Site Section Links
KRONOS Vol IX, No. 2
Copyright 1984 by Dwardu Cardona
Humbaba, as he is called in the Assyrian version of the Sha Naqba Imuru, commonly referred to as the Epic of Gilgamesh, is the giant whom the hero of that epic and his friend Enkidu set out to destroy. In the Old Babylonian and Hittite versions, this giant is called Huwawa. He is described as "a sevenfold terror to mortals" with the roaring of a flood-storm. "His mouth is fire, his breath is death."(l)
More than being a giant, Stephen Langdon informs us that Huwawa "is invariably called a god in the texts".(2) That Huwawa, or Humbaba, personified a celestial body is evidenced by the fact that his Elamite counterpart, Humba (also Humban, Hanubani, Hamban, Umman, and/or Imbi), appears in a star list with the determinative "mul" (in Babylonian rendered "kakkab") that is reserved for the designation of stars.(3)
Langdon identified Humbaba, but only tentatively, as the star Procyon, the brightest luminary in the constellation Canis Minor.(4) Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, however, inform us that Humba shares the epithet "the prevalent, the strong" not only with Procyon but also with the planets Mercury and Jupiter.(5) Ernst Weidner, the noted Assyriologist, on the other hand, played it safe by not identifying the Elamite Humba at all.(6)
Humbaba's face is depicted in art as being composed of winding entrails. De Santillana and von Dechend might have been the first to realize that this bears a striking similarity to the Aztec god Tlaloc's features which are shown to be formed from two winding serpents. These winding serpents they then compare to those which form the caduceus of the Greek Hermes and the Roman Mercury.(7) Thus they intimated that the serpentine features of Tlaloc, as well as the intestinal ones of Humbaba, could represent the continuous track of the planet Mercury's orbit around the Sun as it would have been drawn by an observer from Earth.(8)
That they were not quite satisfied with this explanation is, however, evident from what they also wrote:
This Mercurian identification was later picked up by Robert Temple, who also reproduced similar diagrams.(11) Moreover, Temple added the following:
De Santillana and von Dechend never quite accepted this identification and, in fact, continued to favor Procyon. This is evidenced by their statement: "The identification with Procyon may eventually turn out to be the decisive clue . . ."(13) In the end, they could only pass this verdict:
Can we do better?
We know that Humbaba was considered a god and that, like almost all gods, he personified a celestial body. That much we can hold on to. Langdon's identification of Humbaba as Procyon, however, was presented without any valid evidence to back it up. As de Santillana and von Dechend themselves saw fit to inform us, Langdon did not really pay any "heed to such notion''.(15)
The god's epithet, "the prevalent, the strong", means nothing. Such epithets were bestowed not only on Mercury Jupiter. and Procyon but on almost every other god and planet in the mythologies of all nations.
That "seb [as per Robert Temple] . . . also means 'the planet Mercury' ", is something of a liberty. Devoid of vowels. which the Egyptians did not employ, the name of the planet Mercury is actually designated "Sbg(w)".(16) Through the insertion of vowels. E. A. Wallis Budge rendered this name as Sebku and/or Sebek.(17) Treating "Sebek" as being the same as "Seb" would be akin to treating the English word "cater" as being the same as "cat". Now it is true that Budge also speaks of the god Sebek as being affiliated with the god Seb,(18) but Budge's Seb is merely an archaic rendition of what today is more popularly rendered Geb. Hence, the hieroglyphs which "spell" Seb/Geb are entirely different from those which form the root "seb" in Sebek/Sebku.(19) Meanwhile, although it is also true that "seb" (or "sib") means "cedar",(20) Budge's "seb" (or "geb") is said to mean "goose"(21) and supposedly stands for the Earth,(22) not Mercury. As far as the correct name of Mercury Sbg(w) is concerned, R. A. Parker properly informs us that "its meaning is unknown".(23)
The comparison of Tlaloc's serpentine features with the caduceus is not valid. Two serpents entwined about a winged rod are hardly the same as a labyrinthine face composed of entwining serpents. But even if the comparison could be accepted, it should be pointed out that Hermes and/or Mercury were not the only deities ever depicted as carrying the caduceus.(24) Besides, according to Elmer Suhr, the wings on the caduceus symbolized a whirling motion and not flight.(25) Whirling signifies rotation (as on an axis, itself symbolized by the rod of the caduceus) and not revolution (as in an orbit). Thus the symbolic meaning of the caduceus' serpents as Mercury's "racing feats" around the Sun cannot be accepted. The caduceus, with its whirling motion, evolved from an earlier symbol which depicted the Axis Mundi (26) As I have already indicated elsewhere, the Axis Mundi belonged to Saturn.(27)
Humbaba's comparison with Tlaloc is valid. Tlaloc, however, was, among other things, the Aztec god of rain. So was Kronos and so was Ea. These last two have long been identified as manifestations of the planet Saturn, an identification that de Santillana and von Dechend themselves uphold.(28) In the case of Humbaba, these writers discarded Saturn for the same reason they discarded Venus and Jupiter. Thus, to them, "Jupiter . . . would never make a convincing lord of entrails, nor would any other outer planet".(29) And while Venus was "much too regular" for the role they had in mind,(30) Saturn was eliminated for its slowness.(31) In other words, only Mercury's orbit was found to be complex enough to fit the intricate face of Humbaba. But, with the elimination of the caduceus as an orbital symbol, what is there in Tlaloc's and/or Humbaba's face that can validly be interpreted as Mercury's "racing feats" around the Sun?
