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Cosmic Gates (3)

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04 Religious and philosophical literature and poetry

Jānua hominum
Tropic of Cancer
3th century CE
Hellenistic philosophers and scholars

Porphyry’s On the Cave of the Nymphs is an imago mundi. Souls come and leave this corporeal world of the generation through two gates: a northen one to descent and a southern one for ascending out of it. The two gates correspond respectively to the Cancer and Capricorn Tropics. In the Bhagavad-Gītā these same two gates are named ‘Pitrayāna’ and ‘Devayāna’, respectively. Through the Cancer gate (i. e. the northen one) souls, attracted by humidity (liquid) descent into the world of the becoming.

Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs 5, 11:
(5) It is necessary, therefore, that souls, … while they attract to themselves body, and especially such as are about to be bound to blood and moist bodies, should verge to humidity, and be corporalised, in consequence of being drenched in moisture. (11) Theologists therefore assert, that these two gates are Cancer and Capricorn; but Plato calls them entrances. And of these, theologists say, that Cancer is the gate through which souls descend; but Capricorn is southern, and adapted to ascent.

Song of the Hoe 18-21 (see ETCLS for variants):
Here, in Uzu-mú-a, he set this very hoe (al) to work; he had it place the first model of mankind in the brick mould. His Land started to break through the soil towards Enlil. He looked with favour at his black-headed people.

Astrological Text Collection, Sargonid Era (Weidner, AfO 19, 107: 8 and 11; note that ‘Cancer’ ( through homophony refers to the hoe (giš.al)):
Cancer is the Tigris, the front stars of Cancer are the Tigris, the back ones are the Euphrates.

Gudea Cylinder A 5-9:
The heart was moved to overflow, Enlil’s heart was moved to overflow, the towering flood wave with sparkle laden and awesome glory, Enlil’s heart, the very river Tigris, was moved to bring sweet waters.

K 170 + Rm 520 4 30-31:
Enlil is the brother of Ea. Nanna is šeš; brother is šeš. River is nāru; narru is Enlil.

Sources (list of abbreviations) (source links will open in a new browser window)
Astrological Text Collection, Sargonid Era
Gudea Cylinder A 5-9
K 170 + Rm 520 4 30-31
Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs 5
Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs 11
Song of the Hoe 18-21


Foxvog 1993Foxvog, D. A. “Astral Dumuzi.” In: Mark E. Cohen, Daniel C. Snell and David B. Weisberg (eds.). The Tablet and the Scroll. Near Eastern Studies in Honour of William W. Hallo. Bethesda MD: CDL Press 1993, 103-108.
Jacobsen 1987, 388Jacobsen, Thorkild. The Harps That Once ... Sumerian Poetry in Translation. New Haven CT: Yale University Press 1987.
Jacobsen 1989Jacobsen, Thorkild. “The lil2 of dEn-lil2.” In: Hermann Behrens, Darlene Loding and Martha T. Roth (eds.). DUMU-É-DUB-BA-BA. Studies in Honor of Åke W. Sjöberg. Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 11. Philadelphia: Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 1987, 267-276.
Livingstone 1986, 30-31, 46Livingstone, Alasdair. Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1986.
Mander 1999Mander, Pietro. “Jānua Hominum et Deorum in the Sumerian Mythological Texts.” Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale 59 (1999) 93-108.
Taylor 1917Taylor, Thomas. On the Cave of the Nymphs in the Thirteenth Book of the Odyssey. London: J. M. Watkins 1917.
Weidner 1959/1960, 107Weidner, Ernst F. “Ein astrologischer Sammeltext aus der Sargonidenzeit.” Archiv für Orientforschung 19 (1959/1960) 105-113.

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Cf. Cosmis Gates (1)
Cf. Cosmis Gates (2)

Pietro Mander

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