Welcome to week 21 of the Folklore and Myth Thursday blogposts. This week I will focus on figures beginning with the letter ‘u’; Utnapishtim, Utu, Umai, Ulgan, and Ulu Toyo’n.
“In the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim is the sole survivor of a deluge sent by the gods to destroy the human race” (Tresidder, 2004:498). Tresidder (2004:499) also notes that this story shows striking resemblances to the Biblical story of Noah.
“The god Enlil was displeased with humanity and decided to destroy it in a flood” (Tresidder, 2004:499). Utnapishtim survives because of the “cube-shaped boat” (Tresidder, 2004:499) he builds. When the waters start at last to recede, “he sent a dove, a swallow and a raven to find land” (Tresidder, 2004:499). Utnapishtim emerge from his craft and offers a sacrifice to the gods. Enlil then bestows immortality on him.
Utu is the Sumerian sun god, “son of the moon god Nanna and brother of the love goddess Inanna” (Tresidder, 2004:499). Tressider (2004:499) notes: “[they] constitute a great divine triad, equivalent to the Akkadian Shamash, Sin and Ishtar”.
“Umai is the mother goddess of the Turkic people of Siberia. She is said to have 60 golden tresses, which resemble the rays of the sun, and to look after newborn babies and help couples to conceive” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481). Also known as Ymai or Mai, she may originally have been identical with Ot, the fire queen of the Mongols” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481).
“Ulgan is the great sky god of the Altaic people of SIberia. He sent the saviour Maidere to earth in order to teach men to respect the true god” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481). He is at times depicted as being surrounded by rays of light (see also Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481).
(See Cotterell & Storm (2007:481, 456) for Maidere and Erlik.)
“Ulu Toyo’n is the benevolent creator spirit of the Yakut people of Siberia” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481). Living in the third sky, he rules over the Abaasy, or evil beings, “who live in the lower world” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481). “Ulu Toyo’n is also the lord of thunder and is said to have given fire and one of their three souls to human beings (see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:481).
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Cotterell, A. & R. Storm. (2007). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House.
Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.