Episode 68 – Mitanni 3 The Song of Kumarbi

Today we begin the great epic of the Hurrians, the Kumarbi cycle, which in multiple fragmentary episodes discusses the multiple conflicts over kingship that the Hurrian gods have with each other. Focusing particularly on the battle between Tessub and Kumarbi, it draws in a number of gods from both native Hurrian as well as southern Mesopotamian and Anatolian tradition. The end result is a work about the cosmic order that finds many parallels, and may well have influenced, later Greek myth, especially Hesiod’s Thegony.

There are many issues in the interpretation of this text, not least because so much is missing. I have ended up following pretty closely a phd thesis written by Erik Wilhelmus Maria van Dongen, “Studying external Stimuli to the development of the ancient Aegean The ‘Kingship in Heaven’-theme from Kumarbi to Kronos via Anatolia”. Key here is the identification of Agilim, Kazal, and Namhe as various names of the storm god Tessub, not as separate gods in their own right, which affects the flow of the story in a few ways. If you see them as separate, but as subordinate deities, the overall story remains pretty similar, but the structure alters in a few places.

Also, where the text says Kumarbi’s “Good Place”, I can’t help but read that as a euphemism for his penis, especially given all the birthing references in this tale. It can’t be called his Manhood, the euphemism given for Anu’s penis, since it isn’t behaving in a masculine way, and so I see this as either a gender neutral euphemism for gonads that can apply to men or women, or an indirect way of referring to a vagina, but necessarily indirect for he is still biologically presumed to be a man.

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