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Tree and bird as cosmological symbols in Western Asia

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There is reason to believe that by these mountains the gate in the East is meant, for the horses 'go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth' (vs 5). Jahwe is thought to be present especially in the Eastern sky 1). — The gate in the North of the earth is described in the Romance of Alexander and known as the gate in the wall of Goe and

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Magog, the peoples of the North. The two mountains forming the gate are called the Breasts of the North. The chains of mountains are said to surround the earth ~). They are known in Arabic cosmology as the mountain Kaf. Evidently the sun is represented to go the way beyond the mountains — Northside — during the night and to coine within the range through the Eastern gate in the morning. It is not easy to say what is the relation between these mountains and the wall of heaven (shupuk shamë) that is mentioned in the epos (IX 39); perhaps the two are identical3).

So there is evidence for the conclusion that the Eastern, Western and Northern ends of the earth are marked by gates.

The Westérn one is guarded by two human beings — man and woman — who partly belong to this world, partly to the nether world and are called scorpion-men. 'They guard the sun' (Epos IX 44) and are so terrible that their aspect causes death. Only the sun can pass between them. Gilgamesh passes too. He vanquishes their resistance. Why? Perhaps because 'two thirds of him are divine, one part human' (IX 51). It is however to be noticed that the way of Gilgamesh is the way of the sun (IX 129), he is under the special protection of Shamash 4), his mother is a priestess of Shamash: in short, he is a solar hero. It is worth while to remark this here already; we shall often have to discuss the idea of the victorious sun in the course of this monograph.

Then Gilgamesh travels in order to find the place from where he may cross over to Ut-napishtim. Dark is the way through the mountains, but in the end he reaches light. It can scarcely be otherwise than that the poet means to say that Gilgamesh, after a travel through the Northern mountains, in the way of the sun, is reaching the Eastern end of the earth.

1) Ezekiel 43, 1 sq. Kampf Adams p. 25.

2) Syrisches Alexanderlied, lines 267 sqq.; 296.

3) Cf. however Gressmann, Gilgameschepos, p. 160 note 6.

4) Fragment of Meissner, col. 1 (epos, p. 71).