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This article contains Familiars taken from Middle Eastern Mythology and Legends.

History

Middle East mythology may refer to mythologies of the Ancient Near East (Mesopotamian, Hittite) and mythologies of individual ethnicities of the Middle East (Arabian, Armenian and Persian).

Gods

Anzu

Hellfire Anzu II Figure
Anzu (Sumerian transcription: An, "Heaven" and Zu, "to know") is a lesser divinity from Akkadian mythology. Son of the bird goddess Siris, he is depicted as a lion-headed eagle, and is the personification of thunder and the south wind. He stole the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil out of envy, and he was eventually killed for his theft.


Dagon

Dagon II Figure
Dagon was originally an East Semitic Mesopotamian (Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian) fertility god who evolved into a major Northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain (as symbol of fertility) and fish and/or fishing (as symbol of multiplying). He was worshipped by the early Amorites and by the inhabitants of the cities of Ebla (modern Tell Mardikh, Syria) and Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra, Syria). He was also a major member, or perhaps head, of the pantheon of the Philistines. His name appears in Hebrew as דגון (in modern transcription Dagon, Tiberian Hebrew Dāḡôn), in Ugaritic as dgn (probably vocalized as Dagnu), and in Akkadian as Dagana, usually rendered in English translations as Dagan.


Ishtar

Ishtar, Goddess of Love II Figure
Ishtar is the East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna, and is the cognate for the Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte.


Lahmu and Lahamu

Lahmu, Snake King II Figure
Lahamu, Royal Viper II Figure
In Mesopotamian mythology, twin deities, the first gods to be born from the chaos that was created by the merging of Apsu (the watery deep beneath the earth) and Tiamat (the personification of the salt waters); this is described in the Babylonian mythological text Enuma elish (c. 12th century bc).
Usually, Lahmu and Lahamu represent silt, but in some texts they seem to take the form of serpents, and, because the wavy line of a gliding snake is similar to the ripple of water, some scholars believe that Lahmu and Lahamu may have been only synonyms of Tiamat.


Lamashtu

Lamashtu, Fell Goddess Figure
In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamashtu (Akkadian dLa-maš-tu; Sumerian Dimme dDim3-me) was a female demon, monster, malevolent goddess or demigoddess who menaced women during childbirth and, if possible, kidnapped children while they were breastfeeding. She would gnaw on their bones and suck their blood, as well as being charged with a number of other evil deeds. She was a daughter of the Sky God Anu.

Lamashtu is depicted as a mythological hybrid, with a hairy body, a lioness' head with donkey's teeth and ears, long fingers and fingernails, and the feet of a bird with sharp talons. She is often shown standing or kneeling on a donkey, nursing a pig and a dog, and holding snakes. She thus bears some functions and resemblance to the Mesopotamian demon Lilith.

Lamashtu's father was the Sky God Anu (Sumer An). Unlike many other usual demonic figures and depictions in Mesopotamian lore, Lamashtu was said to act in malevolence of her own accord, rather than at the gods' instructions. Along with this her name was written together with the cuneiform determinative indicating deity. This means she was a goddess or a demigoddess in her own right.

She bore seven names and was described as seven witches in incantations. Her evil deeds included (but were not limited to), slaying children, unborns, and neonates, causing harm to mothers and expectant mothers, eating men and drinking their blood, disturbing sleep, bringing nightmares, killing foliage, infesting rivers and lakes, and being a bringer of disease, sickness, and death.

Pazuzu, a god or demon, was invoked to protect birthing mothers and infants against Lamashtu's malevolence, usually on amulets and statues. Although Pazuzu was said to be bringer of famine and drought, he was also invoked against evil for protection, and against plague, but he was primarily and popularly invoked against his fierce, malicious, rival Lamashtu.


Lamassu

Lamassu the Merciful II Figure
A lamassu (Sumerian: dlamma; Akkadian: lamassu), is a protective deity, often depicted with a bull or lion's body, eagle's wings, and a human's head. In some writings it is portrayed as female. The lamassu was the household protective spirit of the common Babylonian people. Later, during the Babylonian period, it became the protector of kings as well. Statues of the bull-man were often placed at entrances and used as gatekeepers.


