Horus and the morning star

As I seek out morning star archetypes from across the world, naturally one area of interest would be Egypt, and that lead me onto another mythological subject I’ve become interested in recently, one that I hadn’t thought of before regarding Egyptian myth: the subject of Horus (or Heru as he was probably known by the Egyptians) and his status as a stellar deity.

Horus is the deity representing the Egyptian royalty, the tutelary deity of the Pharaoh and thus the country of Egypt. He was also widely assumed by Western commentators to be a sky god, sometimes even a sun god (which doesn’t make much sense considering Egyptian mythology already has a sun deity in the form of Ra) by people who desperately want to believe in the Jesus=Horus=Mithras=Krishna=Dionysus=Attis theory propounded by the likes of Peter Joseph and Bill Maher. What is less known is Horus’ connotations as an apparent stellar or astral deity within the Egyptian religion.

In a study entitled Stellar and solar components in ancient Egyptian mythology and royal ideology, the egyptologist Rolf Krauss examines the texts of dynasties I-III wherein Horus is referred to as a star. According to Krauss, in the earliest periods of Egyptian religion Horus was a star deity, as evidenced by the names of the royal domains, such as “Horus, the star has arisen”, “Horus, the star of khet” and “Horus, foremost star of the sky”. While the first two are treated as possibly figurative, the third is seen as likely literal, referring to a star in the sky, in any case Horus is attested to as representing a star. The Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts and other texts apparently identify Horus as the son of Osiris-Orion and Sothis-Isis-Hathor. In Egypt, the constellation of Orion was actually a deity by the name of Sah, who was supposedly the father of the gods, but Sah was also associated with Osiris, as Utterance 442 suggests:

Behold, he is come (again) as Sah; behold, Osiris is come as Sah. Lord of the wine-cellar at the Wag feast.

This possibly means that Osiris appears as the deity Sah for the occasion of the feast of Wag, which might have been an Egyptian festival of the dead dedicated to Osiris. Since Sah and Osiris were not treated as identical, although related, Osiris-Orion might represent a compound deity, a fusion of Osiris and Shah. Sothis refers to a goddess referred to by the Egyptians as Sopdet, the goddess representing the star known as Sirius and the consort of Sah who served as the guide of the deceased king in the afterlife. The morning star was believed to be the child of Sothis. Her son, the deity named Sopdu, was said to be associated with the planet Venus (that part will probably be important later). At some point in Egypt’s history, Sothis and Isis become associated with each other to the point that Sothis becomes subsumed into Isis, and her husband Sah also becomes conflated with Osiris in a similar fashion. In the same way, Sopdu is identified as a related to Horus, is said to be paired with Horus in the Pyramid Texts as Horus-Sopdu, and is eventually treated as simply an avatar of Horus.

The priest Pu-Inpu offering praise to Isis (left), Harendotes (middle) and Osiris (right)

Osiris-Orion is said to have given birth to two deities that bear the name Horus: Mekhenti-irty (“Horus Eyeless”) and Harendotes (“Horus, protector of his father”). Mekhenti-irty is the older Horus and was sired while his father was alive, while Harendotes is the younger Horus and was sired after his father was murdered by Set. For some reason the younger Horus is also referred to as “Horus, son of Isis” because Isis is credited with raising him, but not the older one. The younger Horus is also referred to as “god of the morning”, and an inscription around the zodiac of Dendera apparently cites Horus as a star god associated with morning. This alone might not necessarily mean the morning star, but we’re building to something here.

According to Krauss, Horus is described as a “sehed star” and “a beautiful wa’a-star of gold, which has risen from the akhet” (I have no idea what sehed or wa’a mean) by Coffin Text 722, and is cited as “Horus who ascends as gold from upon the lips of the akhet” (akhet referring to the horizon) by Coffin Text 255, and these citations are supposed to link Horus with the morning star via the younger Horus (Harendotes). Krauss also suggests that if the younger Horus is the morning star, then the older Horus (Mekhenti-irty) must be the evening star. He cites Pyramid Text utterance 303 as the basis for this assumption, wherein Osiris is said to taken the older Horus as his and Hathor’s son, and Coffin Text Spell 106 wherein the older Horus is described as a “sehed star” just like the younger Horus. Krauss describes the sehed stars as possessing freedom of movement, which to me sort of lines up with what I’ve read about Athtar’s power of freedom of movement between Zaphon and the underworld.

There is also the eyes of Horus, which are described as the morning star and evening star respectively. The older Horus is said to have lost one of his eyes in a struggle against Set, but that eye was later healed by Thoth. This eye is attested to as the eye associated with the evening star, and apparently several Coffin Text spells link that injured eye to the night sky, it is described as “found in the retinue of the moon”, “beneficial in the night”, making “fire with its beauty”, and “becoming the fiery eye of Horus”. Such fiery nature enables Horus to roast his enemies, and is said to relate to the brilliance of a specific star. The injury of the evening star eye is said to relate to the invisibility of Venus two months before its reappearance as the evening star, while its recovery is said to reflect the encounter between the evening star and the waxing moon.

It is established from there that Horus represents the planet Venus, and its morning star and evening star aspects, and that the ideology of Egyptian royalty rested upon a stellar, not necessarily solar basis, at least for a time. This ideology is also said accommodate for Set, who in the early Egyptian religion was a storm deity identified with the planet Mercury. Strangely enough, it’s suggested that at some points Set was the friend of Horus, not just his rival, with the appearances and disappearances of Venus and Mercury indicative of fighting, injury, but also reconciliation and joint action, between Horus and Set. Of course, this must have been before the invasion and expulsion of the Hyksos (referring to a Canaanite dynasty who briefly ruled Egypt), after which Set was vilified as the patron of hostile foreigners and eventually effectively demoted to evil demon status because the Hyksos favored him due to his apparent similarity to one of their gods – namely Ba’al. Interestingly enough, it is suggested further that the stellar cult, that is the basis of pharaonic rule on the lord of the planet Venus, may have been one of the earlier royal cults, while the solar cult, based on Ra, was introduced later by the pharaoh Khasekhemuy, who ruled towards the end of the Second Dynasty. This would mean Horus becoming subordinate to Ra, now the king of the gods, which may have been achieved by having Horus become a child of Ra rather than of Osiris-Orion, which seems strange considering the continuity of the myth of Osiris’ murder wherein Horus is very definitely Osiris’ son and seeking vengeance against Set for murdering him.

Horus and Set stood around the sign of the union

Krauss is not the only one who identifies Horus as the morning star. In a section of Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists, Cairo, 2000, Katja Goebs discusses the relation between the morning star (which curiously enough is treated as a solar entity) and certain deities, particularly in the context of spells for the deceased. Goebs describes the deceased beginning his sequence of divine association with Osiris, then needing to be transfigured into a certain kind of star for his ascent into the heavens, and then references a text where it is stated that at a certain point Re (clearly Ra) summons the deceased as Horus so that he may place him as the morning star into the Field of Rushes. The star the deceased becomes is a star that crosses Nut, goddess of the sky. The deceased is identified by Goebs as progressing from an underworldly, nightly, invisible force as Osiris or Orion into a solar entity likened to the divinity of the deities Thoth and Anubis, and is finally embodied as the morning star and attaining royal status as a result in the afterlife.  The sun deity Ra appears in two guises: Atum, identified as the evening sun, and the lord of the “wrrt”. But it is through his day form that he summons the deceased as the morning star, and though he grants the deceased royal status by this summoning and transfiguration, he remains the ultimate sovereign in the Egyptian cosmos.

The transfiguration from Osiris to ultimately Horus is also treated as symbolic of a mythological takeover of the rule of Osiris by Horus (or Ra) in the kingdom of the gods, and in a broader sense a cosmic transition from night (represented by the powers of Osiris) to day (represented by the powers of Horus or Ra). It is also said that Horus in this way actually bridges the rule of night and day, being the successor of the rule of Osiris and the predecessor of the rule of Ra. The cycle apparently is supposed to go as Ra-Osiris-Horus.

Finally, Ev Cochrane has his own interpretation of Horus as the morning star. In Starf*cker: The Catastrophic Conjunction of Venus and Mars, he points out a passage attributed to the Pyramid Texts which reads:

O Morning Star, Horus of the Netherworld, divine Falcon, wådåd‑bird whom the sky bore

Surely this refers to Horus as the ruler of the underworld like Athtar, right? Well, according to Cochrane, Duat was originally more of a celestial abode, which he backs up with verse that reads:

Make the sky clear and shine on them as a god; may you be enduring at the head of the
sky as Horus of the Netherworld.

This appears to suggest Horus as possibly being the leading star in the sky as the ruler of Duat. Does it answer the question of Duat being a celestial place? I have my doubts. Duat, if you remember, is neither heaven nor strictly hell. In Egyptian religion, it is the liminal plane between death and paradise in the afterlife, home to many demons who challenge the soul of the dead on behalf of the gods. Deities said to reside in Duat include Horus, Anubis, Thoth, Osiris, Ma’at and Hathor, all of whom are supposed to appear to the soul of the deceased at various stages. To that extent, Horus is probably *a* lord of Duat within the Egyptian canon.

Now, what does “wådåd‑bird” mean? In Phaethon: The Star That Fell From Heaven, Cochrane claims that wådåd translates literally into “great green”, and suggests . The word wådåd might be related to the word wꜢḏ, which does indeed seem to mean green, and it does dovetail with the symbolism of the Wadjet. Wadjet, or Wedjet, is the Egyptian name for the symbol famously known as the Eye of Horus, and is also personified as a snake goddess.  Wadjet amulets often came in a green or greenish blue colour, and green in Egyptian culture represented life, fertility, the growth of vegetation and death and resurrection (due its association with Osiris as the colour of his skin). Not to mention, in utterance 301 of the Pyramid Texts, Horus is referred to as the Lord of the Green Stone.

Purify for you Unas, make Unas bright in this your Jackal-lake, o Jackal (zAb), in which you purify the gods.
You are powerful,
you are sharp (spd) as Horus,
the Lord of the Green Stone.
To say four times:
“like the two green hawks.”

It is said that, because of this, Wadjet or Eye of Horus amulets, which represented the uninjured morning star eye of Horus, came to be associated with healing and protection from curses. It’s just a hunch and I can’t find anything supporting this concretely, but I kind of suspect that the word wådåd may have been related to the word wadjet, possibly even a dodgy translation of wadjet (perhaps wådåd-bird actually means wadjet-bird, which would make sense given Wadjet is literally the Eye of Horus).

Wadjet in snake form (pictured to the right) next to the goddess Nekhbet

Cochrone believes the significance of the colour green for Horus pertains to the “greening” of the cosmos through the appearance of the morning star, which is much less supported by Egyptian mythology (he even cites a passage of the Book of the Dead which depicts Horus rising in turquoise, not green), but he goes on to link this with different myths from different locations that supposedly reflect a real astronomical event. At this point that I think full disclosure is necessary regarding Ev Cochrane.

While I do think he gives us some factual insight into mythology, the conclusions he draws from the mythological sources are rather dubious. He is of the school of thought that mythology is a broad reflection by cultures across the globe of interstellar catastrophes that allegedly happened within the solar system. In this way he seems to be a disciple of Immaneul Velikovsky, whose ideas are spread in a journal writes for named Aeon (not to be confused with Aeon magazine) and another journal named Kronos. Velikovsky is most famous for claiming that Earth suffered close contacts with other planets and was witness other interstellar catastrophes, which in turn were recorded as mythological phenomenon. His ideas are pretty much universally rejected by the scientific community and are even treated as being on par with creationism. Know that I write this post from the perspective of mythology, and really nothing else, so we won’t explore Cochrane’s claims about astronomy any further, but if you encounter his ideas, bring a fresh jar of skepticism with you.

And now we arrive at the burning question with this inquiry: what does Horus have to do with Lucifer, given Horus’ evident association with the morning star? To be honest, I have my doubts. While Horus definitely seems to be the deity attached to the morning star in Egyptian lore, his mythology doesn’t have any correspondence or correlation with the Lucifer we know, or the Canaanite mythology of Athtar that preceded him. Whereas Lucifer as we know him defies God’s will and Athtar snubs the gods, all of Horus’ functions are ordained by Ra, the divine sovereign of the cosmos, and it is not despite but through the will of the Godhead (or the closest thing to it within a polytheistic religion) that deceased souls may acquire royal or divine status in the afterlife. In the Levant the morning star was either a mysterious deity who resided in the underworld, travels between realms and stands almost toe-to-toe with Ba’al Hadad (as per Canaanite mythology) or a rebellious and prideful entity who seeks the place of the Godhead (as per Jewish/Old Testament mythology). In Egypt, the morning star probably was just the foremost of all stars whose brilliance was second only to the sun. Horus does indeed traverse the underworld, accompanying Ra in his solar barge to fight Apep, and he resides in Duat, but that he doesn’t rule over Duat, though apparently he and over deities control some demons there in order to test the souls of the deceased. Horus in general doesn’t really exhibit any traits that a lot of Luciferians would probably identify as Luciferian, nor does he fulfill any Luciferian functions, let alone those of any deities that could be similar to Lucifer like Prometheus (though Prometheus is not a morning star, he forms part of the basis for the modern idea of Lucifer).

To be honest, if there’s any Egyptian deity who bears some similarities to Lucifer, at least in the Luciferian sense, it might be Thoth. Though he has none of the rebellious connotations of Lucifer or Prometheus (being effectively the scribe of the gods subservient to Ra and all), Thoth was something of a bringer of knowledge within Egyptian myth. He is credited as being the divine inventor of mathematics, science, magic, hieroglyphics, and many other things, and is credited with a library of magic books capable of subduing the gods themselves. He also serves as a bridge between opposites where he serves a mediator between order and chaos, so as to maintain the balance of the cosmos, and he also has some connection to the underworld, where he apparently has power unrivaled even by Ra or Osiris (who is pretty much dependent on his good offices). Like a certain Irish deity I covered in my last post, he was frequently equated with Mercury. In fact he was equated by the Greeks with their deity Hermes, to the point that they named his patron city Hermopolis (as in city of Hermes). The Greeks even credited him with inventing every branch of knowledge. They were even responsible for the identification of Thoth as Hermes Trismegistus, who would become a very important character for the occult philosophy of Hermeticism. Of course, being a scribe of the gods, Thoth was just responsible for recording knowledge, though there is some possible evidence of Egyptian lore wherein Thoth transmits knowledge to a human. Or there’s also Hermanubis, a syncretic fusion of Hermes and Anubis worshipped in the Greco-Roman mysteries, said to be a not only a psychopomp who also embodies the exploration of the truth, and like Hermes is said to travel in and out of the underworld, and some believe him to be the deity who reveals the mysteries of the lower world.

A statue of Hermanubis

The main point you can take from that is that the myths and gods of the world’s cultures, while often similar to one another, ultimately tend to possess their own character, having developed out of different conditions, different locations, different social relations and different understandings of the world. This is why deities from different cultures that seem similar really don’t have meaningful correspondence or correlation with each other. The Lucifer we know is the product of a figure from Canaanite mythology being interpreted through the lens of Jewish and then Christian mythology, followed by longstanding Romantic literal tradition and the influence of Western occult belief systems. This background is not shared by other mythological morning star deities, in whose cultures the morning star was simply a positive and often creative force in its own right. All cultures function as dialectical continuums unto themselves, starting from different origin points, building on top of them, evolving over time. There is no single myth or mode of belief from which all religions and belief systems stem.

