Posted by Deus Nexus on June 11, 2013
Reposted from: Waking Times.
By Andrew Collins, New Dawn
Angels are something we associate with beautiful Pre-Raphaelite and
renaissance paintings, carved statues accompanying gothic architecture
and supernatural beings who intervene in our lives at times of trouble.
For the last 2000 years this has been the stereotypical image fostered
by the Christian Church. But what are angels? Where do they come from, and what have they meant to the development of organised religion?
Many people see the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old
Testament, as littered with accounts of angels appearing to righteous
patriarchs and visionary prophets. Yet this is simply not so. There are
the three angels who approach Abraham to announce the birth of a son
named Izaac to his wife Sarah as he sits beneath a tree on the Plain of
Mamre. There are the two angels who visit Lot and his wife at Sodom
prior to its destruction. There is the angel who wrestles all night with
Jacob at a place named Penuel, or those which he sees moving up and
down a ladder that stretches between heaven and earth.
Yet other than these accounts, there are too few examples, and when
angels do appear the narrative is often vague and unclear on what
exactly is going on. For instance, in the case of both Abraham and Lot
the angels in question are described simply as ‘men’, who sit down to
take food like any mortal person.
Influence of the Magi
It was not until post-exilic times – i.e. after the Jews returned
from captivity in Babylon around 450 BC – that angels became an integral
part of the Jewish religion. It was even later, around 200 BC, that
they began appearing with frequency in Judaic religious literature.
Works such as the Book of Daniel and the apocryphal Book of Tobit
contain enigmatic accounts of angelic beings that
have individual names, specific appearances and established
hierarchies. These radiant figures were of non-Judaic origin. All the
indications are that they were aliens, imports from a foreign kingdom,
The country we know today as Iran might not at first seem the most
likely source for angels, but it is a fact that the exiled Jews were
heavily exposed to its religious faiths after the Persian king Cyrus the
Great took Babylon in 539 BC. These included not only Zoroastrianism,
after the prophet Zoroaster or Zarathustra, but also the much older
religion of the Magi, the elite priestly caste of Media in north-west
Iran. They believed in a whole pantheon of supernatural beings
called ahuras, or ‘shining ones’, and daevas - ahuras who had fallen
from grace because of their corruption of mankind.
Although eventually outlawed by Persia, the influence of the Magi ran
deep within the beliefs, customs and rituals of Zoroastrianism.
Moreover, there can be little doubt that Magianism, from which we get
terms such as magus, magic and magician, helped to establish the belief
among Jews not only of whole hierarchies of angels, but also of legions
of fallen angels – a topic that gains its greatest inspiration from one
work alone – the Book of Enoch.
The Book of Enoch
Compiled in stages somewhere between 165 BC and the start of the
Christian era, this so-called pseudepigraphal (i.e. falsely attributed)
work has as its main theme the story behind the fall of the angels. Yet
not the fall of angels in general, but those which were originally known
as ’îrin (’îr in singular), “those who watch”, or simply ‘watchers’ as
the word is rendered in English translation.
The Book of Enoch tells
the story of how 200 rebel angels, or Watchers, decided to transgress
the heavenly laws and ‘descend’ on to the plains and take wives from
among mortal kind. The site given for this event is the summit of
Hermon, a mythical location generally associated with the snowy heights
of Mount Hermon in the Ante-Lebanon range, north of modern-day Palestine
(but see below for the most likely homeland of the Watchers).
The 200 rebels realise the implications of their transgressions, for
they agree to swear an oath to the effect that their leader Shemyaza
would take the blame if the whole ill-fated venture went terribly wrong.
After their descent to the lowlands, the Watchers indulge in earthly
delights with their chosen ‘wives’, and through these unions are born
giant offspring named as Nephilim, or Nefilim, a Hebrew word meaning
‘those who have fallen’, which is rendered in Greek translations
as gigantes, or ‘giants’.
In between taking advantage of our women, the 200 rebel angels spent
their time imparting the heavenly secrets to those who had ears to
listen. One of their number, a leader named Azazel, is said to have
“taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates,
and made known to them the metals (of the earth) and the art of working
them”, indicating that the Watchers brought the use of metal to mankind.
