The Secret of Gobekli Tepe: Cosmic Equinox and Sacred Marriage - Part II
Sun and moon iconography can be found on the impressive standing pillars of Göbeklitepe, the Neolithic temples that are among the most important archaeological sites of our time. Guest author Özgür Etli examines what messages the ancient builders might have been trying to impart to the people who used the temples, and what they might have also been trying to communicate to all of humanity.
It can be speculated that the “H” sign located above the sun-moon motif symbolizes male and female togetherness, or a god-goddess marriage in spring. Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt believes this motif symbolizes male and female. The standing position of the pillar also symbolizes “birth” or “rebirth”, as mentioned previously.
The center pillars at Göbeklitepe depict the “H” and sun-moon signs
Well, do we know this type of sacred god-goddess marriage in ancient history? In which culture or civilization do we see such a god-goddess togetherness? The first thing coming to mind is of course the sacred marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi in Sumerian civilization.
Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of fertility and love, dominant in the sky and on earth. She provided the power of renewal and reproduction to both humans and nature. Poets wrote numerous stories about her. Most famous of them is undoubtedly the tale of the sacred marriage of goddess Inanna and shepherd Dumuzi, also called Tammuz.
In Sumer, food and survival was dependent upon the yield of soil. According to the Sumerians, that was said to be supplied by virility. Sumerians named this power “ water of heart” . For the Göbeklitepe community, harvesting of produce and fertility of soil were extremely vital. In that period human communities had just begun an agricultural way of life, or would begin shortly.
Dumuzi’s or Tammuz’s intercourse with his wife was believed to bring fertility to the earth. At the end of this intercourse, all plants would bloom, animals would mate and produce offspring, and so fertility would become evident. Therefore, this event was accepted as the beginning of the new year.
Did the fertility gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt and Sumer first appear at Neolithic Gobekli Tepe?
Stele featuring Egyptian and foreign gods: Min, fertility god (Egypt), Qetesh, fertility goddess (Syria), and protective god Resheph (Egypt). Wikimedia Commons
Sumerians reenacted this sacred intercourse as a royal ritual and a state occasion by giving in marriage to king of the country a high ranking woman of their holy temple. Each year they organized festivals surrounding the occasion. In these ceremonies, the high ranking woman would portray the goddess, and the king stood for the god.
According to Sumerologist Muazzez İlmiye Çığ, this ceremony was the origin of modern-day hıdrellez (celebration of spring) festivals that are held at equinox time in Turkey . The name of Dumuzi was given to the month of July, in Turkish Temmuz. Inanna and Dumuzi also were symbolized on Sumerian artworks: they hug each other and are portrayed laying down.
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A detail of the 1505 AD statue by Andrea Mantegna depicting the introduction of the worship of Cybele to the Romans in 204 AD. ( Wikimedia Commons )
In Anatolia, the cult of fertility is known as of Cybele. Cybele was known as the mother of god. She was believed to be goddess of the moon as well . It was believed fertility came to earth at the pleasure of Cybele, and she required a husband for marriage - this was god Attis. Attis is thought to die in Autumn, and after is reborn again in spring like Dumuzi.
The yield of produce and fertility of the soil was thought to depend on the happiness of goddess Cybele. Cybele was believed to give birth to spring. Her very fertility allowed the soil to produce well. For this reason, some sacrifices were given to Cybele from time to time. Men sought to ensure the fertility of the soil by making a self-sacrifice. According to Halikarnas Balıkçısı, this adoration to the goddess was a very ancient practice, from far-reaching prehistory. He believed that these cults of a mother goddess were quite widespread in Anatolia and the Fertile Crescent .
The goddess Cybele ( Wikimedia Commons )
In archaeological research, numerous double-headed figurines have been found belonging to various periods in Anatolia. These figurines are called twin-goddesses. According to scholar and scientist Cevat Şakir, ( Halikarnas Balıkçısı ), these figures symbolize the goddess and her husband .
Seemingly, earth mothers have been venerated since the first eras of civilization. Fertility of soil had vital importance for the steadiness of life. For that matter, death, birth and rebirth concepts should have been be the most important at the initial periods of our human civilization. Therefore, we can consider that Sumerian sacred marriage ceremonies were also performed in Göbeklitepe temples, the starting point for our human civilization.
According to Klaus Schmidt's opinion, Göbeklitepe culture could have affected the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations. In that case, by turning the clock back, we should see established cultural Sumerian elements in Göbeklitepe neolithic culture as well.
Can we speculate that the sun-moon symbol, or the sacred meeting of sun and moon, depicted on center pillar of Temple D represents equinox time and the beginning of spring? With various findings and proof we can.
This Kün-ay (sun-moon) sign might symbolize the rebirth of soil in spring and the resuscitation of nature. As rebirth is symbolized with the sacred marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi in Sumer, then perhaps the male and female inscription just above the sun-moon symbol on the pillar may symbolize the man-woman or god-goddess togetherness. That is to say, it may represent Inanna and Dumuzi. The circular formation of Temple D might also reflect the life-death-rebirth cycle.
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At the center of Temple D we see two pillars as mentioned previously. These pillars can be seen as symbolizing birth, as the standing position of the pillars are same as Inanna's. Hands on omphalos (navel) can be seen on both. Maybe the fact that there are two of them hints at the origin of the cult of Cybele. This pair of pillars should be the first samples of gods and goddesses in human history. Perhaps these two pillars symbolize the twin goddesses. In addition to this, the second center pillar which has no sun-moon sign includes a bucranium symbol, as Schmidt notes . Bull or taurus symbols were seen as a symbol of fertility and productivity since the beginning of civilization. In my opinion this sign represents the uterus of earth mother, again meaning of fertility and productivity.
Bucrania. Garlanded bucrania (bull symbolism) on a frieze from the Samothrace temple complex. Wikimedia Commons
Pillar 2 from Enclosure A (Layer III) with low reliefs of what are believed to be a bull, fox, and crane. Gobekli Tepe, Urfa. Wikimedia Commons
When all of this evidence is combined, it’s difficult to call it coincidence. It is apparent that the origin of fertility cults of Anatiolian and Mesopotamian civilizations can be first seen in Göbeklitepe culture.
Considering that male-female signs represent Inanna and Dumuzi, sun-moon signs represent the beginning of spring, the rebirth of nature and hand positions on pillar represent birth and rebirth, it is clearly revealed that the cosmic equinox and sacred marriage ceremonies could well have been celebrated through rituals in Göbeklitepe first.
Maybe we have solved the Göbeklitepe puzzle, and learned what the ancient world wanted us to know.
Featured image: Göbekli Tepe excavation site, Turkey. Wikimedia Commons
Some Images provided by Özgür Etli.
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 Çığ, M. İ., “İnanna'nın Aşkı: Sumer'de İnanç ve Kutsal Evlenme”, 9th ed., Istanbul, 2014.
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 Etli, Ö. B., “Dünyanın İlk Gözlemevi: Göbeklitepe Tapınağı”, Popüler Bilim Journal, Vol: 229, 2014.
 Halikarnas Balıkçısı, “Altıncı Kıta Akdeniz”, 5th ed., Ankara, 2007.
 Halikarnas Balıkçısı, “Anadolu Tanrıları”, 10th ed., Ankara, 2010.
 Plegge, J., “Turkish Stonehenge: Göbeklitepe”, 2012.
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