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Rays of the Sun (1)

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03 Religious festivals, cults, rituals and practices

12 Assyrian Identity

03 Religious festivals, cults, rituals and practices

12 Assyrian Identity

01 Religious and ideological doctrines and imagery

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The Pythagoreans believed that the glittering particles of dust which danced in a sunbeam (xýsmata), were souls descending from the ether, borne on the wings of light. They added that this beam, passing through the air and through water down to its depths, gave life to all things here below. This idea is already present in the Akkadian Great Hymn to Šamaš, where the Sun-god lifts up the fallen soul: “You lift up him who goes down to the deep, you provide him with wings” (tušelli ārid anzanunzê tušaškan kappa (l. 70). The idea persisted under the empire in the theology of the mysteries. Souls descended upon the earth, and reascended after death toward the sky, thanks to the rays of the sun, which served as the means of transport. On Mithraic bas-reliefs, one of the seven rays which surround the head of Sol Invictus, is seen disproportionately prolonged towards the dying Bull in order to awake the new life that is to spring from the death of the cosmogonic animal. In the eyes of astrologers the human soul was an igneous essence, of the same nature as the celestial fires. The radiant sun continually caused particles of his resplendent orb to descend into the bodies which he called to life. Conversely, when death has dissolved the elements of which the human being is composed, and the soul has quitted the fleshly envelope in which it was imprisoned, the sun elates it again to himself. Just as his ardent heat causes all material substances to rise from the earth, so it draws to him again the invisible essence that dwells in us. He is the Anagōgeus, “he who brings up from below,” who attracts the spirit out of the flesh that defiles it. By a series of emissions and absorptions he in turn sends his burning emanations into bodies at birth and after death causes them to reascend into his bosom. In this theory it is to the power of the sun, the great cosmic divinity, that the ascension of the soul is due.

Source (list of abbreviations)
Great Hymn to Šamaš 70


Cumont 1912, 188-189Cumont, Franz. Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and Romans. American Lectures on the History of Religions 8. New York, London: G. P. Putnam's Sons 1912.
Lapinkivi 2004, 152Lapinkivi, Pirjo. The Sumerian Sacred Marriage in the Light of Comparative Evidence. State Archives of Assyria Studies 15. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Coprus Project 2004.

Amar Annus

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