He also instructed them on how they could make “bracelets” and
“ornaments” and showed them how to use “antimony”, a white brittle metal
employed in the arts and medicine.
To the women Azazel taught the art of “beautifying” the eyelids, and
the use of “all kinds of costly stones” and “colouring tinctures”,
presupposing that the wearing of make-up and jewellery was unknown
before this age. In addition to these crimes, Azazel stood accused of
teaching women how to enjoy sexual pleasure and indulge in promiscuity –
a blasphemy seen as ‘godlessness’ in the eyes of the Hebrew
Other Watchers stood accused of revealing to mortal kind the
knowledge of more scientific arts, such as astronomy, the knowledge of
the clouds, or meteorology; the “signs of the earth”, presumably geodesy
and geography, as well as the “signs”, or passage, of the celestial
bodies, such as the sun and moon. Their leader, Shemyaza, is accredited
with having taught “enchantments, and rootcuttings”, a reference to the
magical arts shunned upon by most orthodox Jews. One of their number,
Pênêmûe, taught “the bitter and the sweet”, surely a reference to the
use of herbs and spices in foods, while instructing men on the use of
“ink and paper”, implying that the Watchers introduced the earliest
forms of writing. Far more disturbing is Kâsdejâ, who is said to have
shown “the children of men all the wicked smitings of spirits and
demons, and the smitings of the embryo in the womb, that it may pass
away”. In other words he taught women how to abort babies.
These lines concerning the forbidden sciences handed to humanity by
the rebel Watchers raises the whole fundamental question of why angels
should have possessed any knowledge of such matters in the first place.
Why should they have needed to work with metals, use charms,
incantations and writing; beautify the body; employ the use of spices,
and know now to abort an unborn child? None of these skills are what one
might expect heavenly messengers of God to possess, not unless they
were human in the first place.
In my opinion, this revelation of previously unknown knowledge and
wisdom seems like the actions of a highly advanced race passing on some
of its closely-guarded secrets to a less evolved culture still striving
to understand the basic principles of life.
More disconcerting were the apparent actions of the now fully grown Nephilim, for it says:
And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against
them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and
beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and
drink the blood. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless
By now the cries of desperation from mankind were being heard loud
and clear by the angels, or Watchers, who had remained loyal to heaven.
One by one they are appointed by God to proceed against the rebel
Watchers and their offspring the Nephilim, who are described as “the
bastards and the reprobates, and the children of fornication”. The first
leader, Shemyaza, is hung and bound upside down and his soul banished
to become the stars of the constellation of Orion. The second leader,
Azazel, is bound hand and foot, and cast for eternity into the darkness
of a desert referred to as Dûdâêl. Upon him are placed “rough and jagged
rocks” and here he shall forever remain until the Day of Judgement when
he will be “cast into the fire” for his sins. For their part in the
corruption of mankind, the rebel Watchers are forced to witness the
slaughter of their own children before being cast into some kind of
heavenly prison, seen as an “abyss of fire”.
The patriarch Enoch then enters the picture and, for some
inexplicable reason, is asked to intercede on behalf of the incarcerated
rebels. He attempts to reconcile them with the angels of heaven, but
fails miserably. After this the Book of Enoch relates how the patriarch
is carried by angels over mountains and seas to the “seven heavens”.
Here he sees multitudes of angelic beings watching stars and other
celestial bodies in what appear to be astronomical observatories. Others
tend orchards and gardens that have more in common with an Israeli
kibbutz than an ethereal realm above the clouds.
Elsewhere in ‘heaven’ is Eden, where God planted a garden for Adam
and Eve before their fall – Enoch being the first mortal to enter this
domain since their expulsion.
Finally, during the life of Enoch’s great-grandson, Noah, the Great
Flood covers the land and destroys all remaining traces of the giant
race. Thus ends the story of the Watchers.
The Sons of God
What are we to make of the Book of Enoch? Are its accounts of the
fall of the Watchers and the visits to heaven by the patriarch Enoch
based on any form of historical truth? Scholars would say no. They
believe it to be a purely fictional work inspired by the Book of
Genesis, in particular two enigmatic passages in Chapter 6. The first,
making up Verses 1 and 2, reads as follows:
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the
ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the
daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all
that they chose.
