SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

 

ON THE TOWER OF BABYLON AND THE ZIGGURAT OF BORSIPPA

Baghdad, 20-26 March 2002
 

Cuadro de texto:

 

 

 

 

THE CULT OF THE SERPENT

 

IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST AND EGYPT

 

  Ph. D. Ana Maria Vazquez Hoys, Prehistory and Ancient History Dept., U.N.E.D., Madrid,

  (SPAIN)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

My interest in the study of the serpent[1] was born during the early seventies, as I was preparing the final work of my Ph. D. on the subject of the Roman religion in Hispania.  Since then, it has been the subject of several essays and documents throughout my professional life[2].  The awareness of the existence of numerous serpent representations on archaeological items in my country of origin, Spain, from Prehistoric times up to our present days, prompted me to go beyond the scope of my investigations on the Roman religion itself.  So I started a search for possible kinds of believes/cults directly related to the serpent in other ancient cultures, further back in chronological terms, and further away in geographical terms from the frame of my own western civilization. 

 

Firstly, let us settle two clear issues:

 

1.      This investigation does not in any case pretend to explain the diffusionism of the serpent cult from the East to the West nor from the West to the East.  In this sense, these separate cults and believes, ancient and modern, related all to the figure of the serpent, could well have had their origins independently from each other.

 

2.      Although I will refer to linguistic terms and cuneiform signs, I must precise I am not a philologist or Sumeriologist.  Thus, within my specialist subjects of magic and religion in the Roman civilisation, I have needed to refer to the work of some colleagues in order to present some of the linguistic material that follows.  So I apologise in advance if some of this material I have borrowed is not in line with some other philologist theories well beyond my field. 

 

I have arrived in the East purely following hints of the fascinating figure of the serpent, as a religious and magical animal, with which I came across while studying the West. This continuous search took me over to the beginnings of the written history in the Near East, where we have found the first written documents in Sumerian, in which we can appreciate the word “serpent”, and its clear relationship with the most important Mesopotamic goddesses.

 

 

Let us start in Hispania and proceed with manifestations of the serpent in other cultures: 

 

·         1: In prerromanic Spain, one of the most beautiful remaining items showing the serpent is the silver Ibero-roman Pátera de Perotitos, in Santisteban del Puerto, Jaen, Andalucía (Spain), in which a serpent surrounds the figure of a wolf on top of a human head.  The meaning of this symbol is unknown.  Possibly, the serpent was not a goddess, and only some kind of divinity, with some powers of protection, immortality and regeneration(FIG.1). 

 

·         2-3: In the Roman cult, it is well-known the Scene in the house of the Vetii and others(FIG.2), in Pompeii, Italy.  According to their beliefs, the soul of the ancestors lived inside their graves, as a snake. The spinal column would become a snake and remain living there as a sign of immortality, as we see in sarcophags(FIG.

 

·         4. However, what is the true role that the snake plays? Although we find it as a sign of immortality in funerary inscriptions and sarcophagi, some mosaics, like this Mosaic against the evil eye, may portrait the serpent as a protective creature, which keeps away the evil eye and protects against its evil influence(FIG.4).

 

·         5-6: The Greek civilization, older than the Roman one, and closer geographically to the Egyptian culture, offers numerous proofs of myths and beliefs related to the snake.  As early as the Ancient Minoic times, there have been  found traces of a cult to the serpent.  For instance, the Minoic Vessel (Fig.5)and the figure of the Serpent Priestesses/Goddesses(FIG.6), amongst many other significant testimonies of the importance of this animal within the Greek civilisation, in which it was associated with gods such as Heracles or Athenea.

 

·         7: Even in Athens, there was a primitive character called Erictonio, whose cult was developed in the Acropolis or, for instance, in Delphes where Apollo(FIG.7), god of the light, substitutes the primitive feminine deity: the Python.  In spite of the heavy presence of this animal in the Greco-Latin culture, and in contrast with the Ancient Near East and Ancient Egypt –where there were divinities shaped as serpents– there is no proof, in my opinion, of a possible cult to the serpent in Greece.  At least in what refers to all the sources ever known or made known to me.