This is where I’d end things, but I want to address where Thelema might fit into the whole Horus morning star thing, considering Horus becomes something of an important figure in that belief system. Thelema holds Horus as representative of the current Aeon, the Aeon of Horus, which represents a time where people begin to pursue realization of the sovereign individual and uphold the principle of “do what thou wilt” (as in, follow the True Will as per Thelemic doctrine rather than just do what you want according to the base senses). He manifests particularly within Thelema as Ra-Hoor-Khuit (or Heru-ra-ha), a compound deity consisting of Ra and Horus , as well as Hoor-paar-khrat (or Harpocrates), who is Horus the Child and described in Thelemic doctrine as the deity of the Holy Guardian Angel or the Higher Self. Aleister Crowley was said to have successfully invoked Horus in 1904, which was the same year he held marked the beginning of the Aeon of Horus.

Lucifer doesn’t really enter into Thelema, except through Aiwass in a way. Aiwass the name of a voice or spirit that Crowley claimed to have heard or encountered in 1904, and who Crowley would go on to identify as the minister of Hoor-paar-khrat. He also explicitly identifies Aiwass with Lucifer in Magick in Theory and Practice.

“’The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes. This has led to so much confusion of thought that THE BEAST 666 has preferred to let names stand as they are, and to proclaim simply that AIWAZ, the solar-phallic-hermetic ‘Lucifer,’ is His own Holy Guardian Angel, and ‘The Devil’ SATAN or HADIT, the Supreme Soul behind RA-HOOR-KHUIT the Sun, the Lord of our particular unit of the Starry Universe. This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘the Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection. The number of His Atu is XV, which is Yod He, the Monogram of the Eternal, the Father one with the Mother, the Virgin Seed one with all-containing Space. He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is Ayin, the Eye; he is Light, and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.”

Beyond this reference, however, Lucifer doesn’t really feature in Thelema. Lucifer seems to have been either an alternative name or simply the descriptive quality of Aiwass.

Here I think the function of Horus, or at least the entity that pretty much approximates Horus, could be interpreted by some Luciferians as representing something similar to their own values, perhaps, in the sense that there tends to be some overlap between Luciferianism, Satanism and Thelema though the doctrines are ultimately different. It still doesn’t line up with Lucifer exactly, but like there’s some small similarities at work. What’s interesting is that I haven’t seen the morning star used in reference to any entity within Thelema, not even Hoor-paar-khrat/Harpocrates who would definitely serve as the younger Horus within Thelema, and unlike in Luciferianism the morning star doesn’t really form the main basis of the spiritual philosophy. In Thelema, therefore, an aspect of Horus is linked with Lucifer in a vague sense, through the description of “the solar-phallic-hermetic Lucifer”, and not much else. Horus is still his own being within Thelema.

So, to make a very long story short, Horus, despite being the Egyptian morning star deity, is not related to Lucifer, and I think you would have make quite a stretch to suggest Horus as a Luciferian archetype.

Two theories regarding the Asuras

A while ago someone named Kabirvaani left an interesting comment on one of my very old posts about the Asuras, suggesting that page 300 of James Houghton Woods’ book The Yoga System of Patanjali references an Asura as the bringer of a psychotropic drug that confers enlightenment upon those who imbibe it. Intrigued, I decided to investigate the idea and searched for the book’s text, and found an online source for the book. While researching this subject, I decided to make this post about two subjects. The first is the subject proposed by Kabirvaani concerning the Asuras and psychotropic drugs, the second is a different theory proposed by another blogger named Kata no Kokoro, who suggested, commenting on another post, that the post-Vedic conception of the Asuras might be based on the philosophy of Carvaka – a school of Indian philosophy based on epistomological materialism – with the intent of demonizing that philosophy on contrast to the religious idealism of most Hindu schools and the authority of the Vedas. We will deal with both these subjects in the same post, to save me bothering with two separate posts.

 

The Asura maidens and their magic drugs

Before we get to what page 300 of The Yoga System of Patanjali has to say, let’s look at what the page before it has to say on the subject of how “Perfections proceed from birth or from drugs or from spells or from self-castigation or from concentration”.

1. The power of having another body is the perfection by birth.

2. [Perfection] by drugs is by an elixir-of-life [got] in the mansions of the demons, and by the like.

3. By spells, such as the acquisition of [the power of] passing through space and atomization [iii. 45].

4. [Perfection] by self-castigation is the perfection of the will, the faculty of taking on any form at will (kamarupin) [or] of going anywhere at will, and so on.

5. Perfections proceeding from concentration have been explained.

Note the second part. Apparently there’s an aspect of Indian yoga wherein a yogi can attain “perfection” through an elixir obtained through in “the mansions of the demons”. Who are the demons exactly? Of course, it is none of than the Asuras, the grand enemies of the Devas. From page 300:

2. He describes the perfection which proceeds from drugs. A human being when for some cause or other he reaches the mansions of the demons (asura), and when he makes use of elixirs-of-life brought to him by the lovely damsels of the demons, attains to agelessness and to deathlessness and to other perfections. Or [this perfection may be had] by the use of an elixir-of-life in this very world. As for instance the sage Mandavya, who dwelt on the Vindhyas and who made use of potions.

Regarding the lovely damsels of the demons, doing some digging I find that Vedic mythology does attest to female Asuras having knowledge of mystical plants and herbs. In the hymns of the Atharvaveda, specifically Book 7, there is a hymn that references a group of entities named the Asuri, who seduce the deity Indra by means of a magic herb.

“I dig this Healing Herb that makes my lover look on me and weep,
That bids the parting friend return and kindly greets him as he comes.
This Herb wherewith the Asuri drew Indra downward from the Gods,
With this same Herb I draw thee close that I may be most dear to thee.
Thou art the peer of Soma, yea, thou art the equal of the Sun,
The peer of all the Gods art thou: therefore we call thee hitherward.
I am the speaker here, not thou: speak thou where the assembly meets.
Thou shalt be mine and only mine, and never mention other dames.
If thou art far away beyond the rivers, far away from men,
This Herb shall seem to bind thee fast and bring thee back my prisoner.”

– Hymn XXXVIII of the Atharvaveda

The Asuri is said to refer either to a specific entity whose identity is unknown, or a group of beings. In either case, Asuri is simply the feminine pronoun of Asura, hence Asuri refers to female semi-divine or demonic beings. According to Nagendra Kr. Singh in Vedic Mythology, the Asuras were very knowledgeable on matters of magic and medicine and their women knew how to use magical and medicinal plants. They were said to hide such medicines under the ground so that the Devas could not find them.

So, while I have been unable to locate the female Asura I was referred to, I do learn that female Asuras are associated with magical plants within Vedic mythology. This establishes a mythological basis for the maidens of demons bringing the elixir of life in The Yoga System of Patanjali. There is definitely a tradition with Indian mythology wherein the Asuras provide magic medicines, which could have been extrapolated into what is described in the book.

Taw Waes Suwan Asura Deva Carrying Amrita by Ajarn Saeng Apidej

We can perhaps think of the Asuras within Vedic mythology as possible sources of enlightenment through psychotropics, at least insofar as the premise of enlightenment through drugs is concerned. Of course, this is only within the older Vedic Hinduism. Since the Asuras are treated as demonic in post-Vedic Hinduism, this idea is probably treated as some kind of demonolatry by modern Hindus.

 

Carvaka and the Asuras

Carvaka (often spelled Charvaka), also known as Lokayata, is a school of Indian philosophy that rejects theism, reincarnation, karma, the soul or Atman and Moksha, and viewed the best means of acquiring as being not from revelation or religious scripture but through direct perception via the senses and through the practice of empiricism. Such a view is recognizable in the Western world as materialism or naturalism, and is associated with contemporary atheism. It was said to have been developed by a Vedic sage named Brihaspati at around 600 BCE. Curiously enough, Brihaspati is also the name of a planetary deity, the patron of the planet Jupiter, who was consider the guru of the Devas and related to the fire deity Agni.

There is a myth within the Upanishads in which Brihaspati is said to have created the Carvaka doctrine in order to deceive the Asuras. According to the Seventh Prapathaka of the Maitrayaniya Upanishad:

Brihaspati, having become Sukra, brought forth that false knowledge for the safety of Indra and for the destruction of the Asuras. By it they show that good is evil, and that evil is good. They say that we ought to ponder on the (new) law, which upsets the Veda and the other sacred books. Therefore let no one ponder on that false knowledge: it is wrong, it is, as it were, barren. Its reward lasts only as long as the pleasure lasts, as with one who has fallen from his caste. Let that false science not be attempted, for thus it is said:
(1) Widely opposed and divergent are these two, the one known as false knowledge, the other as knowledge. I (Yama) believe Nakiketas to be possessed by a desire of knowledge; even many pleasures do not move thee.
(2) He who knows at the same time both the imperfect (sacrifice, &c.) and the perfect knowledge (of the Self), he crosses death by means of the imperfect, and obtains immortality by means of the perfect knowledge.
(3) Those who are wrapped up in the midst of imperfect knowledge, fancying themselves alone wise and learned, they wander about floundering and deceived, like the blind led by the blind.

Sukra might be a reference to Shukra, or Shukracharya, who if you remember from my second Mythological Spotlight was the guru of the Asuras and the planetary deity of Venus. Indeed, Sukra is the Indian name for the planet Venus. It might be suggested that Brihaspati took the appearance of Sukra in order to deceive the Asuras into believing what were deemed false teachings, presumably to undermine their ability to defeat the Devas in battle in order to help the Devas defeat them. It is not certain if the Brihaspati mentioned in the Upanishad, but it is commonly held that the deity Brihaspati and the human Brihaspati are separate entities, which would make sense given it is unlikely that the Devas would have sincerely believed in materialist philosophy. Given this and the ability of the Upanishadic Brihaspati to transform into Shukra and his imperative on behalf of the Devas, I suspect that the Brihaspati referred to here is probably the planetary deity and not the human sage.

Brihaspati (the planetary deity, not the sage)

The Padma Purana also contains a dialogue in which Rudra (or Shiva) refers to Brihaspati as the one who proclaims the “much censured” doctrine of Carvaka. In the same text, Buddhism is also referred to as a false doctrine, proclaimed by an incarnation of Vishnu, and that Rudra proclaimed a “pseudo-Buddhist” doctrine referred to as Maya. Rudra also says that he ordered a man named Jaimimi to expound the doctrine of Purva Mimamsa – a doctrine that, while it seemingly endorses the authority of the Vedas, holds that the material universe to be endless and without liberation – which Rudra describes as stating godlessness and invalidating the Vedas. It is established here that the Hindu deities go out of their way to, within the context of the lore, deceive the enemies of the Devas by promoting Nastika doctrines (that is, doctrines that go against or contradict Vedic scripture, typically atheistic philosophies, thus heretical doctrines within the context of Hinduism) in order that they might defeat and destroy them.

Another example of this happening with regards to Jainism is when Vishnu sent a teacher named Mayamoha to teach the Asuras the Jain religion in order to that they could be defeated. The rationale behind such a theme seems to be twofold: (1) the Asuras are strengthened by following the Vedas and performing the proper rituals and penances, hence they lose power when they reject the Vedas, which serves to paint the Vedic religion as imparting power to believers, and (2) the non-Vedic religions are treated as so wicked and false that clearly they are either the doctrines of demons or tricks from the gods designed to weaken their enemies.

This theme is echoed in the Puranic myth of the Tripurasura, a group of three Asuras (Vidyunmali, Tarakshaka and Viryavana) who were the sons of Tarakasura. After the three Asuras perform a series of religious austerities known as tapasyas, Brahma grants them the following reward: they will live for a thousand years in three palaces for each of them – one made of  gold, one made of silver, and one made of iron – which reside in different realms (one in heaven, one in the sky, and one on the earth) and align every thousand years, and can only be destroyed by an arrow that can penetrate the three realms when the palaces align. The Devas, feeling threatened by a bunch of Asuras having that much clout, appeal to the Trimurti to destroy them. Brahma refuses on the grounds that it was he who granted them the boon to begin with, and Shiva refuses because he saw that they weren’t doing anything wrong, but Vishnu comes up with a plan to trick them into becoming non-believers in order to justify their destruction. He creates a man out of himself, whom he named Arihat. Arihat was shaven and wore dirty clothes, thus he had the appearance of a bald ascetic monk. Arihat was instructed to teach the Tripurasura a religion that contradicts the Vedas – one which holds that there is no afterlife, that heaven and hell exist only on Earth and that there is no reward or punishment in any life after this one. After this, Shiva destroys the Tripurasura and their palaces once they align. Given the description of a lack of an afterlife and the emphasis on this world within this belief system, it is very likely that the “false religion” in this story is none other than Carvaka.

Shiva destroys the Tripurasura and their palaces

Another myth within the Mahabharata (specifically Book 12) describes a being named Charvaka, who is identified as either an Asura or a Rakshasa, who was believed to have impersonated one of the Brahmanas in order to accuse the Pandava prince Yudhishthira of killing his kin.

A little while after when the Brahmanas had become silent, a Rakshasa of the name of Charvaka, who had disguised himself as a Brahmana, addressed the king. He was a friend of Duryodhana and stood therein the garb of a religious mendicant. With a rosary, with a tuft of hair on his head, and with the triple staff in his hand, he stood proudly and fearlessly in the midst of all those Brahmanas that had come there for pronouncing benedictions (upon the king), numbering by thousands, O king, and all of whom were devoted to penances and vows. That wicked wight, desirous of evil unto the high-souled Pandavas and without having consulted those Brahmanas, said these words unto the king.’

“Charvaka said, ‘All these Brahmanas, making me their spokesman, are saying, ‘Fie on thee! Thou art a wicked king. Thou art a slayer of kinsmen. What shalt thou gain, O son of Kunti, by having thus exterminated thy race? Having slain also thy superiors and preceptor, it is proper for thee to cast away thy life.’ Hearing these words of that wicked Rakshasa the Brahmanas there became deeply agitated. Stung by that speech, they made a loud uproar. And all of them, with king Yudhishthira. O monarch, became speechless from anxiety and shame.’

When the real Brahmanas revealed his ruse, Charvaka was killed by their utterance of the Hun sound, the sound of Brahma. It is possible that the demon Charvaka was a demonization of the Carvaka school, a way of painting adherents of Carvaka as liars who deceive the public and impersonate the pious. However, this would depend on when the Mahabharata was compiled and published, given that the Mahabharata is likely to have been written at around 400 CE, many centuries after the emergence of the Carvaka school.

