31 enero, 2018

Mythical Wednesday: Iškur/Adad, the Thunder god

Name: Iškur (Sumerian), Adad (Akkadian, variants Addu or Adda), Hadad (Ugaritic, variant Haddu). The Sumerian sign IM, “wind”, was used to write his name, but the etymology of Iškur is unknown. Akkadian Adad derives from the Semitic root hdd, “to thunder”.

Geographical area: Mesopotamia. It was worshipped especially in Karkara, a city near Babylon where it was his temple, the “House of the Storms”. Later on, in the Assyrian period, god Anu (the sky) and Adad shared a temple and a ziggurat in the capital city, Aššur. Other important places of cult were the cities of Uruk, Sippar, Nippur or Ur.

Timeline: his cult can be registered from the Early Dynastic period (2900-2334 BCE) since the symbol for his name, the same for the word “wind”, appears recorded among the earliest god lists that have been preserved. He had fundamental relevance in the Assyrian (1392-1056 BCE) and Neo-Assyrian periods (911-612 BCE) where he was connected directly with the royalty.

Assyrian soldiers carrying a statue of Adad.
Drawing by Austen Henri Layard, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia and Assyria, vol. III

History: Iškur/Adad embodied the power of thunderstorms in Mesopotamian mythology. He was presented as the son of Anu/An, the sky god, although earlier traditions show him as the son of Enlil, the wind god. The spouse of Iškur was the goddess Medimša, whereas the spouse of Adad was goddess Sala, possibly of Hurrian origin. He was assisted by two minor deities who helped him with his daily tasks, S’ullat and Hang.
Iškur/Adad has a powerful dual behaviour since he could be beneficent and harmful for humankind at the same time. He was considered a dangerous deity in Sumer, sometimes included among the lists of demons, for he dominated the thunder, the lightning and the rain, which gave him the power to create floods and hails that were terrible for an agricultural atmosphere as the Mesopotamian. However, his Akkadian version Adad was not only destructive but showed a benevolent face as god of fruitful rain and the mountain streams that helped the field to thrive. This difference can be explained through the differences of land and rain frequency between north and south, since in north Mesopotamia the crops relied more on the precipitations.
Both the power over lightning and his action among the world’s destructive forces gave this god a fierce aspect, a warlike aura. When paired with Šamaš he presides over divination and omens too, and normally he was invoked for the successful performance of future prediction rituals.

BLACK, J. and GREEN, A: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, p. 111 (2004)

Iconography: the symbols of Adad are the thunder, the lightning and rarely the flowing streams to show his aspect of benign god. It is usually represented wielding the lightning as if he was about to throw them. Sometimes he bears the symbol of Šamaš, the sun god, above his head. This flaming star ended up representing the god Aššur in Assyrian period.
Regarding the supernatural beasts that accompanied him, the lion-dragon is considered the monster that served Iškur, whereas Adad was served by this same creature or by the bull, that was eventually the creature chosen to represent him. In fact, the storm clouds are described in the texts as “Adad’s bull-calves”.

Adad standing on the Bull and wielding the lighting.
Basalt, stele from the reign of Tighalt-Peliser III (744-727 AEC)
Musée du Louvre. 

Similar deities in other cults: Tešup (Hurrian), Buriaš (Kassite), Wer/Mer (north Babylonia), Tarhunt (Hitite).

BLACK, Jeremy and GREEN, Anthony: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. The British Museum Press, London, ed. 2004.

Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, online resource, University of Pennsylvania: http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/index.html

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