By ‘sons of God’ the text means heavenly angels, the original Hebrew
being bene ha-elohim. In Verse 3 of Chapter 6 God unexpectedly
pronounces that his spirit cannot remain in men for ever, and that since
humanity is a creation of flesh its life-span will henceforth be
shortened to “an hundred and twenty years”. Yet in Verse 4 the tone
suddenly reverts to the original theme of the chapter, for it says:
The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that,
when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare
children to them: the same were the mighty men which were of old, the
men of renown.
As the Pentateuch is considered to have been written by Moses the
lawgiver in c.1200 BC, it is assumed that the lines of Genesis 6
influenced the construction of the Book of Enoch, not the other way
round. Despite this obvious assumption on the part of Hebrew scholars,
there is ample evidence to show that much of Genesis was written after
the Jews return from captivity in Babylon during the mid-fifth century
BC. If this was the case, then there is no reason why the lines of
Genesis 6 could not have been tampered with around this time. In an
attempt to emphasise the immense antiquity of the Book of Enoch, Hebrew
myth has always asserted that it was originally conveyed to Noah,
Enoch’s great grandson, after the Great Flood, i.e. long before the
compilation of Genesis. This claim of precedence over the Pentateuch
eventually led the Christian theologian St Augustine (AD 354-430) to
state that the Book of Enoch was too old (ob nimiam antiquitatem) to be
included in the Canon of Scripture!
Roots of the Nephilim
There is another enigma contained within the lines of Genesis 6, for its appears to embody two entirely different traditions.
Look again at the words of Verse 2. They speak of the Sons of God
coming unto the Daughters of Men, while in contrast Verse 4 states
firmly: “The Nephilim were in the earth in those days and also after
thatwhen the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men (author’s
And also after that…
The meaning seemed clear enough: there were two quite separate
traditions entangled here – one concerning the fallen race known to the
early Israelites as the Nephilim (mentioned elsewhere in the Pentateuch
as the progenitors of a race of giants called Anakim), and the other
concerning the bene ha-elohim, the Sons of God, who are equated directly
with the Watchers in Enochian tradition. Theologians are aware of this
dilemma, and get around the problem by suggesting that the angels fell
from grace twice – once through pride and then again through lust. It
seems certain that the term Nephilim was the original Hebrew name of the
fallen race, while bene ha-elohim was a much later term – plausibly
from Iran – that entered Genesis 6 long after its original compilation.
In spite of the contradictions surrounding Genesis 6, its importance
is clear enough, for it preserved the firm belief among the ancestors of
the Jewish race that at some point in the distant past a giant race had
once ruled the earth.
So if the Watchers and the Nephilim really had inhabited this world,
then who or what were these seemingly physical beings? Where did they
come from? What did they look like? Where did they live and what was
their ultimate fate?
The Book of Enoch was a vital source of knowledge with regard to
their former existence, but I needed more – other less tainted accounts
of this apparent race of human beings.
Then came an important break.
The Dead Sea Connection
Hebrew scholars had long noted the similarities between some of the
reactionary teachings in the Book of Enoch and the gospels according to
the Essenes – a fundamental, yet very righteous religious community
spoken of by classical scholars as having existed on the western shores
of the Dead Sea. This connection was strengthened after 1947 when it was
realised that among the Dead Sea Scrolls, now considered to have been
written by the Essenes, were various fragments of texts belonging to
several copies of the Book of Enoch. Up until this time the only
complete manuscript copies available to the literary world had been
various copies written in the Ethiopian written language of Ge’ez, the
first of which had been brought back to Europe by the Scottish explorer
and known Freemason James Bruce of Kinnaird following his famous travels
in Abysinnia between 1769 and 1772.
Not only did the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm
the authenticity of the Book of Enoch, but they also showed that it had
been held in great esteem by the Essene community at Qumran, who may
even have been behind its original construction sometime after 165 BC.
More importantly, Hebrew scholars also began to identify various other
previously unknown tracts of an ‘Enochian’ flavour among the Dead Sea
corpus, and these included further references to the Watchers and their
offspring the Nephilim. Many of these individual fragments were
eventually realised by Dead Sea scholar J.T. Milik to be extracts from a
lost work called the Book of Giants.
Previously this had only been known from isolated references in
religious texts appertaining to the Manichaeans, a heretical gnostic
faith that swept across Europe and Asia, as far as China and Tibet, from
the third century AD onwards.
