sins, among many other 'kennings'.
Other sources suggest Ishtar was the same Great Goddess as Dea Syria,
Astarte, Cybelle, Aphrodite, Kore, Mari, Mari-Ana and others.
Preceding her though were supposedly the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, who
rescued and/or gave birth to Dumuzi her sacred son/lover just as Ishtar
did with Tammuz. Correlating to both was the Egyptian goddess Isis, who
was the "Oldest of the Old," and the "Goddess from whom all becoming
Arose," and her title was the same as the Queen Mother of Egypt's.
Apuleius, a Roman philosopher, poet and Isis-worshipper, addressed her
under several goddess names: For the Phrygians that are the first of
all men call me the Mother of the gods of Pessinus; the Athenians, which
are sprung from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which
are girt about by the sea, Pahphian Venus; the Cretans, which bear
arrows, Dictynian Diana; the Sicilians, which speak three tongues,
infernal Proserpine; the Eleusinians, their ancient goddess Ceres; some
Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate, others Ramnusie...the Egyptians,
skilled in ancient lore, worship me with proper ceremonies and call me
by my true name, Queen Isis. (Richard Knight, _the Symbolical Language
of Ancient Art and Mythology_. New YOrk: J.W. Bouton, 1892.)
Isis/Nephthys was, or were, the Egyptian version of the
creating-and-destroying Goddess, who were also typified as "weeping
goddesses." And with other goddesses of this type were known as
Guardians and Keepers of the Dead, and with the power over life and
death, and healing. They can be found in shamanic traditions the world
over as the Underworld deity and as the Lady of the Beasts.
[Gk] _Statio Isidis_, the bright Antares having been at one time a
symbol of Isis.
This part becomes particularly interesting to me, since the Isidis is
very similar to a term used for a particular group of ladies, comparable
to the Disir of the Norse tradition, the OHG 'itis' or OE "ides" meaning
applied to earthly women, but also used in kennings as 'goddess.' As a
term for 'woman' it also has the meaning of 'virgin'.
The worship of the Disir occured during the winter nights. And
interesting correlation that could be made is that the Celtic and the
Norse "winter" rites both involve some of the same archtypes and
ceremonies, especially the duality of life and death and the door being
open and "unguarded" at that time. The Wild Hunt Motif would be a
defining factor here, including both the Dark Mother and the Lord of
Death. The disir had two appearances, bright (swans feathers) and black
(raven or crow feathers)...they were psychopomps, and hardly
distinguishable from valkyrie at times. In the Wild Hunt they were
accompanied by various Gods, Herne, Woden and others in various
traditions and countries.
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