The Myth of Telepinu, Hittite God of Fertility

“The Myth of Telepinu, Hittite God of Fertility”

By Jared Aragona

Based on translations of the 13th-15th -century BC tablets (TMI, TMII, and TMIII) by Romina Della Casa

 

… (a 12-line gap is missing from the beginning of the tablet)

“I don’t want to hear any intimidating words!” shouted Telepinu, the god who controlled the fertility of the land and all the living things within it.  He’d only just woken up.

The rest of the gods recognized how enraged he was.

“Just stay away from me!” he called as he furiously tried to put his shoes on.  But in his rage, he put his right shoe on his left foot and his left shoe on his right foot. This pushed his fury even further, and he roared as he fixed his shoes and stomped off. And all the life-giving power that made the fields and meadows bring forth their abundance went with him.

Off he went, deep into the wilderness, far from where his rage had burned. Eventually, he found a hidden spot in a meadow among some trees. Weary from the events of the day, he decided to rest. And there he fell into a deep sleep. So deep was his sleep that the vegetation grew over him.

The world felt Telepinu’s absence. Fog and smoke filled the windows and homes of the people. Fires would not burn in the fireplaces or sacrificial altars.  The sheep became barren.  The cows became barren.  Those that had already given birth now rejected their young.  The barley stopped growing.  The wheat stopped growing. No human in the world could produce offspring.  The rivers and lakes that flowed from the mountains dried up.  The trees and meadows withered away. Nothing would bloom or blossom. And very soon, famine struck the whole land.  People and animals began to die of starvation.

The rest of the gods were in a panic over the world withering away. The Great Sun God tried to calm them by organizing a great feast, inviting all the Thousand Gods to attend. But the feast only worsened their fears because, no matter how much they ate, they were not satisfied.  No matter how much they drank, they were still thirsty.

In response to their panic, Telepinu’s father, Taru, the storm god, told them all, “The cause of all this is that Telepinu is missing. He had become extremely angry and left. And when he left, he took away all the goodness that powers life.  Therefore, we all need to do our part to find him. Both great gods and lesser gods, all need to come together to find where Telepinu has gone.”

The Sun God was the first to act, sending the eagle to search all the mountains, valleys, and seas of the world.  But no matter where the eagle looked, it couldn’t find Telepinu. It came back to the Great Sun God and said, “I’ve searched the entire world for Telepinu, both high in the mountains and deep in the valleys, and over the waves of the sea. I could not find Telepinu anywhere.”

When Taru the storm god heard the news, he was both nervous and angry.  He went to his own father, Kumarbi, and said, “Who has upset my son so much that he’s let the whole world dry up and wither away?”

Kumarbi replied, “If it was anyone who upset him, it was you. You’re the one who caused this.”

Taru exclaimed, “No, that is not true!  I’m not responsible for this.”

Kumarbi replied, “We’ll see.  If I find out you were responsible, I’ll kill you. In the meantime, you’d best find Telepinu.”

Taru then went to his mother, Hannahanna, and said, “What should I do? Father blamed me for Telepinu’s disappearance and threatened to kill me, even as we’re all about the die from starvation!”

Hannahanna, the Mother Goddess, replied, “I will do what I can to help you.  In the meantime, you should try to find Telepinu yourself.  Since you are the storm god, your winds can reach all places.”

So Taru went off into the world, his winds blowing through every space in the mountains, valleys and seas. But when he reached Telepinu’s city, the gates were locked to him. He pulled out his hammer and his wedge to try to break through the gate. It worked, but his tools broke in the process, and Telepinu wasn’t there anyway. So, Taru just wrapped himself up and sat down on the ground.

Seeing that her son was despondent over his failure, Hannahanna came to him and said, “Be calm, Taru. I have a solution. Send for the bee.  I believe it will be able to find Telepinu.”

Taru did as she requested, though he had his doubts.

He brought the bee to Hannahanna, who said, “Tiny bee, you are the one who should search for Telepinu. Find him, and when you do, sting him on his hands and feet until he stands at attention.  Then, wipe your wax on his eyes and feet. This will purify him. Once that is done, bring him back here to me.”