The Book of Giants continues the story told in the Book of Enoch,
relating how the Nephilim had coped with knowing that their imminent
destruction was due to the improprieties of their Watcher fathers.
Reading this ancient work allows the reader a more compassionate view of
the Nephilim, who come across as innocent bystanders in a dilemma
beyond their personal control.
Visage Like A Viper
Yet aside from this still very fragmentary treatise, other Enochian
texts have surfaced among the Dead Sea Scrolls which in my opinion are
just as important. One of these is the Testament of Amram.
Amram was the father of the lawgiver Moses, although any biblical
time-frame to this story is irrelevant. What is much more significant is
the appearance of the two Watchers who appear to him in a dream-vision
as he rests in his bed, for as the heavily reconstructed text reads:
[I saw Watchers] in my vision, the dream-vision. Two (men) were
fighting over me, saying… and holding a great contest over me. I asked
them, ‘Who are you, that you are thus empo[wered over me?’ They answered
me, ‘We] [have been em]powered and rule over all mankind.’ They said to
me, ‘Which of us do yo[u choose to rule (you)?’ I raised my eyes and
looked.] [One] of them was terr[i]fying in his appearance, [like a
s]erpent, [his] c[loa]k many-coloured yet very dark… [And I looked
again], and… in his appearance, his visage like a viper, and
[wearing...] [exceedingly, and all his eyes...].
The text identifies this last Watcher as Belial, the Prince of
Darkness and King of Evil, while his companion is revealed as Michael,
the Prince of Light, who is also named as Melchizedek, the King of
Righteousness. It is, however, Belial’s frightful appearance that took
my attention, for he is seen as terrifying to look upon and like a
‘serpent’, the very synonym so often used when describing both the
Watchers and the Nephilim. If the textual fragment had ended here, then I
would not have known why this synonym had been used by the Jewish
scribe in question. Fortunately, however, the text goes on to say that
the Watcher possessed a visage, or face, “like a viper”. Since he also
wears a cloak “many-coloured yet very dark”, I had also to presume that
he was anthropomorphic, in other words he possessed human form.
Visage like a viper…
What could this possibly mean? How many people do you know with a
“visage like a viper”? For over a year I could offer no suitable
solution to this curious metaphor.
Then, by chance, I happened to overhear something on a national radio
station that provided me with a simple, though completely unexpected
answer. In Hollywood, Los Angeles, there is a club called the Viper
Room. It is owned by actor and musician Johnny Depp, and in October 1993
it hit the headlines when up-coming actor River Phoenix tragically
collapsed and died as he left the club following a night of
over-indulgence. In the media publicity that inevitably surrounded this
drugs-related incident, it emerged that the Viper Room gained its name
many years beforehand when it had been a jazz haunt of some renown.
Story goes that the musicians would take the stage and play long hours,
prolonging their creativity and concentration by smoking large amounts
of marijuana. Apparently, the long term effects of this drug abuse,
coupled with exceedingly long periods without food and sleep, would
cause their emaciated faces to appear hollow and gaunt, while their eyes
would close up to become just slits. Through the haze of heavy smoke,
the effect was to make it seem as if the jazz musicians had faces like
vipers, hence the name of the club.
This amusing anecdote sent my mind reeling and enabled me to
construct a mental picture of what a person with a “visage like a viper”
might look like; their faces would appear long and narrow, with
prominent cheekbones, elongated jawbones, thin lips and slanted eyes
like those of many East Asian racial types. Was this the solution as to
why both the Watchers and Nephilim were described as walking serpents?
It seemed as likely a possibility as any, although it was also feasible
that their serpentine connection related to their accredited magical
associations and capabilities, perhaps even their bodily movements and
The Appearance of Feathers
Another important reference to the appearance of Watchers comes from
the so-called Secrets of the Book of Enoch, also known as 2 Enoch, a
kind of sequel to the original work written in Greek and dating to the
first century AD. The passage refers to the unexpected arrival of two
Watchers as Enoch rests on his bed:
And there appeared to me two men very tall, such as I have never seen
on earth. And their faces shone like the sun, and their eyes were like
burning lamps; and fire came forth from their lips. Their dress had the
appearance of feathers:… [purple], their wings were brighter than gold;
their hands whiter than snow. They stood at the head of my bed and
called me by my name.