Finally, let’s look at the Upanishadic myth of Virochana, son of the Asura Prahlada, who together with Indra sought out the creator deity Prajapati to learn about the nature of Atman, the divine self or soul in Hindu theology. According to the Chandogya Upanishad, the two deities sought out his wisdom on the promise that whoever found it would gain the possessions of all worlds. After staying with Prajapati as his disciples and living the lives of Brahmacharis (as in, men who pursue Brahman) for 32 years, Prajapati tells both Indra and Virochana of the Atman and instructs them to see their reflections in a pan of water. After seeing their reflections, they left and relayed the revelations they believed themselves to attained. Virochana returned to the Asuras and told them that he learned that the body and the Atman are one and the same and thus the bodily self should be glorified, while Indra thought this was wrong, went to Prajapati for clarification twice before spending yet another 32 years with him as a Brahmachari, then another 5 years, before finally Prajapati told him:

“This body is subject to death yet it embodies the deathless and bodiless Atman. This embodied Self falls into the trap of all dualities like pleasure and pain, but the bodiless Atman is not touched by any duality. So long as the Atman resides in the body and attaches itself to them he seems limited and restricted, but again when freed from the body becomes one with the infinite spirit. When the Atman leaves the body, goes wandering freely in the infinite worlds. The eye, the ear, the senses, the mind are there only in order that the Atman may see and hear and think. It is on account of Atman and in the Atman that the things and beings exist. He is the Truth and the final repository of all existence.”

Indra comes to believe the doctrine of the Atman as the ultimate truth, as divine consciousness that embodies itself in the flesh in order to perceive the world and is freed from the body to wander infinity after the death of the body, while Virochana comes to believe that the bodily self is the self itself and the object of concern and reverence. Since Carvaka holds that consciousness exists only within the body, it is pretty likely that the doctrine Virochana and the Asuras learn is materialism, the doctrine of Carvaka.

To close this post, it’s worth noting the old Vedic character of the Asuras. As I’ve pointed out here many times before, Asura was once technically a title applied to the Vedic deities themselves, denoting the power, strength and might of the deity. They were sometimes also thought of as a semi-divine class of beings who were neither good nor bad, and possess the magical powers of maya. After some time though, as the old form of the Vedic religion got displaced by the new form of Hinduism, which was based on the Puranas and the Upanishads (which still claimed the authority of the Vedas as sacred mind you), Asura changed from a signifier of divine might, to a class of morally ambiguous semi-divine beings, to class of anti-divine beings if not outright a class of demons who are often materialistic. Perhaps this association with materialist doctrines stems from the conflict between orthodox Vedic Brahmanism and the emergent Nastika doctrines, such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Carvaka, as well as Tantric schools of Hinduism, not to mention the rise of a new form of Hinduism based on the Upanishads that sought to change the character of Hinduism.

The devas, possibly representing orthodoxy, pull Vasuki’s tail, the asuras, possibly representing heterodoxy, pull Vasuki’s heads.

As Hinduism was dealing with the Nastika doctrines, it made sense that, in order to maintain the authority of theistic Hindu doctrine, the Brahmanists and Upanishadists sought out to ridicule the Nastika doctrines, especially Carvaka. It also possible that they destroyed most first-person sources on Carvaka (that is, texts written by its adherents rather than its detractors), given the dearth of texts and information on Carvaka. Essentially, the new Brahmanists demonized the materialist doctrine, and other Nastika doctrines, by positioning them as doctrines believed by demons (Asuras and Rakshasas), often through the deceptions of the Devas and the Trimurti. The Asuras in and of themselves are not based on Carvaka, but the Carvaka doctrine became somewhat affixed to the Asuras through the Puranic and Upanishadic myths.

Thanks to Kabirvaani of Shivahaoma and Hata no Kokoro for providing the inspiration for this post

Mythological Spotlight #9 – Lugh

A statue of Lugh

Introduction

Lugh is a rather well-known Irish deity and heroic figure.  He’s hailed a leader of the Tuatha De Dannan, the divine father of a heroic figure named Cú Chulainn, he himself is generally associated with heroism, skill and crafts, and he has a Celtic pagan festival named after him (that being the festival of Lughnasadh, which is held on August 1st). He is a complex deity, which perhaps leads many people to misunderstand him. Today he is erroneously recognized as a solar deity, a god of light, and even the Irish incarnation of Lucifer, without any solid basis in the original mythology, and the people who identify Lugh as such don’t really explain why they do.

This post was originally going to be just me debunking the idea that Lugh is connected to Lucifer in any meaningful way but then I started reading into Lugh and Lugus and decided, fuck it, let’s make this the first Mythological Spotlight I’ve done since last year.

 

History

The Irish deity Lugh seems to be a reflection of an older Celtic deity named Lugus, who was worshiped in parts of England and Western Europe. Lugus is known to be a three-headed deity with knowledge of all crafts, though sometimes he is said to have been particularly evoked by shoemakers. He was also held to be a deity who could move between many realms, was considered to have warrior attributes (including a spear), and was considered the divine guarantor of sovereignty. His wife was Rosmerta, a goddess of plenty. Lugus may also have been very associated with ravens, particularly ravens with white feathers, as a sign of his connection to the otherworld. It has been suggested that Lugus may even have appeared as multiple deities, and that his triune appearance is the result of a fusion of the deities Esus, Toutatis and Taranis. Some depictions of Lugus are said to have four heads instead of three, perhaps indicating that he was meant to be an all-seeing deity.

The Romans considered Lugus to be identical with their deity Mercury, possibly because of the identification of Lugus with Mercury by Julius Caesar via interpretatio romana (essentially the practice of interpreting foreign deities through the lens of Roman mythology) during his conquest of the Gaulish tribes. Caesar specifically referred to Lugus as the master of all arts and crafts, the guide of travelers, patron of commerce and the most popular deity of the Gauls. It is uncertain whether Lugus actually embodied all of the traits associated with Mercury, though there are likely some superficial similarities between Lugus and the Roman Mercury. In a way it’s like when the Greeks saw Ba’al Hadad, and the many other deities named Ba’al, and decided that they were all foreign avatars of Zeus (the name Ba’al Zaphon, for instance, was translated into Zeus Kasios by the Greeks).

As “Gaulish Mercury”, Lugus was linked strongly with high places in the tribal territories where he was worshipped, such as Montmartre, the Puy de Dôme and the Mont de Sène. These locations were referred to by the Romans as Merucrii Montes, literally the mountains of Mercury, and would contain shrines and statues dedicated to the “Mercury” deity. After the arrival of Christianity, Lugus became assimilated into Christian folklore as the Mercurii Montes were turned into St. Michael’s Mounts, thus assimiliated Lugus and the “Gaulish Mercury” into the archangel Michael. According to some, French legends claim that Michael is said to have fought Satan atop Mont Dol.

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The face of Lugus

Lugh, the Irish deity, is perhaps more well-known. In particular he is best known for the myth in which he fights Balor, the leader of the Fomorians who was also his grandfather, and kills him. In Irish myth, Balor becomes aware of a prophecy which says that one of his grandsons will kill him. Thus, to stop this prophecy from coming true, he locks his daughter Eithne up in a sequestered tower, away from any potential suitors, so that she couldn’t get pregnant. With the help of a druidess named Birog (or Biorog), Lugh’s father-to-be Cian manages to infiltrate the tower and seduce Eithne, resulting in her pregnancy and Lugh’s eventual birth. When Lugh grows up, he kills Balor with his slingshot (or a spear, in some versions of the myth), securing the harvest and its powers of fertility on behalf of the Tuatha De Dannan. After this he prepares to fight and kill Bres, a half-Fomorian king of the Tuatha De Dannan who ends up appeasing the Fomorians at the expense of the Tuatha De Dannan. However, when Bres promises to teach the Tuatha De Dannan the secrets of agriculture, Lugh spares his life.

Lugh is noteworthy in that, through his lineage from both the Tuatha De Dannan (through his father Cian) and the Fomorians (through his mother Eithne), he is linked to both sides of the mythological conflict, though he ultimately sides with the Tuatha De Dannan. The relation between the Tuatha De Dannan and the Fomorians is comparable to the Olympians and the Titans, or the Devas and the Asura: they are opposing clans, tribes or mythological races representing different aspects of nature, civilization or the psyche. In this case, the theme seems to be the relation between man and nature. The Tuatha De Dannan represent human society and civilizational control over the forces of nature, while the Fomorians represent the primordial power of the land and forces of nature in their raw form – which can be either beneficent or cruel, but either way blind to the concerns of humans and apathetic to Man’s will. Though locked in combat, neither the Tuatha De Dannan nor the Fomorians can truly destroy one another, being linked to each other by ties of blood. Through his conception by Cian and Eithne, the powers of the Tuatha De Dannan and the Fomorian unite in Lugh’s being, perhaps suggesting the interpenetration of opposites.

Later medieval Irish folklore would cast Lugh in a slightly different light. Instead of being the offspring of a Tuatha De Danann and a Fomorian through seduction with the aid of a druidess, the medieval Lugh’s birth is the product of a simple political marriage, removing his more complicated origins and his link between opposites.

The Celtic Lugh was also known as the master of all crafts, and the inventor of an Irish board game called fidchell, and the institutor of fairs and games, such as the Assembly of Talti. Thus it is not just Tuatha De Dannan and Fomorian that unite in him, but king and craftsman/artisan. Indeed, one of Lugh’s epithets is Samildanach, meaning “many-gifted” or “skilled in many arts”, suggesting that he was indeed the master of crafts and skills. This, in a way, echoes the assessment of the Gaulish deity Lugus as the master of all crafts and his association with the Roman deity Mercury. It is possible some of the attributes of Lugh may have been reflections of the mercurial persona of the “Gaulish Mercury”.

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Is it me or is it getting rather mercurial in here?

Lugh’s festival, of course, is the August festival Lughnasadh. The main theme associated with the festival is that of the opening of the Harvest, the beginning of the descent of the Sun, and gathering for a feast in the name of Lugh. It also ties into the myth of Lugh’s conflict with Balor, as Lugh’s faction clashes with Balor’s over control over the powers of the harvest. This clash is said to be marked by lightning and thunder storms, with Lugh’s storms blotting out the harsh summer sun represented by Balor’s all-consuming eye. Thus Lughnasadh represented an escape from the harshness of summer through the arrival of rain. The festival is said to be centered around hills and high places, particularly hills that contain a source of water near to the top. Lughnasadh was also said to be an occasion where major assemblies would take place in which legal matters would be settled, political issues were discussed, artists, craftsmen and entertainers would have a chance to show their talents, and athletes would get to compete in sporting events that brought the community together for a time. According to the Sanas Cormaic, even the name Lughnasadh implies the assembly of Lugh, as in an assembly of the community under the auspices of the deity Lugh.

There is a in Welsh mythology known as Lleu Llaw Fyffes, who is not considered a deity but rather a mythological hero, whose name derived from Lugh or Lugus and is seen as sort of an equivalent. In Welsh myth, Lleu was one of the sons of the goddess Arianrhod, who magically conceives Lleu and a boy named Dylan despite being a virgin after being struck with the magic wand of Math, king of Gwynedd (north or northwest Wales). While Dylan was born as a human, Lleu is initially born as a mysterious unformed thing, which is wrapped up by his uncle Gwydion and placed in a chest until it changes into a healthy baby boy. After this Arianhrod curses the young Lleu three times at once: the first curse denies him from having a name unless she names him herself, the second curse denies him from having weapons and she arms him herself, and the third curse denies him from having a wife from any race currently living on this earth. Gwydion breaks the first curse by disguising himself and Lleu as shoemakers, tricking Arianhrod into naming him Lleu Law Gyffes (meaning “the little one has done it with a sure hand”), he breaks the second curse by summoning an imaginary army to attack Arianhrod, forcing her to arm Lleu to defend her, and he breaks the third curse by creating a wife for Lleu out of flowers. This would appear to confer upon Lleu the master of all three social functions attributed to the analysis of Georges Dumezil: the first being ritual identity, the second being strength and status as a warrior, and the third being fertility and reproductive capability through a consort. The motif of the number three evoked in the curses may also be a subtle echo of Lugus’ three heads.

There is another Welsh myth featuring two characters named Lludd and Llefelys, who are both cognates or variations of different Celtic deities, and this myth repeats the theme of the three functions and their respective trials. Lludd is based on either the Irish deity Nuada or the Welsh hero Lludd Llaw Eraint, and is depicted as ruling Britain from his seat in London, while Llefelys is a likely a cognate of Lleu and Lugus and is depicted as ruling France. Lludd comes to Llefelys concerned about three oppressions haunting his country: the first is a supernatural race known as the Coraniaid that can hear everything that is said in the land, the second is a scream that echoes every May Eve which robs men of their courage which is caused by two dragons fighting each other, and the third is the unexplained disappearance of royal provisions caused by a powerful magician casting a sleep spell over the royal court and then taking the provisions. To conquer them, Llefelys tells Lludd to (1) sprinkle certain insects crushed with water over the supernatural voyeurs, (2) trick the two combatant dragons into getting trapped within a chest and then bury the chest beneath the ground (or Snowdon), and (3) defeat the magician who steals the royal provisions. After doing such things, Lludd regains his sovereignty as ruler thanks Llefelys, who in turn is shown to possess the knowledge of sovereignty and the tricks to preserving it.

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The red dragon fighting the white dragon

Both the Irish and Welsh myths contain aspects that, while they don’t explicitly link back to Mercury, they do share echoes of some of Mercury’s traits: namely the boundary-crossing aspect of Mercury/Hermes and his cunning. Not to mention that Lugh inherits from Mannanan a bag filled with treasures, perhaps an echo of Mercury’s bag of riches.

Since the Victorian era, Lugh has come to be identified as explicitly a sun god in the same vein as deities like Apollo in Greek Mythology, despite Lugh not really being much of a solar deity in the actual lore. This is a perception that carries over into the modern day from contemporary neopagan circles to pop black magician E. A. Koetting. However, to my knowledge (and we’ll get into this in more detail in a minute), Lugh doesn’t seem to have any real connections with the Sun, nor is he necessarily a god of light. He is most clearly a deity of craftmanship, a possessor of kingship, likely oaths as well, but not necessarily a solar deity. But for some reason, the idea of him being a deity of the sun and light persists, leading into other connections attached to Lugh that aren’t really present in any of the mythology associated with him.

 

Lugh’s Supposed Relation to Lucifer

In modern times, there are many people on the Internet who try to say that Lugh is either closely connected or outright the same thing as both Lucifer and the Norse deity Loki, based mainly on the claim that Lugh, Lucifer, and Loki all share the same etymology – supposedly, all three of their names mean light, through the Indo-European word “luek” (meaning light), and therefore they are all deities of light in their respective pantheons, ergo they are all light bringers and hence Loki and Lugh are Luciferian deities.

First, let’s immediately address the issue of etymology. Lugh’s name most likely derives from the Gaulish deity Lugus, and Lugus’ etymology doesn’t have anything to do with light. His name actually comes from the old Celtic word “lugi”, which means “to swear”, in the context of swearing an oath. This etymology implies Lugus was conceptually tied to oaths and contracts, not unlike the Indian deity Mitra (who was a deity of friendship, the morning light, oaths and contracts) or the Roman deity Orcus (a chthonic deity who punished those who broke oaths and contracts). Furthermore, the clash between Lugh and his enemy Balor is said to be symbolized as thunderstorms, and it is said of such clashes “The wind of Lúgh Long-arm is flying in the air tonight. Yes, and the sparks of his father [sic]. Balor Béimeann is the father”. This is a clear reference not to the attributes of a solar deity, but to the elements of wind, lightning and thunder storms. By this metric, Lugh has much less in common with sun deities like Apollo, let alone Lucfier, and more in common deities like Thor or Marduk, at least where natural elements are concerned. Of course, even if Lugh were a solar deity, this probably doesn’t equate to direct correspondence with Lucifer. Perhaps he would correspond with Apollo, but that is another matter. If anything, it could be argued that Lugh has more in common with the archangel Michael than he does Lucifer, considering that Michael does battle with the enemies of his divine faction with the aid of a spear.

