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Myths of Destruction: Epic of Gilgamesh


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Title: Myths of Destruction: Epic of Gilgamesh

Myths of Destruction Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The gods that were in it were old
  • the world bellowed like a wild bull
  • he whispered their words to my house of reeds
  • Building and measurements of the boat
  • Food and drink
  • Coming of the storm
  • pulled out the dams of the nether waters
  • Clouds, flames of the seven judges of hell
  • Lament of Ishtar

The Flood Subsides
  • 6 days and 6 nights
  • Comes to rest on the mountain of Nisir does not
    budge for 6 days
  • Release of the birds to find land dove, swallow,
  • Sacrifice of thanksgiving the gods gathered
    like flies
  • Eas defense
  • punish him a littledo not drive him too hard
  • the wise man learned it in a dream do you
  • Utnapishtam gains blessing and immortality

The Flood and Noah
  • wickedness was great the Lord was sorry
  • What difference does it make that there is no
    other god to dispute Gods will?
  • Noah walked with God contrast, Ea talking to
    the walls
  • Preparations
  • clean and unclean
  • What does Noah not put in the ark? contrast p.
  • The Flood 40 days and 40 nights
  • fountains of the deep burst open

After the Flood
  • I will make a covenant with you
  • Now allowed to eat meat
  • Covenant bond, to rectify broken relationship
    between Yhwh and man
  • Rainbow How might the bow have been a
    signwhat was it a sign of? -- Compare Ishtars
  • Contrast p. 190 bottom do not drive him too
  • Three sons of Noah power of Shem over Ham
  • Why do you think Noah does not gain eternal life?

Ovids account of a great flood
  • Whats the attitude of Jove at the beginning?
  • What does it tell us how experiences of disaster
    are interpreted?
  • Oath by Styx
  • Why does he begin with the story of Lycaeon
  • Why are the gods sad? (What do they want?)
  • Rain, not fire
  • Winds, rainbow, oceans (ll. 112, 120, 129)
  • Discuss description of flood (ll. 145-172)

Deucalion and Pyrrha
  • See box bottom p. 135
  • Phocis, Mt. Parnassus, Corycian caves
  • Saved by Themis
  • Zeus relents (ll. 195-200)
  • we have no certainties (l. 222, also l. 230)
  • Pray to Themis
  • Doubt of oracle
  • from this our race is tough (l. 299) etiology
    of humans and animals

Parnassus ?
(No Transcript)
(c) Dorry Majzner
Norse Myth of Destruction Ragnarok
  • Snorri retells Norse tales
  • Aesir Odin, Thor, Valkyries
  • Vanir (earthly prosperity) Njörd (fishing), Frey
    (land), Freya (sexual desire)
  • Other Gods
  • Tyr war god (originally Germanic)
  • Heimdall (orig. Vanir water god) guards Bifrost
    ( Bilröst)
  • Story transformed after conversion to
  • All poetic lines from Sibyls vision
  • Gangleri (Gylfi) riddling Aesir (gods/kings)

Ice/ frost- giants
Enemies of the Gods
  • Surt and the sons of Muspell
  • In Deluding of Gylfi, heats the ice of Niflheim
  • Loki, the trickster, possibly giant in origin
  • Children with a giantess
  • Midgard Serpent Jormungard (cast down around
  • Fenrir, the wolf (remains, but bound Tyr loses
  • Hel, cast down as ruler of underworld (female)
  • Watchdog, Garm (hound)

  • Hound or dog at the gates of Hel
  • Now Garm howls loud before Gnipahellir,?The
    fetters will burst, and the wolf run free?Much
    do I know, and more can see?Of the fate of the
    gods, the mighty in fight.
  • Völuspa ( Sibyls Vision) Stanza 44, 49, 58
  • http//