 

·        8-9: On the other hand, what happened in the Classical Greco-Latin world was that the serpent was a manifestation, an expression, a materialisation, or certain powers of the gods together with whom it may be represented.  In this way, the serpent appears together with Esculapio/Asclepio and Higia(FIG 8-9), around the rod of Esculapio and around the arms of Higia, as well as in the rod of Mercury (caduceus)[3].

 

·        10. Something very common in the Near East already since the IV Millennium: the divine powers, sometimes curative, are associated to gods and godesses, such as Nergal, Ningizzida, or the Phoenician Eshmun, from Hatra(FIG. 10).

 

·         11: In Phoenicia, the serpent biting its tail (Uroboros) represents the never-ending passing of time, while in Egypt it symbolises the infernal world (FIG.11).

 

·         12: We find representations of the serpent in the casites kudurrus.  Famous ones are the snakes in the vessel of Gudea.(FIG.12)

 

·         13: It is necessary to mention than in the Ancient Greece, and modern Greece, the serpent has often been taken as a good spirit.  The Agathos Daimon or Good Spirit was represented in the shape of a snake, and the snake was used as a domestic animal and, amongst other uses, even as a scarf serpent around the neck to mitigate the extreme heat in the summer(FIG.13).

 

·         14-15-16: The cobra, which is used nowadays in India by serpent-charmers (FIG.14) to attract the attention of tourists in street shows, was in Ancient Egypt a great goddess, Wadjet her name.(FIG.15)  This goddess, one of the many in Ancient Egypt which borrowed the shape of a serpent, appeared in the forehead of the Pharaohs, such as Tutankhamon or others queens(Fi.g 16)

 

·        17: The serpent symbolised the power of the Pharaohs, and justified at the same time their divine characteristics.  Fertility, healing, immortality, and magic are some of the main positive attributions to this animal in its different species.  The serpent is sometimes demonised.  This is the case of Apopi, Re´s enemy,(FIG.17) the Babilonic Tiamat, Marduk´s enemy, or the Biblical enemy of Yahvé[4].

 

·         18: In Mesopotamia, since IV Millenium B.C. (Ur), there are feminine representations with snake-like featuresFIG.18).

 

Also, everyone knows that another serpent, the god Amon shaped as one, was the father of Alexander the Great.  The legend adds to the curative powers of the serpent the Western belief in the power of fertility and fecundity that in the Ancient Near East and Ancient Egypt some goddesses had.  Some of these gods/goddesses were represented in the company of a serpent, or were even serpent-shaped themselves, while the cobra was the protector of the pharaoh.

 

 

The Serpent in the Near East

 

In what refers to literary sources, the oldest testimonies of serpents are possibly those coming from Excavations at Susa, published by P. Toscane[5], author interested in the interpretation of the myth of the serpent in paradise or the bronze serpent of Mosses. 

 

Some of the primitive Sumerian ideograms representing “the serpent” that we know follow:

 

 

 
 

1.                  Snake Head from Susa, with the archaic sign

   without the qunu.

 

 
 

2.                     Serpent primitive ideogram.  Read as MUS.

 

 
 

Corresponds to the archaic forms

 

 
 

This ideogram is the origin of the sign   

 

BU, SIR, with a general sense of “to be or to become long, big, tall, to extend, to go far, to take”, with its translations ARKU, BAQAMU, RUQU, SABATU.

 

 
 

This sign got transformed into ……       and                  with its qunu and became the

 

 

 

 
modern sign ……..                 read as SIR, SUD, which has the sense of ARAKU, “to

 

 

 

be  long, to  become long” and ARKU, “long”.