As for Loki, there are several possible sources for his name. The Old Norse word “logi” (meaning flame, suggesting association with fire), another Old Norse word “loka” (meaning lock), “luka” (meaning close or shut), or that the word “loki” itself might be a reference to tangled knots or cobwebs. Much of the likely sources of his name don’t really have anything to do with light but instead signify either his role in bringing about Ragnarok or his role as the inventor of the fishing net. Hardly signifying of a god of light if you ask me. Thus, attempting to connect Lugh, Loki and Lucifer by name is essentially the same kind of etymological fallacy as saying Amen is actually a reference to Amun/Amun-Ra or that Satan and Set are basically the same deity based on the idea that Set=Sat=Saton=Satan (sadly an idea that I suspect permeates the doctrine of the Temple of Set).

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Basically just watch The Zeitgeist Movie if you think this makes sense

There is also the idea that Lugh is connected to Lucifer through Odin (or Woden) that I’ve seen, on the basis of the vague or general idea that Odin is an antinomian deity of some sort and so is Lucifer, oh and also Lugh and Loki have the same etymological connection even though we’ve debunked that already but now somehow we’re going to throw Odin into this because god damn it this guy wants to be a Viking so damn badly! Seriously though, the name of this blog alone should tell you it’s not a trustworthy source. But back to the actual point, there is no real etymological connection between Lugus or Lugh and Odin, either, nor is there any solid correspondence between the two, despite the Stephen Flowers quote. There are superficial similarities between the two deities, such as the shared identification with Mercury by the Romans and the shared association with ravens and spears, but I can’t seem to find many of the major traits of Odin that line up with Lugus or Lugh.

It doesn’t help that Lugus is less pronounced a deity than his Irish counterpart, which is probably due to the Romans spreading the idea that Lugus and Mercury are basically the same deity. But, for instance, a key difference between Lugh and Odin is their roles regarding battle. Odin is often mistaken as a god of war par excellence, but as a god of magic and wisdom his role was not as the badass manly god charging into battle (that would probably be Thor) but rather as the chief magician who directs the battles in question, and of course selects the slain for Valhalla, whereas Lugh is known for directly stepping up to battle in order to kill Balor. In many respect the two couldn’t be more different: one was a hero god, the other a supreme magician god who directs things behind the scenes. You could make the argument that Lugh was kind of a tricky character, though it’s hard for me to find any actual myths of trickery attached to Lugh himself as opposed to either versions of Lugh or companions of his.

And of course, Odin doesn’t have direct correspondence with Lucifer either, having different myths, direct origins, but are faintly similar in minor respects (such as the theme of knowledge or enlightenment, or something about darkness and various Left Hand Path cred that doesn’t actually connect the two). So, in summation: Lugh, Loki, Lucifer and Odin, are all separate mythological entities, with different heritages, backgrounds and attributes, with minor similarities that relate them between each other but otherwise don’t equate to any meaningful correspondence. With Lugus, Lugh, and Lleu, however, there is some actual correspondence in terms of etymology and some shared themes and characteristics, though they are likely separate entities as well.

Finally, let’s return to the them of Lughnasadh for a moment, because nothing about it seems to suggest any associations between Lugh and the sun. If anything, the fact that Lughnasadh was associated with storms in the myths connected to the festival, like with that line about the wind of Lugh the long arm, suggests association with wind or storms rather than the sun. Not to mention, if you’re going to have a sun deity, why have his dedicated festival be at a time when the sun is supposed to start receding and the days begin to get shorter in the month before the autumnal equinox? If he were a solar deity, wouldn’t it make more sense to hold his festival on the summer solstice, when the sun is at its most dominant and the days are brightest in the year, or in the spring solstice where we see the beginning of the sun’s rise in the annual cycle?

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Because nothing says sun god like thunder and lightning

 

Conclusion

Lugh is far from the simple deity of sun and light he’s been pigeonholed as in the modern day – in fact, as we’ve established, he doesn’t really have anything to do with those things at all. Moreover, I’d say the idea of Lugh as a sun deity paves over his complexities in a way that suggests a perennial tendency of modern paganism to airbrush the old gods in their intricacies in order to make way for deities that are easier to understand, often friendlier too in the case of deities that are much darker but still integral to their respective pantheons (such as Odin). The actual Lugh is to be seen as a heroic deity, bringer of the harvest, master of trades and skills, a bridge between the forces of nature and the will of man, and a deity who presides over the community through the annual assembly of Lugh, with many other associations stemming from his ancestor Lugus. In my view, this makes for a much more nuanced deity than just “the Irish sun god” or “the Irish Odin”.

Reading about Athtar (a.k.a. Attar)

I had been doing some light research about Lucifer/morning star archetypes before revisiting the Levantine deity Attar, and in the process I discovered a book called The Myth of Cosmic Rebellion: A Study of Its Reflexes in Ugaritic and Biblical Literature by Hugh Page Jr. Originally published in 1996, it contains a brilliant and fascinating study of the Athtar figure from the perspective of Ugaritic and Biblical mythology, and what I’ve learned about the Athtar figure has expanded my view of the obscure morning star deity exponentially.

Little is said of Athtar within the myths he features in, but what is featured apparently demonstrates him as a powerful and mysterious figure, even with a certain degree of autonomy. When Athtar descended from the throne of Ba’al Hadad at Mount Zaphon after attempting to replace him, he wasn’t cast down by the other gods or judged unworthy. Instead, it was written that he decided by himself that he would not rule from Zaphon.

“And Athtar the terrible answered: ‘I will not rule from atop Sapon.’ Athtar the terrible came down, from the throne of Aliyan Baal he descended. And he ruled over the Underworld, god of all of it.”

Two interpretations are given for this decision: the first is that his action is based on a reflection of his own abilities, having come to the conclusion that he is not worthy of the throne of Ba’al Hadad, helped by the fact that the Ba’al Cycle mentions Athtar’s feet failing to reach the stool of Ba’al Hadad’s throne due to being shorter than the aforementioned storm deity; the second is that he decided that he did not want the rule given to him by his benefactors (including the goddess Asherah), preferring instead to make himself king over a region not designated by the other gods. Either he found himself unworthy, or he found rule over Mount Zaphon unworthy. But he was certainly not the impotent substitute for Ba’al Hadad he is often seen as, and is even implied to be an equal to Ba’al Hadad and Yamm, between whom he vies for a house in the domain of the gods at one point and whom he was prepared to do battle with over that very issue. In my view, his rejection of the throne given to him by his patrons in the wake of Ba’al Hadad’s (temporary) death in favor of rule of the underworld amounts to him rejecting the will of the other gods in favor of his own will and decision, possibly viewing the throne as an imposition from the gods that he feels unworthy, either because of his own perceived shortcomings or his view that the throne itself is unworthy.

It is worth noting that Athtar is described as having a kind of freedom of movement between Zaphon and the underworld, mainly so that he could journey to the underworld and challenge his adversaries such as Yamm, though Athtar is never shown fighting Yamm as Ba’al Hadad ultimately did. He may have been viewed as a partially chthonic deity, which would make sense given his decision to rule the underworld. His dominion in the underworld also seems to put him in proximity with the main rival of Ba’al Hadad – Mot, the deity of death who tries to kill Ba’al Hadad. Anyways, this freedom of movement is also worth judging in the context of Athtar not having a house or singular like the other gods, making him effectively homeless (besides his rule over the underworld of course).

There is some data in the book pertaining to Athtar’s general traits. He is a possessor of kingship, he carries a torch (ooh, a morning star deity carrying a torch, what does that sound like I wonder?) and/or a scepter representing his power and sovereignty, he is described by Asherah as someone who “knows” and “understands”, possibly denoting his intelligence, he is associated with the lion and may have zoomorphic lion features, he is simultaneously described as “minute in strength” and “terrible” and “awesome” with regards to his strength and might, his divine locus is listed as both Zaphon and the underworld, he has no wife, he has servants known as Kotharim (but it’s unclear what they are supposed to be other than they wash his body, though maybe they’re related to Kothar-wa-Khasis?), and he is the son of El and Asherah. He is also cited as a specifically astral and martial deity, related to the planet Venus as the morning star, as well as having similar features to Ba’al Hadad (namely being a deity of fertility and being a bearer of rain and the waters) and may have at one point even been treated as a leader deity similar to Ba’al Hadad until the latter deity became more popular in the Levant. Some have speculated that Athtar may have been an androgynous deity, merging features of a male deity of the morning star and a female deity of the evening star (most likely Astarte), and there are male and female names referencing “Estar”, but the deity remains a very male figure historically.

Besides this, however, it is acknowledged that there is not much historical deity concerning the Canaanite/Ugaritic Athtar, and there is certainly less information about him than there is about Ba’al Hadad. What little information we are left with, however, gives us a picture of what might have been a powerful deity, possibly an equal to Ba’al Hadad in stature (besides height of course) and in at least some of his abilities, a being who not only rules the underworld, having rejected the throne given to him by his fellow gods in Zaphon, but is free to move between the underworld and Zaphon, and a mysterious personality, one that is sadly not as exposed within the myths as Ba’al Hadad or other deities. A powerful, intelligent cosmic force, yet to be understood in the way Ba’al is, who dwells in the underworld after deciding the heavenly throne unworthy or out of his league. That is the morning star of Canaanite myth. And, if you ask me, he strikes me as a very Luciferian figure, in a way that almost seems like it’s too good to be true and yet all too fitting for the deity whose myth was the original inspiration for what would come to be taken as the modern Lucifer (that is, the prophecy against Nebuchadnezzar II in the Book of Isaiah where the idea of a fallen morning star is first referenced). He may not have all the hallmarks of a Luciferian archetype (would it kill him to share the knowledge of the gods to us lowly humans in his myths?), but he is certainly a powerful and rebellious figure, having defied the gods to take his own path and all, let alone in the netherworld, still shining on as a force of light in that region.

Of course there is the issue of Athtar’s relation to the Helel ben Shahar referred to in the Book of Isaiah. Well, if you look at the character of Athtar, there isn’t much. Hell, the only thin you know about the morning star of the Book of Isaiah is that he supposedly was once in heaven before being cast down to the earth, and that was actually supposed to be referring to Nebuchadnezzar II. In contrast, Athtar was never cast down by the gods, he just spurned them, and there is no evidence of him usurping the throne of Ba’al Hadad or El and in fact El ultimately approved of Asherah’s request to make Athtar king of the gods in the first place. The primary relation is probably limited to an allusion to the original myth. The Jews probably decided to interpret the morning star’s descent to the underworld as a banishment from heaven or fall from grace, and it could be assessed that this might be caused by ignorance of the source material, or possibly them interpreting the myths in a manner that suits the Yahwist slant.

Jebel Aqra, better known as Mount Zaphon, the mythological seat of the throne of Ba’al Hadad, and (for a time) Athtar (sorry there really are no good images of Athtar)

Mythological Spotlight #8 Part 2 – Lucifer

Constantino Corti’s depiction of Lucifer

Description

The light bringer, the representation of the morning star. In popular imagination he is typically seen as synonymous with Satan, due to his identification with the myth of the fall from Heaven. Over the years the character of Lucifer has acquired traits associated with adversarial figures because of the role of the light bringer’s concordance with other traditions and stories, and the way they interpreted the bringing of light and the ascension of the morning star. Depending on who you ask, he is either a benevolent figure, a trickster, an evil king of demons or somewhat more ambivalent; an angel, a demon or a man.

 

History

The name Lucifer means “light-bringer” or “morning star”, and seems to be a personification or deification of the morning star.

The earliest appearance of a morning star deity is generally found in the ancient Canaanite deity Attar (also known as Athtar or Ashtar). Attar is mainly known for a Canaanite myth wherein he attempts to take over the throne Baal (aka Hadad), the deity of storms and fertility, with the support of Asherah while he is killed by his rival Mot, the deity of death, but proves to be unworthy of the throne. He is identified with the planet Venus, much like the goddesses Ishtar and Aphrodite. In fact, it is believed by some scholars that Attar may have been a male equivalent of the goddess Athtart or Astarte, or even started out as a male form of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. The Arabians also worshiped Attar not just as a male deity of the planet Venus, but as a weather deity responsible for rain and thunderstorms, as well as a fertility deity whose fertility is dispensed through rain thus symbolizing the power of the sky as a generative force. The Arabians may also have recognized him as a war deity. These characteristics mark him as a similar deity to Baal, and it is even suggested that Attar may have been overtaken in Ugarit and Canaan as the warrior deity of fertility and bringer of rain.

Attar may also have been associated with another deity: Chemosh; known to the Hebrew Bible as the Abomination of Moab. Chemosh may have been an important rival of the Jewish deity Yahweh (later YHWH), and at one point the two deities were pretty similar to each other. Both Yahweh and Chemosh were war deities and the deities of a specific tribe or nation (Chemosh for the Moabites, Yahweh for the Israelites), but Yahweh eventually became angrier. Chemosh was also worshiped alongside Ashtar as a syncretic deity called Ashtar-Chemosh. It is important to note that Chemosh might have been identified with the morning star through his syncretism with Attar/Ashtar, but there is little that suggests Chemosh himself is intrinsically linked with the morning star.

The morning star appears in the Bible, specifically the Book of Isaiah, where refers to someone who has supposedly fallen from the grace of God.

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” – Isaiah 14:12

The term “morning star”, or Helel ben Shahar, is often substituted for the name Lucifer, and the Isaiah verse is used to link Satan with Lucifer in Biblical tradition. The problem: who is the morning star in this instance? Morning star, and by extension Lucifer, is used as an epithet in the Bible, rather than a name proper, similar to how Satan is used as a title in Judaism. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus identifies himself as the morning star.

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” – Revelation 22:16

Is Jesus, then, Lucifer? And if Lucifer is supposed to be the same as Satan, what does that make Jesus then? What does it make Satan? Not to mention, the title of Lucifer has apparently even been applied to John the Baptist. So what about him? Instead, the morning star of Isaiah is typically identified as a human, more specifically a king of Babylon who is struck down. The king in question is usually named Nebuchadnezzar II. He is known as the king who ordered the construction of the famous Ishtar Gate as well as the purported Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the walls of Babylon which were famous for the fact that they were so broad that you could race chariots on them. He is also known for leading the expansion of the Babylonian empire through the conquest of the Scythians, Cimmerians, Arameans and Israelites and the defeat of the Assyrians and the Egyptians. He made Babylon one of the largest and most powerful cities of the ancient world through his conquests. However, he is portrayed negatively in the Bible, perhaps because he was also responsible for Jews being held captive in and later exiled from Babylon, as well as the destruction of the original Temple of Solomon in 587 BC. Of course, that is one speculation. It is said that the title Lucifer could’ve been applied to any other king. Chapter 14 of the Book of Isaiah is intended to be a prophecy regarding a king who was then mighty but will seen face defeat and fall from glory. Indeed, the king is accused of holding in his heart ambitions of ascent to godhood.

