13. A common prehistoric religion


A potsherd from Halaf[1] shows the coiled snake, and the double snake is seen on two stamps from Tepe Gawra[2]. From Tell Brak is shown this remarkable jar with applications. Sun, moon and scorpion, and snakes drinking from the brim. The snake and the scorpion show that it is an orgiastic drink to strengthen the snake power[3]. A dog is also seen losing its kundalini power during the pursuit of a horned animal[4]. But two goats joined together symmetrically are a symbol of raised kundalini[5].



We have used the Mandaean texts as typical witnesses of Near Eastern folk religion: This also goes for the god of heaven, the highgod: Ju-shamin is called “strength of the waters”.[6] The normal Syrian name for the high god is Baalshamin, but the Mandaeans seems to have preserved some very old traditions about the god giving power/fertility to the life-giving waters.

In the Mandaean scriptures the two “ancient and powerful primeval (creatures)” are Baba and Tata. Together with names like Jajia, Dadai, Qaqai they are the “pet names” of the first elements like air, fire, milk, and fish. Baba is the divine primeval Ram and means “Daddy”[7]. In our opinion Hadad[8] (from Ada, Attis, Hittite: Attash, Sumerian: Adda, Cilician: * atis = “father”) is a name of this kind. B.Kienast[9] mentions a lot of “Lallnamen” (pet names) from the Sumerian Pantheon: Alala, Zababa, Sjidada, Bulala, Belile, Igigi, Aruru, Izuzu. The name Jesus uses for God “Abba” is a name of the same type as these words (Papa, Daddy, Mama) and reflects Near Eastern folk religion. Cf. the name Papas for Attis.

In Eleusis we meet the divine couple Jacche and Baubo, they are acting quite tantrically and norm breaking, J., the young boy touching the most private parts of the older woman Baubo. In the creation story we hear about Jahveh and bohu (originally buhw).

In his creation story Philo has Kol-pi-ja (“voice of the mouth of Ja?”) and Baau. In Mesopotamia we meet Ea/Ia and Bau.

The reiteration Ja/Jeje Paian and Bau/Baubo is very common for the third person in the primeval drama, the hunter Ara (Ararat,Urartu) Kusj (Kaukasus). Other examples are Tartaros, Ninoe, Dardanos, Dodona, Kykeon, Leleges, Gyges.

 “…reiteration is not rare in aboriginal languages of Anatolia” says E.Herzfeld[10] and he mentions  Briges/Bebrykes. K.Jaritz says about the language of the Kassite: “In many cases there is reduplication of a part of the stem and we do not know the reason or meaning of it”[11]. Jaritz seeks to localise the original home of the Kassite people and finds Kashshiya in East Anatolia or Tepe Gawra. To his opinion it is an aboriginal population, about 3000 B.C. expelled by Sumerians and Semites (p.81f). Just like the name Kush becoming the name of a people, so also the name Ara (Urartu). The myth about Or tells that he was a giant from India killed and now buried where the river Orontes flows. In the country west of the Jordan River we meet the giant Og whose name has some connection to Greek Okeanos and Ogyges and is doubled to Gog, the king coming from the northern periphery and the Ice Sea. Some cultic devices have a reduplication. The very characteristic libation pitcher with a long nose is in Akkadian called kukkub(b)u[12] Hebrew: qab, Greek: kábos is a cubic unit.


RA V, pl.2, fig.23; fig. 48-9.


The Egyptian word for the holy flower, the lotus, is sssn in Hebrew: susan = “lily”, Greek: suson. Crocus Sanscrit: kunkuman, Akkadian: kurkanu, Hebrew: karkom.

The oldest word for wine is also of Anatolian origin[13]. The Sumerian ideogram GESTIN has the phonetic value ui, Greek:oinos, Hebrew: jajin.

T.B.Nayar has proved that ceramics of the type “black-and-red ware” found in the oldest layers of Harappa has some similarity to predynastic Egyptian and West Asian “black-and-red ware”[14]. Fairservis has made a list of 35 signs common to Harappan inscriptions and record keeping and Protoelamittic[15].

