Gilgamesh the Hunter

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Gilgamesh the Hunter

by Ralph Ellis

Gilgamesh is the ancient Sumerian epic, written some 4,000 years ago and rediscovered only in the nineteenth century. It is a story that has echoes of the biblical Old Testament, with its graphic details of the flood and the formation of mankind from the dust of the earth. The bulk of the story is devoted to the king of Sumer known as Gilgamesh and his epic quest into the mystical forests of cedar where he performs many heroic deeds. The epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the earliest heroic story ever written in the world, but the historians may be up to 600 years adrift in this calculation, as their chronology is founded on a misinterpretation of what the story is really about. Historians have generally translated the tale as being a literal epic of this Sumerian king making his mark on the world, but I think that they may be in error here.

I have been working on the theory that the bulk of the biblical Old Testament is, in fact, a story of the constellations. It is an epic tale of a battle between Taurus and Aries - between the biblical patriarchs, (who were known as shepherds - Arians) and the Apis Bull worshipers (Taureans) that so plagued Moses. It is my belief that the Gilgamesh epic is essentially the same as the Bible, it describes a battle between the stellar constellations of Taurus and Aries. The first clue to this cosmic clash is that Gilgamesh's companion, Enkidu, is described as being a meteor:

This star of heaven which descended like a meteor from the sky; which you tried to lift, but found too heavy ... This is the strong comrade, the one who brings help to his friend in need.

The texts go on to describe the Enkidu in great detail. The allusion is quite obvious: Enkidu is a stellar object. Gilgamesh himself, in turn, is described as arming himself for the coming quest and battle in the following fashion:

Gilgamesh took the axe, he slung the quiver from his shoulder, and the bow of Anshan, and buckled the sword to his belt; and so they were armed and ready for the journey.

In stellar terms, the allusion is again quite plain: the axe in the right hand, the bow in the left hand, the sword hanging from his belt - Gilgamesh is simply the Sumerian term for the constellation of Orion. Take a look at Orion, this constellation has all the attributes ascribed to Gilgamesh. This is an epic of the skies, an impending battle of the constellations and the greatest of all the constellations, Orion, is arming himself to do battle with the cosmos. But Gilgamesh (Orion) does not know the way, so it is only fitting that he needs Enkidu (the meteor) to lead him:

Let Enkidu lead the way, he knows the road to the forest [of stars] ... the mountain of cedars, the dwelling place of the gods.

The purpose of Gilgamesh's (Orion's) quest is to slay the constellation of Taurus the Bull and see in the era of the new constellation of Aries the Ram. In stellar terms, it is the constellation of Orion who is armed with the axe, the bow and has a sword hanging from his belt. It is Orion who had drawn his bow and has aimed it at the adjacent constellation of Taurus. This change in the heavens, that is also alluded to in the biblical texts, is about to unfold once more. But here in Sumer it is the hero Gilgamesh, in the guise of Orion, who is reported as killing the 'Bull of Heaven' - the constellation of Taurus. But first Gilgamesh has to seek out the watcher of the forest [the stars], a fearsome beast called the Humbaba:

At the third blow Humbaba fell ... Now the mountains were moved and all the hills, for the guardian of the forest was killed ... the seven splendors of Humbaba were extinguished.

For a 4,000 year old story, the prose is still as clear today as when it was written, if you know the subject matter. There is only one guardian of Taurus and that is the Pleiades, the constellation known as the "seven sisters", a small group of seven stars that are visible to the naked eye and resides on the back of Taurus. From this elevated position, the Humbaba (Pleiades) could watch over the constellation of Taurus and protect it. Thus, if Taurus were to be attacked, the Humbaba had to be dealt with first. With the Humbaba "extinguished", Taurus's back was exposed and vulnerable; here was the weak-spot for the hero, Gilgamesh (Orion) could close in for the kill.

"Now thrust in your sword between the nape and the horns." So Gilgamesh followed the Bull, he seized the thick of its tail, he thrust the sword between the nape and the horns and slew the Bull. When they had killed the Bull of Heaven they cut out its heart and gave it to Shamash (the Sun), and the brothers rested.

Thus Gilgamesh had slain the constellation of Taurus, and the era of Aries the Ram could now begin. This is confirmed by the king lists of Sumer, who show the successor to Gilgamesh as being the king Lugulbanda. But Gilgamesh was somehow related to King Lugulbanda. With the identification of Gilgamesh as Orion the nature of this relationship becomes more clear, it was a union between god and king.

In Egypt the kings were born of the gods, on occasions they even became manifestations of the gods, especially of Osiris. In Egyptian mythology the constellation of Orion was described as being the "soul of Osiris", so in death the pharaohs became one with Osiris - manifestations of the constellation of Orion. In Sumer it would appear that the same process was at work and Lugulbanda was a manifestation of Gilgamesh (Orion). Taurus was now dead and so accordingly King Lugulbanda became known as a "Shepherd King" - a follower of the new ruling constellation of Aries.

To take the similarities with Egypt one stage further, several dynasties of Egyptian pharaohs were also known as "Shepherd Kings", the Hyksos kings of the northern Delta. The Bible, of course, records the patriarch Abraham as being a shepherd, and also that he was a king (even if the inference is made to a minor Asiatic king). The allusion is obvious, Abraham was no minor tribal leader - instead, like Lugulbanda of Sumer, Abraham was a Hyksos pharaoh of Egypt - a Shepherd King.

© 1998, 1999 by R. Ellis