 

 
 

 

 
gets prolonged, with its > inverted, which is a dart, or the tongue of the                                      serpent,

adding the qunu, III, which completes the compounded sign  

 
 

which is equivalent to the modern sign

 

 

This is read as MUS (Sumerian and Babilonic Asirian, and bûs in eblaitic[6], and SIRU, serpent or SERRU/SERU, sometimes accompanied of specifications.   In the group of words derived from this one would be sarsaru, “big serpent”, sippu in Acadian, “serpent”, basmu, “venomous serpent” and “mythic serpent with fabulous partcularities”, which corresponds almost exactly to the Ugaritic btn, “serpent”.  For Mayer Modena, the origin of the word is found again in the Hebraic srr and in the Arabic darra, with the meaning of “to tie, to force together by means of a tie”. 

 

The root is clearly distinguished in Acadian, with the word serretu/serrate[7]. This is related to the Semitic root that is found as well in the Hebrew term srr, with a basic meaning of  “to tie, to link together with a bond”, which indicates the use of a rope to carry animals by their nose, or a nose ring, “brida” or “rope”, in general.  This subject would be related to the well-known “knot magic” or magic of the knots”, which symbolic value is comparable to that of the imitative magical spells that the wizard would cast to undo any magic enchantments[8].  All these knots are synonyms of illnesses, of death, of enchantment. In the Semite world and Mesopotamia in general, the knots and laces are found interchangeably with witchcraft, wizardry, and popular medicine[9].

 

When using the term “serpent” like that one that “bonds together”, the magic of the word gets united with the one derived from the figure and the magical power of the serpent, so as to make the magic even more powerful.  The serpent transforms itself into a “living rope”, a “living bond”, like it is defined specifically in the Atharva Veda 14, 3. 

 

The Egloga VIII of Virgilio carries us to a mimetic magic ritual, similar to that in the II Idilio by Teocritus.  Having affirmed the power of the spell, the abandoned lover gives an order to the witch to surround the image of Dafnis with three bands and, then, to tie three knots saying: “I tighten the knots of Venus”.

 

Amongst the Israelites, the magic of the knots was common practice.  In Deuteronomy XVIII there is a comment about the “magicians that tie knots”, and in Tell-Sandahanna they have discovered, in Palestine, between Bethlehem and Gaza, sixteen rudimentary statuettes, made of lead, which bodies, arms, hands and legs are tied together with threads of the same metal[10]. 

 

In Egypt, the necklaces and bracelets acted as bonds, and often do contain magical symbols, such as the eye[11].

 

In the Greek Papyrus in the Library in the University of Oslo, can be read:

 

“CHMG. Hor, Hor, phor, phor, Iao, Sabaot, Adonais, Salaman.  I tie you, artemisius scorpio theree hundred and fifteen, three hundred and fifteen times; look after this household and protect them from every evil, from any spell of the aerial spirits and coming from the human eye, and from the terrible illnesses, and from the fatal bite of the scorpion and the serpent, in the name of God Almighty.  Take care of me, my God, son of David in offspring, the one born from the Saint Virgin Mary, thy Highness, the Holy Spirit, Glory to you, Celestial King. Amen.”     

 

When the prophet Mahoma was enchanted by the daughters of the jewish Lobeid Ben El Aram, who blew on the knots, the angel Gabriel did reveal to him the one sura before the last in the Coran:

 

“Say: I find shelter close to the God of dawn… Against the evilness of those who blow on the knots.” 

Gabriel did indicate that the knots were ten and that they had been flung into a well.  Mahoma did send Ali there to look for the knots, and Mahoma pronounced that sura, as well as the next one, which was revealed to him at the same time. After each verse, each one of the knots was untied.

 

The «Gods that tie» are those that use magic knots to defeat their rivals.  The “Terrible King” in the Indo-European mythologies, opposed to the “Lawyer King”, has the monopoly of the use of Magic.  In this way, Varuna (which confronts the lawyer Mitra and the warrior Indra), has his maya d’Asura as a great weapon.  This represents his magic as King, in the shape of a band or knot, which appear in a figurative sense or are referred to in the texts, echoing his power to chain.  Indra opposes him, and rescues any victims tied by Varuna[12].

 

In Greece, there is this opposition as well.  While Zeus fights and persists in difficult wars, Uranus does not fight, but just ties, puts chains, uses knots to bond their rivals with Hell[13]. In Rome Jupiter intervenes in the battle as the great wizard[14]. 