Bedr.Hrozny, the famous scholar who solved the riddle of the Hittite language, has also tried his skills on the many seals belonging to the Harappa and Mohenjo Daro culture.(A complete collection of these inscriptions has now been published by a team led by the Finnish scholar Asko Parpola). Hrozny thinks that the language of the seals is an Indo-European language, and he finds a similarity with the letters used in the Hieroglyph-Hittite writings from Eastern Anatolia[16]. Acc to Hrozny the short inscription contains 25-30 different names of gods. The far most common name is Jaje (in more than 300 inscriptions and also found in the form Jaj, Ja, Je, I), a name that in Hrozny's opinion is closely connected to Semitic god Jau/Jave. Jaje is closely connected with the urus-bull, in scientific litt. often called the “unicorn” because it is always shown with only one horn (in profile). But this god is also represented by the holy tree and the man in the tree. The tree is often seen making some kind of semicircle around Jaje who is inside the tree. He is the spirit of vegetation obviously in some kind of opposition to the tiger (Hrozny, Ancient History of Western Asia, India and Crete brings a good summary of his viewpoints). It seems clear that Hrozny´s interpretations would suit our description of the prehistoric cult of Ja very well, but the scientific world has not been able to accept Hrozny´s work. Also the name of a god called Kush and even Shantash is found by Hrozny. But there are different things that make his interpretation hard to accept. The syllable shi-, the last part of the name Kushi can be written with 25 different signs, acc. to Hrozny to make the difference of the seals stand out. But could not this be done better by variations in the pictures? C.Renfrew, Archaeology and Language (1987), also pleads for an Indo-European language in the early Indus valley culture. Asko Parpola thinks the inscriptions have to be interpreted as a Dravidian language, but he agrees that the Sanskrit-speaking Indo-Europeans of the Vedas are not the first wave of Indo-European settlers.

My opinion is that we have to admit the fact that there was a multitude of very different languages being spoken in the rather small centre of early farming (Mesopotamia and Eastern Anatolia) and many of them are now extinct. The Sumerian, Elamittic, Kassite, Hurritic and Hattian languages are only some of them - there must have existed a true Babylonian-linguistic confusion, Gen 11. So perhaps neither early Indo-European nor Dravidian languages can offer the clue to this vanished civilisation.

Perhaps Hrozny´s bold theory on early migrations from a Near Eastern centre has more to say for it. To me it seems very likely that at least several groups have gone out in search for the land or holy mountain of Kush, their great god. Mt.Cassios outside Ugarit, in the U.texts called Khazi, is also called Arr[17], cf. Caucasus & Ararat. The title “king over Kish” is a title of honour used by Mesopotamian rulers, and even by those who did not rule the city of Kish, but had to see it ruled by someone else. H.J.Nissen[18] thinks that the explanation is to be found in geography: From Kish (13km east of Babylon) in Upper Mesopotamia, the Euphratriver could be controlled. But to my opinion Kish could also be the capital of a prehistoric Mesopotamian kingdom. Kush is the man from the land where the heat and the nearness to the sun has burned the people black. So his hair is often seen as that of a Negro. In Greek myth the black warrior is Memnon (with reiteration of the stem Min). He comes from the land of the rising sun and his mother´s name is Kissia. A founder of Argos is called Keisos. Kisses, Kisseus, Kissios are names of kings in Thracia, Kissiné a mountain in Thracia[19]. The great hunter´s numen was represented by the lion, in Greek called lix, in Hebrew lais, in Egypt l/<i. B.Hrozny has shown[20] that the words for some items connected with the brewing of beer are the same in Egypt and Sumer/Mesopotamia: Malt-bread broken to pieces. The species of grain emmer. Mixing-jars for beer.

De Genouillac (OLZ 11,469) has found that Assyrian marru (pickaxe), Sumerian (gisMAR) is very similar to the earliest pictures of an Egyptian pickaxe, mr. Many words for farming activity are pre-Sumerian, even the name for “farmer” (engar), plough (apin), but also smith (simug), weaver (usbar)[21]. Kienast thinks these words are witness to a “Proto-Eufratian” population farming the land even before the arrival of the Sumerians.