Nergal

Nergal, Abyssal Overseer II Figure
The name Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali (Hebrew: נֵרְגַל, Modern Nergal Tiberian Nērḡál; Aramaic ܢܹܪܓܵܐܠ; Latin: Nergel) refers to a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) with the main seat of his cult at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim.

Nergal actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.

Nergal was also the deity who presides over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla).


Ninurta

Ninurta, the Thunderclap II Figure
Ninurta, whose name probably means “Lord Plow,” was a Mesopotamian storm god whose character changed dramatically over the millenniums. His father was Enlil and his mother was Ninhursag.

As a storm god, Ninurta was especially closely associated with the hard spring rains, which flooded the land and enabled agriculture to flourish on the formerly dry, barren land. This explains his role as a god of agriculture and fertility as well as the particular passion with which he was venerated among agriculturalists, for whom Ninurta, rather than the moon god Nanna, was Enlil’s firstborn son.
His original form was a logical image for the animating intelligence of the thundercloud: a giant, eagle-like bird with black wings and the head of a lion, whose roar was thunder. Under this form he was known as Imdugud, “Heavy Rain.”

Over time, however, he ceased to be pictured as an enormous bird, and was instead visualized in human form.


Pabilsag

Pabilsag Venomclaw II Figure
Pabilsag (Pabilsaĝ /pabilsaŋ/), in Mesopotamian tradition was a tutelary god of the city of Isin. The consort of the goddess Nininsinna, he was identified with the lost city of Larak. The text Pabilsag's journey to Nibru describes Pabilsag as journeying to Nippur and presenting the god Enlil with gifts. He was given the epithet of "the wild bull with multicoloured legs". According to the ancient Babylonian text, Pabilsag wedded Nininsina near a riverbank.
He is represented in the constellation Sagittarius.


Sihn

Sihn, Moonlight King II Figure
Sin (Akkadian: Su'en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: DŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.


Tiamat

Tiamat, Mother of Dragons II Figure
In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; she later makes war upon them and is killed by the storm-god Marduk. The heavens and the earth are formed from her divided body.

Eleven terrifying monsters created by Tiamat to avenge the death of Apsu and destroy the younger gods. There were three fearsome horned snakes: Musmahhu, Usumgallu and Basmu; the snake-dragon Mushussu ; Lahmu the hairy super man; Ugallu, the lion-demon; Uridimmu, the lion-man; Girtablilu, the scorpion-man; Umu-Dabrutu, terrifying storms; Kulullu, the fish-man (mermen and mermaids) and Kusarikku, the bull-man.

All eleven of Tiamat's creatures were defeated by Marduk who preserved images of them in the watery remains of Abzu to commemorate his victory. They were made ample use of by the people of Mesopotamia in magical incantations and to ward off evil and the forces of chaos. Many of their images are well known today through statues outside of palaces and temples, most notably the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.


Humans

Garshāsp

Garshasp, the Juggernaut Figure
Garshāsp (گرشاسپ) is the name of a monster-slaying hero in Iranian mythology. The Avestan form of his name is Kərəsāspa and in Middle Persian his name is Kirsāsp. In the Zoroastrian religious text of the Avesta, Kərəsāspa appears as the slayer of ferocious monsters, including the Gandarəβa and the Aži Sruvara. In later Zoroastrian texts Kirsāsp is revived at the end of the world to defeat the monster Dahāg.


Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh the Bold II Figure
Gilgamesh (𒄑𒂆𒈦 /ˈɡɪl.ɡə.mɛʃ/; Gilgameš) was a king of Uruk, Mesopotamia, who lived sometime between 2800 and 2500 BC. He is the main character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian poem that is considered the first great work of literature. In the epic, Gilgamesh is a demigod of superhuman strength who built the city walls of Uruk to defend his people and travelled to meet the sage Utnapishtim, who survived the Great Deluge. According to the Sumerian King List, Gilgamesh ruled his city for 126 years. In the Tummal Inscription, Gilgamesh and his son Urlugal rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of Nippur.