White skin (often ruddied “as red as a rose”), tall stature and
facial radiances “like the sun” all recur frequently in connection with
the appearance of angels and Watchers in Enochian and Dead Sea
literature. Yet what was this reference to their dress having “the
appearance of feathers”? Might it relate in some way to the “cloak” worn
by the Watcher named Belial who appears in the Amram story, which was
said to have been “many-coloured yet very dark”, precisely the effect
one might expect from a coat of black feathers, like those belonging to
crows or vultures perhaps?
In spite of the fact that Christian art has invariably portrayed
angels with wings, this tradition goes back no further than the third or
fourth century AD. Before this time true angels (Cherubim and Seraphim
did have multiple sets of wings) appeared in the likeness of “men”, a
situation that often prompted textual translators to add wings on to
existing descriptions of angels. This has almost certainly been the case
in the above account taken from 2 Enoch, which was re-copied many times
during the early years of Christianity.
With this observation in mind, I felt that the statement concerning
the Watchers dress having “the appearance of feathers” was very
revealing indeed. It also seemed like an over-sight on the part of the
scribe who conveyed this story into written form, for having added wings
to the description of the two “men”, why bother saying they wore
garments of feathers? Surely this confusion between wings and feather
coats could have been edited to give the Watchers a more appropriate
Somehow I knew it was a key to unlocking this strange mystery, for it
suggested that, if the Watchers had indeed been human, then they may
have adorned themselves in garments of this nature as part of their
ceremonial dress. The use of totemic forms, such as animals and birds,
has always been the domain of the shaman, the spirit walkers of tribal
communities. In many early cultures the soul was said to have taken the
form of a bird to make its flight from this world to the next, which is
why it is often depicted as such in ancient religious art. This idea may
well have stemmed from the widely-held belief that astral flight could
only be achieved by using ethereal wings, like those of a bird,
something that almost certainly helped inspire the idea that angels, as
messengers of God, should be portrayed with wings in Christian
To enhance this mental link with his or her chosen bird, shamans
would adorn their bodies with a coat of feathers and spend long periods
of time studying its every movement. They would enter its natural
habitat and watch every facet of its life – its method of flight, its
eating habits, its courtship rituals and its actions on the ground. In
doing so they would hope to become as birds themselves, an
alter-personality adopted on a semi-permanent basis. Totemic shamanism
is more-or-less dependent on the indigenous animals or birds present in
the locale of the culture or tribe, although in principle the purpose
has always been the same – using this mantle to achieve astral flight,
divine illumination, spirit communication and the attainment of
otherworldly knowledge and wisdom.
So could the Watchers and Nephilim have been bird-men?
The answer is almost certainly yes, for in the Dead Sea text entitled
the Book of Giants, the Nephilim sons of the fallen angel Shemyaza,
named as ’Ahyâ and ’Ohyâ, experience dream-visions in which they visit a
world-garden and see 200 trees being felled by heavenly angels. Not
understanding the purpose of this allegory they put the subject to the
Nephilim council who appoint one of their number, Mahawai, to go on
their behalf to consult Enoch, who now resides in an earthly paradise.
To this end Mahawai then:
[...rose up into the air] like the whirlwinds, and flew with the help
of his hands like [winged] eagle [...over] the cultivated lands and
crossed Solitude, the great desert, [...]. And he caught sight of Enoch
and he called to him…
Enoch explains that the 200 trees represent the 200 Watchers, while
the felling of their trunks signifies their destruction in a coming
conflagration and deluge. More significant, however, is the means by
which Mahawai attains astral flight, for he is said to have used “his
hands like (a) [winged] eagle.” Elsewhere in the same Enochian text
Mahawai is said to have adopted the guise of a bird to make another long
journey. On this occasion he narrowly escapes being burnt up by the
sun’s heat and is only saved after heeding the celestial voice of Enoch,
who convinces him to turn back and not die prematurely – a story that
has close parallels with Icarus’s fatal flight too near the sun in Greek
In addition to this evidence, a variation of this same text equates
Shemyaza’s sons “not (with) the… eagle, but his wings”, while in the
same breath the two brothers are described as “in their nest”,
statements which prompted the Hebrew scholar J.T. Milik to conclude that, like Mahawai, they too “could have been bird-men”.