You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” – Isaiah 14:13-14

The epithet of the morning star, with its brilliance, is supposed to signify how great the king was or believed himself to be, in order to stress the magnitude of his fall. Lucifer, here, was the title of a human; a human who stood against the Israelites in his quest to expand Babylon and thus he was seen as standing against YHWH himself.

Speaking of Helel ben Shahar, there was an Ugaritic deity named Shahar associated with the dawn. He has a twin brother named Shalim, who is considered a deity of the dusk. Both of them are sons of the sky father El. They are called upon in an Ugaritic hymn to protect the fields and their harvest. Some sources speak of a deity named Helel, who it is claimed tried to usurp the throne of El/Elyon but was defeated by , and they claim that this myth is the precursor to the prophecy of the king of Babylon in Isaiah. However, not much is known about this pre-Isaiah myth.

There is another Biblical story that is used to link another Lucifer figure with the idea of a fallen angel. The Book of Ezekiel recounts another prophecy against an ancient king, this time against a king of Tyre, an ancient Phoenician city which was sieged by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II between 586 and 573 BC. Ithobaal III is said to have ruled Tyre between 590 and 573 BC. The prophecy states that, like the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre viewed himself as a living deity, who had grown proud because of the wealth that he had purportedly amassed through his skill in trading and his wisdom, and that the “Sovereign Lord” will send barbarians against the king in order to kill him. There then follows a lamentation from the “Sovereign Lord” in which the king is compared to an unnamed cherub, who was the “seal of perfection” in the garden of Eden, adorned with all manner of precious stones, but was driven from the mount of God for having being filled with pride, desecrating sanctuaries and trading dishonestly, thereby having sinned against YHWH. Again, there is no implicit attachment to Satan found within the prophecy itself, and the prophecy refers to a human character, with the comparison. There is also no direct reference to the morning star, just that the theme is similar to that of the prophecy in the Book of Isaiah.

The idea of Lucifer as a demonic fallen angel crystallizes in the Middle Ages, replete with infernal artwork depicting him as a horned, animalistic devil. This is no doubt due to the identification of Lucifer with the Satan whom Jesus beheld falling from heaven according to the Gospel of Luke, and of course the pantheon of pre-Christian deities who were used to create the visage of Satan. By this time, there is also the influence of Dante’s Inferno to consider, which had a powerful effect on the Christian, not to mention collective, cultural imagination. In it, Satan is trapped waist-deep in a lake of ice in resentment for the crime of having betrayed God. By this point, Lucifer had already been linked to Satan by the Church and Christian tradition, with the pride and his self-deification of earthly kings identified with the morning star being used to explain the fall of Satan. The seven deadly sins were already codified into Catholic tradition by Pope Gregory I well before the Middle Ages, and in the 15th century these sins were related to specific demons. In the case of Lucifer, it is probably not an accident that the sin related to him is pride.

The closest thing to an actual deity named Lucifer is the Greek deity named Eosphoros (aka Phosphorus, Heosphorus). Eosphoros was the Greek deity of the morning star, which was the planet Venus as it appeared during the day. His name meant “dawn-bringer”. His counterpart, Hesperus, represented the evening star. Both Eosphoros and Hesperus are associated with the planet Venus, and they seem to represent different phases of the morning star. They are also depicted as bearers of light or torches. The two deities are generally accepted as synonymous with or complimentary towards each other, because the morning and evening star are both references to Venus, or rather Venus in certain phases.

This theme may not necessarily have been new to the Greeks. Paul Collins suggests that, in Mesopotamia, Attar and Ishtar may well have represented male and female aspects of the planet Venus, with Attar representing the morning star and Ishtar representing the evening star, and one aspect representing war and the other representing love and sex.

Phosphoros is also a title given to Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and the moon. In Rome, this has resulted in the name Diana Lucifer, depicting the goddess Diana as the bringer of light.

The name Lucifer also appears as in a positive context within, of all religions, Christianity. In the Middle Ages, there existed heretical sect of Christianity known as Luciferianism – not to be confused with the modern spiritual movement known as Luciferianism. The medieval Luciferians believed that Lucifer was the actual creator of the world and mankind who was once in heaven before being unjustly expelled by the Christian God, who is seen as the true evil deity, along with his host of angels. They believed that one day Lucifer would eventually overthrow the Christian God. Because they believed the Christian god to be evil, they did all they could to displease him so that they may be worthy of joining with Lucifer in the afterlife. It was basically an inversion of the Christian doctrine concerning good and evil. The sect was, naturally, persecuted by the Catholic Church, with many adherents burning for their beliefs. There is also an older sect of Christians who were known as Luciferians in the 4th century, but they did not worship a being named Lucifer in any capacity. They were rather named after a Roman Christian bishop who happened to be named Lucifer Calaritanus (aka Lucifer of Cagliari), who staunchly defended Catholic orthodoxy and opposed the doctrine of Arianism – a sect that rejected the notion of the Holy Trinity and held that Jesus was created by and indistinct from God. The sect was dedicated to his views on early church doctrine and to the deposing of Arian clerics and excommunication of Arian bishops. Some Gnositcs, consider Lucifer to be a messenger of the true and unknowable God, or an opponent of the Demiurge, even going so far as to identify him with the serpent of Eden. This is, of course, an alternative interpretation of the Genesis account, which tells of the serpent as just a talking serpent. Some Gnostics also believe that Lucifer is identical to the Greek Prometheus.

Lucifer is very often compared to Prometheus, based on the premise that Prometheus stole fire from the gods (or more specifically Zeus) so that he could give it to mankind, thus imparting knowledge. This is unsurprising, given the nature of the Lucifer myth. Lucifer is seen as having gone against the heavens themselves, defying either God or the gods either because he disagreed with their position on how to run the cosmos or simply because he prized the throne of heaven for himself. Either way he was cast down. Prometheus, whether he liked it or not, betrayed the gods so that he might bring the fire of Olympus to mankind, and for this he was chained to a rock until eventually being rescued by Hercules. It’s easy to see how one might draw similarities between the two. Beyond that, however, there is no obvious connection between the two (for one thing, Prometheus has nothing to do with the morning star). Some of this connection stems from the premise that Lucifer and the serpent of Genesis are the same being. According to the Genesis account, however, the serpent has nothing to do with Lucifer, or Satan for that matter. It’s just a clever talking serpent. I suppose the main connection drawn between the two is in the role they play, being dispensers of a kind of forbidden knowledge after all (the knowledge of fire vs the knowledge of good and evil). That said, I think a stronger case can be made between Prometheus and the Grigori – the angels in the Book of Enoch who became attracted to human women, were cast out of heaven and decided to gave the forbidden knowledge of the angels to Man.

Over the years Lucifer has had many roles in newer spiritual or occult traditions before the 21st century. The Anthroposophists considered Lucifer to be the embodiment of the side of Man that is imaginative, creative, artistic, spiritual and idealistic, as opposed to Ahriman who represented the rational, materialistic side of Man. Helena Blavatsky considered Lucifer to be “the spirit of Intellectual Enlightenment and Freedom of Thought” who guides the intellectual progress of humanity and sparked the initial awakening of the soul of Man within the bodies created by Jehovah. The Process Church of the Final Judgement views Lucifer to be one of the four “Great Gods of the Universe” alongside Satan, Jehovah and Jesus. They consider Lucifer to be a deity of light, love and sex responsible for the creation of women. Eliphas Levi considered Lucifer to be the name of a force that he claims was identified by the Hebrews as Samael and Satan by “other easterns” (an identification which, as we’ve established, the historical evidence does not support), and he believes that the “Lucifer of the Kabbalah” is not an evil being but rather “the angel who enlightens, who regenerates by fire”. He has also stated that Lucifer is an angel who shunned heaven so that he may illuminate the “unworked fields of light”, but would not recognize him as an angel of light unless he submitted to “the eternal order”. In his description of the pentagram, he also seems to hint Lucifer as a force of light, in contrast to a force of dusk and darkness (or Vesper), and yet seemingly two sides of the same coin. Albert Pike of the Freemasons has given praise to a figure named Lucifer, which may have led him and his organization to be accused of worshiping Lucifer or rather of worshiping Satan, but it is unlikely that this figure actually is Satan in any way. His views on God and Lucifer were the subject of an infamous hoax by Leo Taxil intended to smear to the Freemasons. Gregor A. Gregorius considered him to be a brother of Christ, while his organization Fraternitas Saturni was of the view that Lucifer is a higher “octave” of the principle of Saturn (with Satan being the lower, implying that the two are two different phases of the same concept), associated with the Logos. Manly P. Hall is said to have praised Lucifer as “the individual intellect and will which rebels against the domination of Nature”. Aleister Crowley at one point identified Aiwass, the spirit Crowley claimed to have heard, with Lucifer, whom he considered to be a solar and phallic force. The Gnostic interpretation of Lucifer found new genesis through the ideas of Ben Kadosh (real name: Carl William Hansen), who views Lucifer as the rebel who gives Man secrets that were forbidden by the Christian church. He also equates him with the Greek deity Pan, and the alchemical element of gold.

In the modern era, Lucifer as an icon found his own spiritual movement, drawing from aspects of the philosophy of Satanism. Luciferianism is a movement with multiple manifestations and more than one organization representing a form of Luciferian philosophy. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Assembly of Light Bearers, formerly known as the Greater Church of Lucifer, based primarily on the ideas of contemporary Left Hand Path occultists Michael W. Ford and Jeremy Crow. Lucifer, for this brand of Luciferianism, is an adversarial figure associated with pride, intelligence and self-liberation, and a desire to climb ever higher on the path of personal evolution towards a maximization of personal potential (a kind of “apotheosis” if you will), and an opponent of blind faith and restrictive religious dogma. His historical attachment to the planet Venus is very much accounted for, but he takes on some adversarial characteristics associated with beings like Satan, Samael, Ahriman or Azazel. He is mostly treated as an archetype, whose qualities are to be applied to any individual who desires to follow the Luciferian path, but some adherents take a more theistic approach. Another organization is the Neo-Luciferian Church, founded by Michael Bertiaux and Bjarne Salling Pedersen. This organization takes a more Gnostic approach to Luciferianism, apparently influenced by Western esoteric tradtion, Gnosticism, Voodoo and the works of Ben Kadosh. They view Lucifer as basically the light-bringer in the original sense, alien to Christianity and having nothing to do with Satan. In fact, there seem to be many Luciferian groups out there today, with their own take on Lucifer and Luciferian philosophy.

 

Conclusion

To summarize again: Lucifer begins in Mesopotamia or Canaan as a deity of war, fertility and the planet Venus named Attar, who sought the throne of Heaven. The morning star was symbolized as other deities as well, one of whom may well have rebelled against El. In Greece he was a non-violent deity who simply brought the light of the morning star, an archetype that gradually metastasized into the concept of bringing the light of knowledge and enlightenment. He also came to be associated with powerful men who may have been seen as godlike, and who in their apparent actions towards the Israelites came to be seen as enemies of YHWH. He became attached to the ideal of Man seeking divinity, which may have linked him to a rather humanistic mythological ideal of the knowledge of the gods being spread to humans by beings who, in doing so, betray the gods. This was Satanic, adversarial, to the Christians who stressed that faith in God was key to salvation, and the idea that Man can grasp the divine on his own was the height of hubris, of sinful pride. This is perhaps how Lucifer transformed from merely the morning star, to the Satanic rebel against God. Like Satan, then, Lucifer is a concept that has evolved throughout the ages, probably for considerably longer than Satan considering that the deification of the morning star originates in Mesopotamian polytheism while the concept of Satan (not more broadly the principle of cosmic evil) evolved from Judaism. Lucifer became the epitome of the ideal of Man seeking the throne of heaven that he may sit upon it, through his own exertion, and through like the morning star or perhaps the Promethean archetype he spreads the light of the morning star, or of fire, to shine on Man. To me, thinking about it on my own, it seems fairly obvious how Lucifer came to be as he is. That the morning star is also the evening star, by virtue of the both of them being Venus, can be very easily interpreted as Lucifer, as a Venus-based archetype, containing both light of day and the darkness of light; or, the archetypal quantities of light and darkness. Perhaps this is what Michael W. Ford is hitting on.

Mythological Spotlight #8 Part 1 – Satan

For Part 3 of my planned series, I offer you a special Mythological Spotlight dedicated to comparing the archetypes of Satan and Lucifer, both of whom are important mythological figures within the current of Satanism, as well as its sister philosophy known as Luciferianism. The main impetus for these two posts is simple: although Satan and Lucifer are treated in the popular imagination as similar entities, if not the expressly synonymous, the two characters are known to have two separate historical origins within two distinct contexts. I hope that in these posts, I will adequately demonstrate how this is the case.

I had originally intended to wrote a single Mythological Spotlight comparing Satan and Lucifer, essentially making for two Mythological Spotlights in one. However, as I was writing it I decided that the single post would be excessively long, so I decided to split this into two part. The first part of this Mythological Spotlight, of course, concentrates on the character of Satan. The second part is in progress should be released soon enough.

satanjobboils_blake
Satan smiting Job with boils, as depicted by William Blake

 

Description

To Christians, he is The Devil, The Beast, That Old Snake, 666 and other names, the being that leads people away from God’s will and into sin and will soon do final battle with God. To Jews, he is just another angel of God, just that his main function is to test the faith of Mankind. To Muslims, he is Iblis, the one who refused to bow to Adam and revolted against Allah in order to become the master of the djinn. To Satanists, he is the embodiment of Man’s true nature, and the representation of Man as he ought to be. To others, just a bogeyman made up of all manner of pre-Christian deities designed solely to revile pre-Christian religions. Satan is a character with a complex and storied history, and one that continues to evolve.

 

History

Satan seems to have originated as a title in Hebrew lore, meaning “adversary”, “opposer” or “accuser”. It could have referred to anyone, often including a human, who served as an obstacle to the individual believer. Sometimes it can refer to an invisible or illusory obstacle placed by YHWH. The most familiar context of the name is that of a specific angel, or a specific kind of angel, found within the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh; one who tests the faith of Man, argues his sins to YHWH and creates difficulties for humans under YHWH’s command. This is the angel typically identified as Ha-Satan, or “the Satan”, the angel cited as the original Satan. This Satan is the angel who features in the Biblical story of Job, who thought that Job was only humbly serving YHWH because he gave him a blessed life, and that if he took it all away he would stop praising his name. YHWH accepted the challenge, and so he ordered the Satan to take his misfortune away from him and ruin his life. As an angel of YHWH, the Satan requires the permission of YHWH before he can act, and cannot act independently according to Jewish lore.