Prelude to Ragnarok
  • War, slaughter, sexual corruption
  • Three extreme winters without summer (timing
  • Sun and moon eaten by 2 wolves
  • Earth, mountains tremble trees uprooted
  • all fetters and bonds will be snapped and
  • Fenrir attacks earth
  • Midgard Serpent, seas in convulsion, blows poison
  • Naglfar ship gets loose (Snorri uncut nails of
    the dead)

Preparation for Battle
  • Surt and people of Muspell sail from the east
    (presumably on Naglfar)
  • Surts army rides over Bifrost
  • Bridge breaks
  • Sword replaces sun
  • Heimdall blows horn (Gjoll)
  • Odin consults Mimir Yggdrasil trembles (see 151,
    ll. 3-4
  • Aesir and army meet the monsters and giants

The Battle
  • Odin killed by Fenrir, who is killed by Odins
    son Vidar
  • Thor and Midgard Serpent kill each other
  • Frey killed by Surt
  • Tyr and Garm kill each other
  • Heimdall and Loki kill each other
  • Surt will fling fire over the earth (see 152,
    ll. 42-8)

The New World (Völuspa)
  • 59. Now do I see the earth anew?Rise all green
    from the waves again?The cataracts fall, and
    the eagle flies,?And fish he catches beneath
    the cliffs.
  • 60. The gods in Ithavoll meet together,?Of the
    terrible girdler of earth they talk,?And the
    mighty past they call to mind,?And the ancient
    runes of the Ruler of Gods.

The New World (Völuspa) (2)
  • 61. In wondrous beauty once again?Shall the
    golden tables stand mid the grass,?Which the
    gods had owned in the days of old,
  • 62. Then fields unsowed bear ripened fruit,?All
    ills grow better, and Baldr comes back?Baldr
    and Hoth dwell in Hropt's battle-hall,?And the
    mighty gods would you know yet more?
  • 63. Then Hönir wins the prophetic wand,?And the
    sons of the brothers of Tveggi abide?In
    Vindheim now would you know yet more?

The New World (Völuspa) (3)
  • 64. More fair than the sun, a hall I
    see,?Roofed with gold, on Gimle it
    stands?There shall the righteous rulers
    dwell,?And happiness ever there shall they
  • 65. There comes on high, all power to hold,?A
    mighty lord, all lands he rules.
  • 66. From below the dragon dark comes
    forth,?Nithhogg flying from Nithafjoll?The
    bodies of men on his wings he bears,?The
    serpent bright but now must I sink.

The New World (according to Snorri)
  • Dwellings of the dead
  • Bottom 152
  • Top 153
  • Sons of the now-dead gods rule in Idavoll
  • Sons of Thor possess his hammer (Mjollnir)
  • Baldr returns from the dead
  • Humans preserved from fire in a tree
  • A new sun (old suns daughter)
  • (The Aesir have no more answers hall vanishes)

Heroes Introduction
  • Greek heros (singular)
  • Person who died in an especially significant way
  • Death brought glory gt demi-god
  • Presence of body (part) insured well-being,
  • Received sacrifice at a specific, local shrine
  • Not good or helpful in a heroic way
  • Examples of hero-like figures in other traditions
  • Ancestors (China)
  • Christian saints
  • Buddhism part of Buddha at burial mound (stupa)

Detour Joseph Campbells concept of hero
  • Monomyth universal, world-wide myth of hero
  • The meaning of the myth is found in its pattern
  • Separation, Initiation, Return
  • Unconsciousness and consciousness are one
  • Cosmic unity of everyday world ultimate
  • Reality is getting high
  • The meaning of myth is psychological,
    specifically the psychology of Carl Jung

Separation, Initiation, Return
  • A hero ventures forth from the world of common
    day into a region of supernatural wonder 
    fabulous forces are there encountered and a
    decisive victory is won  the hero comes back
    from this mysterious adventure with the power to
    bestow boons on his fellow man.
  • This is boon is perfect illumination,
    transcendence of all being