Central & Important Figures

Batraz

Batraz, the Immortal Hero II Figure
Batraz (Ossetic: Батырадз) was the leader and greatest warrior of the mythical super-human race, the Narts. The Narts were the central figures of Samartian (an Iranian people of classical antiquity) folklore. The life of Batraz revolves around his magic sword, which he pulled, as a young man, from the roots of a tree. Later, when he is mortally wounded by his archenemy, Sainag-Alder, he tells a friend to throw the sword into the ocean. The friend complies and the sword is caught by a water goddess. Batraz and Samartian folklore were major influences on Arthurian legend, with Batraz serving as template for both Arthur and Lancelot.


Enkidu

Enkidu the Invincible II Figure
Enkidu (𒂗𒆠𒆕 EN.KI.DU3 "Enki's creation") is a central figure in the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. Enkidu was formed from clay and saliva by Aruru, the goddess of creation, to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance. In the story he is a wild man, raised by animals and ignorant of human society until he is bedded by Shamhat. Thereafter a series of interactions with humans and human ways bring him closer to civilization, culminating in a wrestling match with Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Enkidu embodies the wild or natural world, and though equal to Gilgamesh in strength and bearing, acts in some ways as an antithesis to the cultured, urban-bred warrior-king. Enkidu then becomes the king's constant companion and deeply beloved friend, accompanying him on adventures until he is stricken ill. The deep, tragic loss of Enkidu profoundly inspires in Gilgamesh a quest to escape death by obtaining godly immortality.

Older sources sometimes transliterate his name as Enkimdu, Eabani, or Enkita. Enkidu is a modern variant. Enkidu assists Gilgamesh in defeating and killing Humbaba, the guardian monster of the Cedar Forest. Afterwards, he again assists Gilgamesh in slaying Gugalanna the Bull of Heaven, which the gods have sent to kill Gilgamesh as a reprisal for rejecting Ishtar's affections while enumerating the misfortunes that befell her former lovers. Ishtar demands that the pair pay for the bull's destruction. Shamash argues to the other gods to spare both of them, but he could save only Gilgamesh. This, and the slow decomposition of Enkidu's body, provides the hero with the impetus for his quest for eternal life, and his visit to Utnapishtim.

There is another non-canonical tablet in which Enkidu journeys into the underworld, but many scholars consider the tablet to be a sequel or add-on to the original epic.


Melek Taus

Melek, the Black Peacock II Figure
Melek Taus (Persian: ملك طاووس‎), or the Peacock Angel, is the Yazidi name for the central figure of their faith.

In the Yazidi belief system, God created the world, and the world is now in the care of a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Preeminent among these is Tawûsê Melek (frequently known as "Melek Taus" in English publications), the Peacock Angel.

Tawûsê Melek is often identified by Muslims and Christians with Shaitan (Satan). Yazidis, however, believe Tawûsê Melek is not a source of evil or wickedness. They consider him to be the leader of the archangels, not a fallen angel. They are forbidden from speaking the name Shaitan. They also hold that the source of evil is in the heart and spirit of humans themselves, not in Tawûsê Melek. The active forces in their religion are Tawûsê Melek and Sheik Adî.


Creatures & Demons

Aeshma

Aeshma, the Tyrant II Figure
Aeshma (Aēšma) is the Younger Avestan name of Zoroastrianism's demon of "wrath." As a hypostatic entity, Aeshma is variously interpreted as "wrath," "rage," and "fury." His standard epithet is "of the bloody mace." In the hierarchy of Zoroastrian demons (daevas) that mirrors a similar hierarchy of divinities, Aeshma is opposed to Asha Vahishta, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis of "Truth." This opposition also reflects Aeshma's position as messenger of Angra Mainyu (Yasht 19.46), for in the hierarchy of divinities, Asha is the messenger of Spenta Mainyu, the instrument through which Ahura Mazda's realized ("created by His thought") creation.


Aži Dahāka and Zahāk

Azi Dahaka II Figure
Zahhak, Dragon Marshal II Figure
Zahāk (old & correct spelling in English), or Zahhāk (pronounced [zæhɒːk], in Persian: ضحاک‎/ذهاک), is an evil figure in Iranian mythology and it is different from Zahhāk, evident in ancient Iranian folklore as Aži Dahāka, the name by which he also appears in the texts of the Avesta.

