Hurrian, Hittites, and Anatolia, oh my! We look at the story of the goddess, Šauška, who spread her influence throughout the world. We also talk about veggie divination, World War II espionage, our favorite drunk snacks (and how they’re not frogs), and what impression we’ll leave behind in the world once we’re gone.
Audible - Go to audible.com/spirits or text spirits to 500-500 to start your free trial and redeem your free audiobook. This week Julia recommends The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp.
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 89, Sauska.
Julia: Oh, man. I do love Middle East stories. I do love the old, ancient mythology ones. They're very good and I think that this episode is going to reflect that because it is pretty wonderful.
Amanda: It's like when you learn Latinic or Germanic or old Norse root to a word that we use now in English and then you read the list of other words that come from that root and you're like, "Oh, my god. I love language."
Julia: Everything makes sense now.
Amanda: That's how I feel. Yup. That's how I feel when we learn about a proto goddess who led to so many other ideas and concepts that we still use.
Julia: Do you know who's a concept that we still use and celebrate everyday, Amanda?
Amanda: Is that our brand new patrons,
Julia: It is.
Amanda: ... Who even though new are already part of our daily lives?
Julia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amanda: Antia, Alison, Tai, Madison and Gab. I hope it's not creepy because you guys are already integral parts of our lives, as well as our supporting producer-level patrons, our old favs, Ashley Marie, Deborah, Eeyore, Ella, Jessica, Josh, Cristina, Maria, Neil, Phil, Philip and Ryan.
Julia: People will tell stories of you all as you traveled from the Middle East to Egypt. It will make sense later.
Amanda: That is a good one. I'm actually reading a book about the history of the senses. There was a description about smell and how in ancient Egypt and then ancient Rome and then the rest of the world, like everything was perfumed for high society and the royals, fucking everything. Pour rosewater on you. Put rose petals under your feet so they get crushed as you walk and smell good.
Amanda: 10 different perfumes on your body. It was maximalist, extra sensory smell style and I'm very into that.
Julia: You know who else we're really into?
Amanda: Oh, my goodness. Our legend-level patrons who have a combination of sense that is not overwhelming but delectable, Audra, Cassie, Jack, Leann, Lorelei, Mercedes and Sandra.
Julia: Y'all are wonderful human beings and we couldn't do this without you.
Amanda: That book for anybody who's interested is called A Natural History of the Senses. Julia, the sense that I care most about right now is taste, and to a lesser degree, smell. Can you please tell me about the drink that we were drinking during this lovely episode?
Julia: I made us flying fig cocktails, which if you are one of our patrons who get our recipe cards, you also could try that. I swapped out the traditional recipe which calls for just regular vodka with this fig-flavored vodka called Figenza and it was really, really dope.
Amanda: Any drink involving figs or the taste of figs you know I'm mad behind.
Julia: Oh, I know.
Amanda: We would also love to thank Audible, which is our sponsor this week. If you go to audible.com/spirits or text the word "spirits" to 500-500, you can get a free 30-day trial and your first book is free.
Julia: Yeah, we'll be telling you a little bit more about Audible during our refill.
Amanda: Beautiful. Before we let you guys get into this wonderful episode, we did want to remind you that on our website spiritspodcast.com we have a list of all the other shows that Julia and I do. We have a list of the interviews that we give. We were just on this wonderful podcast about podcasting titled Tuned In, Dialed Up by our friends Will and Gavin where Julia and myself and Eric Silver from Join the Party and HORSE talked about social media and community management and all the ups and downs of being indie podcasters with wonderful communities like this one. Check that out. We'll have a link in the description or spiritspodcast.com/collabs.
Julia: Yeah, Tuned In, Dialed Up is a great show. Will and Gavin are both amazing people who are really doing the podcasting world a lot of justice by reviewing and I highly recommend checking it out even past our episode because all of the episodes are wonderful.
Amanda: Yeah. Just started a couple of months ago so you can get in on that train really early. All right. Well, without further ado, enjoy Spirits Podcast episode 89, Sauska.
Julia: Amanda, we talk a lot about cool ass women on this podcast.
Amanda: It's basically what it's for.
Julia: It's basically for me telling you about cool, cool women that I've discovered through mythology.
Amanda: Listen, there are a lot of worse reasons to start a podcast and we have heard some of them.
Julia: Yeah, I've heard plenty. Today, I'm going to take you to a area that we haven't really talked about a lot, and we're going to talk about one of the coolest goddesses. She's just a goddess of everything. I think you're going to enjoy her. Her name is Sauska.
Amanda: I like it already.
