July 11, 2007

GILGAMESH, THE LOVE GODDESS, AND THE BULL OF HEAVEN


In this installment, Gilgamesh insults Ishtar, the goddess of love (represented here by Venus the goat). Big mistake!

Welcome to Goat Rope's Fun With the Epic of Gilgamesh Week, which is devoted to a lighthearted look at what may be the earliest written epic in human history (along with snarky comments on current events). If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

After slaying the monster Humbaba, Gilgamesh is on a roll. He returns in glory to Uruk, he catches the eye of the love goddess Ishtar, who proposes marriage in extravagant terms:

Come to me Gilgamesh, and be my bridegroom; grant me seed of your body, let me be your bride and you shall be my husband. I will harness for you a chariot of lapis lazuli and of gold, with wheels of gold and horns of copper; and you shall have might demons of the storm for draftmules...


The thing is, Ishtar doesn't have such a good track record. Her consorts tend to wind up dead. Gilgamesh refuses and insults the goddess (another bad move).

This is a major mythological problem: when gods or goddesses ask something from people, or vice versa, it doesn't usually turn out well for the humans involved no matter what they do.

Ishtar goes into a rage to Anu, father of the gods, and asks permission to unleash the Bull of Heaven on Uruk for vengeance. He doesn't want to go there but relents when she threatens to "bring up the dead to eat the food like the living and the dead shall outnumber the living."

Sounds like a zombie movie...

Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven and Enkidu throws its thigh at the goddess as an insult (another bad move). For this offense, he falls sick and ultimately dies, a fate of which he was warned in one of the many dreams in this epic. Enkidu describes the abode of the dead thus:

There is the house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness...


Gilgamesh goes nuts. He wails over Enkidu, hoping to revive him with his lamentations. He only relents after a week, when "a worm fastens on him." He stops eating and bathing (although the extent to which he normally engaged in the latter is unclear) and caring form himself.


He finally orders a glorious funeral, then decides to set off on a quest for immortality. This is the most dangerous journey of all. He seeks the Sumerian Noah--Utanapishtim, who along with his wife, survived a cataclysmic flood in an ark and were the only humans to be granted immortality...

...which, unlike poor Enkidu, will keep until tomorrow.

HEALTH CARE. Economist Dean Baker love to point out the myth that economic conservatives rely on the market while progressives rely on government is just that. Instead, what we really have in many arenas is what he calls "a conservative nanny state." This is from a recent op-ed of his on health care:

if we are ever going to think seriously about how best to restructure health care, we will have to clearly understand how the system works now. The current system is not a free market; it is a set of government rigged rules that ensure that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries prosper, and that tens of millions of people go without access to care.


POLL SHOWS GROWING OPPOSITION TO IRAQ WAR. According to a Reuters report,

WASHINGTON - Opposition to the Iraq war has climbed to a record high and President George W. Bush’s approval rating dropped to a new low amid growing dissent from members of his own Republican party over his war strategy, according to a new USAToday/Gallup poll.

Bush’s approval dropped to 29 percent in the poll taken Friday through Sunday, down from 33 percent in early June, USA Today reported on Tuesday....

More than seven in 10 Americans favor withdrawing nearly all U.S troops from Iraq by April, the newspaper said.


Meanwhile, Bush wants the proverbial course to be "stayed."

QUESTIONING THE MARKET GOD. Here's an item from today's Times about growing dissent with the ruling consensus in the economics field.

MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL. From today's Gazette, here's a story on WV native musician Kathy Mattea's investigation of mountaintop removal mining for an upcoming album. Mattea is pretty popular here, but just wait and watch while the right wing noise machine tries to make her hated...

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

4 comments:

Thinkulous said...

Hmm -- Hell hath no fury, eh Gilgamesh?

I had a girlfriend like that. I sacrificed a couple armadillos to the minor god Braik Upp, and I was scott free.

Did better than Enkidu, huh?

El Cabrero said...

Armadillos are good for appeasing the gods I hear. Here's hoping your luck holds up!

Thinkulous said...

Thanks for your wishes -- the luck from the sacrifice seems to be holding pretty well. I've since met a wonderful woman, and we're getting married in September!

El Cabrero said...

Congratulations--and remember this very important point: NEVER throw the thigh of the Bull of Heaven at her!