Critique of Campbells Theory
  • He does not study myths in their entirety
  • Takes pieces of myths
  • Pattern of monomyth imposed
  • Interprets events taken from different
  • E.g., The Belly of the Whale Little Red
    Riding Hood
  • Assumes meaning of myth
  • Assumes that the monomyth is universal
  • Assumes it has a psychological meaning
  • Assumes Jungian psychological interpretation
    (opposed to Freud)

Heracles Early life
  • Birth by Zeus
  • tricking Alcmene whose husband was away
  • Husband arrived soon after
  • Two sons identified by Heracles strangling
  • Sent either by Hera or Amphitryon
  • Kills lyre teacher in rage acquitted by
  • Father sends out in fields huge, strong, and
    fiery gleam
  • Killed Lion
  • Unknowingly sleeps with all 50 daughters

Madness and Labors
  • Due to Heras jealousy
  • Threw his, and his brothers, children into fire
  • Purified told by Delphi to settle in Tiryns and
    undertake 10 labors
  • Ten Labors
  • Note map p. 448why think of labors as taking
    place right here?
  • With the 6th labor (456), whats the significance
    of Heracles leaving Greece?
  • What is the nature or significance of Heracles
  • In what sense is Heracles a role model?

Miscellaneous observations
  • Eurystheus protects himself from Heracles (454
  • Explanation for immortality of Prometheus (455
  • Goddesses help or hinder ( 6, 9, 10 bottom)
  • Heracles has other adventures along the way
  • In later labours, the results of the quest often
    released or returned
  • The bull, Man-eating mares, Apples from
    Hesperides, Ceberos
  • So whats the point of his life?
  • Note variations in details
  • Consider 452-3

Epic of Gilgamesh Introduction
  • Historical Gilgamesh king of Uruk 2800- 2500 bce
  • First versions 2100 bce
  • Present text 1200 bce
  • SyncretismSumer and Akkad
  • Better text/translation available at
    gilgamesh/tab1.htm Kovacs

Account of Deluge
Gilgamesh The coming of Enkidu
  • the deeds of Gilgamesh
  • Long journeygt Gave a story
  • Built a great city look at it
  • The arrogance of Gilgamesh
  • He takes everything he wants sons, virgins,
  • now createstormy heart for stormy heart
  • Why is Enkidu so fear inspiring (172 mid.)?
  • Why/how does sexual experience domesticate
  • take his energy (Kovacs) welcome his love

Gilgamesh meets Enkidu
  • I will challenge himchange the old order
  • Gilgameshs dreams a meteor, an ax
  • drawn as though to a woman (Kovacs) embraced
    it as a wife
  • Enkidu blocks Gilgameshs attempt to violate a
  • oppressed by idleness resolves to seek out
    Humbaba in the Land of Cedars
  • Heroic action as antidote for fear of death (175)

Humbaba, Guard of the Cedar Forest (175)
  • Across the face of the mountain the Cedar brought
    forth luxurious foliage, its shade was good,
    extremely pleasant. The thornbushes were matted
    together, the woods(?) were a thicket ... among
    the Cedars,... the boxwood, (Kovacs, Tablet V)
  • Shamash abhors Humbaba (176) (Kovacs
    something baneful that Shamash hates)
  • Killing of Humbaba
  • Series of dreams warn of terrors ahead and assure
    of victory
  • The winds of Shamash
  • Humbaba promises to be Gilgameshs servant
  • Enkiku says he must be killed
  • (Kovacs, end Tablet V) Turn wood into great door,
    ride down Euphrates to Nippur while Gilgamesh
    holds head (see 182)

  • Sees Gilgameshs beauty, wants him as husband
  • grant your lusciousness (Kovacs, Tablet VI)
  • Gilgamesh your infatuation cant be trusted
  • Demands the Bull of Heaven from Anu
  • Threatens to release the dead
  • (Kovacs Anu 7 years famine Ishtar I have
    enough food stored up)
  • Killing of the Bull heart given to Shamash
  • Ishtar protests Enkidu flings hindquarter at her
  • If I could only get at you I would do the same
    to you! I would drape his innards over your
    arms! (Kovacs)

