Winged lion, king-headed beast. His eyes are gods: distant, merciless, just. He is always smiling slightly, for he knows all things.
Note his long beard, square beard and curly. His voice, when he unlocks his throat, is kingly, kindly and incomprehensible. He tongues an ur-tongue, a regal jargon, an untranslatable, infectious wash of sound. His words are a tall tree in our ear. His blood is carried to hidden places. His wings are seven winds: the evil wind, the wild wind, the dust wind, the whirl wind, the four winds, the seven winds, the wind that conquers. He breathes plague and famine. His claws are drought and decay.
He is the giver of gifts. In his mighty steps grow sweet corn, golden wheat. He is forever moving, shoulders topless towers, back a broad highway, seven mile mouth sweetly smiling. He circles to the north and then to the south. He comes up from the desert and goes down to the sea. His piss is the fertile water.
From him come all our graces; from him all our woes. Before the fruitful garden he stands watch, jaws athwart the gates, a flaming sword.
3 thoughts on “The Lamassu”
Is this what you were talking about with the Abram came up from Ur stuff? This is cool and I'd like to know if it's a connection you drew yourself or if there's, like, supporting sources you dug up.
Yeah, this is the one. The pun, such as it is, doesn't have any roots in actual linguistics, or at least not that I'm aware of. Ur in the sense of a primitive or primal source is from the German and doesn't have any direct link to the Chaldean city, except maybe very indirectly. I'm not much of a linguist; I *am*, however, a huge Bible nerd and always always always willing to take a shot at creating some high-falutin nonsense.
What I like about this is it works either way you take it: either the lamassu is speaking in a primal language — i.e., one that predates Babel (which is significant, since that story immediately precedes the genealogy of Abram/Abraham — or he's speaking the language of Ur, which would be appropriate to a Mesopotamian god/monster.
The bit about him guarding the gates of Eden is also quasi-plausible. Traditionally, the gates are guarded by a cherub (one of the old school ones with four faces, obviously, not the rosy cheeked baby that literally everyone who ever writes anything about cherubim feels compelled to address, as here), which developed both linguistically and conceptionally from the lamassu, at least according to Wikipedia.
My main sources for information on the lamassu are Borges' soul-crushingly excellent Book of Imaginary Creatures and Donald Alexander Mackenzie's Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, which is pretty discursive (seriously, why are you talking about Heimdall?) but fascinating. With a notable hat-tip to Wikipedia to fill in some gaps — obviously take all of this with a grain of salt.
Aha, “cherubim were derived from lamassu” is the cool fact I was looking for. Thank you! This is beautiful by the way.
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