C.Autran[22] will explain the early Badari culture of Upper Egypt 5500 B.C. as coming in from the east through Wadi Hammamat. It brought the bull-god Min, a forerunner for Ammon. Min is called “the great bull” and “he who opens the rain clouds” (not typical of the Egyptian situation, where water comes from the flooding of the Nile) “creator of the tree of life”, and Autran brings this picture of the bull being pursued by the panther:



From all this it seems clear that not only the special technique of farming, but also the vocabulary and even the gods were disseminated together.

This goes especially for the dominant figure of the great hunter. The figure of a strong man with his bare hands grabbing or taming two lions is a motif seen in prehistoric Egypt, Susa, Mohenjo Daro (two tigers) and in Greek mythology (Heracles wrestling with a lion). He is also seen standing between two rising snakes (Resheph), sometimes grabbing them, sometimes as in Egypt having the raised snake as a third eye on his forehead. He is the great magician taming the demonic forces of the dark side having them at his disposal. The bull is a symbol of divine life-giving, life-protecting forces whereas the lion is the symbol of the more aggressive side in man and in cosmos, the killing instinct.

In an important contribution to the prehistory of the mysteries of Mithras, A.D.H. Bivar[23] has already dealt with the motifs “the lion killing the bull” and the “Master of the Beasts”.

Without drawing the line back to the prehistoric iconography and Catal Hüyük and the idea of the fire killing the life fluids in vegetation, Bivar has seen that these symbols cover over a cruel cult even involving the butchering of humans. He lists the following typical variants of the “Master of Beasts” as he calls the figure we have chosen to call the “great hunter”:

The Lion-Stabber

The Lion-Strangler

The Lion-Dangler: holds the subdued animal in a hind leg or the tail

The Lion-Grabbler: grabs one or two lions by the throat

The Griffon-Grabbler

Bivar treats a Persian (?) Monument found in Athens (Now in Athens National Mus.) It seems to be from the 4th cent. B.C.[24]



The figure grabbing the two horned lions wearing a high cylinder hat is well known from official seals from the Achmenidian royal administration. The same hat is worn by Baal on coins from Sidon. It seems reasonable to identify him as the Mesopotamian Bel-Marduk. The horned lion-demon is well known from Assyrian art. It is a genius, a helping spirit for the great magician Bel.

From his diggings in Nimrud Austin Layard has brought to light this sculpture of a lion-demon standing just behind a man and in exactly the same position. But the man is not armed. The demon is. It is the real killer. (The picture is only one example among many of this important motif.)



We find the motif a strong man often dressed in a kilt grabbing 2 lions in their throats disseminated over many prehistoric cultures: Crete, Egypt, prehistoric Susa and the Mohenjo Daroh-culture in North India (where he is “a tiger-grabber”).


Cyprus   Susa    Mohenjo Daroh






Zeus was on Crete called “the dead Zan”[25]. In the cave on Mt Ida, where Pythagoras was initiated, was found this drum of bronze. Two genii of the Assyrian type is drumming and Zan, not naked, but dressed in tricot is dancing trampling on a bull, swinging a lion over his head[26]


In Cyprus it is the god Bes mastering the lion (Rawlinson, p. 33). Cf. Lex Icon, Bes (Cypri et in Phoenicia) 19.  The monstrous features of the horned god are not accidental. His kilt is made of the skin of a lion, its paws hanging from the waist.

Kush is also a very old name of a god giving his name to mountains like Caucasus, Hazzi = Mt Kassios in Syria, Kassu, perhaps the modern Ilgaz dag (ibd. p.127). Both Hazzi and Kassu form a pair with another mountain (the two world pillars, the gate of the sun). We find this pair of mountains in Hellenistic times as the Castores following Juppiter Dolichenus[27].

 In Boeotia Kush is the great hunter Orion, in Greece called Candaon. He is Sandan of Cilicia, a god always seen with a bow. He is the lion killing the bull on Cilician coins. The heat of Orion and the dog-days killing the god of vegetation.

The god of Edom was Kaush. Also Resheph can be called Resheph-hs. In a text about magic[28], the god Horon is also called Qs. This god must acc. to A.Dupont-Sommer[29] be identified with the Edomitic Kaush, by Josephos called Koze[30]. Also Isis, the wife of Osiris/Orion, is said to come from Ethiopia i.e. Kush[31].


Gandas is the name of the first Cassite king (Balkan p.148). Perhaps Sandas/Sandan is the satem/East-Indo-Europaean version of Candaon/Gandas. In the cosmogony of Pherecydes we find the god, Zas with the stem Sant-.

