Saturday, July 19, 2014

Queen of the night

The Burney Relief and myself, London. 
Click on any image for a hi-rex view.
If you google the words OWL and GODDESS, The Burney Relief will come up at the top of the list. I know because I've been digging for these words and how they connect. I was recently in London and my hotel was just a few blocks away from The British Museum (home of the Burney Relief). Curiously, I was staying at the Hotel Athens, Athens named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom with a companion little owl.

Anyway, I walked to the museum, and found it within minutes. It as rather small given all that has been written about it.

It is a Mesopotamian terra-cotta plaque depicting a winged, nude, goddess-like figure with bird's talons, flanked by owls, and perched upon supine lions. The relief, known as The Queen of the Night, has dated it between 1800 and 1750 BCE. It originates from southern Iraq, but the exact site where it was found is unknown. There is much debate whether the woman represents Lilith, Lilitu, Inanna, Ishtar, or Ereshkigal. Also, is she a goddess or a demon? All these points are unknown, but open to endless speculation, making any research a bottomless pit of wishy-washiness.

I recognize the temptation to cherry pick the available data (and there is a lot of it), then latch onto someone's conclusion that matches my own avenue of thought. I reference the Burney Relief in my ongoing book project as well as my presentations. All I can really say is that this image seems to represent something more demonic than the goddess Athena (also seen with owls), and that the myth of Lilith was that she could shape shift into an owl, fly at night and drink the blood of babies. So, this tablet might represent the more ominous aspects of the mythology of owls.

the card accompning the Burney Relief
What I can say is that this image is really tidy. As an artist, I am impressed with the simple use of symmetry, and the stylization of the owls and the lions. What is also interesting is that the woman's face is a little bit sloppy and poorly proportioned. From my own direct experience, it is terribly challenging to capture the subtleties of the feminine face. So, I can sympathize with the artist.

The Burney Relief
___________________________________________________

5 comments:

Knocker said...

Ah, I missed the symbolism for the rod and ring of justice. I don't suppose they necessarily mean she doesn't mete a swift and maybe cruel justice. Her eyes appear very large too.

Brian Short said...

I'm drawn to the thought that she may be both demon and goddess; as in, any such force has both dark and lightness to it, at least from a human perspective. Force is simply force, power. Who knows what she's up to?

Red Pill Junkie said...

I guess the artist deliberately left her eyes hollow, to make them look as if they were completely dark.

Trish said...

Shadow and light, good and evil, male/female, yin/yang. Contrasts. Maybe that's what she symbolizes.

raffriff42 said...

god or demon, what's the difference? They are both mostly indifferent to the affairs of mortals. Good and evil are for humans; the gods just do what they do...that was the attitude then, I think.

I see an object in a household shrine (too small to be a public piece) that might have been used as a symbol of feminine power for meditation purposes, by the lady of the house. Perhaps a symbolic portrait of the lady herself, in her power form.