Taru couldn’t hold his tongue any longer. “Mother,” he said “both I and the other gods have searched the entire world for Telepinu, and we couldn’t find him anywhere.  Do you really think a tiny bee, with its weak wings and body, is going to be successful where gods have failed?”

Hannahanna smiled and said, “Don’t be so doubtful, Taru. Be patient, and you’ll see.  The bee will find Telepinu.”

Off the bee went into the world.  It searched all the high mountains and low valleys, and flew over the surface of the deep blue sea. The bee flew so far and so long that it exhausted all the honey in its body.  And finally, when it was near completely exhausted, the bee found Telepinu sleeping beneath the vegetation in the forest meadow.

Quickly, the bee began to sting Telepinu on his hands and feet, causing Telepinu to wake and spring up. As quick as he could, the bee then wiped some of its wax on Telepinu’s eyes and feet. The bee then asked, “Why, Telepinu, are you out here in this meadow?”

To this, Telepinu furiously replied, “I was very angry, and I was sleeping!” His anger boiled even more.  “Why would you wake me up? Why would you make me talk when I was pouting?” And then Telepinu expressed his rage even further. He took up all the rivers and springs of the world and sent them flooding into all the cities. Houses were filled with water, and the people and livestock died.

Seeing this take place, the gods were horrified.  They cried out, “Why is Telepinu so enraged? How can we possibly stop this?”

The Great Sun God said, “Kamrusepa, goddess of healing and magic, use your special chants to calm Telepinu down. Bring also a male human being whose magic can purify Telepinu, so he may let go of his anger.”

Kamrusepa began to chant, “Telepinu, here is the essence of cedar. Allow the world to be restored.  Here is sap to purify and strengthen you in both heart and soul. Here is corn to purify and strengthen you in both heart and soul.  Here is sesame to purify and strengthen you in both heart and soul. Here are figs to purify and strengthen you in both heart and soul. Be as sweet as the figs in repairing the world. Be like the olive which springs forth oil. Be like the grape which springs forth wine.  Bring forth your heart and soul to bring kindness to the king of the land.”

Meanwhile, Telepinu came toward her, his anger still flashing, thunder rumbling the earth as he came.

Kamrusepa sang, “Telepinu’s anger burns like fire on the plain. Let his wrath, sin, and brooding depart from him! Let his furious rage become as barren as the malt that cannot be planted as seed or used for bread! Douse the fire of his furious, angry rage! Give up your rage, Telepinu, and let it not return!

Then the male human being came forward before the gathered gods and began to speak. He said, “Your departure from the world made the crops surrender to disease.  Just as the priest’s words can halt the fury of the storm god, just as the boiling pot is calmed when stirred by the spoon, let my words calm the fury, the wrath, the anger of Telepinu!  Let the house he dwells in free his anger. Let the center set it free. Open the windows. Let the doors swing open on their hinges. Let Telepinu’s courtyard free his anger.  Let Telepinu’s city free his anger. Let the gateways open and free it. But let the anger not go into the field and forests, but instead have it follow the Sun Goddess on her route, out into the darkness of the Underworld. In that deep, dark place, bronze containers stand, and whatever enters them, cannot depart, for it perishes there.  These containers shall receive Telepinu’s furious rage, and from there it will never return.”

“Telepinu is now purified!” the man cried. “I have taken the evil from his body, and there is no furious wrathful rage and anger left within him!”

Feeling much calmer, Telepinu now decided to return home where he looked over all of his lands.  He freed the fog from the windows and the smoke from the houses. The sacrificial altars that fed the gods once again flowed in harmonious abundance. The fireplaces burned their logs once again.  The sheep entered the fold, and the cows came out of the barn. Mothers gave birth and looked after their children once again. Sheep cared for lamb, and cow cared for calf.  And Telepinu took care of the king and queen by giving them a long and healthy life.

A tree was then planted before Telepinu which served as a post, and suspended from it was the fleece of a sheep. The fleece was filled with sheep’s fat to signify the great abundance that would now be seen in the world. Grain and wine would be plentiful. The livestock would be fat. And the people would bare many children.  Soothing breezes would blow, and the world would be fertile for living things.

 

 

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