The name has perhaps some connection to the Luwian stem Hant-, Hittite Handa-. A late Luwian name in Aramaic is Knd-shyrm, acc. to K.A.Kitchen[32] a late version of the older Luwian *Hanta-Sarruma. The Knd- stem is Kende in Greek transcripts, cf. centaurs and Candaules.

The centaurs are especially known for getting very drunk at the wedding of Perithous and showing very lecherous behaviour, when the bride was presented. Candaules, an early Lydian king, wanted to present his queen naked to his spearman, Gyges.

The father of Centauros was Ixion, who tried to seduce the wife of Zeus, Hera. He was punished and tied to a fiery wheel which rolled through the sky without ceasing, that is he was made into the sun. Also the killing of Candaules is making way for the sun. The two spear men are a common holy motif in Hittite art: with their two spears they form the post of the gate of the sun.

To the figure of Centau/Candau- is connected a wife-motif and a cosmogonic motif (or rather a New Year’s motif, as we shall try to prove in the following).


Perhaps Zas, and even the orphic Zagreus (Zas agreus = Zas, the hunter), is the satem version of Cush, the great hunter. The name of the Cretan Zeus was Zan. In the myth about Zagreus, the demon hunter and the hunted have become one and the same god. Also Dionysos is both the leader of the hunt and the victim: the demon god, the leader of the hunt, is fused into one with the bull god.

In Job 38,31 God asks: "Can you bind together the Cluster-star (Hebr.: Kima, the Pleiads)? Can you loosen the chains of the Fool (Hebr.: Kesil, Orion)?" Acc. to bab. Talmud Berakoth 59a God brought the Flood over the earth by taking two stars out of Kima, thereby making a hole in the sky above, and, acc. to G.Dalman to the Arabs of the Holy Land it is the Pleiads that bring the rainy season[33].

Acc. to b.T.Berakoth 58b: “If it was not for the heat of Kesil, the world could not survive the cold influence of Kima”. The balance in cosmos is the balance between Kima and Kesil, Amos 5,8.

Here are traces of an old folk religion, of the god of heavenly waters with the mark of holy sevenfold mystical light being fought by the god of death and summer heat, Orion, the Hunter.


G.Dumézil[34] suggests the derivation of Candaules from Avestic Gandarewo, a demon killed at the New Year's festival, the Greek Centauroi and Indian Gandharva. He was followed by O.H. de Wijesekara[35], but not by Jan Gonda[36].

In India, the Gandharva has some kind of ownership of the young virgin before her getting married, and even the first three nights the young man must abstain from intercourse with the young wife while imploring the Gandharva to leave her. This could be interpreted as the last remnant of a very old and very powerful folk religious motif: woman as a symbol of fertility taken over by and later liberated from a demonic spirit. The women, Jole and Deianeira, although they belonged to Heracles, were claimed by the centaurs Nessos and Eyrytion. But at the very last moment the hero came to their rescue and killed the centaur. At the Iranian New Year's festival the myth tells about two women taken captive by the dragon-king and liberated by the hero. Now the historification of the ancient myth of the dragon Azi Dahaka, the water stealer, is the story about the demoniac king Zahhak told by Firdausi in his Shahnamah and by several Arab historians[37]. This Zahhak has a minister kalled Kundrav who has to arrange a big feast. A very important feature in the Greek myths about the centaurs is their coming running to the cave of Pholos at the smell of wine, and their getting crazy at the wedding of Perithoos by the taste of wine. They come to the cave of Pholos with butcher's axes in their hands, and one of their leaders is called Agrios (Agreus = “Hunter”). The centaurs are the spirits summoned for the New Year's festival in Athens called the Anthesteria. Here Dionysos comes to town followed by the Keres, thirsty spirits of the forefathers. While the men are drinking heavily, Dionysos has intercourse with the “Queen”.

