3. The snake, the egg, and the sun-bird


In Anglo-Saxon poetry we find the beautiful description of the Phoenix. This bird lives for a 1000 years on the high plain of Paradise. But when it grows old, it flies to a desert in Syria, builds a nest of many fragrant twigs and blossoms, and sets the nest afire, thereby burning itself to ashes. The ashes will shrink to a ball “in the ashes the likeness of an apple is afterwards found. From it grows a worm, wondrous fair, as if it had been brought forth from eggs, bright from the shell.” Then it grows to the likeness of an eagle and finally it receives its rich array of plumage.[1]

Philo of Byblos tells about a very beautiful snake “in the shape of a falcon”[2]. When it opened its eyes, there was light everywhere, when its eyes were closed, there was darkness.

   This strange twofold creature composed of snake and bird is also very important as a symbol of divine, magical power in Egypt, where the winged sun-disc is like a bird with two uraeus snakes hanging down from it. As an explanation of this very important and powerful symbol used as a weapon by Horus in his fights


The Persian version of the motif:


we would like to bring in the archaic Indian symbolism surrounding the kundalini-power (the word means “the coiled one”) resting like a snake coiled 3 1/2 times around a golden egg at the foot of man's spine from where it has to be activated by certain yogic techniques seen as the fusion of female and male power: The final ecstasy is seen as the ascent of the female snake-power along the spinal cord through 7 whirls called cakras until it reaches the 7th and highest cakra called the 1000-petalled lotus and situated at the top of the scull. This lotus is the seat of the male power, the god Shiwa, and the female kundalini-power coming up the so called sushumna-channel creates with her fusion with the male god the highest bliss, mystical vision, understood as divine orgasm in the brain of the believer.


A similar symbolism can be found in the Near East, but here the fusion of male and female power is often seen as two snakes coiling around each other with their raised heads meeting and uniting in a mystical kiss. This symbol is the origin of the Hermes-staff, the caduceus. This Greek symbol can be shown to have Sumerian forerunners.


Ill. from L.Heuzey, Catalogue des Antiquités chaldéennes no. 12569,287,339.


Acc. to ancient psychology one of the ways leading to supernatural vision was an androgynous consciousness. The Theban seer, Teiresias, saw two serpents in the act of coupling. He struck at them with his staff, killing the female. Immediately he was turned into a woman and became a celebrated harlot; but seven years later he saw the same sight again, and regained his manhood by killing the male serpent. He is a symbol of the Near Eastern Seer~Soothsayer trying to gain androgynous consciousness, and for that purpose even cutting off their private parts and dressing as a woman. In Scandinavian religion Loki, is the great magician and an androgynous person, who gives birth to several children, all of them connected to magic & ecstasy:

Sleipner, like Pegasus the symbol of magic flight through the air, Fenris, symbol of the ecstatic change of man into wolf-warrior, and the Midgárdsworm coiling around Midgárd, the cosmic kundalini-snake at the end of time raising itself on its tail, thereby being able to sink its teeth into Odin's throne, Hlithskjalf, the place from where there was vision of the whole universe.


Also in the Near East, the result of the snake(s) being raised, the female and male side being united, is very bright light, mystical vision, ecstatic journey to heaven or hell. (Hermas, the fast travelling herald of the gods, is holding the symbol of the male and female snake coiling and kissing). Because the raising and fusing of the two snakes results in vision, their heads are replaced by the shining sun, the mystical sun bird, the winged disc, which can also be the winged, mystical 4-petalled lotus, another symbol of mystical vision, or the mystical union of the light of the sun with that of the moon.


Another symbol of the snake being raised to mystical vision is the Egyptian uraeus-snake's head coming forward and resting on the forehead of Pharaoh as a third mystical eye.

In the mystical vision man is becoming one with primordial totality, his little soul melting together with the all-penetrating World Soul. Therefore what happened on the personal level has a correspondence on the cosmic level: the coiled one being here a great snake which when raised and opening its eyes, fills the whole cosmos with primordial mystical light, the same light as seen in the mystical vision. When not being raised it can be seen as dangerous massive matter coiling around the world mountain. The egg and the snake coiling around it is a symbol of the universe as the world-egg.