Julia: She is a super interesting goddess who was originally a Hurrian goddess, but then was later adopted into the Hittite pantheon. This is all Near East areas. The Hurrians were a Bronze Age people from the Near East living in Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia. The Hurrians were eventually integrated into the Hittite empire who were also an ancient Anatolian people who reached their height around 1600 BCE.
Amanda: We're talking pretty far back then.
Julia: Oh, yeah. The Hurrian religion was polytheistic. Though because it was spread across a large area, there are some regional differences. But the religion dates back to the third millennium BCE. Third millennium.
Amanda: Oh, my gosh.
Julia: 3000 BCE.
Julia: I know. We're going real far back in this episode. I'm really excited about it. I don't think we've done a really, really deep history in a really long time. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Amanda: No, we often speculate about the origins of some of these stories that we hear again and again, but I don't think we've talked specifically about anything really before ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia.
Julia: Yeah. I think we've maybe done for more of our Eastern stuff like when we do China and Japan, those date back pretty far. But when we're talking about non-Eastern or Near East or European, nothing is dated this far back so far, so I'm really, really excited.
Amanda: Let's dive in.
Julia: Kind of important for the context of Sauska. The Hurrians divided their gods into male and female groups. The male gods, known as the enna turroḫena, were led by the weather god Teššub while the female gods, known as the enna aštoḫena, were led by the mother goddess Ḫebat. Many of the Hurrian myths were inspired by Mesopotamian and Syrian influences. The Hurrians treated earth and heaven as gods, but they were not depicted as anthropomorphic deities. Rather they're still the heavens and the earth physically but they are also considered deities.
Since creation, these two deities had rested on the shoulders of the giant Ubelluri who separated earth and heaven from each other with a copper sickle.
Julia: I know. Good imagery, right?
Amanda: Cleaves them apart?
Julia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Julia: The Hurrian gods made offerings to the lower gods, the enna turena, who are found in the underworld. These offerings are made by digging pits known as abi and placing the offerings within the earth so that the lower gods can take them. It's a really physical mythology and a really physical essence of worship which I really enjoy.
Amanda: You know I fuck with that. I love it.
Julia: I know you do. Now, the Hurrians deified cult implements like incense burners, offering dishes, all that kind of stuff, as well as divine symbols. For instance, a weapon of Teššub is deified as was Ḫebat's bed. If it's associated with a god, it becomes deified in its own right.
Amanda: Meaning people worship it, give offerings or think about it as equivalent almost with the god itself.
Julia: Yes. Kind of like Christianity with the cross is a good way to view it. Any images of the gods were cleaned, anointed and dressed like they were the real things. Statues were worshiped as though they were actual embodiments of the gods.
There wasn't a lot of home worship. Rather the religion was focused around cult centers and these acted as societal centers as well which it's really important when we're talking about religion to understand, hey, in a lot of sense culture surrounds a religion, especially early on in these kind of cultures. Some of the important ones, particularly for Sauska, were Lawazantiya, Kummanni and Yazilikaya.
Also magic played a really important role in these religious practices. Rain rituals in particular because Teššub was the chief God and also the storm god. Divination practices were also very important to worship and just general connectedness to the gods. In particular, they would use hepatoscopy, which is a form of divination where omens are read through the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals.
Amanda: Oh, my goodness. That is a first for me to hear of that.
Julia: I feel like a lot of the cultures that we've talked about in the past have done that, but it's the first time we've mentioned on the show so entrails.
Amanda: I love specialized words get at me.
Julia: I want to do a whole episode on just different forms of divination.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Julia: I saw on Tumblr, I think, someone was talking about how there's really interesting forms of divination and one of them is, hey, ask a question, carve your question into different radishes or bulbs that you're going to try and grow. Then whichever one sprouts first is your answer. Like a yes or no question.
Amanda: I dig it.
Julia: I think it's really cool. As I suggested earlier, Hurrian and Hittite mythologies are really closely intertwined and the syncretism in this area is extremely common because that's just how religion works. We've talked about this plenty of times before.
Sauska is pretty similar and is identified with several other powerful female deities from other cultures such as our girl Innana who's a Syrian/Akkadian, Isis from Egypt, Astarte from the Phoenicians, and even well more known ones like Usha from India, Aphrodite from the Greeks, Amaterasu from Japan. There's this whole interconnectedness between the East and the West in this culture and it's really, really interesting.
Amanda: It feels so cosmopolitan, like so connected to the rest of the world.
