How could we talk about Lapis Lazuli and not talk about its most popular legends and its favorite fairytale. How could we not talk about the famous King Gilgamesh and also of the Goddess of Love Ishtar? In Lapis Lazuli Legends – Fairytales I will talk to you about the famous Epic of Gilgamesh and the Legend of Ishtar. Both legends with the goddess Ishtar shows us the importance Lapis Lazuli had for the Goddess. We will also learn the incredible tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor. “The White Cat” is a beautiful fairy tale written in France.
Legend of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Sumerian narrative in verse about the adventures of King Gilgamesh. It constitutes the oldest epic piece known to man. It tells the story of the king of Uruk, a Sumerian city that presumably gave the name to the present Iraq.
The epic begins with five Sumerian poems about “Bilgamesh” (Sumerian for Gilgamesh), King of Uruk. Only a few tablets of it have survived. Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve tablet version have been recovered. The best copies were discovered from the library ruins of the 7th century B.C Assyrian King Ashurbanipal.
The Epic is divided in twelve tablets. The story is told by someone that shows admiration for the ancient king. Maybe a high priest of the Sumerian temples. He tells someone to look for a mysterious chest and to take the Lapis Lazuli Tablet that the King Gilgamesh left behind.
Gilgamesh was a hated King, son of King Lugalbanda and also of Goddess Ninsun. He mistreated the elders and also killed the young ones in mortal combat. His own people pleaded to the gods to stop Gilgamesh. The gods decided to create a wild beast named Enkidu, half man-half beast.
Enkidu lived in the forest with the animals. Also feared by hunters.
King Gilgamesh heard the stories of the beast so he sent a priestess to seduce the beast. Samhat seduced Enkidu and after that he became a human being.
Enkidu decided to go to Uruk and he fought with Gilgamesh. Nobody knows who won, although some consider Enkidu as the winner. What we know is that after the fight, the enemies became great friends.
They started a series of adventures slaying monsters.
When Gilgamesh placed his crown on his head, the Princess Ishtar raised her eyes to the beauty of Gilgamesh.
“Come along, Gilgamesh, be you my husband,
to me grant your Lusciousness’.
Be you my husband and I will be your wife.
with wheels of gold and horns of amber.
It will be harnessed with great storming mountain mules!”
The Goddess Ishtar (Innana) fell in love with King Gilgamesh and tried to seduce him. Gilgamesh rejected her because he knew that all Ishtars lovers ended badly. Not happy with the rejection Ishtar sent the Bull of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh but the two friends killed it.
The bull had thickly coated horns of Lapis Lazuli. Gilgamesh filled them with oil and offered it in sacrifice to his father. The Bull of Heaven is what we know now as the constellation called Taurus.
The Gods were angry with them but they couldn’t kill Gilgamesh because his mother was a Goddess. So they decided to kill Enkidu.
After the death of his best friend, Gilgamesh went on a quest to discover the secret of eternal life.
He found the mythical Utnapishtim who told him how he survived the great flood on a vessel he made. Nobody doubts now that Utnapishtim was the inspiration for biblical Noah. Utnapishtim told him where to find the flower of youth. Gilgamesh was determined to take the flower to the council of elders of Uruk. This showed us that Gilgamesh was no more a cruel and selfish king. On his was back to Uruk a snake stole the flower….
We find many mentions of Lapis Lazuli in Gilgamesh, always as a way of making us understand the extraordinary worth of the object within which it is embedded. Gilgamesh is one of the earliest references in the history of mineralogy where precious stones are mentioned.
This is only one of the beautiful stories of the Gilgamesh Epic.
Other Legends of Lapis Lazuli also involved the Goddess Ishtar..
Legend of Ishtar & Tammuz
Ishtar descended to hell to free his brother-lover Tammuz. Goddess Ereskigal had kidnapped Tammuz. Legend tells that Ishtar had a Lapis Lazuli necklace that protected her from the dangers in her voyage through the under world and the seven guardian doors.
On the first door she left her shoes to the guardian demon which symbolized giving up her Will.
In the second door she left her ankle jewelry that symbolized giving up her Ego.
On the third door she gave her cloth that meant giving up her Mind.
On the fourth door she gave up the golden bowls covering her breasts. This meant giving up her sexual activity.
And on the fifth door she gave up her Lapis Lazuli necklace that meant breaking off from the ecstasies of illumination.
Did somebody noticed that Lapis Lazuli was used to enter the Fifth door? In my post Lapis Lazuli Religion, I wrote that lapis was also the fifth stone on the High Priests Breastplate. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Of all the research I’ve done of Lapis Lazuli nobody has ever made a single comment about this.
On the sixth and seventh door she gave her earrings and also her thousand petal crown that meant giving up her magic and her divinity respectively.
Ereshkigal killed Ishtar who was later revived by the gods.
Another incredible story is the one about the Shipwrecked Sailor. Our main character was a sailor that shipped out of Egypt on a trading voyage to the mines of the Pharaoh Amen-em-het. The great ship was rowed by a hundred and fifty sailors.
A terrible storm hit the ship and drove it to land. Our sailor seized a piece of wood and fling himself into the sea just as the ship ran aground. A moment later it was smashed to pieces and every man perished.
The sailor thanked the Gods because this was an island as no man has seen. He found within easy reach, figs and grapes, all manner of good herbs, berries and grain, melons of all kinds, fishes and birds for the taking. But it was empty from human companion.
On the third day he kindled a fire and cooked meat and fish. Suddenly he heard a noise like thunder. He saw the trees lashing and the earth shook beneath him. When he raised his head he saw a horrific site. Moving towards him he saw a serpent over a hundred feet long and with a great tail.
“All his body shone as if it was covered with gold, and his eyebrows were as if they were inlaid with real Lapis Lazuli”.
The serpent coiled around him and asked the sailor, “what has brought you, what has brought here, little one? Say, what has brought you to my island? If you do not tell me at once I will show you what it is to be burnt with fire, what is it to be burnt to nothing and become thing invisible? Speak quickly, I am waiting to hear what I have not heard before, some new thing”!
So the sailor explained the reason he was in the serpent’s island and how lucky he was to have survived.
The serpent told him he was there for a purpose and that he was going to stay there for four months when a ship from Egypt will arrive. He told the sailor that he will die of old age.
He also told him that he lived with his brethren and children, that they were seventy five serpents in all.
So the four months passed and the Egyptian ship arrived. The serpent gave him gifts and precious perfumes, incense, ivory and other precious things.
The sailor promised to visit him but the serpent told him that when he left the island will vanish away.
This magical tale is immortalized on an Egyptian papyrus dated back to circa 2,200 B.C. This papyrus can be found in St. Petersburg.
The White Cat
Countess D’Aulnoy (1605-1705) wrote “The White Cat”. D’Aulnoy was a French fairy tale writer.
The story is about a prince that got lost as a result of looking for his father the king. He seeks refugee inside a castle. The castle had walls made of crystal and doors made from Lapis Lazuli and covered in pearls. The owner of the castle was a beautiful white cat with many servants.
The prince fell in love with the cat after visiting her several times. The prince chopped the cats head because it was the only way to break the spell the cat-princess was on. He married the princess and went back to the castle.
These beautiful stories full of mysteries and enigmatic messages have numerous references of lapis lazuli. The gems symbolized royalty and great wealth. We can appreciate the importance Lapis was to the ancient civilizations.
And it is also important for us in Nammu.com where you can find the best quality jewelry of Lapis Lazuli.