The worm that comes out of the egg and grows into the many-colored Phoenix is the kundalini power transcending cosmos, raising itself to mystical vision, symbolized by the brilliantly colored bird.


Bar Hebraeus, the Syrian medieval mystic, has written a book about how to reach mystical vision, and calls it the “Book of the Dove”. The dove is the Holy Spirit, but is described as a bird of cosmic dimensions with wings reaching from east to west, and also as a bird of fire. “All images are represented in her without her possessing color herself” (Introduction).


In Greek mythology the snake, Ladon, is coiling around a tree in the Garden of the Hesperides a tree of life that gives apples which provide a food of immortality. In Ugarit there were tales about a cosmic snake monster with seven heads and with the name LTN, the same name as the Greek Ladon and the Hebrew Leviathan - the meaning of this name being “the coiled one”. It can be no mere accident that the meaning of the Indian word, kundalini, is “the coiled one”. The symbolism can be found everywhere in the prehistoric iconography and stiffens into the pattern called the snake-coil.  Note the exact number of 7 coils in the pattern below: the seal shows the male and the female god meeting under the mystical light seen as the unity of sun, moon, and mystical flower. Note the raised snake as a third eye on the forehead of the god.


Left: Syrian seal after Daum.          Right: Frankfort, fig.34.


On the seal shown above the high god is sitting with the drink of immortality behind a fire-altar, and behind him the symbol of mystical vision and primordial totality. A devotee is guided into the presence of the highgod, followed by a priest with a bucket and a very clear symbol of raised kundalini fastened on his neck and forehead. On some Hittite seals the two snakes are so coiled together that only two heads can be seen sticking out. (On this seal only one):


Amiet, pl.14bisH.                  Frankfort, fig.35.


The second seal shows the god of primordial totality. The two snakes are peeping out of his skirt. He is flanked by his two helpers, personifications of the world pillars. They are his sons, his own nature as primordial totality being split into the gate for the sun: the two world pillars or Heracles pillars. The God is often seen as this trinity: Mithras in the Roman mysteries is followed by Cautes and Cautopates. They are split off from Mithras, they are personifications of dawn and dusk, their names meaning burners. Also the two servants on the seal have incense-burners in their hands. On the seal this trinity of the high god and his Dioscuric helpers (they are primordial unity and the first duality, the first split of the cosmic mountain into two) is indicated by all 3 gods wearing the same head dress with bull's horns.

Everywhere in archaic folk religion we find the symbolism of the snake coiled together or being raised to mystical vision. Mysticism is not something originating with Origen, Plotinos, and the monk Macarios the Great. Mystic symbolism of the kind we find in Indian left hand tantra and Chinese tao-philosophy can be found everywhere in the prehistoric cultures emanating from Inner Anatolia. It presupposes the mystic vision, a vision of supernatural light clearer than the sun, or like the bright colours of a cosmic flower opening out of the darkness. It goes together with a strong feeling of every strife being settled, divine presence is felt as a great unity/harmony, everything coming together into One. One feels a close contact with some divine cosmic consciousness before creation seen as division into two: the world massive split into the two world pillars, human consciousness divided into male and female.

A close parallel to the Indian cosmic egg as the “golden embryo” of the universe and the kundalini symbolism is found by Fr.LeRoux in Celtic religion[3]:

Plinius the Elder tells us[4] that the druids worshipped a tight coiling together of snakes in the shape of an egg. It could fly through the air with a hissing sound, and was attracted by gold. The Ulster King, Conchobar, was born with a worm in each hand (like Heracles). LeRoux also draws our attention to a god on the Danish Gundestrup-bowl (early iron age). He has the antlers of a stag and is sitting in a yogic position, a horned snake in one hand. A similar figure is found in the prehistoric Mohenjo Daro-civilization



in the Indus Valley. The posture of the god sitting on the platform is most certainly an attempt to fuse duality, symbolized by the hands and arms and legs and the horns into one: a kind of big flower or plant opening itself to the sky. A similar going from duality to unity is expressed by a small figurine found at Catal Hüyük[5]. The coiled snake is also found in Catal Hüyük as the handle of a stone knife[6] and in the culture taking over from C.H.: Tell Halaf in Northern Syria, Northern Iraq.