Since Satan is a title, “the Satan” or Ha-Satan is not necessarily a proper name, but rather a title referring to the role played by the angel in question, the identity of the Satan of the book of Job has been the subject of some debate. The name Satan is typically used to identify the Satan of Job, perhaps to relate to the Christian concept of Satan. However, traditional and apocryphal Jewish sources consider the identity of the Satan of Job to be Samael, also known as the angel of death. Little appears to be known about Samael, and opinion of Samael can vary wildly within Jewish tradition. Samael is either the prince of evil itself, a being unaligned with the heavenly host or even outside of it, which is the view held in some later or more apocryphal texts, or as simply an angel who, though pernicious and often malevolent, is still a servant of YHWH and is simply playing his role in YHWH’s order of things, which aligns with the view of the concept of Satan held within mainstream Judaism.

In the Ascension of Moses, an apocryphal Jewish text, Samael is identified directly as the angel who tests Job, apparently to weaken his faith so that he may collect his soul:

There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mien. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes, at the sight of which the beholder fell prostrate in awe. “This one,” said Metatron, addressing Moses, “is Samael, who takes the soul away from man.” “Whither goes he now?” asked Moses, and Metatron replied, “To fetch the soul of Job the pious.” Thereupon Moses prayed to God in these words, “O may it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, not to let me fall into the hands of this angel.”

The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament by Montague Rhodes James identifies Samael as The Devil, the opposite of the archangel Michael, and is described as a being .

And Moses said unto Jesus the son of Nauë, ‘Let us go up into the mountain.’ And when they were gone up, Moses saw the land of promise and said to Jesus, ‘Go down unto the people and tell them “Moses is dead.”‘ And Jesus went down unto the people, but Moses came to the end of his life. And Samael tried to bring down his body (tabernacle) unto the people, that they might make him a god. But Michael, the Chief Captain, by the command of God came to take him and bury him, and Samael resisted him, and they contended. So the Chief Captain was wroth and rebuked him, saying, ‘The Lord rebuke thee, devil.’ And so the adversary was vanquished and took to flight, but the Archangel Michael buried the body of Moses where he was bidden by Christ our God (and no man saw the burial of Moses)

It is noted, however, that as Michael’s opposite Samael is also seen as the compliment to Michael in some way. Samael is the prosecutor and the adversary of Mankind and Israel, while Michael is its defender. As not only the Satan par excellence but also the prince of “satans”, the prince of the powers of evil, Samael is very much a figure synonymous with Satan similar to how we may understand him today. But nonetheless, this Satan is still viewed as a servant of YHWH, just a servant who fulfills a negative function – that of bringing misfortune, tempting people to sin and arguing the sins of Man or Israel to his master, which brings him into conflict with Michael.

At a later period in Jewish history, specifically during the Babylonian Exile, the role of the Satan begins to change because of the influence of Persian teachings, namely those of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism stressed the dualistic monotheistic view more akin to modern Christianity and Islam – that of a single Supreme God who is the embodiment of goodness, light, truth and justice, juxtaposed against his opposite; the embodiment of evil, darkness, falsehood and wickedness, a concept encapsulated as The Lie. During the time of the Babylonian Exile, the Jews came into contact with Persian beliefs, and after that period Judaism became more in line with Persian teachings. And so the concept of Satan became more and more aligned with the idea of an evil opposite to God (YHWH). Samael became attached to this idea in Talmudic and apocryphal sources to the point that Samael is viewed as the architect of evil, sin and the fall of Man, as well as having mated with Eve and even either planting or playing the role of the serpent in the Garden of Eden thus being responsible for their fall from Paradise.

At this point it’s worth noting that the link between any Satan and the serpent of the Garden of Eden is questionable at best. The connection between the serpent of Genesis and Satan seems to stem from a verse from the Book of Revelation which reads:

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth,” – Revelation 12:9

However, Genesis makes no reference to Satan in relation to the serpent in the myth of the Garden of Eden. The myth originates in Jewish tradition, which does not recognize a singular literal or personal Satan. Not to mention, the serpent of Genesis used to have limbs, but had his limbs removed by YHWH through a curse as punishment for tempting Adam and Eve, and is consigned to live as a snake, whereas the Beast of Revelation doesn’t appear to resemble a proper snake in both appearance and behavior. In all likelihood, the serpent of Genesis was just a serpent, unaffiliated with YHWH or any Satan, who perhaps happened to be particularly clever. Returning to Revelation, the dragon is previously described as “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads“. You may recognize this sort of creature as the mount of the Whore of Babylon, whose appearance indicates a symbolic reference to Ancient Rome, the adversary (or perhaps, the “Satan”?) of the early Christian movement, or more specifically John – the man who wrote Revelation. It is an expression of an empire or civilization believed to be rife with sin, wickedness and blasphemy and which persecuted the believers of God/YHWH. It may also be an expression a more ancient mythological motif of conflict between a warrior figure and a dragon or serpent, such as the Old Testament battle between YHWH and Leviathan.

There is another angel in Jewish lore who is associated with the concept of Satan and is identified with the Satan of the Book of Job: Mastema. Mastema is an angel who is believed to carry out punishments on the orders of YHWH, as well as a commander of evil spirits who harass humans. He is often retconned in the pseudepigraphical Book of Jubilees as an evil force who either motivates YHWH to do strange evil things or as a someone who does some of those things instead of YHWH. For instance, he is considered to be the one who persuaded YHWH to challenge Abraham to kill his son Isaac, and the one who persuaded the followers of Moses to commit idolatry. There is also a strange instance in the Bible where YHWH tries to kill Moses, but the story gets rewritten so that Mastema becomes responsible for the attempted murder. He is also written to be the one who aids the sorcerers of the Pharaoh to oppose Moses, and is seen as the angel responsible for the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt as part of the Ten Plagues sent by YHWH. Like Samael, Mastema was not necessarily an enemy of YHWH, rather a servant of his whose role is to tempt the souls of men, obstruct and hinder them, and argue their sins. YHWH even allows him to keep a portion of demons under his service before the great flood. Indeed, in much the same way as Samael may have become synonymous with the Christian Satan, it is this sinister function that has led him to be treated not as an angel in service of YHWH but rather a devil who opposes him, to that point that Mastema is often treated as synonymous with Belial.

Returning to Zoroastrianism, Ahriman is an important influence on the character of the Christian Satan. He was, from the outset, evil incarnate. Also known as Angra Mainyu, Ahriman is the embodiment of evil and “the Lie” and opposite of Ahura Mazda (though the Gathas position him as the opponent of another being, Spenta Mainyu; an aspect of Ahura Mazda) and is believed to be the creator of all manner of nasty creatures that seek to bring harm to humans. Much like the Christian Satan, Ahriman is the deceiver according to Zoroastrian tradition, and he is the chief and/or creator of a group of demonic beings who are referred to as daevas (which was originally the Hindu term “deva”, referring to a class of deities that resided in the heavens). The entire universe is presented as being divided between Ahriman and Ahura Mazda, with both sides fighting for the souls of Man at large.

Within mainstream Christian tradition, the names Samael and Mastema seem to have lost relevance, and the chief opponent of YHWH comes to be identified simply as Satan. If anything, the Christian Satan seems to be identified with Beelzebub, who in Jewish lore was the lord of the flies who represented a rival deity to YHWH. The Book of Revelation also identifies him with the beast with seven heads, who we have discussed earlier in this post. However The Ascension of Isaiah, a mostly Christian apocryphal text, identifies Samael (or Sammael) as Satan, though the same text also identifies Satan with Belial (Beliar), the angel of lawlessness, who is also considered the ruler of this world. The being is recounted as having possessed King Manasseh in order to bring about Isaiah’s martyrdom. The Christian role of Satan no longer resembles the Jewish conception of The Satan as a prosecutor and accuser on behalf of YHWH, but the opponent of YHWH and the ruler of Hell, whose temptations lead the souls of humans to Hell and their doom and damnation, who will according the Bible eventually be judged by the resurrected Jesus and imprisoned in the very Hell he is supposed to rule over. In fact, the role of the ruler of the underworld, and his iconic appearance from the medieval period going forward, has noticeably more in common with pre-Christian pagan beliefs about the deities of the underworld – such as Hades, Nergal or Yama – than the original Jewish tradition. He certainly took on many characteristics associated with the pre-Christian pantheon: horns associated with Ba’al, the trident associated with Poseidon, goat features including hooves associated with Pan (not to mention his famously lustful attributes) and his dominion of the underworld a trait of Hades (which funny enough became an alternate name for Hell). He is also identified with the Beast of Revelation, or the Great Red Dragon chasing after the Woman Clothed in Sun. That he is identified with a draconic beast the way he is in revelation suggests, to me at least, that Satan has transformed from merely an angel in God’s service to an apocalyptic force of chaos set against God, and that this is his ultimate role in things.

In Christianity, Satan and Lucifer are typically seen as synonymous, typically based on certain Biblical verses. But, as will be explored much further in Part 2, there is nothing in these verses that actually connects Satan with Lucifer. The Book of Isaiah is typically used to show how Satan was once the morning star before he fell, when in fact the morning star seems to be referring to a king of Babylon. The Book of Ezekiel is similarly cited to show how Satan was the greatest of the angels before his fall, when in fact it is a king of Tyre being compared to an unnamed angel. Indeed, the explanations for how he turned from simply the Adversary of Job to the Beast seem strange to me.

In Gnostic Christian tradition, Samael appears as a name of the Demiurge – the malevolent or incompetent deity who creates the material universe as a prison for the souls that presently inhabit the body of Man. Since the Demiugre is treated as basically Satan, being the opposite of the true and perfect God described by the Gnostics, this is essentially stating that Samael and Satan are identical. In a similar tradition, adherents of the Bogomil sect believe that Satan created matter while God created the soul of Man. The Bogomils identify Satan as Satanael, an angel who also appears in the apocryphal Second Book of Enoch as the name of the leader of the Grigori (or the Watchers), a group of angels who fell from heaven after becoming infatuated and attracted to human women and sought to teach humans various forms of knowledge that were previously kept by the angels (in the first Book of Enoch, the leader of the Grigori is named Samyaza; the two are sometimes seen as synonymous).

The apocryphal lore surrounding the Grigori, and the identification of their leader as Satanael (whose name you may note means “Adversary of God”), may have influenced the Judeo-Christian character Satan as we know him, by positioning him as a rebellious angel who fell to the Earth and spread forbidden knowledge. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this is partly how the serpent became seen as related to Satan – after all, the serpent performed a similar function by tempting Adam and Eve towards the forbidden knowledge of good and evil. And perhaps this is how Satan came to be seen as the Beast? The Enochian Satanael was later rewritten by an occultist named Faustus Scorpius, founder of a group known as the Order of the Left Hand Path, to show Satanael as the one or first angel in heaven to realize the concept of self-consciounsess and hence rebelled against the Demiurge and his heavenly host. He was defeated by Michael and his angels, but still set out to spread self-consciousness and freedom to Man.

In Islam, Satan is known as Iblis. Iblis was a djinn – a being made of fire, as opposed to the angels who were made out of light – who was banished from the heavenly realm for refusing Allah’s command to bow to the first human he created. Like the Christian Satan, Iblis is seen as leading souls away from Allah through temptation and actively opposes Allah’s will . Although it is generally agreed that Iblis is a Djinn, some Islamic scholars think that Iblis was originally an angel, much like Samael.

Perhaps the most famous interpretation of Satan is the one found in John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. In this work, Satan was once an angel in Heaven who served God, but rebelled along with a third of the heavenly host, only to be defeated and be cast down into Hell, where he decides to establish his own kingdom, uttering the famous phrase “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. I can assume that this draws from the attempted connection by Christians between Satan and the Lucifer figures of the Bible, but it is through this depiction that the traditional conception of Satan emerges, rather than the actual scripture of Christianity or Judaism. Here we see a more romantic interpretation of Satan, and arguably a heroic Satan – the first instance wherein we see Satan as the rebellious figure, standing up to God, and arguing the case for his unjust character. Indeed, I suspect this is the source of the Satanic Temple interpretation of Satan as the eternal rebel standing up to tyrannical authority. The irony being, of course, that before John Milton Satan doesn’t seem to be shown as much of an enemy of God until the Book of Revelation, the verses typically shown before hand to refer to Satan’s fall having nothing to do with Satan. And before all of that, it was a Satan that was working with tyrannical authority, that of YHWH.

Because of the prevalence of Milton’s Satan in the popular imagination, Satan has been compared to a Greek mythological figure known as Prometheus. In fact, the author of the drama Prometheus Unbound wrote a preface explaining his personal judgement that Satan is the only character resembling Prometheus. Prometheus is a being related to the Titans (that is, he is a son of one of them), the personification of foresight and knowledge. He was the creator of mankind who stole the fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, for which he was chained to a rock by Zeus. The fire of Olympus came to be a symbol of Man’s enlightenment, reason and knowledge, which was withheld by Zeus. Before stealing the fire of Olympus, Prometheus was considered an ally of the Olympian gods, thus the act of stealing it for mankind’s benefit was an act of betrayal of the gods. In a way, there are some characteristics he thus shares with Satan. Other than, however, there is no direct connection. Many connect the two through the serpent myth, asserting that Prometheus was like Satan who brought the forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve. But, as has been established, the serpent of Eden is not actually Satan.

Another influential interpretation is the story of Mephistopheles, the demon who appeared to Faust in his eponymous legend. In the legend, Faust summons Mephistopheles, who offers him his service for a period of time, at the end of which Mephistopheles claims his soul for eternity, leading it to Hell. This tale echoes into the modern world as the archetypal “deal with the devil”. Mephistopheles is explicitly a representation of the Devil, of Satan perhaps, and it seems to play on a characteristic that Jewish apocrpyha associated with Samael – that of taking away the souls of humans.

The archetype Satan found within Satanism is based on both the Miltonian conception of Satan, the Judeo-Christian notion of Satan as The Adversary and the opponent of the values associated with YHWH and the background laid by several magickal traditions in their description of Satan. Eliphas Levi describes Satan as “the goat of the Sabbath”, associated with profanation and darkness. Stanislas de Guatia views Satan as “the foul goat threatening Heaven”. The same inverted pentagram we know today from the Church of Satan actually comes from the works of Maurice Bessy. Indeed, whenever an inverted pentagram appears in historical magickal works, it is typically meant as a symbol of the inversion all that is good, which would be symbolized by the upward-pointing pentagram. Satan is also aligned with materialism in many spiritualist traditions, and indeed his symbol is taken as meaning matter prevailing over spirit. Curiously, Stanislas de Guatia’s Satan pentagram features the name Samael. It would seem to denote Samael as the negative opponent of Adam. Anton LaVey took the Satan of Judaism, Christianity and Western magickal tradition and made him a positive figure, the advocate of Man as he ought to be as defined by the philosophy of Satanism.