 

According to Dumézil and Eliade, there is an Indo-European magic King, lord of the magic ties or knots.  They refer to a text of Plutarch[15], in which he says that in front of Romulus there advanced men armed with straps to tie whatever he ordered.  Yahve, “terrible master of the knots”, is described with knots in his hand, as a weapon to punish the guilty ones. 

 

In the Greek world, Hefaisto used to practice this.  His ties, such as in the case of those in the trap to surprise Venus and Mars, were indissoluble[16].

 

Many tongues present, as well, the semantic evolution “bond” as to charm, enchant, fascinate.  In the Greek Magic Papyri[17], Adonais is referred to as “Great Serpent”, Zeus, Damnameneo and Io.    

 

Also, in the Ugaritic term `qsr, used in the Ugaritic splint KTU 1.107 = RS 24.244, with the spell against serpents to which we will refer later on, the root `qsr can be recognized, “to tie”, “to bond”[18], which alludes to the knots in the twisted body of the serpent[19].

In the Hindu mythology, the Vedic texts present Varuna as a supreme god that governs the world, the gods (devas) and men, thus a universal king as well as a magician.  H. Petersen has explained his name stemming from the Indo-European root *uer, “to tie”.  Terrible Lord and King, true owner of the knots, that has the magic power to tie his victims in the distance, and also the power to untie them.  They are represented with a rope in their hand and, in the ceremonies, everything that he ties, starting by the knots themselves, is known as varunic.

 

 

3.      Signs that are found, according to Toscane, in the cylinder-seals and seals of Susa to represent the words “serpent” and “scorpion”:

 
 

·                         , “serpent, snake”

 

 
 

·                        SIRU, “serpent”

 

 
 

·                         , “Serpent” in the cylinder-seals.

 

 
 

·                              ZUQAQIPU, “scorpion”.

 

 
 

·                                                   “Scorpion”, in the cylinder-seals.

 

 

In the casites kudurrus, the serpent is the symbol of the god SIRU (the weapon of Kadi) (Fig.19) and can have a religious value, either representing the god himself, as well as the sign of his power, in Hebrew, its name is saraph, venomous serpent, in Arabic it is sarfat.  We also find the peten, venomous serpent or aspid, and aksub, Hebrew which designates, according to Toscane, the viper or aspid, possibly a cobra pr, naja, like the one often represented in paintings and relieves of Egypt.   According to Mayer Modena, the term nahas, in Hebrew, which is the term most often used to refer to the serpent in biblical texts, refers to a certain wisdom or supernatural intelligence associated with this animal, that relates to the root nhs, “to foresee”, “to see into the future”.

 

4.      According to Mayer Modena, the numerous names that the serpent has in Semitic, which cannot we recreated in many areas, were due to a linguistic taboo.  The serpent itself is a dangerous creature, and, also, its only mention could mean its evocation or appearance.  The fact that many gods do test their strength with the serpent, like Marduk with Tiamat, or Apollo with Python, shows the power of this creature, against which men can only fight by using their magic, by invoking the power of the gods.  This would precisely be the case of Horon, who defeats the serpent with his strength, like we can read in the splints Ugarit K.T.U. 1100 and .007.  In theses splints the terminology nhs is used to refer to the serpent, while `qsr would be “ofidic” (lines 9 and 12), in Hebrew nahas, in Talmudic Aramean hakina, “big serpent”.

 

In some bereber dialects, the terminology used more often is `ezram, with the root `zr, “to know”.  This link would be justified with the cultural world and mythic world of the Mediterranean, which believes in the serpent as a ctonic animal, from the underworld, linked to the dead, considered as depositary of magical and supernatural powers, and also related to the prophecy.

 

In Cartage, as well, it is possible the existence of a feminine deity hwt which could have been known as well in Ugarit, as we deduct from a piece of the fragment NK 12-201, 4, where the expression `and hwt is found, which Aitsñeitner translates into “lord of life”.  Mayer Modena, based on the reading that Garbini makes, in what respects to this divinity (he supposes that `and and b`l, although without feminine prefix, can precede a feminine deity), thinks that the Ugaritic can be interpreted the same way, as the  feminine “Hwt”, connected with the term hiwia, serpent.