An early cylinder seal from Mesopotamia (Frankfort, pl.IIIb) shows the double snake ascending to unite with the divine double goat and the mystical rosette. Its ascension is parallel to the ascent of the eagle of ecstasy.


An urn from Tepe Gawra[7] shows an interesting scenery: in a mountain massive adorned with the cosmic snake, a man and his dog are hunting the vision of primeval reality, the divine bull being one with the eternal mountains. As another helper besides the dog is seen a big snake standing on its tail.



From a vase from the Sin temple in Tell Asmar (29-2700 B.C.) the Shepherd with flowing water in his hands, sitting on the backs of bulls. On the other side the hunter, standing on the backs of lions with the two kundalini snakes in his hands. The lion (instead of the panther) is seen killing the bull.


In India the raising of the kundalini snake is seen as the turning of the flow of sperm: it is turned upwards into the spinal cord instead of being emitted in the sexual act. That the snake also in the prehistoric Middle East has something to do with the flow of sperm is seen on this seal, where it comes out of the dog's private parts, being turned into the flight of the bird, a symbol of ecstasy. (From the Iranian highlands, Shahr-i Sokhta, Amiet, no.1696). By the killing of the bull, the snake is falling from a triple light, perhaps the moon with the morning and evening star[8]:



Seals from Luristan show the “Ibex-god” with the up-and-down-going kundalini snake. Note that he is shown as a trinity with his two feet also adorned as horned ibex-heads. From early Elam: the double kundalini snake ascends from a jug with the ecstasy-giving drink[9]:



Another seal[10] shows a man with the snake going in and coming out of his private parts, a motif also known from a picture of a goddess from Ugarit:



      The naked woman is also in India a symbol of Shakti = the female kundalini power personified in the goddess, Kali, with the tongue hanging out of her mouth – a grimace also shown by the Greek Medusa.



A big golden bowl from 12-10th cent.B.C. was found in the ruins of a burnt down castle in Hasanlu in north-west Iran. It was covered by a multitude of motifs.[11] We find the big hunter with his bow, dressed in a kilt, and with an uraeus-snake standing out as the “third eye”. The same figure is seen fighting the world-mountain, the primordial massive like Typhon seen as both man and snake. Primordial reality is seen as a trinity, a triple snake, and placed between a flood of water coming out of the mouth of the divine bull pulling the highgod's cart (the water stream even surrounded by a heavy rain) and the demonic lion. The primordial mountain is the unity of the two opposites: water-bull and fiery destroyer. The naked goddess is standing on the backs of two rams. She is the female power of fertility taken away into primordial reality, the triple-snake-mountain, but liberated by the young hunter. The Dioscouric twins are also seen killing the Huwawa-figure, a new symbol of the killing of primordial unity making way for duality and creation. The goddess is brought into safety on the back of an eagle (after escaping the dragon, Apoc 12,14), and on the back of a lion until giving birth to the divine baby.



The rain-giving highgod is like Baal and Mithras and Juppiter Dolichenus followed by two servants. They are here sun and moon, but just as often seen as the two world pillars, the first splitting of the primordial mountain into two.

The next picture shows two flights of stairs and a platform from the palace in Persepolis. The beautiful facade shows, in the midst of a green thicket, the holy bull being killed by the big hunter, the lion, and over it the bird of mystical light.[12]



From a Nimrud ivory this beautiful fire-bird with the mystical lotus in her hands (Mallowan, II, fig.393):



We will try to prove that the Indian left hand tantra, where you get magic power by turning to the dark demonic side of the supernatural, is a very old practice since time immemorial, linked to a demonic god called the great hunter. He carries his weapon in his left hand (ambidexter Apollo). His numen is androgynous: Apollo has a twin sister, Artemis, and he is homosexual, Baal has, as his beloved and close partner, his sister Anat. Shiwa has his beloved Shakti.