Ishtars fickleness (Kovacs, Tablet VI)
  • You loved the colorful 'Little Shepherd' bird and
    then hit him, breaking his wing, .
  • You loved the supremely mighty lion, yet you dug
    for him seven and again seven pits.
  • You loved the stallion, famed in battle, yet you
    ordained for him the whip, and the lash,.
  • You loved the Shepherd, who continually
    presented you with bread baked in embers,.
  • Yet you struck him, and turned him into a wolf,

Death of Enkidu
  • Why must Enkidu die?
  • Gods caused it, nonetheless mortals must suffer
  • Curses gate, trapper, harlot (is the harlot
    good or bad for society?)
  • Vision of the underworld (vampire)
  • Even kings must die
  • servants of the underworld
  • Enkidu feels shame (textbook) abandonment
  • Weep all the paths where we walked together

resembled the Anzu (Kovacs)
Journey to Ut(a)napishtim
  • joined the Assembly of the Gods, and was given
    eternal life (Kovacs)
  • Wilderness, mountains, monstrous beings, darkness
  • Contrast between heroism and emaciated condition
  • Recites story of relationship with Enkidu
  • Crosses the waters of death
  • Why are 'the stone things' of the boat smashed
    to pieces! (see top 188)

Ut(a)napishtims lesson
  • Through toil you wear yourself out, / you fill
    your body with grief, (Kovacs)
  • Death looks just like sleep---Gilgamesh falls
  • Gods give life and death, but dont tell us when
    we will die
  • We cant fight for immortality
  • The return
  • The ferryman is banished
  • Gilgamesh gets and loses a plant of youthstolen
    by snake

  • Composed from c. 500 bce to 400 ce
  • smriti remembered traditions recalled
  • Distinguished from older sruti, cosmic reality
    heard by poets
  • Dharma (see 206) what one must do to uphold or
    maintain the worldduty
  • Rituals
  • Customs of class and station
  • Ethical principles e.g., dont steal or lie

Ramayana, Book I
  • King Dasaratha needs sons
  • Horse sacrifice
  • 4 sons
  • Rama, of Queen Kausalya
  • Bharata, of Queen Kaikeyi
  • Lakshmana, Satrughna (twins) of Q. Sumitra
  • Rama, 12 yrs. old, sent to deal with titans
  • On return, Rama meets and proves his worth to
    marry Sita
  • Sita was found in a fieldcomes out of the
  • Bharata leaves with his uncle

Queen Kausalya and horse sacrifice
Rama breaks Sivas bow
Ramayana, Book II
  • King Dasaratha to crown Rama as heir apparent
  • Mother of Bharata conspires to have her son
  • Uses 2 boons (211) chamber of wrath
  • Rama was only too happy to go into exile
  • Becomes a forest dweller with Sita and
  • Bharata becomes king
  • His fathers grief kills him
  • Asks Ramas mother for forgiveness
  • Asks Rama to return Rama insists on fulfilling
  • Bharata is king, but lives as ascetic
  • Rama leaves continues journey

(No Transcript)
Ramayana, Books III, IV
  • Rama proves his prowessreceives celestial bow
  • Plot to kidnap Sita the golden deer
  • Sita manipulates Lakshmana into looking for Rama
  • Ravana flies Sita away to Lanka
  • The dying message of Jatayu
  • Alliance of Rama and the monkey people
  • Conflict for a throne
  • Ramas strength, and delay
  • Beginning of the quest

(No Transcript)
Books V and VI
  • Hanuman finds Sita, but Rama must rescue
  • Time is running out!
  • Ravanas brothers choose sides
  • The Battle (Note the morally neutral tone)
  • The Reconciliation
  • Rama must be convinced that Sita has acted
  • The fire ordeal (sati)
  • preserve dharma
  • everyone lived happily ever after the family,
    the monkeys, the dynasty

