Friday, October 28, 2011

Ancient Zombies

As everyone begins preparations for the most important religious holiday of the year--Halloween (what else would it be? Yom Kippur? Easter? Diwali? Ramadan?)--I thought I would provide some seasonal cheer for your undead pleasure.

 While the jury is still out on whether or not Jesus was a zombie, who did come from the dead and encourage us to drink blood and eat flesh (although drinking blood lends itself to a more vampiric reading), zombies appear to be as old as civilization itself. The earliest reference I know of occurs in Mesopotamian stories of the Descent of Ishtar and, perhaps a bit more well-known, the Epic of Gilgamesh.

In the latter, Ishtar threatens:
"Father, please give me the Bull of Heaven, and let me strike Gilgamesh down!
Let me...Gilgamesh in his dwelling!
If you don't give me the Bull of Heaven,
I shall strike (?) [                                     ]
I shall set my face towards the infernal regions,
I shall raise up the dead,
and they will eat the living,
I shall make the dead outnumber the living." (trans. Stephanie Dalley)

This is paralleled in the Descent of Ishtar, she makes the same threat to the gatekeeper of the underworld, which is the realm of her sister, Ereshkigal.  So here's to the Queen of the Living Dead!

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