Julia: I think part of it has to do with the fact that the Near East was a trading hub for a lot of the European and Far East Asian countries and also the idea that, hey, this predates a lot of stuff that we're talking about here. The fact that it's spreading is because of human beings are interacting with it and then bringing it home to their own belief systems and incorporating it into that. It's really, really cool and really interesting.
Amanda: It's almost like looking at a landscape or a forest. You'll be like, "Man, how weird is it that oak trees are all around this forest?" Then you look and you're like, "Oh, wait. There's one oak tree that's older than everything else in the middle of the circle." Of course seeds are going to spread all around. We're reading narrative back in a process that seems linear. There's a Er myth and everyone else comes to contact with it. It spreads. Human beings do their thing. They tell stories and here we are.
Julia: Oh, I just love the idea of human beings and human culture as a forest. That's so nice. Such a good ecosystem. Such a good analogy. I'm going to sit here and think about that.
Amanda: I'll give you a little bit more time to marinate in that because I was in Upstate New York in Adirondacks recently and on a boat, which is my favorite place to be on the lake with a book and some beer and nothing to do. For the first time, I really noticed that pine cones on trees are at the very tippy top of the tree. It's not really in the lower more mature branches. It's at the tippy top that the pine cones are forming and my dad who I was with was like, "That's weird that all the pine cones are in the very top." I was like, "No, dad. That's because that's where the wind is going to take them the farthest and the tree is trying to propagate itself for the farthest possible amount and seeds are so great." I freaked out. It was amazing. Just seeds are so cool.
Julia: That's so cool. I think that just if you think of human beings as a biological thing, you think about it and you understand that life wants to propagate itself and ideas are very much like a human concept of life. You know what I mean?
Amanda: Yeah. Understanding the world and your place in it and feeling connected to the stuff you can see and not feeling completely just tossed around on the waves of life, feeling as if you have some kind of control over the weather or the seasons or life and death, and sickness and health, whatever. That is a vital necessity to living. There is a reason why isolation is so dangerous for people and weaponized or one of the worst parts of dealing with mental illness because connection is a fundamental requirement of human life and it's just makes complete sense.
Julia: It reminds me of the idea that series of mushrooms can interact via their root systems.
Amanda: Super organism.
Julia: I know. Oh, God. This is great. I have to continue telling the story, but we can talk about this at the end of the episode please. Like many of the goddesses that I listed before we went off the rails a little bit, Sauska is called upon to increase fertility. Fertility of one's ability to conceive a child. Fertility as in one's physical beauty. Even like fertility of the earth. She's covering fertility everywhere.
Additionally, she could be called on for success in military conquest or even success in business, as well as protection and healing. She is just covering all the bases of necessary human life and I love it. She could achieve these latter things, so the protection of the healing, through shining her radiant light into the darkness of the human mind which would lead to illumination and transcendence.
Julia: This is actually very similar to Usha and Amaterasu. Though which came first is a subject of debate between scholars.
Julia: For example, Dr. Liny Srinivasan maintains that Sauska was the Hurrian name for the goddess Washukanni who is previously the Egyptian goddess Isis and the same Rigveda Usha. Basically stating that Isis was the original goddess from whom all of these are based off of. Others would argue that the Hurrians conceived their goddess directly from Inanna who is the first goddess of this type.
Keeping all of this in mind, it's actually not surprising that Sauska wasn't just honored by the Hurrians and later the Hittites but the Egyptians as well though as a visiting deity. I think this is the first time we've ever talked about visiting deities before, but it's a really, really interesting practice. We know this because of the Amarna Letters, which are correspondents between Egyptian pharaohs and the rulers of other nations that were found in the city of Amarna.
There are at least two letters in this collection that mentioned Sauska. One of the instances is by a Mitanni king known as Tushratta who sent his daughter, Taduhepa, to Egypt to be married with a dowry that included a statute of Sauska.
Julia: It's incredible that we can track these things down through like, "Hey, I sent my daughter to marry one of your dudes with this cool statue." And now she's being worshiped there. How amazing is that?
Amanda: I'm not going to lie. I do sometimes think about what the written records of my life would lead future investigators or scholars or whatever to think about me. Sometimes I'll be like, "Yeah, mom. I'm at 34th Street right now. I'm walking to wherever." My smartphone can track me but I don't know. I want to have people knowing where I am if I disappear. That's very morbid or just thinking about the miscellany that I leave behind in my life like the receipts and the pins and the ticket stubs and I don't know. It's a portrait of my life and I wonder sometimes, not in a super morbid way, about what that picture would look like to somebody outside of myself.