This was compelling confirmation that angels were originally a
culture or tribe who practised a form of bird shamanism, perhaps
associated with a dark carrion bird such as the crow or vulture.
* * *
Since the Enochian and Dead Sea literature was written by
olive-skinned Jews of the post-exilic period, it is quite clear they
were reciting traditions concerning a completely different race from a
completely different climate. So who were these human angels, and where
might they have lived?
Since we now know that the legends of the fall of the angels most
probably originated in Iran, more precisely in the north-western kingdom
of Media (modern-day Azerbaijan), then there is every reason to
associate these traditions with the mountains beyond Media. This is
tentatively confirmed by another Dead Sea text entitled the Genesis
Apocryphon which records that after his ascent to heaven the patriarch
Enoch spent the rest of his life “among the angels” in “paradise”.
Although the term “paradise” is used in some translations of the
original text, the actual word is “Parwain”.
I was therefore quite stunned to find that among the ancient
traditions of the Mandaeans, a Magi-linked religion found mostly among
the Marsh Arabs of Lower Iraq, “Parwan” is a holy mountain apparently
located in the vicinity of Media in northwestern Iran. Furthermore, both
“Parwan” and “Parwain” would appear to derive their root from the old
Median word “Parswana”, meaning “rib, side, frontier”, used to describe
the peoples and territories beyond the borders of Media.
These would have included the region of Parsa to its south and, more
significantly, the mountainous region known as Parsua to its west.
Was Enoch therefore believed to have lived “among the angels” in the
harsh mountainous territoriesbeyond the limits of the ancient kingdom of
Media? In the remote region of Parsua, to the west of Media, perhaps?
Is this where the Watchers came from? Is it from here that they
descended on to the plains to take mortal wives and reveal the forbidden
arts and secrets of heaven?
In Iranian tradition the realm of the immortals and the seat of the
mythical godkings of Iran (who like the fallen race of Judaic tradition
were said to have been tall in stature with ivory white skin and shining
countenances), was known as the Airyana Vaejah, the Iranian Expanse.
Traditions fostered by the Magi imply quite clearly that this ethereal
domain was located among the mountains of Media.
All roads appeared to lead to the mountainous region of modern-day
Azerbaijan, which forms the eastern-most flanks of a vast snow-capped
expanse that stretches west to the Taurus mountains of eastern Anatolia
and northern Syria; north to the remote regions of Russian Armenia; and
south-east along the length of the Zagros mountains, as they gradually
descend towards the Persian Gulf and act as a virtually impenetrable
barrier between Iraq and Iran.
This enormous, mostly desolate part of the earth, home in the most
part to wandering nomads, bands of warring rebels, isolated religious
communities and the occasional village, town or city, is known to the
world as Kurdistan – the cultural and political homeland of the much
troubled Kurdish peoples.
Yet according to biblical and apocryphal tradition, it was here also
that the Garden of Eden, the resting place of Noah’s Ark and the
stomping ground of the early patriarchs could be found. It was here too
that I now realised I would have to go in search of the realm of the
Eastwards, in Eden
The Book of Genesis speaks of God establishing a garden “eastwards,
in Eden”. Here Adam and Eve became humanity’s first parents before their
eventual fall from grace through the beguiling of the subtle Serpent of
Temptation. Serpents were not only a primary synonym for the Watchers
and Nephilim, but the Book of Enoch even states which “Serpent”, or
Watcher, led our first parents into temptation. Interestingly enough,
a holy text of the Zoroastrian faith, cites Angra Mainyu, the Evil
Spirit and father of the daevas, as assuming this same role, and like
the Watchers he too is described as a serpent with “legs”.
So where was Eden? All we know is that it was situated among the
Seven Heavens, a paradisical realm with gardens, orchards and
observatories in which the angels and Watchers reside in the Book of
The word ‘Eden’ is translated by Hebrew scholars as meaning
‘pleasure’ or ‘delight’, a reference to the fact that God created the
garden for the pleasure of mankind. This is not, however, its true
origin. The word ‘Eden’ is in fact Akkadian – the proto-Hebrew, or
Semitic, language introduced to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) by the
people of Agade, or Akkad, a race that seized control of the ancient
kingdom of Sumer during the second half of the third millennium BC. In
their language the word ‘Eden’, or edin, meant a ‘steppe’ or ‘terrace’,
as in a raised agricultural terrace.