The mystical vision is a well-known fact in the history of religion, known also from modern mystics and out-of-body experiences. It even seems possible to provoke this vision by using some psychedelic drug (LSD).


In the Bible it is the vision of the Glory of God (Ez 1-3), but the presence of God is both bliss and danger, and of the different chemical and sexual techniques of raising the snake power there is no trace. The promises of the snake in the Garden of Eden: opening of eyes, being like God, with knowledge of everything, both good and evil, even the depths of darkness, is also today the promises of kundalini mysticism. But in reality it is often an experience so strong that it does great harm to the human mind. (A burning feeling moving up and down the spinal cord, a bubbling, boiling feeling in the brain are some examples.) A whole group of networks to help the victims of these experiences has already been called into existence. Poor little man laden with sins, and by use of unclean methods, has tried to force his way into the inner sanctuary. In Phil 2 Jesus is pictured going the opposite way: he was not like a robber trying to be God. But being God, he became man, and even died on the cross.

The Bible knows the symbol of the snake coiling up the stick: the copper snake is a symbol of healing (Hermas with the caduceus is the divine shaman, journeying to hell to bring back the soul of the sick; the snake on the rod is a symbol of raised magic, shamanic force. Job speaks of "the magicians raising Leviathan", 3,8.) But in the long run this symbol was seen as incompatible with God, Jhvh, and it was cast out of the temple yard, where it actually stood for some time.


A small alabaster bowl dated back to the 3th-5th cent.A.C. from Syria or Asia Minor[13] shows the adoration of the snake coiled around an egg or an omphalos-stone. The men and women participating in the cult are naked. Most of them are putting their right hand on the breast, a gesture which, acc to Leisegang, is characteristic of the mysteries of Sabazios or Hekate. Some of them are raising the left hand to the classical gesture of adoration. Lifting the right hand as a sign of adoration is very common, but the left hand only when it is the gods of the underworld who are hailed. The snake is emitting light, a corona of saw-toothed beams are coming out of it together with a wreath of flames. Leisegang compares with the god Aion from Modena, a male figure with a snake coiling around his body ascending to rest its head on the top of the world egg. The god is standing inside a hatched egg. Macrobios says that the Phoenicians pictured the world “that is heaven”(mundum id est caelum) as a snake which, in a giant cycle, is biting its own tail[14].

In my opinion it is likely that the "egg" is the world mountain surrounded by the snake. Because it is said in an inscription: “… you bend yourself in a circle on the infinitely wide Olympos”. Leisegang has no comment on the purpose of the bowl. It must have contained a fluid becoming one with the primordial waters out of which the world mountain rose. A fluid, which, by this symbolism, became a very strong rejuvenating drink. The snake is the sacred symbol of amorphous totality before creation. It is said in the text that goes with the bowl: “Earth and heaven were only one form”.



In short, the snake is not a symbol of Baal as so often stressed by scholars. It is a symbol of primeval totality and magic strength. Cf. the Mandaean gimra-amulet. It consists of a snake coiled around itself with its tail in the mouth surrounding a lion, a scorpion, a bee. The snake is Ur, “the snake without hands and feet”[15]. This amulet is the weapon Hibil Ziwa (Abel, the shepherd) took from the powers of darkness, and which is used in exorcism.

A Curdish sect worshipping the Peacock-angel (the devil) are the so called Yezidees (number today almost a million believers). They think that in the last judgement will the devil be reconciled with God, and even play an important role in the final judgement of man (so you have to be on good terms with him). In fact, they are a remnant of pre Christian religion: the peacock angel being the mysterious Phoenix. The picture shows an aroused snake by the entrance to a Yezidee-temple. It is blackened by soot.



One important motif in the religious art of the Middle East is the snake or the double snake ascending in or around the tree of life in the navel of the earth. A seal cylinder from Cyprus shows the winged disc above a conventionalized tree; the tree rests on the omphalos flanked by two serpents: Di Cesnola, Cyprus pl.XXXVII, no.10.