 

This deity of hell, in Cartage, according to Harris[20], was supposed as eel-shaped, which is also witnessed in other places around the Mediterranean[21].  

  In biblical Hebrew, according to Mayer Modena, the term used is peten < *patnu, that as well as corresponding to “viper”, seems to have been used in parallel with sif’oni, viper, in Jes. 11, 8, and with nahas “serpent” in Ps. 58, 5, and with Tannin, “mythical eel-shaped monster” in Ps. 19, 13[22].

The term Basan, which the Old Testament interpretes as a region (Beisan?) could be related to basmu, btn, serpent[23]. Basan may be the name of the mythical serpent Basan, in its original form.  In this respect, we shall remember that in Beisan itself a temple and numerous materials with serpents were found.  In this temple they worshipped a goddess of whom there is a great variety of symbols, whose image appears in several steles, and that is referred by its own name: ”Anta (=’Anat), goddess of the skies and ruler of all the gods”, following the protocol of a votive stelein the septentrional temple of the group restored in the times of Ramses II, but, differently from the lascivious Astarte, would be translated better in the contemporary steles “de Qadesh” (fig. 20)[24]. And the majority of the representations of the voluptuous goddess so common in all Palestinian excavations, this ‘Anat is characterised by her more noble, chaste and tutorial character, and it is identified with the Egyptian Hathor[25].  This goddess, ruler of the planet Venus and queen of the sky, will dominate the constellations and the celestial serpents and would be the one represented I the Khafaje cup and in different seals(Fig. 21-22)[26], Cananean descendant, according to Rowe, of the mysterious goddess-serpent Babilonic Sahan , fountain of life, the beginning of health, dispenser of every good and all the happiness in the world, eponym of an old Palestinian city[27].

 

According to P. Dhorme, the Cananean-Hebrew nahas, with its aceptions and its derivations, could be the phonetic transposition of Sahan, a Babilonian goddess, daughter of Kadi, the goddess couple of Ninurta = Nebo, that is related to the serpent Sahan, genie that guards, together with Alad the entrance to the temple of the god Enlil.  Ancient Mesopotamian Sahan was the goddess of health, possibly an ancient predecessor of the Phoenician Eshmoun or the Greek Asclepio. Not too far from the ruins, may be used as a sanctuary, where the stele of Camos was found, there is the mountain named Sihan, which evokes the goddess Sahan, miysterious goddess-serpent to which we have referred above.  This is precisely what drives M. Rowe into searching in the existence of an archaic sanctuary of the serpent-goddess Sahan for the more authentic ethimology of Baisan, that is –San.  The intermediary could be the god Sa-an which appears in and old Babilonian letter:

 

“Let the god Samash and your god, the god Sa-an, give you life”[28].

 

Although it is in Susa where we find the first ceramics that we know as serpents (Figs. 23-29) and the first woman with a serpent (Fig. 34), such as the ones we will find later on in Ur in the IV millennium (Fig. 37) and in the Minoican culture, already in the Aegean area.

 



[1] In English, the distinction between the words “Snake” and “Serpent”, which in other languages may just be the same word, must be made following the recommendations in MUNDKUR, B.: The Cult of the Serpent, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1983, p. 2.  According to this author, the distinction between the words is a dim one in popular parlance, but it involves more than a linguistic subtlety.  The former is the native English word and far more commonly used; the latter is considered alien and sometimes reserved for venomous or larger species.  A snake is merely the zoological entity, but “serpent”, as we will see, opens up vast metaphorical possibilities.  The lexicographer Fowler aptly observes that “we perhaps conceive serpents as terrible and powerful and beautiful things, snakes as insidious and cold and contemptible”.