Julia: Yeah, I really appreciate that, too. Somewhat of a tangent. I studied the history of espionage during World War II when I was in college. One of the more interesting operations that we looked into was one called Operation Mincemeat which was designed in order to convince the Nazis that the Allied Forces were going to be attacking one area when they were really going to be attacking another. The entire plot revolved around downing a plane that already had a dead body in it and hiding little things like secret letters that they were supposed to be delivering but also little ticket stubs to show where they have been traveling and letters that they wrote to their fake girlfriend and all that kind of thing. It's really, really interesting and I love this idea that obviously our "histories" can be misconstrued and manipulated in that way and it's really, really cool.
Amanda: I know. I'm a sucker for false trail in a crime novel or a TV show or anything. It's very fun. It's not just reconstructing a crime but people understanding that's the human urge is to look for stories and piece things together so anything that's self-aware enough to play with that makes me happy.
Julia: Yeah, I'm with you on that. Interestingly, the dowry was part of a treaty between Egypt and Mitanni. In his letter sent along with his daughter and the statue of Sauska, Tushratta offers a prayer asking for protection from Sauska.
It reads, "Thus Sauska, mistress of all the lands, says: 'I wish to go to Egypt, a country that I love, and then return.' Now, I herewith send her, and she is on her way. Now, in the time, too, of my father she went to this country and just as earlier she dwelt there and they honored her, may my brother honor her, then at his pleasure let her go so that she may come back. May Sauska, the mistress of heaven, protect us, my brother and me, 100,000 years, and may our mistress grant us both great joy."
Amanda: That is a pretty full wish, not just let me make it to Egypt because then you ain't making it back if you don't ask the god for that specifically. Well done on writing a true and full wish.
Julia: Yes. This is the monkey's claw. You have to be really specific about your wish or your weird genie wish. Otherwise, it will turn against you in dramatic irony. I should note that this prayer protection didn't actually work out great for Tushratta.
Amanda: Oh, no.
Julia: Egypt pulled its support of Tushratta shortly after that. Tushratta was assassinated by his own son and the Hittites conquered Mitanni.
Amanda: Okay. Okay. Basically the opposite.
Julia: Yeah, basically the opposite. It's very Shakespearean if we're being honest here.
Amanda: Yeah. Any fratricide? Fratricide? No, it's killing your brother. Never mind.
Julia: Patricide. Patricide is the one we're looking for and regicide technically.
Amanda: Yeah. I got some casual patricide, some causal regicide. Very, very rich stuff for play.
Julia: Ironically Sauska became the patron goddess of the Hittite king, the one that conquered Mitanni and also probably killed the son that killed the dad, and she became revered by Hittite rulers from then on.
Amanda: What was the idea of the visiting god, a god that you would send with your emissary to keep them safe? Or, hey, we are not just sending an emissary of our ruling family, but also of our pantheon?
Julia: Both honestly. It's a matter of protection for the person who is traveling to this new land and giving them an idea, giving them a spirit to worship, but at the same time it's also, hey, our relationship is going to go so well that we are entrusting the boons of our goddess onto you.
Amanda: Wow, that's pretty serious stuff.
Julia: Yeah, it's really neat. With all of that background, I want to get into some actual stories of Sauska because that's just the background, Amanda.
Julia: We got plenty to go.
Julia: But, first, why don't we go get a refill real quick?
Amanda: I'm down.
Julia, I did something adventurous last weekend.
Julia: I don't believe you but go on.
Amanda: I did some outdoor sports.
Amanda: I went to a lake, a lake with no bathrooms, with just a porta-potty and I kayaked all around that lake. I was out there with my sunblock, with my shorts, with my sports bra doing my kayaking, hanging out, looking at the reeds, listening to birds, getting mosquito bites. I was really proud of myself for trying something different.
Julia: I'm very proud of you as well.
Amanda: Thank you. I was using my hands to kayak and getting a little bit wet because it's a lake and I'm two inches above the water. I couldn't read a book using my hands which is my ideal situation. But do you know what I had?
Julia: Did you have Audible?
Amanda: I had Audible in my earbuds, so I was able to listen to a wonderful book as I was enjoying the sights using my hands, doing my thing. I'm sure if I drove, I would listen to a lot of audiobooks as well. It's all the ways that you love podcasts but you can have one long bingeable narrative and I am super into it.
Julia: Actually I just finished listening to an Audible book as well. Can I tell you a little bit about it?
Amanda: Please do.
Julia: The book was called The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp. Very, very good. It's basically post-Katrina New Orleans but about magic and gods and lost things. It's totally up my alley. You know me. I read the description. I was like, "Oh. Oh, no. This is perfect."
Amanda: Oh, wait. This is it. I love it. You always have the great magic related recommendations which I love.
