Sample Lesson

From the book: Myths and Culture of Akkad and Sumer

The Third Year Student and the Dragon

The Third Year Student and the Dragon

The stories from Genesis, flowing like a continuous river of magnificent imaginations from the Creation on through to Abraham and the Patriarchs, when taken as one whole streaming sequence of poetic/mythological pictures, are particularly suited to the developing being of the third year student. To treat these stories as history or fact, a matter of belief for many adherents of Christianity or Judaism, is to miss the point of the power of poetry and the truth imparted by a poetic image—for it has the potential to say much more than the literal rendering. When one looks at the entire sequence of images, an overall gesture of development can be glimpsed, and it is in looking at this developmental gesture that one comes to see the contrast between the Israelites and their neighbors as well as the seed-like development of a shift in consciousness that is occurring in the child.

I have mentioned on the previous page how the worldview of Mesopotamia was the characteristic Eastern view of the great cosmic cycles of nature—there is really not a history there, at least in the sense of progress, for all will be repeated eternally. This great cycling of nature is conceived in many mythologies as the Serpent Swallowing its own Tail, or the Uroboros. This is a fitting image for the great cosmic cycles seen on the earth and the heavens above. The serpent sloughs off its skin each season continually renewing itself in the same manner that the perennial grasses return each spring following the death of winter. The Uroboros is swallowing itself, while at the same time it is renewing and growing. Nature is this great cycle, everything that is born and created becomes food for something else even if is only food for worms and maggots; Nature continually births new beings of plant, stone, animal and human, while swallowing the same. In order to become an individual, one wrests oneself out of this cosmic circling to become one who is free (endowed with free will and independent judgment) and transcendent to nature. One frees oneself from the cosmic serpent. One can turn to the work of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and especially the work of Erich Neumann in The Origins and History of Consciousness, to see an analysis of the mythological images that arise when a human being develops on the path of individuation. Keep two things in mind here: the first glimmerings of the call to individuation is sounded in the being of the child at this age, and with this comes the sense of oneself as possessing an inner life (transcendent to the affairs of the outer reality). In the same way that Israel discovers the transcendent and monotheistic god, the child is beginning to sense the transcendent and monistic sense of his “I am”.

The human being passes through many stages of individuation. The young child who has learned to walk, talks, and says “I” to himself is at one stage. The nine-year change is another crisis point, where the division of the inner life and outer world is felt as a deep cleavage in one’s being. Adolescence is the next crisis point where this process has completed itself, and one fully has the sense that his/her inner thoughts and feelings are wholly transcendent to the surrounding world [for the adolescent there is the danger of alienation because of this; “no one really knows me” she says] In the years ahead one will pass into the stages of individuation that characterize the “heroes/ heroines journey” of adult life.

When one begins to individuate from the cosmic serpent, the image of the great cycles of Nature, it begins to assume a new image. The first image is that of the Great Mother, the protective mother who is provider of all things. Nature in this image is like the Garden of Eden, where all is nourishment, warmth, security and benevolence. One “walks with god” in this stage of development, but really does not yet possess free will; the baby at her mother’s breast hardly knows that she is different from the mother. Should one continue on the path to individuation, leaving the protective arms of the Great Mother to set out on one’s own path, becoming differentiated from the mother, Nature recoils with a frightening image, that of the Dragon. This is the Uroboros that has cycled eternally in its rounds lost in deep sleep of unconsciousness now awakened by the emerging consciousness. The serpent is disturbed, and its first inclination is to swallow the emerging consciousness, assimilating it back into the deep sleep of the cycling rounds of Nature. This is the significance of many of the Hero vs. Dragon motifs that abound in mythological literature, and it is the particular value of the story of Marduk conquering the Dragon in this collection. The “fairy world” of the young child is coming to an end with the nine-year change; the world of nature is seen with new “empirical” eyes, and there is often regressive behavior to reclaim the past form of consciousness. The unconscious innocence where previously the young child lived, wants to re-assimilate the newly emerging separate consciousness of the nine-year-old. Uroboros becomes a dragon that each of us must contend with at different stages of life, for it always wants to carry us back into an earlier state of being—it is a retarding force to the development of maturity, the full actualization of one’s powers of thought, emotion and will. Life for the conscious being separated out of the unconscious cycles of nature is filled with danger; later in life there are many ways that the Dragon swallows the individual, and his/her consciousness, freewill and exercise of conscience. For the path of the adult, one might fall prone to drug addiction, alcoholism, immerse and lose one’s Self in trivia, sports, games, the world of entertainment, the pursuit of possessions, fame, etc. The mother of the nine-year-old may have to contend with “baby-talk”, “clinginess” unfounded fears, hysteria, nightmares, emotional outbursts, and the like.

