Friday, August 24, 2012

The Lamassu

Hailing from the ancient Middle East, (Mesopotamia,  Babylon, Assyria) the Lamassu is a human hybrid creature of great benevolence.
Typically portrayed with the body of bull, and head of a bearded man, complete with wings - they were considered protective deities. Colossal statues of these beast have been found in the ruins of Babylonian and Assyrian cities.  The statues were positioned as guardians at the entrances to palaces and small carved tablets depicting these beasts have been found placed under the door thresholds. This indicates that they were sentinal guardians.

In Mesopotamian mythology Lamassu help people fight evil, and each day they were said to hold the gates of dawn open so that the sun god could rise.

Rather uniquely the Lamassu carvings have two aspects, when viewed from the side they look as though they are striding forward, yet when viewed from the front appear to be standing guard. You can see in this picture how they have done this by placing an extra leg in the carving.

 In some texts the Lamassu seem to be depicted with a lions body, rather than a bulls. In my humble opinion, I think this is where many of the flying Manticore imagery has its origins. In my post about the manticore, I mention that in more recent times, there seems to have been the addition of wings to the traditionally wingless creature. It's my belief that there may have been some level of confusion between the manticore (Head of a man and body of a lion) and the Lamassu (Head of a man, body of bull or Lion with wings). It's just a thought....
Manticore with wings
Human heads on animal bodies is a popular theme throughout mythology and the Lamassu is no exception.

I have never read of a Lamassu in popular fiction, however, according to wikipedia, in the Chronicals of Narnia there is a human headed bull who is part of Aslan's army, and they also have made an appearance in Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Dungeons and Dragons.

Anyhoo, that's me for the day. Enjoy your weekend.

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