[2] XELLA P.: “D’Ugarit á la Phénicie: sur les traces de Raspa.  Horon, Eshmun. Die Welt des Orients, XIX, 1988, pp. 45-64; VAZQUEZ HOYS, A. Mª : “La serpiente en el Mundo Antiguo 1.  La serpiente en las religiones mediterráneas”, Boletín de la Asociación de Amigos de la Arqueología n.14, Dec. 1981, pp. 33-39; id.: “The representation of serpent in Ancient Iberia”, International Conference of Archaeology and Fertility Cult in Ancient Mediterranean.  The last works about this animal are cited in VAZQUEZ HOYS, A. Mª: “Aproximación a la serpiente como motivo religioso y mágico en el Próximo Oriente y Egipto”, Actes du III Congrès International des Etudes Phèniciennes et Puniques, Tunis, 11-16 Nov. 1991, vol. II, pp. 424-442.  Also, please consult periodically the URL http://www.uned.es/geo-1-historia-antigua-universal/.

[3] Not Influence, but possibly coincidence, because the serpent is a very common, zoologically polysemic, animal in the Mediterranean.   

[4] See, amongst other works: S. B. JOHNSON: The Cobra Goddess in Ancient Egypt,  London, 1990; HART, G.: A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, London, 1986;  BUDGE, W: Egyptian Magic, reimp., 3rd Ed., 1986; HAZAN, F.: Dictionnaire de la civilization égyptienne, Paris, 1986.

[5] Toscane P.: “Etudes sur le serpent, figure et symbole dans l’Antiquité Elamite”, Memoires de Recherches Archeologiques, Delegation en Perse, T.12, Paris 1911, pp. 153-228.

[6] Mayer Modena, Mª L.: “Il tabu lingüístico e alcune denominación del serpente in semitico”, ACME 35, 1982, pp. 173-90, 183, n.48.

[7] Mayer Modena, Mª L., op. cit., pp. 177-178.

[8]Cfr. DOUTTE, E.: Magie et religion en Afrique du Nord, p. 89, cit. by BUISSON, M.: La Magia, Barcelona 1976, p. 37; RIVIERE, J. : Amuletos, talismanes y pantáculos, Ed. Martínez Roca S.A. Barcelona 1974, knots, 25, 113, 115, 194; nail, 158-9, 222, 342-3; ties, 113; CONTENAU, G. : La magie chez les Assyriens et les Babyloniens, Payot, Paris 1947, p. 246.  

[9] Cfr. MIRCEA ELIADE: “Le dieu lieur et le symbolisme des noeuds”, Revue d‘Histoire des Religions CXXXIV, 1945, pp. 5-36.

[10] Figure in CONTENAU, op. cit. p. 273.

[11] Cfr. FRAZER, S.J.: La Rama Dorada, cit., pp. 213, 290;  II.  One magical Greek papyrus (PGM P XV, Greek Papyrus 491 in the Museum of Alexandria, Magical texts in Greek Papyri, starts by saying: “I will tie you, Nile, tie you to the so-called Agato Daimon, given birth by Demetria, with great evil…”

[12]Cfr. MIRCEA ELIADE: Historia de la creencia y de las ideas religiosas I. De la Prehistoria a los misterios de Eleusis. Ed. Cristiandad 1978, pp. 216-219.

[13]Cfr. DUMEZIL, G.: Ouranos-Varuna, Paris 1934, passim, id. Mythes et Dieux des Germains, Paris 1941, p. 79 ss.

[14]As to the equivalence Romulus-Varuna-Ouranus-Jupiter, cfr. MIRCEA ELIADE: Le dieu lieur… cit. p. 6.

[15]Romulus, p. 26.

[16]Cfr. DELCOR, M.: Hephaistos ou la legende du magician.  Paris 1957, page 22 ss.; also LOPEZ DE LA ORDEN, M. D. PEREZ LOPEZ, I.: “A propósito de un nudo hercúleo encontrado en Cadiz”, Anales de la Universidad de Cádiz II, Cádiz 1985, pp. 83-97.

[17] Textos de Magia en los Papiros griegos.  Ed. Gredos, Madrid 1987, p. 171.