In Middle Persian, he is called Dahāg or Bēvar-Asp, the latter meaning "[he who has] 10,000 horses". Within Zoroastrianism, Zahāk (going under the name Aži Dahāka) is considered the son of Angra Mainyu, the foe of Ahura Mazda. The original meaning of dahāka is uncertain. Among the meanings suggested are "stinging" (source uncertain), "burning" (cf. Sanskrit dahana), "man" or "manlike" (cf. Khotanese daha), "huge" or "foreign" (cf. the Scythian Dahae and the Vedic dasas). In Persian mythology, Dahāka is treated as a proper noun, and is the source of the Ḍaḥḥāk (Zahāk) of the Shāhnāme.

Aži Dahāka is the most significant and long-lasting of the ažis of the Avesta, the earliest religious texts of Zoroastrianism. He is described as a monster with three mouths, six eyes, and three heads (presumably meaning three heads with one mouth and two eyes each), cunning, strong and demonic. But in other respects Aži Dahāka has human qualities, and is never a mere animal.


Druj Nasu

Druj Nasu, the Impure II Figure
A corpse demon that takes possession of the dead in the form of a fly. Sometimes known as Druj Nasu


Girtablilu

Ironstone Girtablilu II Figure
Scorpion Men are featured in several Akkadian language myths, including the Enûma Elish and the Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. They were also known as aqrabuamelu or girtablilu. The Scorpion Men are described to have the head, torso, and arms of a man and the body of a scorpion. They were first created by the Tiamat in order to wage war against the younger gods for the betrayal of her mate Apsu. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, they stand guard outside the gates of the sun god Shamash at the mountains of Mashu. These give entrance to Kurnugi, the land of darkness. The scorpion men open the doors for Shamash as he travels out each day, and close the doors after him when he returns to the underworld at night. They also warn travellers of the danger that lies beyond their post. Their heads touch the sky, their "terror is awesome" and their "glance is death". This meeting of Gilgameš, on his way to Ūta-napišti, with the Scorpion-folk guarding the entrance to the tunnel is described in Iškār Gilgāmeš, tablet IX, lines 47-81.


Humbaba

Humbaba, Wood Ward II Figure
In Akkadian mythology Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Sumerian spelling), also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi. His face is scribed in a single coiling line like that of the coiled entrails of men and beasts, from which omens might be read.


Karkadann

Venomhorn Karkadann II Figure
The Karkadann (from Kargadan, Persian: كرگدن "Lord of the Desert") was a mythical creature first described in the 10th/11th century. The word kargadan means "rhinoceros" in Persian and Arabic. Originally based on the Indian rhinoceros, it evolved in the works of later writers into a mythical animal said to live on the grassy plains of India and Persia; depictions of the karkadann are found also in North Indian art. This more "modern" karkadann was said to have "a shadowy rhinocerine ancestor" and was endowed with strange qualities, such as a horn endowed with medicinal qualities, akin to a unicorn. Also like the unicorn, it can be subdued by virgins and acts ferociously toward other animals.


Manticore

Manticore II Figure
The Manticore (from Early Middle Persian Martyaxwar "man-eater") is a Persian legendary creature similar to the Egyptian sphinx. It has the body of a red lion, a human head with three rows of sharp teeth (like a shark), and a trumpet-like voice. Other aspects of the creature vary from story to story. It may be horned, winged, or both. The tail is that of either a dragon or a scorpion, and it may shoot poisonous spines to either paralyze or kill its victims. It devours its prey whole and leaves no clothes, bones, or possessions of the prey behind.


Mušḫuššu

Mushussu the Fierce II Figure
The Mushussu (formerly also read as sirrušu, sirrush) is a creature depicted on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, originally dating to the 6th century B.C. It is a mythological hybrid, a scaly dragon with hind legs like an eagle's talons and feline forelegs. It also has a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snakelike tongue and a crest. Mushussu is one of eleven monsters that fashioned by Tiamat to battle the deities in order to avenge Apsu's death.


Pazuzu

Pazuzu, the Whirling Jinn II Figure
In Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, Pazuzu (sometimes Fazuzu or Pazuza) was the king of the demons of the wind, and son of the god Hanbi. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought.

