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West Asia

Comparable to the victory of the Babylonian Marduk over Tiamat is the Hittite myth of the weather god as the slayer of the dragon Illuyankas personifying the forces of evil. There are two versions of the legend. In the older tale, Illuyankas overcame the weather god, but the goddess Inaras prepared a trap for the dragon. She spread a feast–‘wine by the barrel, fruit juice by the barrel, other drinks filling every barrel brim full’–and obtained the help of a man named Hupasiyas, who was her lover. Illuyankas and his children ate and drank until they were no longer able to return to their lair. Then Hupasiyas trussed them up with strong cord and the weather god slew them. For Hupasiyas the goddess built a special house, but instructed him not to look out of the window lest he see his wife and children. Hupasiyas disobeyed the command, saw his mortal family, and asked to return home: so Inaras killed him.

According to the later version, the dragon took away with him the heart and eyes of the weather god when he vanquished him. In order to recover them the weather god begot a son, whom he married to the daughter of Illuyankas. This young man asked his dragon bride for the missing organs and was able to give them back to his father. Restored, the weather god killed Illuyankas, and, at his own request, his own son, who like the Egyptian Horus had revitalized him. Both stories relate to the West Asian theme of the dying and reviving fertility god. Echoes of this fundamental myth in Europe are plentiful and appear in the springtime processions of dragons. As late as this century at Ragusa, in Sicily, an enormous effigy of a dragon, complete with moveable tail and eyes, was paraded on St George's Day.

Subjects: Religion.

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