Sunday, February 12, 2017

Human-Headed Owl

Small, baked-clay plaque with human-headed owl, Mesopotamia or Syria, 19th-18th century BCE.

But why a human-headed owl? Well, the demon known to Babylonians as Lilītu and Hebrews as Lilith was called The Queen of the Night, and we was sometimes depicted with an owl's wings and feet. So this might be her, although honestly it doesn't look female to me. But some sort of night demon for sure. From Timeline Auctions.


G. Verloren said...

Such figures weren't "demons" to the Babylonians. That's simply how the monotheistic Hebrews thought of them, literally "demonizing" the gods and spirits of their rivals.

Christianity did the exact same thing to the Germanic and Scandinavian Pagans, calling their gods "devils", and branding their followers as worshipers of Satan. And many other gods from many other cultures as well.

It turns out that when the core tenet of your faith is the total rejection of anything beyond your own cultural beliefs, claiming that someone else's god is evil and dedicated to the total destruction of all you hold dear is a particularly effective way to motivate your followers to wage cruel and vicious war on others who dare commit the crime of being different or dissenting from your views.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Abrahamic traditions gave rise to some of the worst attrocities in human history? While groups like the Buddhists were absorbing local deities into a larger syncretic tapestry of beliefs differing from region to region, the Muslims, Christians, and Jews were carving bloody swathes of death and suffering through their neighbors and brutally oppressing anyone who would not conform and was too weak to resist.

And is it also any wonder that even with the waning of religiosity in the modern world, people still demonize The Other, and still seek to use violence to force others to conform to their preferred notions? Muslims and Christians worship the exact same god, and yet they're still routinely murdering each other over differences of personal belief or interpretation.

No one seems to be able to live and let live. The tradition of forcibly imposing their views of the universe on others with violence is so deeply rooted in the Abrahamic cultures that I'm not sure we can be eradicated without destroying all vestiges of the Abrahamic religions themselves first. But they're wrapped up in our collective history and society on a fundamental level, shaping everything that's happened in the Western world for the past 2000 years and more.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Thanks Verloren, what a fantastic opinion post. You're quite right, I think, about the two religion fanatisms that see only devils outside of their domain. What you rightly call Abrahamic faiths is the main cultural culprit of wars and suffering in the present day world.