Turning to the word ‘paradise’, I found that this simply inferred a
‘walled enclosure’, after the Persian rootpairi, ‘around’, and daeza,
‘wall’. It is a late-comer to Judaeo-Christian religious literature and
was only really used after the year 1175 AD.
The English word ‘heaven’, on the other hand, is taken from the
Hebrew ha’shemim, interpreted as meaning ‘the skies’. It can also refer
to ‘high places’, such as lofty settlements. Moreover, the Hebrew
word-root shm can mean ‘heights’, as well as ‘plant’ or ‘vegetation’,
implying perhaps that the word ‘heaven’ might be more accurately
translated as a ‘planted highlands’.
This quick round of simple etymology, in my opinion at least,
conjured the image of a walled, agricultural settlement with stepped
terraces placed in a highlands region. So is this what Eden was – a
‘walled, agricultural settlement’ placed among the mountains of
Kurdistan? Had it been tended by angels under the dominion of the
heavenly Watchers as is suggested by the text of the Book of Enoch?
More importantly, where had it been located?
The Rivers of Paradise
The Book of Genesis says that from Eden stemmed the headwaters of the
four rivers of paradise. The names of these are given as the Pishon,
Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates. Of these four, only the last can properly
be identified by name. The Euphrates flows through Turkish Kurdistan,
Syria and Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf. The other three
were identified by early biblical scholars respectively with the Ganges
of India (although occasionally the Orontes of northern Syria), the Nile
of Africa and the Tigris of western Asia, which, like its sister river
the Euphrates flows through Iraq and empties into the Persian Gulf. The
first two were chosen as suitable substitutes simply because they were
looked upon by scholars as the mightiest rivers of the classical world;
only the connection between the Hiddekel and the Tigris made any sort of
In no way could it be said that all four of these rivers rose in
the same geographical region, a problem that was conveniently overlooked
by theologians before the re-discovery of cartography in the sixteenth
century. Other sources, particularly the Armenian Church, accepted the
Euphrates and Tigris as two of the four rivers of paradise, yet chose to
associate the other two, the Pishon and Gihon, with, respectively, the
Greater Zab, which rises in Turkish Kurdistan and empties into the
Tigris, and the Araxes, which rises in Armenia and empties into the
Had the Armenian Church been right to do this? Possibly yes, as they
were the inhabitants of the geographical region in question and may well
have been privy to local traditions unavailable to the outside
Whatever the identities of the four rivers of paradise, Kurdish
tradition places their headwaters in the vicinity of Lake Van, an
enormous inland sea – some 60 miles across and around 35 miles wide –
situated on the border between Turkish Kurdistan and Armenia. Indeed,
legend records that the Garden of Eden now lies ‘at the bottom of Lake
Van’, after it was submerged beneath the waves at the time of the Great
Curiously enough, it is the mountain of Cudi Dag, or Mount Judi,
south of Lake Van that the Moslems as well as the various different
faiths of Kurdish extraction locate the so-called Place of Descent, the
site where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Great Flood. The
attribution of this very same location with the more familiar Mount
Ararat is a pure Christian invention that has no real basis in early
All this therefore implied that the compilers of the Book of Genesis
placed both the birth-place of humanity, i.e. the Garden of Eden, and
its point of regeneration after the Great Flood in the same general
region of northern Kurdistan, surely a clue to the fact that the key to
the origins of the Watchers lay in this same geographical area of the
The Heavenly Mountain
There is much more, however, for it is not just the Iranian and
Jewish races that cite Kurdistan as the cradle of civilisation. The
mythologies of both the Sumerians, who ruled the various Mesopotamian
city-states from around 3000 BC onwards, and their eventual conquerors,
the Akkadians, placed the homeland of the gods in this exact same
region. The Akkadians originated as a Semitic, or proto-Hebrew, race of
uncertain origin, and in their religious literature this heavenly abode
is referred to asKharsag Khurra, the heavenly mountain. Here the gods,
also known as the Anannage, lived in a paradisical realm with gardens,
orchards, temples and irrigated fields that not only resemble the Seven
Heavens described in the Book of Enoch, but is actually referred to on
more than one occasion as edin, the Akkadian for ‘steppe’ or ‘plateau’.