Finally, Satan is frequently compared with the Egyptian deity Set. Both Satan and Set are considered to be evil beings, but it is claimed that they are connected by the name Set-hen, a title purportedly attached to Set. I have been unable to find a lot of evidence for the “Set-hen” theory, with few resources available outside of Satanic circles and even then not much is elaborated. The claim seems to amount to the idea that “Set-hen” sounds like the modern Satan, therefore it’s a match. However, there are many characteristics that Set shares with the modern Satan. Much like the Jewish conception of Satan, Set was not always seen as an evil being. He was originally a deity of storms, the desert, and war. Similar to Apep, he was seen as a personification of chaos and destruction, but unlike Apep, Set was seen as very much a part of the natural order of things, his chaotic influence a necessary component of balance and harmony in the cosmos. Later on he came to be associated with foreigners. He was also considered a troublesome deity, perhaps most infamous for murdering his brother Osiris after he was seduced by the goddess Nephthys, who was supposed to be his wife, which led him to conflict with the sky deity Horus. However he was also the protector of the sun deity Ra, and at one point also considered to be one of the principle deities of the cosmos, alongside Amun, Ra and Ptah. After the Hyksos invaded Egypt and brought with them their religion, Set rose to prominence through his identification with the Semitic deity Ba’al (with whom he shares many characteristics). After they were driven out, Set’s association with the Hyksos and foreigners in general led him to be seen as an evil being who invited the conquest of Egypt by foreigners. Eventually he become almost synonymous with Apep, and lost his role as a protective deity. In Greece, Set was equated to Typhon – a monster personifying chaos and volcanic forces who lead the Titans against Zeus when they kill Dionysus.

Today, the character of Satan is alive and well and still continues to be invoked as a bogeyman, particularly in conspiracy theories wherein he is somehow one of the main benefactors. For instance, he believed to be the deity worshiped by the Freemasons, the “Illuminati” and the New World Order. Some even believe him to be the true God of the Muslims and Jews, which of course is historically and religiously illiterate. A similar point can be made about the Islamic world, where the Great Satan is a term used by Islamist regimes and Islamic terrorists to refer to demonize the United States of America. However, in the modern world, his character is also still influenced by John Milton’s characterization of him, and today the Miltonian Satan is also used as a political tool by some of those who wish for the expulsion of religion from the public sphere. Satan is often conflated with an idol named Baphomet – originally the name of the idol the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping -, a symbol that in occult traditions generally refers to the unity and harmony of opposites in the universe and not strictly to the Devil; although Baphomet has proven influential in shaping the image of Satan. And of course, Satan is a celebrated icon in the subculture of heavy metal music, where many songs, albums or musical careers are dedicated to him to this day. Not that the vast majority of heavy metal fans and musicians are Satanists or Satan worshipers per se. For metalheads, it’s just that he happens to make for awesome music.

 

Conclusion

In summation, Satan, as a concept, begins in Judaism wherein it refers to an adversary in general or to a specific angel who carries out punishment in the name of YHWH, before gradually evolving into the archetype of evil, chaos and sedition against God, to being equated with the bringer of knowledge and freedom and thus being seen as the opponent of dictatorial rule, and today the concept of Satan is influenced by both religious and literary tradition. In a way, the concept of Satan remains something of a historical scapegoat, with many people citing the Devil as the inspiration for many a malicious act on the part of themselves or of their enemies. Indeed, even among Christians different sects have been seen as in league with Satan for their heresy against the Church. And as I said earlier, if you go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory land it’s not too long before you find a Satan or two used as a scapegoat for many complex problems in the world. But the concept of Satan has also taken on many other meanings. Indeed, as Adversary, he can perhaps be seen as a force of passion – that is, the passion that has the potential to either lead to evil things, or drive life as we know it towards greatness and progress. In the end, the idea Satan eventually becoming the opponent of the Absolute, rather than just an accuser of Man, makes some sense when you consider the development of Jewish and later Christian tradition. At one point the Jews considered evil to be a part of God’s machinations. But, at some point the Jews suffered what would have been a great indignity, if not outright injustice, towards their faith. It is difficult to conceive that God would destroy his own temple to punish the Jews in some way. It was perhaps naturally to think that it was the work of something that was set against God. Samael then would’ve made for a terrific scapegoat, given he was the angel whose role was often an unpleasant one. Satan was once a title, and then became something of a scapegoat in the Christian tradition, but perhaps it can be said that Satan eventually took on a life of his own.

The “crucifixion” of Prometheus

A while back I heard of an interesting claim regarding the Greek figure Prometheus: the claim that was “crucified” just as Jesus was according to the Bible.

The claim seems to stem from a passage supposedly attributed to Hesiod’s Theogony, which reads as follows:

With shackles and inescapable fetters Zeus riveted Prometheus on a pillar.

This appears to be one interpretation of the myth. According to another interpretation, courtesy of the University of Michigan.

He bound the changeful-planning Prometheus with unbreakable fetters, painful bonds, and drove them through the middle of a pillar. And he sent a long-winged eagle upon him.

Another interpretation, courtesy of Perseus Digital Library.

And ready-witted Prometheus he bound with inextricable bonds, cruel chains, and drove a shaft through his middle, and set on him a long-winged eagle, which used to eat his immortal liver;

In either case, I fail to see the equivalence of being bound or tied to a pillar or a rock and someone being literally crucified. You know, that thing where you’re nailed to a cross or stauros or whatever, whilst elevated from the ground, and left to die. Jesus dies whilst on the cross, while Prometheus is eventually rescued by Hercules instead, which would preclude any resurrection on Prometheus’ part. So I can’t help but the idea of Prometheus being crucified is essentially one that’s barking up the wrong tree. Not to mention, if Prometheus is being crucified here, then so is Andromeda. She was chained to a rock as a sacrificial offering in order to appease the gods, before she is rescued by Perseus. I was unaware that being chained to a rock was the same as crucifixion – whether it’s one of those t-shaped crosses were all familiar with or the stauros which may been the actual historical equivalent.

The idea of Prometheus being crucified seems to come from a book titled The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors, which was written in 1875 by Kelsey Graves. The book lists Prometheus as one of the “crucified saviors” alongside deities like Krishna, Mitra, Indra (if you can believe it), Attis and Quetzalcoatl, and posits that Jesus was essentially a clone of sixteen deities from various mythologies that were crucified or killed and then descended into the underworld only to resurrect. And if it sounds like something out of Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist films or Bill Maher’s Religulous, that’s only because it pre-dated both. In fact, the book and its author are often seen as an unreliable and debunked source on comparative religion and mythology.

So needless to say, Prometheus is not Jesus. If anything, I thought Prometheus was closer to Lucifer than Jesus.

Prometheus by Gustave Moreau
Prometheus by Gustave Moreau

The Divine Individual

This is the first of a series of posts I will write discussing the topic of the mythological figure of Jesus, because there’s a lot about the subject, and of the related subject of Christianity that I have on my mind. And to start, I’d like to write about an idea promoted by Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, because he sparked some interesting ideas in my head. I’m sure you remember Peterson best as the professor who stood at the center of a crowd of social justice warrior type protesters who were attacking a free speech rally at the University of Toronto where he was protesting Bill C-16, a Canadian law which would add the subjectively defined notions of gender identity and gender expression to a list of prohibited grounds of discrimination and criminalize “hate propaganda” based on gender identity – which, in practice, seems to amount to the ability to punish someone for refusing to call someone “ze”. But enough about that, let’s talk about his concept of the Divine Individual.

The Divine Individual is a concept that Jordan Peterson uses to illustrate as a principle that societies, in need of social cohesion, can use to unite under a banner and organize in order to overcome fragmentation whilst avoiding both nihilism and totalitarianism. Let’s go through an excerpt of his New Year’s Message on his YouTube channel where he outlines the premise. We’ll explore this bit by bit, exploring pertinent points made by Peterson.

One alternative to fragmentation is, of course, union under a banner. A collective ideal, cause or purpose. The problem with uniting under a banner, as the postmodernists who push identity politics rightly point out, is that to value something means simultaneously to devalue other things. Thus to value is an exclusionary process. But the alternative is valuelessness, which is equivalent to nihilism, and nihilism does not produce freedom from exclusion; it just makes everyone excluded. And that’s an intolerable state: directionless, uncertain, chaotic and angst-ridden. When such uncertainty reaches a critical level, the counter-response appears. First the unconscious, and then the collectively expressed demand for a leader possessed by totalitarian certainty, who promises, above all, to restore order. Thus a society without an underlying principle oscillates unmoored between nihilism and totalitarianism. Human beings have been wrestling with this problem since the beginning of civilization. When our capacity to form large groups, for all its advantages, also started to pose a new threat: that of the hyper-domination of the state or collective purpose. But without the state there’s just fragmentation into smaller groups.

I just want to raise this point because it sounds like this is how he understands the dichotomy of order and chaos. For Peterson, chaos is the state of society characterized by valuelessnees, uncertainty and nihilism, one that eventually gives way to order, but at an extreme level, which he identifies as totalitarian certainty. I find it interesting how this can be interpreted in the political/cultural context of current society: the modern left has embraced postmodernism and valuelessness, only to give rise to totalitarian certainty. An uneasy example of this is found in the social justice warriors, which openly embrace totalitarianism in order to prop up postmodern ideology. Of course that’s probably a more liberal perspective. A more conservative perspective might be that the SJWs, and leftists in general, embraced valuelessness and postmodernism, creating conditions that will allow totalitarianism to take hold: whether by the hand of big government, communism or radical Islam (and make no mistake: Islam and communism are, in practice, among the ultimate embodiments of what Peterson would call totalitarian certainty). The other reason I find this very fascinating is because the whole tension presented by Peterson it reminds me of quite a few discussions I had on the subject with other people, and it also reminds me of the theme of Law and Chaos in the Shin Megami Tensei series, as well as one of my favorite passages in the history of the written word: the opening passage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” – Luo Guanzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms

It illustrates Guanzhong’s cyclical worldview regarding empire, or more specifically the Chinese empire, which seems to be characterized by a history of fragmentation and civil war, followed by unity under the banner of a new emperor and dynasty, followed by fragmentation and civil war after the decline of the dynasty, and so repeats (presumably until the advent of the modern republic of China, but that’s as far as my knowledge of Chinese history goes I’m afraid). It also kind of evokes the kind of cyclical worldview found in Taoism, one of the main religions historically practiced in China and still practiced to this day. Speaking of Taoism, it seems to me like Peterson has a very yin and yang view of order and chaos, and the dangers of their extremes, much like I do. I suppose that’s why I like him, coupled with the way he elucidates this understanding. Anyways, enough of the massive tangent, let’s get back to the next important point.

In the West, starting in the Middle East thousands of years ago, a new idea began to emerge – evolve is not too strong a word – in the collective imagination. You might, following [Richard] Dawkins, consider this a meme, although this is far too weak a word. This idea, whose development can be traced back through Egypt to Mesopotamia, before disappearing into unwritten history, is that of the divine individual.  The eons-old work of the imagination is a dramatic presentation of an emergent idea, which is the solution to how to organize social being without falling prey to nihilistic divisiveness or deceitful totalitarian certainty. The group must unite, but under the banner of the individual. The individual is the source of the new wisdom that updates the antiquated, nihilistic or totalitarian detritus and glory of the past.”

This is where we, finally, come to the main point – the concept of the Divine Individual. In a way it actually reminds me of characters who might fulfill the narrative of the “monomyth”, or the Hero’s Journey, courtesy of Joseph Campbell, which funny enough we had to talk about during the second year of my game design course. You know, that structure that has influenced the development of many films, such as the Star Wars films, and details the archetypal hero’s quest for glory, or for greater knowledge and wisdom. I see the Divine Individual as possibly a person (or, in mythical terms, a deity) who has undertaken that journey and accrued a powerful new wisdom which he brings back to the world at large, in that sense becoming the source of the new wisdom.

Also, there definitely are examples of characters that might fit the idea of the Divine Individual in various cultures in the regions Peterson mentions. In Mesopotamia we have the story of Gilgamesh, who travels to find the secret of immortality only to realize that humans cannot achieve immortality. There’s also Utnapishtim (aka Atra-Hasis or Ziusudra), the man who built a great boat and survived a flood before Noah did it and was blessed by the gods afterwards. I could also make the argument for the Babylonian deity Marduk possibly being an example – by challenging and slaying Tiamat, the draconic embodiment of the primordial chaos, Marduk overthrows the rule of an older group of primordial deities and creates the cosmos out of the spoils of battle, creates mankind out of the blood of one of her monster allies, Kingu, mankind is created. In Egypt I find this is more difficult to find, but I believe the best example is the sun god himself, Ra, who every day undergoes a journey to the underworld, and with the help of his guardians (or sometimes on his own in the form of a cat) he defeats the serpent Apep and the forces of evil, who would otherwise destroy the cosmos, and ensures that the light of the sun continues to shine on Egypt. Why stop there?

For better or worse, that idea reaches its apogee in Christianity. The divine individual is masculine because the feminine is not individual. The divine feminine is instead mother and child. However, it is a hallmark of Christian supposition that the redemption of both men and women comes from the masculine, and that’s because the masculine is the individual. The central realization, expressed dramatically and symbolically, is that the subordination of the group to the ideal of the divine individual is the answer to the paradox of nihilism and totalitarianism. The divine individual is the man that every man admires, and the man who all women want their men to be. The divine individual is the ideal from which deviations are punished by the group with contempt and disgrace, and fidelity to which is rewarded with attention and honor.

And here’s where we come to the part where Peterson ascribes the role of the divine individual to Jesus. I can’t help but disagree with a few things here, but we’ll start with the role of Jesus. I’ll grant that the conventionally understood form of Jesus can indeed fit the role of the divine individual – besides being the offspring of a deity (which I don’t think was mandatory for the role), he studied Jewish law and went on to spread, supposedly, a new form of Jewish teaching that spoke of the end times coming, God coming to overthrow the corruption of Rome and telling people to love they neighbor. He is, however, not much of a reformer. In fact, Jesus is quoted in the Bible as saying that he favors the old Jewish law.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” – Matthew 5:17-18

And this apparently even includes the stuff about loving thy neighbour. That famous New Testament verse was actually from the Book of Leviticus, the same text that condemns lying with another man as with a woman. I suspect Jesus was only considered a reformer in the sense that he came after the Pharisees because he viewed them as hypocrites, possibly because they advocated following the spirit rather than the letter of Jewish law and maybe because they put less control of the Jewish teachings in the hands of just the priests. He would have been a conservative who wanted to preserve the dogma of Jewish lore, rather than the reformist source of a new wisdom that would have updated the dogma. In fact, one of the things he criticized the Pharisees for was that they didn’t kill disobedient children, which was sanctioned by Jewish law in the Old Testament, the very same law that Jesus was sent to uphold. Jesus was also the kind of guy who talked about fearing God, condemned entire cities for not believing him, reserved eternal hellfire for those he damned and ordered people to chop off hands and feet to cleanse themselves of sin. Sounds like he’s a figure of totalitarianism to me, and that’s not all there is to it (I will address that in a separate post). The other embodiment of totalitarian certainty is, of course, his father, Jehovah/YHVH – the deity who demands blind faith and complete obedience according to the Bible or you will be destroyed or condemned to eternal damnation. So the main problem I have is that Jesus is quite easy to deconstruct based on what is actually written in the Bible.