The tree of life is closely connected to primordial totality and the mystical vision, it is also the tree of ultimate knowledge. But in the Bible there is a polemic attitude to this notion of mystic vision as the ultimate unity of good and evil.

The gate from which the sun comes into the universe is the gate to the transcendent paradise. The sun comes out of a place where it is continually renewed in strength. Paradise is the place of eternal rejuvenation. Zech 4,2ff. is a vision of the two olive trees which mark the gate of the light and in the gate: “Behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl at its top and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps..”. The mystical light is a seven times sevenfold light.

The next picture shows the gate of the sun marked out by two very different trees. The gate of the sun is the primordial mountain split into duality. Because the two trees are a sign of duality they are marked out as opposites.


Prinz, Altorientalische Symbolik, 1915 Taf.X,no. 9.


In the Kabbalistic doctrine of the Tree of the 10 Sefirot this tree is a symbol of the mystical descent  (through 7 levels) of divine light, and a symbol of  unity between opposites. In the centre runs the trunk as the "Pillar of Equilibrium" with the 3 Sefirot: Foundation, Beauty, Crown being the unity of the left "Pillar of Judgement" (consisting of the female Binah = Understanding, Judgement and Glory) and right "Pillar of Mercy" (consisting of the male Hokmah = Wisdom, Mercy and Victory). A similar symbolism could be seen in the tree to the left of the sun gate. A central line is formed by three cross-symbols: From the bottom a cross of St. Andrew, in the centre a normal cross, at the top a star with 8 rays, the unity of the normal cross with the cross of St. Andrew. The central line of ascent is surrounded by the holy quadrangle, and the whole figure could, as in Kabbalah be seen as a symbol of macr´anthropos.


That the Assyrian tree of life is a symbol of binding right and left together seems obvious from these examples taken from S.Parpola: "The Assyrian Tree of Life", JNES, 52, 1993, p.175, fig.6. Below mmeditating man on amulet from Mohenjo Daro conf. the Sefirotic Tree. Both figures start from unity, expand into duality, and at the top return to mystic unity:



We must conclude that there are traces in the Near East of a mysticism, a technique aiming more at the dark side of the supernatural. In Petra a stone monument shows a snake with a very broad ugly head coiled 3 1/2 times around a cone, cf from the same city the double snake raising to touch the horse with the wildly raised tail, a symbol of ecstatic flight (Dalman, Petra,ab.28/no.47).



Yoga comes from an Indo-European word known in English as yoke. The root yuj means “to yoke, to harness, to bind together”. The original goal in yoga is to be yoked together with a helping demon in the supernatural world. In the Bible it is told that Israel wandering in the desert came across some women from Midjan, and obviously these women were not so nice as they were looking: the result was orgies and “Israel was put in Yoke with Baal Peor”. In much later Gnostic movements the soul needs “a syzygie”, “a yoke-fellow” in the spiritual world. Yoga is, acc. to Fr. Heiler, a very old technique, used by the shaman in Neolithic society for the purpose of training his ability to act as a medium for the spirits. A question still unsolved by the science of religion is: who or what are those forces called upon in these old techniques? Are they good, or perhaps chaotic? In the so called “left hand tantra” you have to call upon them by breaking religious taboos, thereby building yourself up into “black magician”. A girl on an ivory from Nimrud (Mallowan,II,fig.545) is looking very tenderly into the snarling face of a lion, in my opinion her genius, her demon "yoke-fellow"(pict. next p.). The same "beauty and beast" motif is known from India, from Middle Age Khadshuraho (H.Mode, Das frühe Indien,1959,fig.45, see the picture below).




The Bible is familiar with the mystic vision of God. Paul has such a vision, but has kept silent about it for 14 years, 2 Cor 12,2-5. Also the vision of Ez 1-3 must be regarded as a mystic vision. But such visions can not be called forward with human efforts. Man is only a little worm. He must wait, and he must pray, knowing that he is only dust and ashes in the presence of God Almighty. He is not allowed to go behind the curtain into the holy of holies, he is not allowed to put forward his hand and touch the arc over which God makes his epiphany. But when the light, the glory of God, shines upon him, the little worm is happy, and he knows that such a light can only be given by grace alone.

