Lahmu
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Lahmu
Lahmu
Lahmu, Nineveh, 900-612 BCE.jpg
Lahmu, the protective spirit from Nineveh, 900-612 BCE, Mesopotamia. British Museum.
Personal information
ParentsAbzu and Tiamat (Enuma Elish) or Anu's ancestors such as Dari and Duri (Anu theogony)
Consorthis sister Lahamu (Enuma Elish)
ChildrenAnshar and Kishar (Enuma Elish) or Alala and Belili (Anu theogony)

La?mu ("hairy one") is a class of apotropaic creatures from Mesopotamian mythology. While the name has its origin in a Semitic language, Lahmu was present in Sumerian sources in pre-Sargonic times already.[1]

Iconography and character

La?mu is depicted as a bearded man wearing a red garment (tillû)[2] and usually with six curls on his head.[3] Some texts mention a spade as the attribute of Lahmu.[4] The artistic representations are sometimes called "naked hero" in literature.[5]

Lahmu were associated with water. They were generally believed to be servants of Enki/Ea (and later on of his son Marduk as well), and were described as the doorkeepers of his temple in Eridu and possibly as the "guardians of the sea" known from some versions of Atra-hasis. Some texts list as many as 50 Lahmu in such roles. It's possible they were originally river spirits believed to take care of animals, both domestic and wild.[6]

Apotropaic creatures such as Lahmu weren't regarded as demonic, and in fact protected the household from demons, though myths may depict them as defeated and subsequently reformed enemies of the gods. At the same time, they weren't viewed as fully divine, as their names were rarely, if ever, preceded by the dingir sign ("divine determinative") and they do not wear horned tiaras (a symbol of divinity) in art.[7]

In apotropaic rituals Lahmu was associated with other monsters, for example Mushussu, Bashmu (a type of mythical snake), Kusarikku (bison-men associated with Shamash) or Ugallu.[8]

As a cosmological being

In god lists a singular Lahmu sometimes appears among the ancestors of Anu, alongside a feminine counterpart (Lahamu), following the primordial pair Duri and Dari (eternity) and other such figures and preceding Alala and Belili.[9] Assyriolgist Frans Wiggermann, who specializes in the study of origins and development of Mesopotamian apotropaic creatures and demons, assumes that this tradition had its origin in northern Mesopotamia.[10] Lahmu and Lahamu aren't necessarily siblings in this context. Long lists of divine ancestors of Enlil or Anu from some god lists were at least sometimes meant to indicate that the gods worshiped by the Mesopotamians weren't the product of incestous relationships.[11]

In Enuma Elish, compiled at a later date and relying on the aforementioned tradition, Lahmu is the first-born son of Abzu and Tiamat. He and his sister La?amu are the parents of Anshar and Kishar, parents of Anu and thus ancestors of Ea and Marduk according to this specific theogony.[12] Both of them bestow 3 names upon Marduk after his victory.[13] However, Lahmu - presumably of the same variety as the apotropaic rather than cosmological one - also appears among Tiamat's monsters.[14]

A fragmentary Assyrian rewrite of Enuma Elish replaced Marduk with Ashur, equated with Anshar, with Lahmu and Lahamu replacing Ea/Enki and Damkina. Wilfred G. Lambert described the result as "completely superficial in that it leaves the plot in chaos by attributing Marduk's part to his great-grandfather, without making any attempt to iron out the resulting confusion."[15]

Disproven theories

19th and early 20th century authors asserted that Lahmu represents the zodiac, parent stars, or constellations.[16][17]

Some biblical scholars, such as William F. Albright,[] have speculated that the name of Bethlehem ("house of lehem") originally referred to a Canaanite fertility deity cognate with La?mu and La?amu, rather than to the Canaanite word lehem, "bread".[18] As described above, Lahmu was neither fully a deity nor connected to fertility.

References

  1. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 164-165
  2. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 54
  3. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. xiii
  4. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 49; 86
  5. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. xi
  6. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 164-166
  7. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 165
  8. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 143-145
  9. ^ W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Creation Myths, 2013, p. 424
  10. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 154-155
  11. ^ W. G. Lambert, Theogony of Dunnu [in:] Babylonian Creation Myths, 2013, p. 389: "The history of these two [theogonies] shows that steps were sometimes taken quite specifically to avoid the implication of incest, which was socially taboo."
  12. ^ W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Creation Myths, 2013, p. 417
  13. ^ W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Creation Myths, 2013, p. 119
  14. ^ F. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. 145-150
  15. ^ W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Creation Myths, 2013, p. 4-5
  16. ^ Hewitt, J.F. History and Chronology of the Myth-Making Age. p. 85.
  17. ^ W. King, Leonard. Enuma Elish Vol 1 & 2: The Seven Tablets of Creation; The Babylonian and Assyrian Legends Concerning the Creation of the World and of Mankind. p. 78.
  18. ^ "The name" Archived 2014-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, Sanctuary Bethlehem, © Gerusalemme San Salvatore Convento Francescano St. Saviour's Monastery. Retrieved 2014-04-09.

Sources

  • Michael Jordan, Encyclopedia of Gods, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2002
  • Black, Jeremy and Green, Anthony, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2003.

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Lahmu
 



 



 
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