It is our strong opinion that we have here a New Year's festival reaching back to prehistoric times: at this feast the women have to give themselves to strangers dressed as demons. The festival is a chaotic interregnum under the leadership of the “Hunter” Candaon-Candaules, leader of the dead spirits summoned to the orgiastic meal. For the sake of fertility the women had to give themselves to a demoniac rite, a rule that could also be applied to their passing from virgin to wife: before they could enter into matrimony they had to give themselves to strangers (a demand often met in the temple yard of the goddess). In Byblos it is part of the annual mourning for Adonis, and celebrates the victory of the death god, Ares-Resheph over the god of life, Adonis, the victory of the demonic El Kronos and his eloim (spirits of the deceased) over the high-god Uranos (acc to Philo of Byblos). The women who did not want to give themselves to strangers had to shave off their hair (Lucian). Even at the Anthesteria there was a certain night where it was the privilege of the young men to walk around during the night knocking on the doors hoping to get a short moment of forbidden love from the housewife (acc. to C.Kerenyi, Dionysos,Zoe).

For a short period woman is taken over by the prince of chaos and belongs to him, cf. the women roaming through the wilderness like the maenads led by Lord Dionysos.   

The galloping horse is the symbol of ecstasy: the female ecstatic, the androgynous amazon is Hippolyte (“a horse let loose”). The man with the body of a horse is the ecstatic, the man obsessed with a demon, or the demon obsessing men, forcing them into chaotic behaviour.


The Cush-name and the great hunter as the leader of warriors seen as leopards or a pack of wolves is a key to the religion in the oldest high cultures in Upper Egypt and Mohenjo Daro, and it gives new credibility to B.Hrozny's theory on early migrations bringing the Cush-name as far as to the territory south of Egypt, to Hindukush in India, and to Caucasus and the Caspian Sea (and to the Kushana-kingdom in India[38]).

Karsten Rönnow has dealt with the Indian Naga-cult and the name Kulinda and shown that -inda could have some connection with the “Proto-Luvian suffix” -nd or -nth, known from a vast area stretching from the Lycian-Luvian area through Cappadocia, Armenia, Media (but not southern Iran) to the land east of the Caspian Sea, and from there up to Hindukush. For our purpose it is important to note that this suffix is found in words like Hyacinthos, Sas/Sandan, Kas/Candaon, labrys/ labyrinthos, in India Govinda. Acc. to Rönnow it belonged to the language of Indo-European “advance-guards”[39] in early Indo-European migrations. In Greece and in Inner Anatolia we find this suffix side by side with the -ss suffix, note Narcissos and Hyacinthos; both are killed, and their blood, their life-fluid, transformed into a flower blossoming in the spring: the hyacinth, the narcissus, conf. Attis transformed into the violet, Adonis into the anemone. This is a very important prehistoric motif: the god of life and beauty being killed, but in his death giving life-power to the blossoming of early spring.


 In Anatolia we meet a Hattian God called DHuzzi(ya),God of Hakmissa, and a goddess, Huwashsh-anna (where anna is the Hitt. word for “mother”). A Hattian word for the divine fire is Kuzzan, and in Hattian lists silver, considered the most precious of metals, was coming from the land of Kuzza-[40].

The Hitt. word for “king” is hashshu-. At least some of these words are connected with Cush, the great hunter.

Most interesting is the Hitt. word for “heat”: tapashsha – the same stem is used in India to denote ecstatic heat: tapas.

Sandan on the pyra is identical with Plato's Er, who has his famous “near-to-death-experience" on his funeral fire. During the 12 days he laid on his funeral fire Er experiences a travel in the course of the sun like Sandan, who, on a coin, is seen running in the course of the sun (12 days are the cycle of the sun).


Silver coin from Mallos, Cilicia[41]. From the top of the scull a spiral as the symbol of travel in the sun's circling journey. On the disc carried by the god the mystical flower as the symbol of light.


Acc. to Strabo the first Cappadocian king, was Ariarathe, cf the Edomitic god ‘A´ara, the Mesopotamian Girra/ Irra and the Greek Orion/Geryon (perhaps even Ares).

Now and then the cult of the great hunter seems to excel in a certain kind of cruelty. The brutal butchering of prisoners is hailed as the work of the god. Here he supervises that the eyes are put out on tied up prisoners begging for mercy[42]:




Instead of wrestling with the lion or bull he can be seen wrestling with vegetation[43]:



The hunter can easily be recognized on the heavy kilt and rounded hair- & beard-cut. He is also on a seal from Susa seen in the act of (ritual?) shooting down naked defenseless people in front of a temple. The cult-figure of the hunter must be seen as a psychological attempt to draw power from the dark side of the human nature.