A mysticism reached by certain unclean methods can be traced all over the Middle East in the prehistoric high-cultures. In Susa we find the two snakes coiling and kissing around 3 mystical flowers. Exactly the same motif in found in prehistoric Egypt(Amiet, RA 51,pp.121-9). The two snakes can be made into snake-like necks of two lions coiling, kissing. And again the motif is identical in prehistoric Egypt and prehistoric Mesopotamia:


Left: Lion-snakes from the “Shield of Narmer” 3200 BC.  Right: Similar Mesopotamian motif, Amiet, pl. 14bis C.


The double-snake ascending is a he- and a she- snake, and the means to make the snake-power ascend is often a melting together of the male and female pole of life: an ecstasy reached by very orgiastic means. This prehistoric seal from North Iraq shows male and female copulating in a posture well known from modern Indian tantra. Thereby they make the snakepower ascend.


A.J.Tobler,Exc.Tepe Gawra II,pl. CLXIII.fig. 88 & 87.


Same motif from early Susa, L.le Breton, IRAQ 19,1957, p.104, fig.18.


The female partner is placed on the yogi's lap. Her body is held very close, to arouse a spiritual union with female nature. But certainly the technique can also be more rough, cf. the Orphic motif of Baubo sitting on a pig in a very indecent position, offering the ladder = the journey to heaven. A prehistoric version of the same motif: a girl with long floating hair flanked with scorpion and reptile:




Müller-Karpe, III, 3 Taf. 180, 23. The tale of the scorpion is an ascending snake.


Actually the modern artist (from A.B.Cook, Zeus) thinks a little too highly of the girl, for on the original sculpture (cf. the photo in Lex.Icon.: Baubo) the right hand is pointing to the most private parts of the young lady. The same motif can be seen on a prehistoric bowl from Tell Halaff (see below): in Indian tantra a stark naked woman is a symbol of Shakti: “The girl may be seated on a low altar, with legs spread wide apart to display the hallowed symbol of adoration, the yoni”[16].



H.Schmidt[17] thinks the bulky stomach is a sign of pregnancy, but the navel is not protruding, but deeply hidden in the midst of surrounding hills of fat, obviously a sign of female beauty and softness (and voluptuous joy?). The bowl points to an ecstasy giving drink, perhaps this mixture of wine and cannabis which, in Iranian myth, gives universal knowledge.[18]


The last proof of the striking similarities between India and the Near East is this coin from Tyre showing the crowned snake coiling around a gigantic egg:


Illustration from A.B.Cook, Zeus, II, p.982, fig. 791, Babelon, Les Perses Achmenides, p.328 no. 224o:


The Hellenistic author, Nonnos, has a description of how Tyre was founded. Melqart, called Heracles Astrochiton ("coat full of stars") came to a people as old as time itself with bodies made from unploughed mud (Gen 2). He came as they were sleeping, and commanded them to build a ship and sail out over the sea until they reached two rocks called “the ambrosian rocks" floating on the waves. “In the center of the navel of the rock” an olive tree was growing. At the top of it an eagle had its nest, and there was also a big bowl, and a snake was coiling around the tree, and “a fire lit by itself was spewing wonderful sparks”. The tree is burning without being burnt down. When the eagle is killed and brought as an offering to Poseidon, the rocks will stop their wanderings and be grounded, and the people will be able to build a town on them. Butterworth (The Tree at the Navel…) calls our attention to the fact that the bowl of the moon containing the drink of immortality is often, in Oriental iconography, placed at the top of the world tree. And he calls our attention to another symbol, the moon-bowl with the sacred drop of supernatural light falling into it (Far East), or the moon-bowl containing the bright disc of the sun.

Pherecydes' cosmic tree has wings, and the moon-bowl containing the ambrosia is also known from this author's lost work: the moon was where the gods were eating as it brings forth ambrosia daily.

