This beautiful lion has little to do with Valentine’s Day. It is part of the Ishtar Gate “constructed in about 575 BCE by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II” in the area of present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq. (See Ishtar Gate, Wikipedia.) Ishtar was a goddess and Marduk the most powerful of two gods, he and Adad. Part of the gate was still standing in the early 1930s. It was taken to Germany and reconstructed. The Ishtar Gate had been put out of harm’s way before WW II, but it was bombed and reconstructed. Our lion is housed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and the Ishtar Gate is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Many of the animals the gate features are housed in museums other than the Bergamon Museum.
It could be that our lion does not talk. Talking animals are anthropomorphic, but some combine the features of many animals. The unicorn and the dragon are zoomorphic, and so are animals that combine animal and human body parts. Others are therianthropic, or shape-shifting animals. The werewolf, or loup-garou, belongs to therianthropy, but fairytales may be the richest depository of metamorphoses. So many little princes and princesses are transformed into animals, such as toads. However, there are many works of literature featuring two persons, or duality. One of our best examples is Robert Louis Stevenson‘s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The New Year’s celebrations started immediately after the barley harvest, at the time of the vernal equinox. his was the first day of the ancient month of Nisan, equivalent to today’s date of March 20 or 21.Ishtar, Wikipedia
Roman poet Ovid wrote a Metamorphoses in 8 CE (Common Era). Apuleius (2nd century CE) wrote The Golden Ass, first entitled Metamorphoses. The Golden Ass contains The Tale of Psyche and Cupid, but its main narrative is the account of Lucius’ transformation into an Ass, rather than a bird. The Tale of Psyche and Cupid would be associated to the lore of Valentine’s Day, as would Rabbie Burns’ Red, Red Rose.
Once per year, the Ishtar Gate and connecting Processional Way were used for a New Year’s procession, which was part of a religious festival celebrating the beginning of the agricultural year. In Babylon, the rituals surrounding this holiday lasted twelve days. The New Year’s celebrations started immediately after the barley harvest, at the time of the vernal equinox. This was the first day of the ancient month of Nisan, equivalent to today’s date of March 20 or 21.Ishtar, Wikipedia
Christians associate Easter with the vernal equinox, but the vernal equinox happens globally. In Babylon, it was the New Year and inspired a procession among other celebrations of the agricultural year. But the governing factor concerning the date on which the procession would take place was the degree of lightness and darkness, the vernal equinox, when the degree and light and darkness is nearly equal. The earth feeds man and men and women perpetuate themselves. The rosettes, the red, red roses, above and below the lion are fertility symbols.
I was attracted by the image of the lion, but the Ishtar Gate was “foreign” to me. Now, I cannot help marvelling at all that binds us, hence this surprise post, except that I have studied and taught animals in literature, la Renardie. We have Reynard the Fox, Le Roman de Renart, tricksters, but we also speak of love, the Roman de la Rose. We all need our little corner of the world, but we are nevertheless the world.
Beast Literature, Page
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
10 February 2021