Dead Names, Dead Dog: Those Zany Ziggurats, Part 3

In our last two installments, we discovered that “Simon’s” supposed Mesopotamian origin for the Gates of the Necronomicon wasn’t really Mesopotamian.  Further, Simon seems to have deliberately ignored evidence that the entire color scheme was highly dubious, to say the least.

I’m going to set aside all of that for this post.  We’ll assume, for the sake of argument, that the ziggurat was colored according to the original source, H. C. Rawlinson’s article “On the Birs Nimrud, or the Great Temple of Borsippa”, in the 1861 issue of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Some of you might have only started subscribing to the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1870 or thereabouts.  Fear not!  The not-so-Evil-Empire has placed the complete issue online here, though they’re missing the first page.

Let’s take a look.

After some discussion of the results of his excavations, Rawlinson sets about a reconstruction of how he believed the temple looked in its heyday.  He is forced to admit that “there is some difficulty with regard to the seven colours” because “we do not know the exact chromatic scale of the ancients” and “the original surface of these stages has not been exposed.”  As such, we can see just how tentative some of the color identifications on which the Necronomicon‘s system really are.

Finally, Rawlinson gets down to describing the seven tiers of the ziggurat.  He starts with the bottom one:

The lower stage was 272 feet square and twenty-six feet high; and it was thickly coated with bitumen, to represent the sable hue which was always attributed to the sphere of Saturn…

Hold on.  The Necronomicon states that it is a mystical ascent to the gods through the layers of the cosmos, starting with the white layer of Nanna and proceeding to the black layer of Ninib.  As Rawlinson continues his hypothetical ascent, it’s clear that he considers the planets and their particular layers to be in the reverse order of those presented in the Simon book.  Based on the color scheme “Simon” has employed, the magician is actually on a symbolic walk down from the top of the ziggurat.

That’s right.  According to “Simon’s” own source, Necronomicon practitioners have spent the last thirty years walking the gates backwards.

Oddly, this supports an argument that John made in The Necronomicon Files – that the magical system in the Necronomicon was actually intended to symbolically lead practitioners down into the Underworld.  John’s argument has been disputed, but now it appears in line with “Simon’s” primary source of inspiration/support.

Next Dead Names post, what “Simon” said when I pointed this out to him.  This is going to get worse.

Published in: on August 8, 2006 at 7:07 pm  Comments (5)  

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  1. as a quick aside, there are a number of occult systems (for instance, the system described by R.J. Stewart in his series _The Underworld Initiation_, _Earth Light_, and _Power Within the Land_, among others) in which travel into the heart of the earth leads, paradoxically, to the celestial realm. When taken literally, this can lead to such odd cosmologies as the one in which we live on the inside of a hollow sphere in an infinite expanse of stone (fairly common as late as the mid-20th century).

  2. Oh, I’d agree with that. In fact, I’m guessing that “Simon” will be using a similar mystical paradox to get himself out of this mess. Still, going into the Underworld in Mesopotamian myth is still definitely bad.

  3. That’s my impression, as well (though, of course, it isn’t exactly my area of expertise). I just made the observation to make sure that you know all the angles, and don’t get caught completely flat-footed. Keep up the good work!

  4. I merely want to add that it is *very* difficult to reconstruct colours from ancient near eastern archaeological remains, unless they have been extremely well preserved. Rawlinson’s ‘reconstructure’ is highly debated – as you mentioned in passim in your first installment on this topic -, and most archaeologists today find it ridiculous.

    On the ‘Journey to the Netherworld’ in the ANE – there are some theories floating around the scientific community (yay, we are a science!) that this actually reflects a shamanic tradition, with some similarities to the ‘death’-rites of India (please correct me if I’m wrong with placing them there), which are usually interpreted as an initiatory ritual.

    this would also fit in nicely with recent interpretations of the myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal – Nergal, the young warrior/hero (depending on which translation one favours) descends into the netherworld and, in the end, becomes ruler over it.

    just my two cents, though…

  5. They aren’t walking the gates backwards, they’re moon-walking.

    I liked where Rawlinson says “Now this is where the Sun floor should be, and I’ll just bet they covered the entire outside level of the Sun with gold, yes, pure gold, that’s it. Now of course I can’t find any, because it’s GOLD by Jingo, and every old mug and his brother have been prospecting the area for centuries looking to take away a yet-unlooted fragment, messing everything up and scoffing the paint away on the other levels.” That’s a paraphrase.

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