[18] LIPINSKI, E.: “La legende sacree de la conjuration des morsures de serpents” UF 6, 1974, pp. 170-174; also ASTOUR M.C. : “Two Ugaritic Serpent charms“, JNES 27, 1968, pp. 13-36 ; QAQUOT, A. : “ Nouveaux documents ougaritiens“, Syria 46, 1969, pp. 241-265.

[19]In relation to the knots and magic, cfr. VAZQUEZ HOYS, A. Mª: ”Aspectos mágicos de la Antigüedad I”, cit.  The knots are similar to the tie of love, VIRGILIO, Egloge VIII, 77; Cirid. p. 368 ss.  About other uses of the same symbol, cfr. FRAZER, The golden böuth I, pp. 394-odd, n. 2-3.   

[20] Harria, A Grammar of the Phoenician Language.  New Haven, 1936, p. 101.

[21] Mayer Modena, Mª L., op. cit., pp. 173-190.

[22] Mayer Modena, Mª L., op. cit., p. 183.

[23] Cfr. Mayer Modena, Mª L., op. cit., p. 193.

[24] According to LIPINSKI, E.: “The Syro-Palestinian Iconography of Woman and Goddess”, Israel Exploration Journal 36, n. 1-2, Jerusalem 1986, p. 89. It is necessary to make a distinction between the naked goddesses, in several moments or movements, with a base, or standing over an animal, and the small figures or plaques found during excavations in Israel.          These are dated since the Bronze Age up to the Iron Age II, in favissae, tombs, sanctuaries, and private houses, while others are from an unknown origin.  Many of these figures, undoubtedly represent a goddess, but others are true “concubines of the dead” or votive offerings of women that would like to have a baby  by means of the “sympathetic magic”, this interpretation confirmed by comparison to the Egyptian figures in the New Empire (1400-1200) that represent a naked woman laying down, milking a baby.  Metal pendants of those that portrait the figure of the goddess QUDHU or QADESH are often used as earrings.  This can be confirmed in the use of the Western-Semitic term qudasu/qedasa, in Neoasirian, Neobabilonian and Aramean, in the sense of an earring or a ring of a woman, with a naked feminine figure represented in a golden earring found in the tomb of Mamshit and a golden pendant discovered in ‘Avdat.  This figure represents in many cases the figure Aphrodite, identified in Hellenistic times with Astarte.  However, amongst the Nabateans, Aphrodite is assimilated to the Arabic goddess al-‘Uzza’, cfr. PATRICH, J.: “’Àl-uzza’ Earrings”, IEJ 34, 1984, pp. 39-46, p. l6: B-D.  The word qds refers to “amulet” or “sacred object” in the Egypt of the New Empire.  Therefore, it is logical to think that it refers not to the main name given to this goddess, Qadesh, but that it is Anat or Astarte, as suggested in the interprestation of the inscription in the stele of Winchester College, cfr. EDWARDS, I.E.S.: “A relief of Qudushu-Astarte-Anat in the Winchester College Collection”, JNES 14, 1955, pp. 49-51, pls. III-IV: ANEP, 3rd ed. No. 830.

[25] VINCENT, L. H. in RB XXXVII, 1928, page 544 no.1; also P. Dhorme, in RB 1928, page 165.

[26] DU MESNIL DU BUISSON, Nouvelles documents cit. page 231.  According to this author, Sid Babi is Sardus Pater, cfr. Op. cit. page 233.

[27] Although LANGDON, Ishtar and Tammuz, cit. by FRANFOT, H. in Iraq I, page 13, hinks that Sahan means “fire” and it is also the name of Ningizzida, whose other name, Serah means “vegetation”, being a link with the fertility of the earth, a known characteristic of serpent-gods in general, confirmed, in many cases, by the representation of the god-serpent in relation to plants or carrying plants in their hands.  

[28] VINCENT L. H.: “Les fouilles … cit. page 138 and footnote 1.  On Beisan and the sanctuaries, see also further pp. on the same work.  On the goddess-serpent in Ancient Mesopotamia cfr. BUCHANAN: “A Snake Goddess and her companions”, Iraq 33, 1971, pp. 1-18, with bibliography and comments.