Dead Names, Dead Dog: The Head of Huwawa, Part 1

One of the main spirits in the Necronomicon is Humwawa, who is luridly depicted as follows:

The Lord of Abominations is HUMWAWA of the South Winds, whose face is a mass of the entrails of the animals and men. His breath is the stench of dung, and no incense can banish the odor from where HUMWAWA has been…

In Dead Names, “Simon” complains about our critique in The Necronomicon Files:

Gonce said that the description of Humwawa’s face as a “mass of entrails” is wrong, that it was used as some kind of divinatory apparatus, and that Humwawa was a beneficent being. A close reading of the Epic of Gilgamesh tells a different story, for therein we read that Humwawa was a monster who had to be defeated—and beheaded – by Gilgamesh, and that his breath was loathesome and stank of decay.

“Simon’s” argument based on a “close reading” suffers from two flaws: he didn’t do a close reading of our book, and he didn’t do a close reading of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

First, what about this whole bit about Huwawa being a monster beheaded by Gilgamesh? How’d we miss that? That’s an easy one. We didn’t.

“Humwawa” – or more properly “Huwawa” (Akkadian Humbaba) – was no angel or genie, but a mortal ogre… Huwawa was killed and beheaded by the heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu in Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Likewise, we never labeled Huwawa as a good being. We just pointed out what an actual “close reading” of the Epic will reveal – that Huwawa was actually working for the god Enlil. Here’s some lines from an online version:

 

in order to protect the Cedar Forest

Enlil assigned (Humbaba) as a terror to human beings,

Humbaba’s roar is a Flood, his mouth is Fire, and his breath is Death!

He can hear 100 leagues away any rustling(?) in his forest!

Who would go down into his forest!

Enlil assigned him as a terror to human beings,

and whoever goes down into his forest paralysis(?) will strike!

In calling Huwawa a monster, “Simon” is once again inserting a good-evil dichotomy into an entirely different cosmology. As we’ve discussed before, the monsters and demons of Mesopotamian civilization were, for the most part, not independent actors or servants of a great evil. Instead, they were the servants of the gods and the instruments of their displeasure. Huwawa is indeed the servant of the god Enlil, and his presence in the woods is at the god’s behest.

What about his bad breath and ugly face? We’ll get to those next time.

Published in: on September 11, 2006 at 1:20 pm  Comments (5)  

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  1. […] Dead Names, Dead Dog: The Head of Huwawa, Part 1 […]

  2. […] Have you ever restarted an old project, only to find that you left it at a place like this? […]

  3. […] So, after these last four sections, we arrive once again at Dead Names: His face was depicted as a mass of entrails, specifically the small intestines. I believe that the glyph of Humwawa in the Necronomicon showing his face as a mass of entrails is probably how he was perceived in later Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, and further, that only his head is shown in this glyph may be an allusion that the monster was beheaded. […]

  4. […] Huwawa, or Humwawa, or Humbaba in the Necronomicon? Just to be different, we have Part 0, Part .5, Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]

  5. […] Huwawa, or Humwawa, or Humbaba in the Necronomicon? Just to be different, we have Part 0, Part .5, Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]


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