Interesting for our subject is the snake coiling around the world axis, the world-tree, to reach the sun-bird, the eagle, or the bowl with the drink of ecstatic rapture. The eagle at the top of the world axis, the ladder to heaven, is the mystical symbol of ecstasy. The killing of the symbol of mystic ecstasy is creation out of unstable, ever-floating matter.

In Mesopotamian myth we find the killing of the bird in the poem about the Anzu-bird who had stolen the tablets of destiny, and thereby having total control over gods and cosmos. Ninurta taking the tablets back is cosmos being reestablished. Mystic vision is the normal day-to-day structure of the cosmos being threatened.


Motif on a coin from Hierapolis in Phrygia: snake ascending to the head of Apollo Lairbenos with a hairdo like an aura of sunbeams (after Cook, II, fig. 456).


A relief from Mastala in Upper Syria shows a god standing on a bull with two coiled snakes under the bull and there is a dedication to: “the very greatest god, Op Eresem…” Acc. to R.Mouterde[19] Op comes from Sumerian Ub (“in high heaven”) and Eresem is pluralis majestatis of heres = sun. The god has something in his arms which could look like the hind part of an animal, and Mouterde thinks he is a shepherd-god.

The sign used to indicate the Hittite king shows the bird of the mystical light flying over a gate made of two pillars.




The gate of the sun is the world mountain split into two, the first division of primordial union into duality. If the high god is primordial reality, his first splitting into two is seen as his two sons, they are split off from the same being. -Therefore the guardians of the gate are often two bull-men, sons of the bull god. The picture shows the two lifting up the mystical bird, thereby making space for the sun to run its course (in “Knielauf”, the symbol of fast running, slab from the temple in Tell Halaf, 9th cent.B.C.). . But certainly the highgod can also be seen as Baalshamin followed by his two sons symbolizing sun and moon. Here sun and moon are seen as the first splitting up of primordial light and reality into night and day. Baalshamin in Palmyra is the old god with beard and polos. He is the world pillar of the ecstatic journey to heaven by uniting duality. The two parts are tied together with the ribbon hanging from the polos. The highgod is the union of right and left, and his sons are the division of the highgod into two. Note the remarkable likeness between the three. On the many Saturn-stelai found all over Punic Africa, Saturn is a god closely connected to the bull and followed by his two Dioscuric helpers. 


First half of the first cent. A.C. Louvre Mus. (SYRIA 26,1949, pp.28ff.)


In Job 29,18: “I thought I would die in my nest live as long as Hol” cf. Ps 103,5: “My youth is renewed as the eagle’s”, we find the Hol = Phoenix as a positive symbol of life renewed.


But in accordance with the tendency in Semitic religion to see primeval reality, the bull El, enthroned by a young warrior and hunter-god, the eagle of eternity, the Anzu, is shot by the young Ninurta.


Enlarged picture of Anzu's “third eye” taken from the picture below.



Anzu is the symbol of forces taking the universe back into primordial chaos. “(Anzu has disrupted) the kingship ... he has rob(bed Ellil), rejected your father. (Make?) a path, fix the hour, let light dawn for the gods”, is the command given to Ninurta/Ningirsu in the Old Babylonian version[20].

A stone slab found in the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud shows Ninurta attacking Anzu. The god has a sickle hanging from his shoulder, and the bird monster has a third eye on its forehead: the god has to cut up primordial totality seen by the mystical vision & the third eye and make a path for the sun to shine, thereby creating order in primordial chaos.[21]

    No Sumerian account of the Anzu-episode is known, and in Sumerian litt. the Anzu is a kind and benevolent bird. In the Standard Babylonian version Ninurta is given the title Bel (= Baal). Other deeds of Ninurta are known from passing references: he slew the seven-headed serpent, he slew the bull-man in the sea (the bull as the god of life-fluids). The Anzu-bird is closely connected to the mountains as primordial massive: “his mantle of radiance surrounded the mountain”. The bird as a symbol of mystical vision is one with the shining Mt Paradise.