At the Anat-temple in Palmyra we find the big lion-sculpture:



Why this gigantic animal with a strong underlining of the terrifying in its appearance. Its eyes are not directed to the buck between its paws, but towards heaven. What is the connection to the goddess whose temple it adorns? Anat is the female hunter.



On this sculpture from the Helln. period it is clearly seen, that the lionstrangler is not killing the lions, but putting them in submission. The lions are symbols of demon forces tamed and used by the magician. Acc. to an inscription[44] the man standing between them is called “lord of the chained ones” (i.e. the demons chained in the underworld).

[1] Iraq II, 1935, p.162, fig.77, 9

[2] pl. CLXX, 178ff

[3] Mallowan, Iraq IX,1947, pl.LXX

[4] Tepe Gawra, II, no.156

[5] Tepe Gawra, Amiet, 58

[6] E.S.Drower, The Thousand and Twelve Questions, p.171

[7] E.S.Drower, ibd.p.176

[8] W.Fauth, “Adamma”, Glotta 45, pp.141f.

[9] “Überlegungen zum Pantheon Babylonicum”, ORIENTALIA 54, 1986, p.109

[10] The Persian Empire, 1968, p.128n2

[11] “Die Kulturreste der Kassiten”, Anthropos 55, 1960, p.78

[12] O.Schrader, “Assyrische Gefässnamen”, Archiv für Orientforschung 6, 1930-31

[13] E.Herzfeld, ibd., p.250

[14] The Problem of Dravidian Origins, Linguistic, Anthropological Approach, 1977

[15] “The Harappan civilization acc to its writing”, Tamil civilization 4, (3&4), 1986, pp.103-130

[16] AO, 13, 1942, pp.1-102

[17] CTA 10, III, 30f.

[18] Grundzüge einer Geschichte der Frühzeit des Vorderen Orients, 1983, pp.158-62

[19] C.Autran, Tarkondemos, 1922, pp.221f.

[20] Anz. ph.-h. Kl. k. Ak. W. 1910 no.V

[21] B.Kienast,"Überlegungen z Pantheon Babylonicum”, ORIENTALIA 54,1985,p.108

[22] La Préhistoire du Christianisme I, 1941, pp.103-13

[23] In: Mithraic studies. Proceedings of the First Int. Congress of Mithraic Studies, 1, ed. J.R. Hinnells, 1975, see also “A Persian Monument at Athens and its connections with the Achaemenid State Seals”, W.B.Henning Memorial Volume, 1970, pp.43-61

[24] Photo by D.Perrot, 1881. BCH, V, 1881

[25] Vita Pyth. 17

[26] Cook,Zeus I, pp.645ff., pl.xxxv

[27] P.Merlat, SYRIA 28, 1951, p.241n5

[28] du Mesnil du Buisson, Une tablette magique de la région du Moyen Euphrate”, in: Melanges Syriens off. a R.Dussuad, pp.421ff.

[29] L´inscription de l´amulette d´Arslan-Tash”, R.H.R. 120, 1939, pp.155f.

[30] Ant. Jud. XV 7, 9

[31] Augustin de civ. dei XVIII 3 & 8

[32] RHA XXIII, 1965, pp.25f

[33] Arbeit und Sitte, I, 1928, pp.38f

[34] Le problême de Centaures, 1929, pp.273f.

[35] “Vedic Gandharva and Pali Gandhabba”, Ceylon Univ. Rev. III, 1945

[36] Die Religionen Indiens I, 1960, p.101n35

[37] Shahnamah, ed. Vullers, pp. 35f, transl. Warner and Warner I, pp.146f

[38] Die älteste Volkerwanderung und die protoindische Zivilisation, 1939

[39] p.160 in “Kirata”, Le Monde Oriental, XXX, 1936, pp.90-170

[40] Laroche RHA 79, pp.169, 176

[41] 425-385 B.C. Cook, pp.297f, fig. 220

[42] Frankfort, p.23, fig. 6

[43] From slab, Tell Halaf & from Nimrud, Mallowan, fig. 392

[44] du Mesnil du Buisson, Tess, p.272