Reaction to my recent examination of Hittite gods and goddesses has been through the roof! To keep up a little with the demand here’s a quick look at another Hittite myth, this one involving the sun god Istanu.
Istanu, the Hittite sun god was riding his solar chariot across the sky one day and noticed that a cow had brazenly wandered into the area where the shepherd goddess Hapantali tended Istanu’s sheep. The sun god let his chariot continue its course, pulled by two of his prized rams with their shining golden fleeces, as he descended to upbraid Hapantali for her oversight in allowing the bovine intruder to graze with his sheep.
Next Istanu began communicating with the cow, lecturing it for its brazenness. In the course of trying to set the cow straight, however, the sun god noticed how physically perfect the cow was and began lusting after it. (Now THAT’S “a love that dare not speak its name”.) Istanu and the cow have sex (you know mythology) following which there is a break in the fragmented text so it is unclear if the cow was permitted to continue grazing in the same sacred fields as the sun god’s sheep or if she was removed.
When the text resumes the cow endures a ten-month pregnancy and at the end of it she gives birth to a two-legged humanoid cow-child (A cowboy? Rimshot.) Disgusted with this freak she has borne the cow plans to eat the infant but Istanu again comes down from the sky to prevent this. The cow refuses to raise the boy as one of her own and so the sun god takes the child with him in his chariot until the day is over.
That night Istanu discusses the situation with a goddess. The fragmented text suggests that it is Shaushka but there is a great deal of controversy about this because Istanu appears to be giving the goddess orders as if she is his wife or daughter. My own interpretation is that the goddess is Inara, the deity who ruled over the wild animals of the steppes. I say this because Istanu tells the goddess he is addressing to send snakes, eagles, turtles, arwanella birds and zariyanalla birds to pretend to menace the infant, whom he places in the wild.
In the meantime the sun god has told a fisherman whose wife and he are childless to go and save the child. The fisherman (never referred to by name in the surviving fragments) goes and is convinced he is heroically saving the child by driving off the animals who were pretending to want to eat the little boy. Istanu then tells the fisherman the child should belong to him since he has saved it. He instructs the fisherman to have his wife make noises as if she is in labor and then to tell their neighbors that she just gave birth to the child.
The fisherman takes the baby home and orders his wife to loudly pretend to give birth. The text includes outdated language about how the wife “stands in woman’s subordination” and “does not disobey her husband’s word.” At any rate the fisherman and his wife pass the baby off as their own newborn child, prompting their friends and family to follow tradition and shower them in gifts of bread, fat and beer (the three basic food groups). The text then breaks off for good so unfortunately the ultimate point of the story of the cow-child is unknown.
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12 responses to “HITTITE MYTH: THE SUN GOD AND THE COW”
pretend to give birth…for presents…OMG
Ha! Wish we knew where this bizarre story was ultimately headed.
Woah! That is one taboo story!
Ha! I’ll say!
I love your mythology posts!
I like the half breed joke!
Your halfbreeed joke made me lol!
Ha! Thank you!