Marduk, Slayer of the Dragon

As a show of appreciation, all of the gods and goddesses set to work creating a splendid palace for Marduk, the elected prince of heaven. When this work was completed they stood before him and spoke as one heavenly chorus, “Go, Prince Marduk, slay the dragon Tiamat who would destroy us and all good things that we have created. May the winds scatter all of her blood to the unknown quarters of the universe!” Marduk then took to his right arm the bow, and having fixed the string, hung the quivers at his side. Then he seized flashing lightning before him, and created a net large and strong enough to ensnare the Dragon. He filled his body with Divine Fire. He let loose the winds and bade them to stand beside him. The four winds would assist him in stretching the net to encircle the Dragon. Then he gathered behind him one of his most formidable weapons, the hurricane. His chariot, made of searing tempestuous winds and drawn by four swift and violent steeds fearless in battle, was brought to him. Grasping the thunderbolt in hand, he arrayed himself with these terrors and went forth to battle Tiamat the Wrathful.

As son of Ea, the intelligence of the universe, Marduk could divine the thoughts of other beings. When he approached the watery and abysmal womb where the Dragon Tiamat slumbered, his power was such that he could enter right into the center and most secret part of her abode. There he found Kingu, her husband and general of the demonic army coiled within. Marduk could read Kingu’s plans and strategies immediately.

Kingu leapt swiftly out of that place, for seeing Marduk arrayed with the four winds, armed with bolts of lightning and his body filled with fire, the Demon general began to shake with terror. His legs became weak and his mind addled. He stumbled and staggered away toward the demon legions ready to issue the order of attack but his voice could not muster a sound as though all of his breath had been swallowed into the rousing winds surrounding Marduk. Without a voice he was not able to use the Tablets of Destinies as a weapon against his adversary. The demon army recoiled with fear at the sight of the mighty Marduk; suddenly they became helpless before him—their claws and nails began to curl back upon themselves, and they clenched and chattered their teeth so hard that the sharp fangs began to crack and fall from their mouths like a rain of hailstones.

Lesson Activity Painting:

Marduk Conquers the Dragon Tiamat

This is the most difficult painting among all are presented in this book, so one might pass over it in favor of the easier paintings in the other lessons. It is easiest to begin with semi-dry paper (rather than fully wet) and paint the eyes, teeth and mouth of the monster. Use red to paint for the inside of the mouth and create a saw-tooth form above and below with the red paint—this allows the white negative space to become teeth. Notice a white stripe is left for the center of the eyes. These were painted first in red, and after they dried, yellow-green was glazed over them.

Now that the eyes and mouth are in place, one can use the large watercolor brush to brush water over the rest of the paper so that these areas can be painted with a wet-on-wet method. Deep indigo blues were used to surround the dragon figure, but you can mix some Prussian blue with a bit of black. The figure of Marduk is painted in red, the diagonal of the lightning spear is lifted out, leaving white paper showing, and as this dries, yellow is painted in. When the red body of Marduk is almost dry one can carefully bring in the blue background around his figure. The indigo blue mixed with some yellow makes the deep green of the dragon’s body and this color is brought around the eyes and mouth.