Julia: I do my best.
Amanda: If you all want to check out Julia's recommendation or any other of the tons and tons and tons of books that Audible has to offer, you can go to audible.com/spirits or text the word "spirits" to 500-500 for a free 30-day trial with a free audiobook so you get not only the trial but also a free book to start your journey.
Julia: Yeah, maybe you want to pick up The City of Lost Fortunes. I highly recommend it.
Amanda: If for whatever reason you don't love this post-Katrina New Orleans magic novel, that's okay. They have a Great Listen Guarantee. If you don't like the audiobook, you can exchange it with no questions asked and best of all, in my opinion, even if you're no longer a member, if you cancel it, your audiobooks are yours to keep. You can go back and re-listen whenever you want.
Julia: Yeah, because you own them. Go to audible.com/spirits or text "spirits" to 500-500. You get that 30-day free trial and that free audiobook.
Amanda: Awesome. Thank you again to Audible for sponsoring the show and now let's get back to the podcast.
Julia: Let's tell some stories about Sauska, shall we?
Amanda: I am so down.
Julia: Most of her stories are featured in The Kumarbi Cycle. This source is most likely Hurrian but the only existing records of it are from the Hittite period in Anatolia so take that with a grain of salt, I guess. The Cycle tells the story of Kumarbi who is the chief god of the Hurrians, closely associated with the storm god Enlil.
It tells the story of his dissatisfaction with human beings, as well as his two attempts to destroy all of the human race.
Amanda: I mean, fair enough. We can be really annoying.
Julia: Yeah, I know. It's some real Loki shit going on here. It is five, though sometimes six depending on the source, stories all together and two of them feature Sauska. It's the story of The Song of Hedammu and The Song of Illikummi. The Cycle starts off with The Song of Birth, which tells the story of how the gods Anu and Kumarbi are in conflict in over who will rule the universe.
Amanda: Who will indeed?
Julia: Very fancy. This story starts with how Teshub, who we mentioned previously is kind of like the Zeus ruler of the male gods. What's conceived by the sky god Anu who is impregnated by his son Kumarbi in battle. This happens because Kumarbi bites off Anu's genitals in the course of the battle, becomes pregnant because of the genitals and gives birth to Teshub through the top of his head.
Amanda: That's definitely how biology and also gender work.
Julia: Checks out. Teshub actually becomes so popular because he's basically the perfect combination of earth because Kumarbi is the earth god and heaven because of Anu. He becomes invincible, a storm god who joins forces with his grandfather but also his grandfather/father because Anu and he helps defeat Kumarbi.
Amanda: Side note. Don't you hate when you're reading a novel and then the family tree is at the end? This happened to me recently. It was a bit of a spoiler. The lineage was revealed near the end. I was like, "Mother fucker. This would have been really helpful at the beginning also or at least to know that it was there."
Julia: Or do it like the one that doesn't have the spoiler at the beginning.
Julia: Then the spoiler one at the end.
Amanda: A middle one in the middle and let us see it evolve. God. Very annoying.
Julia: That's my problem with Game of Thrones is they have those family trees all the way at the end of the book. I'm just like, "Who the fuck are these people?" Then I get to the end. I'm like, "Mother fucker. You could have told me this beforehand."
Amanda: Yeah. I straight up read the first book twice. I finished the final page and then turned back to the beginning like, "Oh, okay. Good. Now that I know who everybody is, I can enjoy the story."
Julia: Now that I know the concept of who everyone is, I can understand what the fuck is going on,
Amanda: Good god.
Julia: ... Which debatable still with Game of Thrones but anyway.
Teshub is a great hero and a champion of humanity because he's able to defeat Kumarbi who wants to end all of human life. But actually it isn't Teshub who thwarts Kumarbi's actual attempts to destroy human life. That's Sauska the first time and Ea, the god of wisdom, the second time.
Amanda: How does she do it?
Julia: Let me tell you how it happened, Amanda. Thank you for asking. You led me right into my segue.
Amanda: We don't do this in advance, but we just know each other well enough that it happens.
Julia: The Song of Hedammu, that is the next story in The Cycle.
Amanda: Great title.
Julia: Kumarbi meets with the daughter of the sea in order to give birth to a monstrous sea serpent named Hedammu, hence the name of the story. Hedammu poses a threat to Teshub and all the other gods who are fighting against Kumarbi. Though the reason why he might actually be able to kill Teshub is not made exactly clear just because he's a giant monster one would assume.
Amanda: Yeah, he has the power.