(No Transcript)
Norse Gods and Heroes Introduction
  • Riddling game
  • The old gods cannot answer all the questions
  • The old gods are euhemerized and historicized
  • the Aesirtell Gylfi (Gangleri) aboutthemselves
  • Re-counting of tradition (222 top)
    well-informed person
  • Yggdrasil 3 roots, 3 springs
  • Review
  • Aesir (Odin, Thor) Vanir (Njord, Fey, Freyja)
  • Now one unified, flattened account

Major Norse Gods
  • Odin names historicized
  • Thor arch-foe of giants
  • Baldr transcendent beauty already dead
  • Tyr descendent of Germanic war-god
  • not called a peacemaker
  • Tyr-valiant and Tyr-wise
  • loses hand when the gods subdue Fenrir (223-4)gt
    Uses one-handed weapon
  • Loki
  • 223 reckoned numbered amongst the gods
  • Son of giant, and thus giantish in nature

Baldr the Good, Beauty
  • wisest of the æsirmost eloquent, most
    merciful, so that none of his judgments
  • Bad dreams, gods seek protection from all ills
  • Killed by half-brother, Höd (Hod)
  • Snorri adds stories of Lokis mischief and Höds
  • Loki discovers Frigg did not ask the mistletoe
  • An ogress pushes the funeral pyre ship into the
  • Hel the whole world must weep for Baldr
  • Giantess (presumably Loki disguised) refuses
  • Lokis punishment Bonds of entrails Dripping
  • One interpretation blood feud within a family

Völuspas description of the death of Baldr
  • I saw for Baldr, the blessed god,?Ygg's dearest
    son, what doom is hidden?Green and glossy, there
    grew aloft,?The trees among, the mistletoe.
  • The slender-seeming sapling became?A fell weapon
    when flung by Hoth But Baldr's brother
    half-brother Vali was born full soon?But one
    night old slew him Óthin's son.
  • Neither cleansed his hands nor combed his
    hair?Till Baldr's slayer he sent to Hel?But
    Frigg did weep in Fensalir?The fateful deed know
    ye further, or how?
  • http//

Húsdrápa on Baldrs funeral
  • The battle-wise Frey rides on a boar, bristled
    with gold, first to the pyre of the son of Odin,
    and leads armies. The exceedingly widely famous
    Hropta-Týr Odin rides to the pyre of his son.
    The very powerful Hild of the mountains
    giantess caused the sea-Sleipnir ship to
    trudge forward but the wielders of the helmet
    flames of Hropt Odin felled her mount.
  • Lindow, John. Norse Mythology A Guide to Gods,
    Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs (p. 67).

  • Trickster figure (Snorri changeablecunning,alw
    ays cheats)
  • Does the gods dirty work in present
  • Enemy of gods in mythic past and future (John
    Lindow, Norse Mythology A Guide to Gods,
    Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs p. 219.)
  • Father of Fenrir, Midgard Serpent, and Hel
  • Ragnarok
  • Mocks the gods and reminds them of their
    misdeeds (Lokasenna)
  • Sociability (444)

Norse Goddesses
  • What female goddesses does Snorri devote the most
    attention to?
  • What do these beings do?
  • What does this tell us about Norse society and

Thor and Utgard-Loki Loki of the outyards
  • Thor acquires two human servants (etiology)
  • Thigh bones of magical goats broken open
  • Whats the moral of the story?
  • The Contests
  • Eating (against Loki fire)
  • Running (against Hugi thought)
  • Drinking (the sea gt the tides)
  • Lift the cat (Midgard Serpents tail)
  • Wrestle (Elli old age)
  • The castle disappears

Loki and Utgard-Loki Questions
  • See pp. 437, 445
  • Are the gods really as strong as they seem?
  • Can they prove themselves?
  • Who really wins here? Anyone? Why? If no one, why
  • What is the power of the gods?
  • What is the power of the giants?