    In Greek myth, in the Garden of the Hesperides, a snake called Ladon is guarding the tree with apples giving eternal life. Ltn is also the name of the snake with seven heads in the Ugarittexts, so obviously the Greek notion has its root in Near Eastern myth and the Bible. This makes it possible to compare the Greek snake with the snake in the Bible offering the fruits from the Tree of Knowledge to Eve. This infamous creature must be Leviathan, the coiled one, and its temptation must be the old promise of mystic vision, universal knowledge, divine enlightenment, change from merely human into divine consciousness. This notion of original sin is closely connected to a similar thinking in Nordic myth, where Odin’s friendship with Loki and his dabbling with occult powers is also seen as the way evil powers are able to enter the human mind. Still Cain is able to resist the sin lurking at the door, but later on in the generation of the Great Flood mankind has become the victim of an obsession with dark forces.


    “The wild hunt”, this important piece of European folklore, is originally a hunt for the divine stag with the light cross between its antlers, the symbol of the highgod, but in a manner typical of tantric thinking it degenerates into a hunt for the naked “witch with her breasts hanging down to the earth” when she is caught and thrown over the horseback[22], a typical symbol of Hecate and female kundalini-power.


Perseus tries not to look at Medusa, who is personified kundalini-power (with the many snakes coming out from her head, a double-snake coiling on her breast, and the long tongue coming out of her mouth like the Indian goddess, Kali), resting in a cave in some kind of primordial mountain in the deep west, transcending the routes of the sun. I think he does well in this. Mystic vision reached by some occult, heaven-climbing technique can be terrifying. In fact, in ancient Greece, the vision of the Medusa-head was the vision the dead soul feared to meet after death.

Also Athena is personified kundalini. She carries the Medusa head on her shield or is seen together with her snake which acc. to some traditions also ended up as the head on her shield. She is a close parallel to the Syrian goddess Anat once in the Ugarit~texts named as Anat Ltn (Leviathan/Lotan). She was born when Zeus received a big blow on his scull, in the place where raised female kundalini is united with the male god. Male and female force being separated is creation, the opposite is mystic vision: everything melting into mystic union.


[1] The Exeter Book, in: Anglo-Saxon Poetry, selected & trans. by R.K.Gordon, 1926, pp.239ff.

[2] Eus. præp. I,10,49

[3] "L´ouum anguinum", in Hommages à Marcel Renard,1969,II,pp.415-25

[4] Hist. Nat. 29,52

[5] Height 4,5cm, found by Mellaart in the leopard-temple, AnSt 14,1964,p.77

[6] Mellaart, The Neolithic of the Near East, fig. 48

[7] Tobler, Excavations II,1950, pl.CLXX

[8] Tobler, Exc.

[9] Amiet, 1573,1631

[10] Amiet,1560A

[11] Review of interpretations of the designs on the bowl and revised drawing is offered by I.Winter in East of Assyria: The Highland Settlement of Hasanlu, ed. Rob.H.Dyson,Jr. and Mary M. Voigt,1989.

[12] E.F.Schmidt, Persepolis,I,t.19

[13] R.Delbrueck & W.Vollgraff: "An Orphic Bowl",JHS 54,1934,pp.129-39. H.Leisegang: "Das Mysterium der Schlange", ERANOS-Jahrbuch, 1939, pp.151-251

[14] Saturnalia I, 9, 12

[15] Stresses the amorphous, W.Sundberg: Kushta, 1953, pp.105ff.

[16] B.Walker, Tantrism, 1982, p.65

[17] In Max von Oppenheim, Tell Halaf, I, p.101

[18] A.Hultgård: "Myth et histoire dans l´Iran ancien", p.146 in: G.Widengren, A.Hultgård, M.Philonenko, Apocalyptique Iranienne.

[19] Melanges Syriens a R.Dusseaud, pp.391-97

[20] Transl. S.Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia, 1989

[21] A.Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, II, pl.5.

[22] O.Höfler, Kultische Geheimbünde, I, 1934, pp.276-80