Julia: But Teshub isn't even aware that this giant serpent monster exists. Sauska transforms herself into a snake in order to hear the conversation between Kumarbi and the sea where Kumarbi reveals his plans to use Hedammu to destroy the human beings.
Amanda: It's that classic let me give you my entire plot and plan like as a villain at the end of the movie in front of the captured hero where you're like, "Good, hero. You're going to die soon. Let me just tell you about all my plans."
Julia: The classic Bond move. Sauska goes home. She anoints herself and she ornaments herself.
Julia: The actual quote ends with, "She ornamented herself and beauty was running after her like puppies." I love that quote so much.
Amanda: So cute.
Julia: It's adorable.
Amanda: Beauty is like falling,
Julia: It's so cute.
Amanda: ... On its own face to get after her because she's so wonderful.
Julia: It's staggering after her, just wants to follow her around because they know that they'll get pets and food.
Amanda: More puppy metaphors please.
Julia: She's so stunning that beauty can't even keep up with her.
Julia: She invites her to attendance to come with her to the shore bringing cymbals, drums and the whatnot to you know and she performs a dance for Hedammu. She arouses him by exposing her naked limbs and is able to seduce him. The story tells it, "She sprinkled beauty into the powerful waters. The beauty dissolved in the waters and Hedammu tasted the scent, the beer, a sweet dream seized victorious Hedammu. He was dreaming like an ox or an ass and he recognized nothing and was eating frogs and lizards." Basically he falls into this drunken sleep never to wake up again and Sauska saves the world.
Amanda: Oh, my word.
Julia: With her beauty.
Amanda: With her beauty.
Julia: With her beauty.
Amanda: Just her limbs. Not even any of the other stuff.
Julia: Her beauty is so intoxicating.
Amanda: Oh, I love it. I love it so much. That really is some Medusa style chant, harnessing the thing that people try to use against you.
Amanda: I don't know if they have the same toxic misogynistic culture where people are objectified and women are made to feel lesser than and treated as objects, but this is a really I think empowering way to be like, no, beauty is not just for other people to remark upon and make you feel bad about. It's also if it's a tool in your toolbox, if it's a thing in your arsenal, it's something that you can use.
Julia: I love when goddesses are able to match wits with people not just by getting on their level like say Athena and Aries would match wits but they're both gods and goddesses of war. Sauska is saving the world just by being beautiful and being enticing and using what she has available to her in order to do something that none of the other gods and goddesses can.
Amanda: I also dig that Hedammu was eating lizards as his drunken stupor is taking effect. That's really cute.
Julia: He's like, "Yeah. Lizards and frogs. I'm so drunk." That's like when you get really, really drunk and you're like, "Oh, man. All I want are mozzarella sticks. I shouldn't eat some mozzarella sticks but fuck I want some mozzarella sticks."
Amanda: There's four of them. Bye.
Julia: They're gone now. Goodbye. Goodbye forever. In the next story, Kumarbi is back on his bullshit trying to destroy human beings in The Song of Illikumi. This time he knocks up a cliff like you do giving birth to a stone monster named again Illikumi. Illikumi manages to remain unnoticed because Kumarbi hides him on the shoulders of the god Ubelluri, the giant who is holding the world up kind of like Atlas. But the problem is he's pulling away power from Ubelluri and grows stronger and larger until Shimiki, the sun god, notices him.
Amanda: Classic child parasite.
Julia: Children is scary enough as is when they're leeching life from you, worse, thousand times worse.
Amanda: Yeah. Also beautiful? I don't know.
Julia: I don't know. Illikumi seems to want to destroy Teshub first, wanting to "crush him under foot like an ant and chop off like chaff." This is because Teshub was considered the protector of human beings. But once again Teshub wasn't even the one to defeat the monster in this story. Sauska tries to defeat the monster the same way that she did before. She bathes herself. She prepares herself. She goes to the beach with cymbals and drums. When she tries to dance, the sea raises itself up into a giant wave which means it is a much different threat than the serpent had been.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Julia: See, the problem is that Illikumi is a giant of stone who is both blind and deaf and thus immune to Sauska's charms.
Julia: Kumarbi figuring the shit out the second time around. Illikumi fights with the gods, winning a few battles, but Sauska contacts the god of wisdom Ea who cuts Illikumi away from the shoulder of Ubelluri with the same blade that was used to separate the heavens from the earth. That copper sickle coming back to it. Severed from his source of power, Illikumi dies and the world is saved.
Amanda: Wow. I love the idea that the weapon of creation, if you want to put it that way, is not just the one and done type thing. It comes back around.
