November 2019

What Does a God Look Like?

 

Hi there,

I have often been asked how we created our gods and why they look like they do. In our European culture gods and mankind mostly look alike. They may have special features like Odin having an eye on his forefront or Pan with his goat feet, but overall the physiques of gods and humans are the same. It is also remarkable that there is a very clear distinction between the gods and other mythical creatures who are very special in their appearance. Just think of mermaids, satyrs, Medea etc.

When we set out to create the pantheon of Esemtu we started with the obvious, we read whatever we found about Sumerian mythology. There are a few legends that have been found as fragments on clay tablets and there are mythological relief representations that have been unearthed when archeologists excavated the old Sumerian cities with their temples. Yet, carrying all this information together, we got more and more confused, as we couldn’t grasp the structure of this pantheon in a way we know from the Nordic, the Roman, the Greek, even the Egyptian pantheon.

First of all, we detected that each god had at least two names, a Sumerian and an Akkadian name. This comes from a time dating back to 3000 BC when the Sumerian and the Akkadian powers merged. The fascinating thing about it is that it must have been a more or less peaceful union, as both languages remained. Akkadian became the written diplomatic language for the next 2.500 years, comparable to Latin in our Western civilization. But what is even more astonishing is that the religions of the two peoples did not only exist side by side but were actively merged. So, Utu, the Sumerian sun god, was from then on also called Shamesh but it was clear that both names referred to the same person. Prayers were changed bringing in the elements of both cultures. Can you imagine such a process in our world? I was really impressed when I read about this.

What we also discovered is that there was not a very clear distinction between gods and demons, as demons often were gods’ offspring. Concerning the gods’ outward appearances, we had similar difficulties. Gods were closely connected and often represented interchangeably by animal symbols. Mythological creatures were often described as fabulous, combining features of different animals in various ways. Mainly lions, eagles, snakes, scorpions or bulls were mentioned. It seemed that the Sumerian pantheon was closer to the Egyptian where we also find gods with the features of animals. Just think of Anubis, who is depicted with a dog’s head, or the sun god Ra, who has a hawk’s head.

To point out the special personality of each god, we decided to give them an animal head and an upright posture and try to remain as relatable as possible, not only to the Sumerian symbolism around the gods but also to the characteristics, animals represent for us nowadays. We hope you like the outcome – just check our pantheon under

https://www.esemtu.com/the-gods/

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