The readers of Balladeer’s Blog have spoken! You want more Hittite mythology! I’m always responsive to my readers so I will now examine two different versions of the ancient myth about the Hittite storm god Tarhun battling the supreme serpent Illuyanka. Both versions tie in with the Purulli Festival.
VERSION ONE – Illuyanka, a miles- long serpent, emerges from his lair in the Netherworld (making him another ally and possible son of the god Kumarbi) and unleashes havoc and disorder. Tarhun the storm god clashes with Illuyanka in Kiskilussa and, unexpectedly, the serpent is triumphant. Illuyanka plucks out Tarhun’s eyes and his heart and leaves him to live blind and helpless (yes, even though he has no heart now).
In this first version of the myth Tarhun’s daughter Inara, the goddess of the wild animals of the steppes, plots with her father to get revenge on Illuyanka and restore her father’s supremacy over the gods. Inara invites Illuyanka and all the other gods in the Hittite pantheon to a huge feast she is throwing for herself and a mortal man from Zigarratta named Hupasiya. The tablets recounting the myth are incomplete and there is speculation that the feast was to celebrate Inara and Hupasiya marrying. It IS certain from the fragments that Hupasiya has Inara sleep with him first to pay him for playing along with her and her father’s plot against Illuyanka.
The serpent attends the feast, matrimonial or otherwise, and when he is sufficiently drunk Hupasiya binds Illuyanka. The blind Tarhun then slays the serpent and retrieves his eyes and heart. The storm god is hailed as the restored King of the Heavenly Deities even though his victory over the serpent came through treachery.
Inara then built a house for herself and Hupasiya on a rock cliff near the city of Tarukka while his children were gestating inside her. After twenty days she was ready to give birth (you know how mythology makes its own rules as it goes along) and as she went out to deliver her babies she warned Hupasiya NOT to look out the window at her or the children.
Needless to say Hupasiya ignored the warning and looked out the window. He was so traumatized by what he saw that when Inara went back inside the house she found him weeping and begging to be permitted to return to his home city of Zigarratta. We are never told what he saw and the remaining tablets are so fragmentary that the conclusion to this part of the story cannot be determined.
Given how much I love comparative mythology I find it interesting how parts of this tale parallel a pair of Shinto myths. In one the Shinto storm god Susanowo, having been stripped of much of his godly power by having his beard and his fingernails torn off, is exiled to the Earth. He tries to save the region of Izumo from the depradations of a giant eight- tailed dragon. Since he is without much of his divine power while in exile he first gets all eight of the dragon’s heads drunk on saki, then cuts all the heads off, killing the creature.
In the other Shinto myth, when the god Ninigi’s son Hoori marries Toyota, the daughter of the sea god Watatsumi, and she is about to give birth to their child she builds a hut to shelter her while she endures her labor. She warns her husband NOT to look into the hut while she is giving birth but, naturally Hoori DOES look and sees Toyota in her sea-serpent form delivering their child. He cries out in horror and Toyota, hurt and angered by her husband’s indiscretion, leaves him forever and returns to the sea.
I’LL COVER THE SECOND VERSION OF THIS MYTH NEXT TIME!
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5 responses to “HITTITE MYTHOLOGY: THE STORM GOD VERSUS THE SERPENT DEITY”
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