In this article, you will learn about the principal god of the Assyrians, as well as Apkallu, which were known by a variety of shapes and forms, including a fish and a griffin.
Apkallu Fish, Griffin & Human
In Mesopotamian belief, Apkallu is the title given to a “wise man” or a “sage.” When studying Babylonian tradition, you will find that there were seven Apkallu that prospered at the beginning of time (before the flood took place). They are the ones who were sent to the humans by the god named Ea, where they were expected to teach them wisdom. In visual depictions, they are shown as humans with winds. Distinct characteristics are also a part of the Apkallu, where some possess the head of a bird, while others highlight the skin of a fish. Some don’t have wings at all. Ancient artifacts reveal that the Apkallu also served as protection for humans. When seen, they sometimes hold a bucket in their hand and a cone, which represents purification.
The principal god of the Assyrians was called Ashur, who is seen in the form of a man, who is wearing a horned cap. As the main god of the first Assyrian capital city, his name is also its name. He would become one of the most important entities during the time that the Assyrians conquered Mesopotamia. Sometimes, Ashur is seen riding a creature that looks like a snake and a dragon. When constructed, Assyrian monuments in his honor usually appear on cylinder seals and cliff reliefs.
The demon who was seen as man above the waist and a bull below the waist was named the “Bull-Man,” who also possessed the horns and the ears of a bull. While you may immediately think of evil when hearing the term, ‘demon,’ the Bull-Man is actually known in history as helping people fight evil and destructive elements. The Bull-Man is the one who keeps the gates of dawn open for the sun god Shamash. He also supports the sun disc. Often, he is depicted on cylinder seals.
Bull of Heaven
We know the Bull of Heaven as the constellation, Taurus (also a respected member of the zodiac). It is the sky god, Anu who is in control. In text, the Bull of Heaven makes an appearance in the Epic of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh unsettles the goddess Ishtar, who in turn, asks her father (Anu) to send the Bull of Heaven to earth in order to ravage crops and kill the people. In the end, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are able to defeat the Bull of Heaven. The gods are so upset by this that their Bull has been slaughtered that they punish Enkidu by causing him to fall ill and pass away.
As you continue to explore the many different gods and goddesses of ancient Mesopotamia, Part 3 will elaborate on such characters as Dumuzi, who holds quite an important role and job in the past.