Julia: I really like that. I think that has a lot of in order to save the world, we're using the same tool that was used to create it. That's really interesting and really cool storytelling. Like I said before, a lot of the tools used by the gods were deified by the Hittites and the Hurrians.
Julia: The copper sickle, very, very important both in the storytelling and in the worship of the gods.
Amanda: Yeah. It's like calling on another god for assistance and solving this issue.
Julia: Yeah. Wrapping it up a little and then we can get into some real discussion on the stories and whatnot. No matter what the story, Sauska is usually depicted as a resourceful goddess who is clever and consistently work towards the best interest of human life.
Amanda: Thank you, Sauska.
Julia: She is usually depicted as a human with upturned wings which are an artistic significance associating her with the heavens. She's also often shown standing on a lion accompanied by those two attendants who are out there playing the cymbals and drums for her.
Amanda: Hell yeah.
Julia: She was extremely respected throughout the Hittite empire and persisted in worship even after the fall of it in 1100 BCE. Here's another quote for you. "The kings of Anatolia served Sauska and she commanded them through dreams, oracles, and the augury of female soothsayers."
Amanda: Ooh, the augury of female soothsayers.
Julia: I like her so much.
Amanda: May I always live up to that sentence. Wow.
Julia: I want that to be a cool female-led punk band name.
Amanda: Yeah or like an underground network of women librarians.
Julia: Yes. Our lesbian librarians who listen to the show.
Amanda: Yeah. Hi, fam.
Julia: Hi. We love you. Speaking of her worship, her clergy featured both men and women though women seemed to have a more prominent role in the clergy. Interestingly, she supervised conjugal love and harmonious relationships but also could unpredictably turn love into a dangerous endeavor as we saw with her seduction of Hedammu.
Amanda: It puts all the power in women's hands which I really dig and is an inversion of at least the society that we grew up in. I can't speak to what it was like then. But that's pretty cool.
Julia: This is probably my favorite part. In many artistic depictions, she is shown clothed both in men and women's clothing. As I mentioned before at the beginning of the episode, the gods are split into two groups, the male gods and the female gods. But Sauska was featured in both groups.
Amanda: Hey, non-binary or gender fluid or something.
Julia: Historians take this as a sign that she was either particularly androgynous or considered bisexual or considered gender fluid and I think that's really, really interesting.
Amanda: That's awesome. She was just so great that one gender couldn't contain her.
Julia: Nah. She's so cool. She's covering all the bases. like said, all the bases for Sauska.
Amanda: Love it.
Julia: I want to dig more into the conversations that we are having about the spread of human ideas because that's my jam, and I really like the idea, especially when we start talking about how she was a visiting goddess and a visiting deity, how really impressive the idea that one culture's god or goddess can strike such a chord with other cultures that they eventually adapt it. That it's seen as such a boon to a society that it's something that you would send along in order to create a peace treaty. How interesting is that?
Amanda: Yeah, it's really interesting as an instrument of diplomacy because the whole idea of diplomatic relations is like, hey, we like and trust you, and we're going to send someone from our nation into yours to have a little piece of our nation there and vice versa and bring gifts, bring traditions, understand your traditions. Just a really lovely marriage of two cultures is the idea.
So often we talk about religion in terms of conquering and replacement and there can't possibly be room for two gods at the top and it's so much easier to replace someone else's tradition with your own instead of looking at the ways in which they could coexist or maybe other folks got it right. That is hard to accept if you're having a conquering mindset. But that's why I really like diplomacy so much is it's not here to replace one with another or to say that somebody is right. It's just to say, hey, here we are. Both of us living our lives. We'll find a way to coexist, to learn from each other, to have a process by which we can resolve disputes and it makes complete sense. The thing that ought to be and is probably shaping, governing your life which for a lot of folks is religion, their religious belief and cultural belief. Of course that should be a prominent part of that process.
Julia: Right. We talked about it at the beginning of the episode but the Hurrians and the Hittites, so much of their society and so much of their culture was surrounding the religious institutions. Their temples were also their societal centerpieces. I really like the idea of diplomacy because it brings to mind this idea of, hey, our gods are our ambassadors, our gods are our diplomats and we can send them along with our actual ones in order to argue our points kind of, to show this is what's important to us and this is what's important to this mission that we're being sent on. To send Sauska with them is, hey, we want this relationship to flourish because she's the goddess of fertility and agriculture but also the booming of society and stuff like that. To send her along with a peace treaty is so interesting because it's like, hey, this is what's important to us. This is what we want to grow and I want you to have the same experience that we're having.