According to Fritz Hommel, "Humbaba" means "Hum-is-the father", where he takes "hum" to mean "creator".(32) And again, as I have indicated in many of my past writings, it was Saturn, and not Mercury, who was revered in antiquity as the Creator. Hommel also saw Humbaba, in his connection with the cedar, as the "guardian of the cedar of paradise".(33) This tree of paradise, or Cosmic Tree, was also associated with Saturn.(34) What is more telling is that, when dealing with an Elamite star list, Hommel equated Amman-ka-sibar, which is "derived from Chumban [or Humban]-uk-Sinarra", with Ninib. Unfortunately, he then made the mistake of equating Ninib with Mars.(35) Ninib, however, was really Saturn.(36)
Humbaba's description as a "sevenfold terror" should also have rung a bell with those who are acquainted with my writings. Having introduced my readers to Saturn's primeval seven-ringed structure in 1978,(37) I have often returned to this subject in the intervening years.(38)
I should point out that I am not, by any means, the first to equate Humbaba/Huwawa with Saturn. Scholars agree that the Assyrian Humbaba is identical to the Iranian Kombabos;(39) and Franz Movers had no difficulty in identifying Kombabos as Saturn.(40) More recently, neither has Ev Cochrane.(41) The pity is that de Santillana and von Dechend, who were aware of this identification,(42) chose not to accept it. But perhaps this is not to be wondered at. While their own research continuously led them to Saturn, these writers were unable to fit that luminary into their uniformitarian theory. While confessing their mystification at its persistent intrusion into their scheme,(43) they constantly brushed Saturn aside and relegated it to the limbo of unimportance. Rather than forcing their own notions on mythology, they should have followed where the evidence led.
REFERENCES1. A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (Chicago, 1946-63), p. 35
2. S. Langdon, Semitic Mythology, Vol. 5 of Mythology of All Races (Boston, 1931), p. 253.
3. E. F. Weidner, Reallexikon der Assyriologie, Vol. 2, p. 389.
4. S. Langdon, op. cit., p. 268. 9
5. G de Santillana and H. von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time (Boston, 1969), p. 289.
6. E. F. Weidner, loc. cit.
7. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, op. cit., p. 290 and caption to second illustration following same.
8. Ibid., p. 290 and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th illustrations following same.
9. Ibid., caption to 4th illustration following p.290.
10. Ibid., p.290 (emphasis added)
11. R. K. G. Temple, The Sirius Mystery (N.Y., 1976), pp. 90-91.
12. Ibid., p. 90. 13. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, op. cit., p. 289.
14. Ibid, p. 290 (emphasis added).
15. Ibid., p. 403.
16. R. A. Parker, "Ancient Egyptian Astronomy," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 276 (1974), p. 60.
17. E. A. W. Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians (N.Y., 1904/1969), Vol. 11, p. 303.
18. Ibid., pp. 355-357.
19. Ibid., pp. 94, 303.
20. V. Loret, La Flore Pharaonique (Paris, 1892), p. 41.
21. E. A. W. Budge, op. cit., p. 94.
22. Ibid., Index, under "Seb".
23. R. A. Parker, loc. cit.
24. E. G. Suhr, Before Olympos (N.Y., 1967), pp. 59, 72.
25. Ibid., pp. 72-73.
26. D. N. Talbott, "Saturn: Universal Monarch and Dying God," Research Communications Network (1977 special publication), p. 6.
27. D. Cardona, "The Mystery of the Pleiades," KRONOS III:4 (Summer 1978), p. 38. NOTE: For the whirling of the Axis Mundi and the entwined serpents as a bolus flow see Idem, "Trilogies, Trinities, and Triads," Canadian Society for Interdisciplinary Studies Newsletter 2:1 (August 1983), pp. 20-21.
28. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, op. cit., pp. 133, 135, and elsewhere in the same work.
29. Ibid., p. 290 (emphasis added).
31. Ibid., caption to 4th illustration following p. 290.
32. F. Hommel, Ethnologie und Geographie des Alten Orients (Munich, 1926), pp. 35, 42.
34. D. Cardona, "The Mystery of the Pleiades" (see note No. 27), loc. cit.
35. F. Hommel, op. cit., p. 35.
36. M. Jastrow Jr., "Sun and Saturn," Revue D 'Assyriologie et D 'Archeologie Orientale (Sept., 1910),p. 172.
37. D. Cardona, loc. cit.
38. Idem, "Child of Saturn, " Part III, KRONOS VII:3 (Spring 1982), p. 8; Idem, "Indra," in Ibid., p. 20; Idem, "The Archangels," KRONOS VIII:2 (Winter 1983), pp. 31-32; Idem, "Trilogies, Trinities, and Triads" (see note No. 27), p. 14.
39. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, op. cit., p. 404.
40. F. K. Movers, Die Phonizier (Aalen, 1841-56, reprinted in 1967),Vol. l, pp. 154, 306-309, 686-689.
41. E. Cochrane, "Kronos, Minos, and the Celestial Labyrinth," elsewhere in this issue.
42. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, loc. cit.
43. Ibid., p. 136.