Pazuzu is often depicted as a combination of diverse animal and human parts. He has the body of a man, the head of a lion or dog, eagle-like taloned feet, two pairs of wings, a scorpion's tail, and a serpentine penis. He is often depicted with his right hand pointing upward and left hand pointing down.

Pazuzu is the demon of the southwest wind known for bringing famine during dry seasons, and locusts during rainy seasons. Pazuzu was said to be invoked in amulets, which combat the powers of his rival, the malicious goddess Lamashtu who was believed to cause harm to mother and child during childbirth. Although Pazuzu is, himself, an evil spirit, he drives away other evil spirits, therefore protecting humans against plagues and misfortunes.


Peri

Peri, Spirit of Fire II Figure
In Persian mythology, the Peri (Persian: پری‎‎ pari) are exquisite, winged fairy-like spirits ranking between angels and evil spirits. They sometimes visit the realm of mortals.
In earlier sources they are described as agents of evil who have been denied paradise until they have done penance; later, they are benevolent.


Roc

Crystalwing Roc II Figure
A roc or rukh (from the Arabic and Persian رخ rokh, asserted by Louis Charles Casartelli to be an abbreviated form of Persian simurgh) is an enormous legendary bird of prey, often said to be white.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word perhaps influenced the word Rook chess piece, though that term mainly stems from the Persian رخ rukh or Sanskrit रत rath, both meaning chariot (thus corresponding to the Asian chess variants).

It had its origins in the fight between the Indian solar bird Garuda and the chthonic serpent Nāga. The roc appears in Arabic geographies and natural history, popularized in Arabian fairy tales and sailors' folklore.


Sandwalker

Twintail Sandwalker II Figure
The Sandwalker is a monstrous, legendary Arabian creature that feeds on horses and camels. The sandwalker is described as a huge beast, the size of a horse, with a sharp beak and a scorpion-like tail that is loaded with poison. It also has large, crab-like claws with which it carries away its victims. They only come out at night when their black exoskeleton makes them almost invisible, they can hide themselves under the desert sands incredibly fast. It does so during the day to avoid detection, and comes out at night to feed. It rarely feeds on humans, usually hunting camels or horses, leaving behind only crab-like tracks.


Saurva

Saurva, the Lawless Lord II Figure
In Zoroastrian demonology, Saurva is a type of Devas. A demon of hunger he commits acts that are evil, lawless, oppressive, tyrannical, and violent. To keep from being victimized by Saurva he must be rejected outright in deed, thought, and word. His personal adversary is the angel Khshathra Vairya.


Simurgh

Simurgh, Bird Divine II Figure
Simurgh, also spelled simorgh, simurg, simoorg or simourv, is a benevolent, mythical flying creature. It is sometimes equated with other mythological birds such as Arabic Anqā (عنقاء) or Persian Homā (Persian: هما‎). The figure can be found in all periods of Greater Iranian art and literature and is also evident in the iconography of medieval Armenia, the Byzantine empire, and other regions that were within the sphere of Persian cultural influence. The mythical bird is also found in the mythology of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia and is called Kerkés, Semrug, Semurg, Samran, and Samruk.

The name simurgh derives from Middle Persian Pahlavi sēnmurw (and earlier sēnmuruγ), also attested in Middle Persian Pāzand as sīna-mrū. The Middle Persian term derives in turn from Avestan mərəγō Saēnō "the bird Saēna", originally a raptor, likely an eagle, falcon, or sparrowhawk, as can be deduced from the etymological cognate Sanskrit śyenaḥ ("raptor, eagle, bird of prey") that also appears as a divine figure. Saēna is also a personal name, which is root of the name. The word was also borrowed into Armenian as siramarg ‘peacock’.

The most prestigious award given by Fajr International Film Festival, Iran's major annual film festival, is called the Crystal Simorgh, after the mythical creature.


Umū dabrūtu

Umu Dabrutu, the Storm II Figure
Umū dabrūtu, inscribed u4-mi da-ab-ru-ti and meaning “Violent Storms” (lit. “fierce day”) was an ancient Mesopotamian mythical beast, demon or species of creature and one of the eleven monsters created by Tiāmat in her conflict with the younger gods in the Epic of Creation, Enûma Eliš. Its form is unknown but was probably a composite beast like its companions.

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