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Religion & Legends                   7,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

 The archaeology and ethnography of the past half-century have made it clear that the ancient civilizations of the Old World ­ those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete and Greece, India and China - derived from a single base, and that this community of origin suffices to explain the homologous forms of their mythological and ritual structures. ...the beginnings of this epochal flowering have been traced to a neolithic base in the Near East, the first signs of which have been identified c. 7500-5500 BC, and to the sudden appearance in approximately the same area, c. 3200 BC, of a syndrome of priestly discoveries and crafts, including an astronomical calendar, the art of writing, a science of mathematics applied to and attempting to coordinate the measurements of space and time, and the conception of the wheel. Nowhere else in the world have any of the elements either of the neolithic assemblage or of higher civilization been identified at levels of anything like these depths; and the probability of a worldwide diffusion from the Near East of the basic arts, not only of all higher civilization, but also of all village living based on agriculture and stock­breeding, has consequently been argued with bountiful documentation, by a group of scholars of which Professor Robert Heine­Geldern of Vienna is today the leader. (128)

If the rending of the bull-formed Zagreus in the Orphic myth did represent the partition of the divine into its various cosmic manifestations, as claimed by Plutarch, it closely parallels the death of the Iranian Primordial Bull, which gave rise to the plant and animal kingdoms of earth. And if images of a Mountain Mother, Kouretes, a Zagreus-like child god with leopard, and a Queen of the Underworld were present at Catal Huyuk, the main characters of Orphic myth and rite were already assembled in Anatolia in the sixth millennium--and already intermingled with an Iranian, or at least a seemingly Mithraic, element that informed certain other Catal shrines. It would seem from the foregoing sample of Catal cult life that rites of mystical initiation were indeed practiced in these shrines. The presence, in particular, of a veiled goddess and a Master of Animals among symbols emphasizing metamorphosis and the coincidence of opposites is difficult to interpret in any other terms. But while an intense concern for the life of the soul after death is implied by Catal burial customs, the presence or absence of a belief in the reincarnation of that soul cannot be determined from the remains of a nonliterate culture. (115)

Earlier still was the polytheistic religion that Zarathustra reformed. Before the coming of the prophet, the Iranian people apparently had worshipped a pantheon of gods who personified physical phenomena: sun, moon, earth, fire, the winds, the waters. These ancient divinities of nature are hymned in the Yasts of the Younger Avesta (as is the god Mithra), and it is generally agreed that although the Yasts were collected later, many of them reflect traditions which are actually older than the Gathas. Some Iraniologists feel that Zoroastrianism was forced to assimilate these popular deities to its creed, but others have argued that Zarathustra himself was instructed to respect the ancient faith and not to undo entirely the archaic forms of worship, particularly the reverence for fire, which was to play such a prominent role in Zoroastrian rites. The prophet was not to be the founder of a new religion as much as the restorer of an old one, a faith whose purity had been defiled by what one early Iraniologist termed "disorderly idol worship." (115)

Iraniologists have found the problem of the Magi to be one of the most compelling, as well as one of the most difficult, in the history of the ancient world: "associated with the highest speculation and the most base charlatanism; the mixed resources of religion and magic; a mysterious origin and an authority that endures across the succession of beliefs." Portrayed as sorcerers in popular fable, the Magi were recognized by the more serious Greeks and Romans (Dio Chrysostom, Apuleius) as dedicated servants of the gods. They were everywhere the reputed masters of learning, credited in ancient times with initiating the "cosmological science," the study of not only the heavens but also the elements and kingdoms of earth. (115)

Another interesting transitional feature of Catalhoyuk was the evidence of religion found in the dwellings. Clay figurines of what has been defined as both the 'Goddess of the seasons' and 'Mistress of the animals' hark back to the Venus figurines of Gravettian culture, although we must be careful about using such loaded terms to describe these figurines. At the same time a shrine adorned with bulls' heads seems to presage the more organised religions that were to emerge in subsequent millennia. (145)

Egypt

 In Egypt the gods resumed direct rule after the Flood, but around 7000 BC demigods assumed the throne. (113)

In her landmark study The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt Sellers sets out persuasive astronomical and textual evidence to show that the prehistoric Egyptians - at least as far back as 7300 BC - had observed and tracked the slow precessionally induced changes that constantly relocate the cosmic 'address' of the constellation of Orion. And she argues that, although political unity was credited to Menes, there was a much older notion of the 'Unification' based not on events on earth but those observed in the sky...Indeed, she goes so far as to claim that Menes merely brought to fruition a very ancient and archetypal vision of cosmic duality which so perfectly harmonized with the mentality of the ancient Egyptians 'as to appear both inevitable and perennial': 'A dual monarchy united under the rule of one was a form that came from the mists of distant antiquity. It was a form that had been created for gods in the heavens, and how inevitable it was that an imitation of the cosmic order should prevail for men on earth.' (134)

I am postulating the creation of specific myths to deal with distressing alterations in the sky, followed by an artificial duality, or symmetry, imposed, not just on the deities, but on geographical centres of worship, and this duality remained a constant in Egyptian affairs throughout its history. It was harking back to a wonderful Golden Age, now lost, an age when the skies had had a magnificent balance, and the religion had been fresh and new... The Golden Age to which Sellers is referring is, of course, Zep Tepi, the 'First Time'. And the 'distressing alterations in the sky' which she believes that certain myths were created to explain were caused by the phenomenon of precession - specifically the precessional drift of the great constellation of Orion away from the station that it had occupied at the 'First Time'. (134)

Indus Valley

 Summary of Vedic traditions about the origins of civilization in India:
1. An earlier civilization, which knew the Vedas and practised yoga, existed before the great flood and was destroyed by it.
2. Manu and the Seven Rishis (Saptarishi) were yogic adepts who survived the flood.
3. The role of the Seven Rishis was to preserve the Vedas through memorization and to repromulgate them amongst post-diluvial humanity.
4. The role of Manu was to re-establish agriculture after the flood, using a cache of seeds and plants that he had brought with him for this purpose, and to become the progenitor of future civilized humanity by fathering a dynasty of kings.
5. The Vedas and the traditions that descend from them depict the Saptaarishi as a lineage of ascetics. After the flood their primary abode was in the Himalayas, where they would retreat to meditate and perform austerities, but they also played decisive roles in running and ordering secular affairs, and in the making and guidance of kings.
6. The so-called Saptarishi calendar of ancient India, which of course cannot be separated from the traditions of the Seven Rishis, has a start date around 6700 BC - almost 9000 years ago. (124)

China

 

Europe

 Greek historians claim that Atlantean invaders after the Cataclysm were defeated by the proto-Greeks around 9,000 years ago. Atlantean survivors in the Western Mediterranean (then an inland sea) could have evolved into the Etruscans. The early Roman elite may have had roots in this culture. Until they became caught up in Advanced Being-cult movements of West Asia less than 2,500 years ago, the Romans had a strong independent tradition, intellectually and psychologically free of the Anunnaki. (113)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 

Other

 The Australian Aborigones offer a wonderful subject for meditations on the nature of humanity. Consider: these people lived in what may have been nearly complete isolation for more than 40,000 years in an ecologically diverse continent, and when first encountered by Europeans in the 17th century, their technology hardly approached the sophistication of the Neanderthals: just simple stone tools and rudimentary wooden implements; and yet they evolved a kinship system and cosmology that most graduate students in anthropology have struggled to comprehend in all its complexity--and probably never do.(24)