Interestingly enough, however, since there is a figure of totalitarian certainty in the Christian religion, what represents the opposite – that of valuelessness and nihilism? I would argue that, for the Christians, that doesn’t mean Satan, as one might suspect, but rather Hell itself. In the popular Christian conception of Hell, Hell is either the lake of fire where in the soul is tormented by demons, or a place of darkness where the soul is completely and utterly separated from God, either way it is the source of horror, weeping and the gnashing of teeth. But typically, it is the place where the soul no longer knows the love or the presence of God, and instead knows torment and anguish. There are verse of the Bible which seem to imply both

Other than that, there are other points to make. It is generally true that the heroic figures of many mythologies are male, and many goddesses embody a maternal role. But I can think of one female mythological figure who doesn’t necessarily fit this role – the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. She journeys into the underworld, the land of the dead and of death, without fear, to try and fight Ereshkigal, the ruling goddess of the underworld, only to wind up imprisoned, striken with disease and killed by one of her minions, and then resurrected by a eunuch of the gods and returning to the surface to – all to revive her lover, Tammuz (deity of vegetation), after he died. And the idea of the man that every man wants to be and every woman wants their men to be I find is easily exemplified in, say, Greek mythology, where we can find such heroic figures – like Hercules, Achilles, Perseus, Odysseus, Jason or Theseus – men who in the modern world are still lionized in popular culture. Or hell, not even just mythology: did someone forget about Leonidas I, or Alexander the Great if his ruler cult is anything to go by? Those people became immortalized, in a manner of speaking, both in ancient religion (as is the case in Alexander the Great) and modern fiction (Leonidas I).

The divine individual is the builder, maintainer and expander of the state, he who boldly goes where no man has gone before, and someone who watches eternally over the widows and the children. His power of direct and honest communication is that which identifies, discusses and then resolves the continually emerging problems of human existence. 

I guess that’s one reason for him to think of Jesus as fitting the role, considering Jesus is sometimes depicted in a regal fashion, and is often referred to by Christians as their “king”. But I think this applies to Marduk as well. As the creator of the cosmos, king of the gods and patron deity of the city of Babylon, I think the role of the builder, maintainer and expander of the state suits a ruler figure such as Marduk. Or how about Ziusudra or Gilgamesh, who were both kings?  Or how about the rulers who were deified in classical Greece? Indeed I see this applying outside the Christian context pretty much categorically.

However, I’m willing to put forward because of its long-standing presence in human culture, and the clearly positive values attributed to it, I think the idea of the divine individual is worth pursuing. I think Peterson’s concept should be influential to me at least, as it seems like an effective way of expressing the idea that . In a way, pursuing the ideal of the individual is an idea I suspect some Left Hand Path systems, if not many, actively pursue. In fact, I see this in Luciferianism, and the way we Luciferians view the example of Lucifer – a mythological being that has evolved for so long in the collective imagination, from possibly being a Canaanite/Ugaritic deity associated with the morning star to being the figure of the Enlightenment. For us I think he’s more like the Enlightenment type figure, though more influenced by the John Milton characterization of Satan (which, if we’re being honest, sort of comes from the Christian characterization of both Satan and Lucifer). On this basis, I think the concept of the Divine Individual is worthy of appraisal and analysis.

Lucifer
Lucifer

 


If you want to see all of the posts that Jordan Peterson discussed, click here. I highly recommend it, because his perspective is nonetheless a fascinating one.

Also, I think he kind of deserves a little appreciation. At least because, as you’ll see in the video, he seems deeply troubled, if not pained, by some of the maladies he sees in the modern world, and I think he’s really trying to set things right in his own way by speaking his mind.

Mythological Spotlight #7 – Kuk

Kuk (right) and his wife Kauket (left), depicted in The Book of Doors
Kuk (right) and his wife Kauket (left), depicted in The Book of Doors

Description

Kuk is an ancient Egyptian deity of darkness, obscurity and the unknown. He is part of a very ancient pair of primordial deities known as the Ogdoad, alongside his wife and female counterpart Kauket. Together, they are embodiments of a state of darkness that existed before the time of creation. Kuk is also known to go by the names Kek or Keku.

 

History

The Ogdoad were a group of primordial deities worshipped in the city of Khmun (Hermopolis) in Egypt during the Old Kingdom period. They consisted of eight deities: Amun, Nun, Kuk and Huh and their respective wives Amunet, Naunet, Kauket and Hauhet. Each of them represented elements of the state of primordial chaos that preceded the creation of the world according to Egyptian mythology. Amun and Amunet represented air, invisibility and hidden things, Nun and Nunet represented the primordial waters and the abysss, Kek and Kauket represented the darkness and obscurity and Huh and Hauhet represented eternity and the infinite space. The male deities were symbolized by the frog and were depicted as frog-headed deities, while the female deities were symbolized by the snake and were depicted as snake headed deities. Of course that is how they are usually depicted. Sometimes they were depicted as geese or baboons.

The creation myth goes as follows: the universe was originally a dark, watery and directionless chaos, inhabited by snakes and frogs. The qualities of this primordial chaos were represented by the deities of the Ogdoad, and these deities were the rulers of this chaos who renewed the primordial waters. It was believed that they created a primordial mound upon which an egg was laid, which then hatched into – depending on what version of the myth – either the sun deity Ra, the creator deity Atum or a scarab beetle representing the Sun. In either case, light was brought to the universe and the cosmos was forged, which brought about order. It is said that afterwards the deities died and passed into the underworld, or Duat, where they supported the flow of the Nile river and the rise of the sun.

In Hermopolis, the cult of the Ogdoad was eventually displaced in prominence by the cult of Djehuti (Thoth), the more popular deity of magic, wisdom, knowledge and the moon. Incidentally, there is a version of the creation myth which supposes that the egg laid upon the primordial mound was laid by an ibis, the sacred bird of Djehuti.

You would think that this would be where the story ends. But no. In the modern age, it seems that the deity Kuk has been elevated by Internet culture.

In November 2015, someone on 4chan posted about Kuk and his mythological background. Four months later, someone on Reddit submitted a macro identifying Kuk as Kek (which probably actually refers to the slang word “kek”, but also happens to another name of Kuk) and associating him with Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump and the concept of “memetic magic”. Over time the meme grew and grew within 4chan, and eventually an online parody religion known as the Cult of Kek emerged. The Cult identifies Kek as, according to their Facebook page, the one true god of chaos, darkness, obscurity and “dubs”, believed to grant the wishes of those who end their posts in a series of repeating numbers. Kek is also identified with Pepe the Frog, the latter often considered by the Cult to be a modern avatar of Kek. Members of the cult talk on 4chan about how meme magic supposedly affects the real world, particularly the current American presidential election cycle. Kek is also associated with the number 7, due to its sacred significance in many cultures.

Because Trump’s supporters have embraced the Pepe meme, and because much of 4chan, particularly /pol/ have embraced Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the mainstream media have decided to demonize the Pepe meme by attaching him to white nationalism and white supremacism, drawing ridicule from much of the Internet. It also generated a response in the form of an article about Pepe and the Cult of Kek, apparently explaining the full story of the origins of Pepe and the Cult of Kek. Before that, Hillary Clinton had a speech in Reno where went on and on about the alt-right, according to her vapid old mind anyway, and from there Trump supporters from Milo Yiannopoulos to more recently Palmer Luckey, the CEO of Oculus VR, were slapped with very liberal usage of the term alt-right regardless of the actual substance of their views. This invariably brought the alt-right and Pepe more attention, leading of course to Pepe’s demonization by the media. Now Pepe seems to have gained certain political prominence among those who oppose Clinton and/or support Trump.

 

Conclusion

The Cult of Kek is, without a doubt, one of my favorite developments in modern culture. People on 4chan have taken an ancient deity, a relatively obscure deity of primordial chaos and darkness that was supplanted in prominence by other deities no less, and through an invented mythology elevated him into a prominent modern cultural icon through Pepe the Frog. This icon is aligned against polite society and mainstream culture, due to its association with 4chan and Trump. Kek is thus an icon of a modern counter-culture, and thus rebellion. In doing so, I dare say they have inducted Kek as the newest member of the infernal pantheon, and for that I can’t help but smile in glee.

All hail the dark lord Kek! Praise Kek!

Haram Month #5 – Mythological Spotlight #6 – The Gharaniq Goddesses

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The three goddesses – Allat, Al Uzza, and Manat – in a modern depiction

Introduction

There are three Arabian goddesses that are a matter of some controversy among Islamic scholars. These goddesses are Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat as shown above, and were worshiped in pre-Islamic polytheistic tradition. Allat is a goddess of fertility, Al-Uzza is a goddess of power and Manat is a goddess of fate. They are the subject of what is known as the “satanic verses”, which is apparently an incident when the prophet Muhammad believed that these goddesses were the daughters of Allah, before recanting this belief and denouncing it as the whispers of Satan (or rather Iblis). The idea that Muhammad could have venerated any deity, let alone three goddesses, alongside Allah is no doubt considered to be blasphemous by Muslims (after all, Muslims believe there is no deity other than Allah and Muhammad is his messenger), and it is believed that if the verses are authentic then it means that Muhammad not endorsed polytheism at one point but was also briefly suggestible to the words of Iblis – the latter apparently offends Muslims because they believe that the prophets, including Muhammad, are infallible.

 

History

Before the time of the prophet Muhammad and his conquest of Mecca, the Arabs practiced polytheism, worshipping many deities instead of one. Three of these deities were Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat.

Allat was worshipped in Mecca, but was also worshiped as far afield as Palmyra in Syria and it’s also been claimed that she was worshiped in ancient Carthage as Allatu. Aside from being considered a mother goddess and a goddess of fertility and spring, she was also considered to be a goddess associated with the underworld and seen as equivalent to the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal. Apparently there is also reference to a goddess named Beltis, or Beltis-Allat, that is identified with Allat and Ereshkigal. Her name means “Great Goddess”, and this is seen as an indication the wife of Allah – given that her name is the feminine form of Allah – much like how the Semitic goddess Asherah, who was also known as Elat which is a feminine form of El – her consort. And yes, Allah himself was originally a deity in worshiped in Mecca as part of pre-Islamic polytheism, just like Jehovah or Yahweh was originally a deity from Canaanite polytheism. The Greeks identified Allat with their own goddess of love Aphrodite, as well as Athena the goddess of wisdom and strategy – there also exists depictions of a syncretic deity named Allat-Minerva who may have been worshiped in Syria. She was also associated with the planet Venus. In the year 630 AD, the idol of Allat and her shrine in Ta’if was demolished on the orders of Muhammad by a man named Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb. Muhammad demanded that the idol be destroyed immediately, rather than leave the idol remain until the people of Ta’if embraced Islam on their own.

Al-Uzza was worshipped in Meeca as well as in Petra, in what is now Jordan, where she may have been adopted as a presiding goddess alongside Dushara – a deity of the daytime. She was the goddess of power, but she was also associated with the stars as well as love, vegetation and funerary relationships. She was also a goddess that was invoked for protection by the pre-Islamic tribe that controlled Mecca. She may even have been seen as a supreme goddess in Petra. She was identified with Aphrodite Ourania (in Rome, Venus Celestis), a form of Venus associated with the heavens – perhaps as Queen of the Heavens – and with the Egyptian goddess Isis. It is thought that depictions of a syncretic deity named Isis-Al-Uzza are carved on the treasury in Petra. Her idol at Nakhla was demolished and her temple raided on the orders of Muhammad by the general Khalid ibn Al-Walid. Khalid was destroyed trees associated with the goddess, demolished all her idols and killed the people who looked after the idols and the temple.

Manat, also known as Manawat, is considered to be the ancient of the three goddesses. She was worshiped by the Nabataeans in Petra and the Aws and Khazraj in Arabia. She was believed to be the wife of the storm deity Hubal, and it was believed that sacrifices were made to her. She was also identified with the Greek goddess Nemesis, but some claim she is connected with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar because of the fact that “Menitu” is a title of Ishtar. It may have been believed that Manat watched over the graves and control the destinies of her worshipers. It is believed that she may have been worshiped in Palmyra alongside Ba’al. Her temple was destroyed on the orders of Muhammad by a man named Sa’d ibn Zaid al-Ashhali. During the raid, there was a dark-skinned women with unkempt hair that was killed by Sa’d, and Muhammad believed that she was the goddess Manat.

In Islam these goddesses are considered to be “false gods”, as are any deities other than Allah. But in the so-called “Satanic verses”, Muhammad appears to refer to Allat, Al-Uzza and Manat as exalted goddesses. The verses, according to the historian Muhammad ibn Jarir Al-Tabari, are as follows:

Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá
and Manāt, the third, the other?
These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for.

The word “gharaniq” is usually taken to mean “high-flying cranes”, in case you were wondering. According to Al-Tabari’s account, Satan (or should that be Iblis in this case?) whispered these verses into Muhammad’s ears causing him to endorse veneration of and intercessory prayer to the three goddesses. It is described that afterwards the angel Gabriel tells Muhammad that what he had just recited was not from Allah. Realizing this, Muhammad was overcome with grief and fear of Allah, but finds that Allah sent a revelation upon Muhammad and was merciful. The verses that actually appear in the Quran which mention the goddesses are as follows:

Have you considered El-Lat and El-‘Uzza and Manat the third, the other?… They are naught but names yourselves have named, and your fathers; God has sent down no authority touching them… How many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession avails not anything, save after that God gives leave to whomsoever He wills, and is well-pleased. Those who do not believe in the world to come name the angels with the names of females.

The very idea that Muhammad could be misled by Satan and thus advocate the worship of pagan goddesses is considered blasphemous to many Muslims, considering that they believe Muhammad is the bringer of the word of God, and both are considered to be infallible incapable of error. It’s generally held that the teachings of the Quran are perfect, the final word of Allah (hence the reason orthodox Muslims have a problem with heterodoxy, as shown in their attitude towards the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam), and the idea that Muhammad can be suggestible to falsehood at any one point subverts this notion of perfection. Not to mention the mere idea that Muhammad would ever promote polytheism, when in Islam there is no God but Allah. It’s no wonder, then, that the “satanic verses” are the subject of discussion and debate among Islamic scholars, and often outright denounced as lies by Muslims.

This is why when Salman Rushdie released his novel, The Satanic Verses, in 1988, the novel was accused of being blasphemous, and why in 1989 the then-Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on Salman Rushdie and called for him to be executed. Because of this, there were quite a few attempts on his life. He survived, but a few of his translators were injured in various attacks and one of them, Hitoshi Igarashi, was killed. And Iran has not forgotten about the fatwa either. In recent years, the Iranian media has been offering generous monetary rewards, upwards of $600,000, for the assassination of Salman Rusdie. Incidentally, the controversy surrounding Rushdie’s novel helped re-ignite the debate among Islamic scholars about the specific verses.

 

Conclusion

These three goddesses exist as a reminder of the pre-Islamic polytheistic past, and evidently a rather embarrassing one for the Islamic faith. So much so, in fact, that the Islamic community has shat itself over a novel written about the verses that were allegedly whispered into Muhammad by Satan, to the point that they place a death fatwa on the author of the novel. But they are also, sadly, relics of an age that Muhammad tried to extirpate from Arabia in order to fulfill the conquest of Islam. And, following in Muhammad’s footsteps, ISIL wages much the same campaign wen they set out striving to erase all that is not Islamic from the world around them, as is shown by how they have destroyed many ancient sites of Middle Eastern cultural heritage over the last few years.