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Old Babylonian hematite cylinder seal depicting Enkidu vanquishing Gugalanna, between about 1970 B.C. and 1670 B.C.

Gugalanna (Sumerian GU.GAL.AN.NA,[1] "the Great Bull of Heaven"), better known as the Bull of Heaven (Sumerian: GU₄.AN.NA), was a deity in ancient Mesopotamian religion originating in Sumer as well as the constellation known today as Taurus, one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac.[2]


Gugalanna was sent by the gods to take retribution upon Gilgamesh for rejecting the sexual advances of the goddess Inanna. Gugalanna, whose feet made the earth shake, was slain and dismembered by Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu. Inanna looked down from the city walls and Enkidu shook the haunches of the bull at her, threatening to do the same if he ever caught her. He is later killed for this impiety.

Gugalanna was the first husband of Ereshkigal, ruler of the Underworld, a gloomy place devoid of light. It was to share the sorrow with her sister that Inanna later descends to the Underworld.


Illustration of the constellation Taurus from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1690

Taurus was the constellation of the Northern Hemisphere's March equinox from about 3200 B.C. The equinox was considered the Sumerian New Year, Akitu,[3] an important event in their religion. The story of the death of Gugalanna has been considered[by whom?] to represent the Sun obscuring the constellation as it rose on the morning of the equinox.

Between the period of the earliest female figurines circa 4500 B.C. ... a span of a thousand years elapsed, during which the archaeological signs constantly increase of a cult of the tilled earth fertilised by that noblest and most powerful beast of the recently developed holy barnyard, the bull - who not only sired the milk yielding cows, but also drew the plow, which in that early period simultaneously broke and seeded the earth. Moreover by analogy, the horned moon, lord of the rhythm of the womb and of the rains and dews, was equated with the bull; so that the animal became a cosmological symbol, uniting the fields and the laws of sky and earth.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ gu ("bull") + gal ("great") + an ("heaven") + -a[k] ("of").
  2. ^ "Star Catalogue". 1996-02-12. Retrieved 2015-08-16. 
  3. ^ From á-ki-ti-še-gur10-ku5, "the barley sowing".
  4. ^ Campbell, Joseph (1991). The masks of God: Oriental mythology (Reprinted. ed.). New York: Penguin. p. 41. ISBN 0-14-019442-8.