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Hittite Gods and Goddess: Illuyanka

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He-she was a serpent, a symbol of the goddess Venus, who was ritually slain at the Spring festival, this serpent may have connections to both time and the moon, the myth seems complicated, but it one that is repeated over and over by later cultures, we just need to understand what is being conveyed to us, and sooner or later the reality and truth of it will reveal itself.

The myths of the serpent

First myth

There are two distinct myths about the serpent, in one version the sky-storm god Teshub attacks Illuyanka and loses, the serpent then removes his eyes and heart. In retaliation Teshub marries the goddess Hebat (Hepat- Khepat) by whom he has two sons, one of them called Sarruma (Sharruma), the bull of heaven, marries Illuyanka’ daughter, and under his father’s directions asks for the return of Teshub’s eyes and heart as a wedding gift, this granted and Teshub restored goes to fight Illuyanka again, at the point he is about to slay the serpent, Sarramu realising what has occurred insists his father kill them both, this he does by causing a great storm whose thunder and lightning and lashing rain kills them both.

Second myth

In another version, Teshub attacks Illuyanka and is defeated, but there is no illusion to him being deprived of his heart or eyes, Teshub seeks inara’ (his daughter’s) advice and assistance, to which end, she marries or becomes a lover of a mortal man named Hupasiyas, of Zigaratta in return for his help, between them they devise a plan to hold a great feast to which Illuyanka is invited, she plies the serpent with great amounts of drink, and once the serpent is drunk, Hupasiyas ties him up, then Teshub turns up with other gods and slaughters him.

The sting in the tail

In a further twist to the stories, Inara-Innara builds a house on a cliff, for Hupasiyas to live in with her, one day she leaves, telling him not to look out of the window as he might see his family. What happens after that we at present have no obvious record of.

Insight to the first myth

In the first myth we might recall the Egyptian god’s Seth-Set, attack on Horus, when Seth and Horus contended for the kingship of Earth, Seth proposes they both change themselves into hippopotamus’ and whoever can remain submerged for the longest will take the crown, fortunately, or unfortunately Isis the mother of Horus is hoovering overhead, and quickly makes a harpoon, her intention being to spear Seth and force his return to the surface, thus securing the throne for her son. As soon as they have submerged she throws the harpoon but unfortunately spears Horus, he cries out to her and she retrieves her weapon; she then launches it again, this time she hits her intended victim, but he too cries out to her, reminding her that they are all related, so she again releases and retrieves the harpoon, this was the last straw, Horus in a rage leaps from the water, cuts off her head, tucks it under his cloak and runs off into the desert. Seth immediately volunteers to go and look for Horus, and it was not long before he spotted sleeping on a hillside, he leaps on his back turns him over and plucks his eyes out, then he returns telling the Sun god he could not find him. But Hathor, the sun gods beautiful eye distrusts Seth and goes to look for herself, she finds staggering blindly about the hillside. On seeing him she immediately catches a female gazelle, milks it and pours it in Horus’ eye sockets, and his eyesight is restored and they return together to Re the Sun god, who by magic had already restored Isis head, and they all became friends once more.

Explanation of myth one.

The story is about the ending of the growing year, at which point the moon Isis, is pretended to die, or at least lose her powers, while Horus who is represented by wheat, and at the same time being a personification of the Sun’s power of growth, is harvested as summer sun wains and becomes the almost powerless winter sun. however, Isis does not die, as the power of the moon is not seen to perish, and it only at the Spring that Horus’s eyes, thus power is restored. And there is an even darker side to this story as we shall soon see.

Insight and explanation of the second myth

In the second version, although it should be assumed that Teshub’ defeat resulted in the same action, the point of the myth, concerns the harvest festival which follows the end of the harvesting season. Now the mortal priest Hupasiyas of Zigaratta, is in reality the High Priest of the temple, the Ziggurat, and the High is ritually married to the moon goddess, in this case called Inara, or Inarra, and they oversee the great feast brought about by the harvest. And it pretended that the serpent and the Bull of heaven, Illuyanka and Sarramu, are made drunk and subdued and slaughtered. That is to say the power of the Sun over growth has ended.

Explanation and insight of the ‘sting in the tail.’

In those ancient times, women were considered more important than men, in the earlier stages the queen was all powerful, but the king was known as the sacred king of the year, because he was ritually sacrificed, in order to re-fertilise the ground, upon which the queen would take another man as her king, this would often be the High Priest of the temple, who would become the next sacred king. The ritual varied, but as we read on this occasion, the sacred king- priest of the year, was taken to a sacred cliff, from where he was hurled to his death. So, while the priests would contend whole heartedly to become the high priest, and the power and glory that went with it, there was always a sting in the tales end.

Last words

Of course, neither the kings or priests liked this situation very much, so they eventually found ways to extend their reign, thus the sacred king and the High Priest, would ritually marry a young boy to the moon goddess, the queen of heaven, and have the child sacrificed in their place.


It should be obvious that none of the characters were gods or people, and that it is merely a tale about the ending of the years growing period, the harvest, it’s ritual celebration, and the preparation for the next growing seasons. Although it covers a great evil, such things and more were common place, and human sacrifice continued for a long, long time.