Amanda: It's almost like the political version of meeting the parents where it's like it's one thing to date and have your life, whatever. But it's pretty serious when you decide to bring somebody into that larger context and to let your god meet another culture, that's big, too. You don't want to look like a fool in front of the god probably. I like it.
Julia: I really like this idea that so much of culture is a matter of prioritizing the needs of your community, and I think that when we're talking about a goddess like Sauska, when we're talking about something that is fertility but also strength in battle and is wiliness and just the ability to survive, I think that's really interesting, especially for early cultures and early religions and also one that saw many different kingdoms rise and fall throughout the reign of her deitiness. Do you know what I mean?
Julia: I think that it's really interesting to see what perpetuates in times of struggle and in times of change because I think that shows what's really important to human beings in general.
Amanda: Absolutely. It's both tactical like the thing that you need right now to help you get through the day but also it's the thing you're striving for. It's an ideal. Do you reach for the god of troubled times or do you say, "You know what? No. I'm going to hope for my best life and I'm going to plan for my best life and I'm going to let my worship be useful to me and fill a place in my life that reality can't right now." It's like escapist in the best way.
You're right. That is such an interesting time. Periods of transition are so fruitful to study in your own life but also in history. It's one thing to be like, "Okay. At the height of the Roman Empire, they did whatever. Their systems were cool. They made coin, blah blah blah." But what happens when shit hits the fan or when societies are brand new? That to me is, I don't know, the most interesting thing.
Julia: What survives when the rest of the culture doesn't is always a really, really fascinating thing. I think that's a really good thing for our listeners to reflect on for the next week or so. I think we should think about what is important to us and what is going to survive when we're not there anymore because I think that that tells a lot about ourselves and it tells a lot about who we are, the imprint that we're putting in the world like you pointed out earlier on in the episode and just who we are as people and who we are as a culture and what's important to us and will last past us.
Amanda: That may seem morbid but we're a little bit morbid. Listen, y'all, you listen to Spirits. We're creepy cool. Again, to me, returning to my dumb comment about my receipts and ticket stubs and whatever forming a portrait of my life, to be really real. I could have whatever values I want but my life is also in some ways nothing but a summary of the acts that I do. I can think I'm the best person in the world and the most complex person in the world, but other people experience me via my actions. I think it's really helpful sometimes to think about what is the sum of this all and what am I spending my time doing and when life is stressful and I have no time, what do I spend my time doing? Sometimes self-care means watching a bunch of TV and re-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the third time because it's the one pure thing in this god damn world.
Julia: Totally understandable.
Amanda: But also for myself anyway, I'm trying to figure out the best way to have downtime and have time that I can let my brain just recharge but also to realize that I'm not going to do anything great by prioritizing only myself. There's a way to do both of those things and to make sure that I live for others and give back and have real things that I contribute to the world in addition to just my thoughts and pleasures and having a good time in between.
Julia: I'm with you on that. I also think that we do put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make an impact on the world, but I don't think that every single day that you spend out there needs to be impactful. You have so many days on this earth, and you don't have to make everything like the day that the historians will look back on and be like, "That is the day she did that thing." At the same time, you have to take care of yourself. Everyday can't be a struggle. Everyday can't be a war. Everyday can't be a battle. You just have to live one day at a time.
Amanda: Before the day on the beach, I'm sure that Sauska had lots of days of hanging and figuring things out and thinking and marinating. One of the most helpful metaphors I've ever heard was that if you're an artist and somebody who has a lot of output and making a lot of stuff and putting a lot of things out there into the world, you also have to have some periods of input. You have to have some months where life is really stressful and you watch a lot of TV or read a lot of books or a lot of comics or play a lot of video games because that's recharging and taking things in. It's letting your mind and your subconscious recharge and come up with new ideas and it doesn't mean you're a bad artist. It doesn't mean that your artistic output is over or that you're a freeloader on the world or whatever BS bad story your brain wants to tell you. There are cycles and seasons to life and it's not about how did I finish this day ultimately, but it's about the sum total of it and the narrative of it.
Julia: Yeah, I'm with you on that. With that, listeners, knowing that everyday doesn't have to be a battle, everyday doesn't have to be war, I am going also to remind you to stay creepy.
Amanda: And stay cool.
Amanda: Spirits was created by Amanda McLoughlin, Julia Schifini, and Eric Schneider, with music by Kevin MacLeod and visual design by Allyson Wakeman.
Julia: Keep up with all things creepy and cool by following us @spiritspodcast on Twitter, instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. We also have all our episode transcripts, guest appearances, and merch on our website, as well as a form to send us your urban legends, at spiritspodcast.com.
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Julia: Thank you so much for listening. Til next time.