Even further linking Kharsag with the Jewish domain of angels is the
knowledge that the Anannage, like the Enochian Watchers, were governed
by a council of seven. These undoubtedly equate with the seven
archangels of post-exilic Judaism as well as the six so-called Amesha
Spentas, or ‘bounteous spirits’, who with the supreme god Ahura Mazda,
preside over the angelic hierarchies in Iranian tradition.
Were the Anannage, the gods and goddesses of Kharsag, simply another
form of the Watchers of Enochian and Dead Sea literature, whose homeland
was a lofty agricultural settlement called Eden or heaven, located
somewhere amid the mountains of Kurdistan?
The Search for Dilmun
Kharsag is not the only name used by the ancient Mesopotamians to
refer to their place of first beginnings. This cradle of civilisation
was also known by the name Dilmun, or Tilmun. Here, it was said, the god
Ea and his wife were placed to institute “a sinless age of complete
happiness”. Here too animals lived in peace and harmony, man had no
rival and the god Enlil “in one tongue gave praise”. It is also
described as a pure, clean and “bright” “abode of the immortals” where
death, disease and sorrow are unknown and some mortals have been given
“life like a god”, words reminiscent of the Airyana Vaejah, the realm of
the immortals in Iranian myth and legend, and the Eden of Hebraic
Although Dilmun is equated by most scholars with the island of
Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, there is evidence to suggest that a much
earlier mythical Dilmun was located in a mountainous region beyond the
plains of Sumer. But where exactly was it located?
Mesopotamian inscriptions do not say; however, the
Zoroastrian Bundahishn text and the Christian records of Arbela in Iraqi
Kurdistan both refer to a location named Dilamân as having existed
around the headwaters of the Tigris, south-west of Lake Van – the very
area in which the biblical Eden is said to have been located.
Furthermore, Ea (the Akkadian Enki) was said to have presided over
the concourse of Mesopotamia’s two greatest rivers – the Tigris and
Euphrates – which are shown in depictions as flowing from each of his
shoulders. This would have undoubtedly have meant that the head-waters,
or sources, of these rivers would have been looked upon as sacred to Ea
by the cultures of Mesopotamia’s Fertile Crescent.
More curious is the knowledge that, as in Hebrew and Iranian myth,
there would appear to have been a fall of the gods of Anu, the Anannage.
Whilst 300 of their number remained in heaven, some 600 others, under
the leadership of Nergal, god of the underworld, settled among mortal
kind. Here they provided mankind with everything from basic agriculture,
to astronomy, land irrigation, building technology and structured
These rebel Anannage lived “in the earth”, a reference to an
“underworld” realm connected with the ancient city of Kutha, north of
Babylon. In this “House of Darkness” lived “demons” and Edimmu, giant
blood-sucking vampires who would return to the surface world after dark
to steal the souls of the undead.
Could these infernal beings be a distorted memory of the rebel
Watchers and their monstrous offspring, the Nephilim? Might these fallen
angels have lived in underground cities after their descent on to the
The Bodies of Birds
Ancient Mesopotamia fathered whole pantheons of devils and demons –
each class having its own appearance, functions and attributes. Some
were beneficial to mankind, while others caused only pain, suffering and
torment in the mortal world.
In the story of the goddess Ishtar’s descent to the underworld,
preserved in Assyrio-Babylonian tradition, the “chiefs” of the “House of
Darkness” were said to have been “like birds covered with feathers”,
who “from the days of old ruled the earth, (and) to whom the gods Anu
and Bel have given terrible names”. In one cuneiform tablet written in
the city of Kutha by a scribe “in the temple of Sitlam, in the sanctuary
of Nergal” it describes the incursions into Mesopotamia of a race of
demons, fostered by the gods in some nether region. They are said to
have waged war on an unnamed king for three consecutive years and to
have had the appearance of:
Men with the bodies of birds of the desert, human beings with the faces of ravens,
these the great gods created,
and in the earth the gods created for them a
in the midst of the earth they grew up and became great, and increased in number,
Seven kings, brothers of the same family,
six thousand in number were their people.
These “men with the bodies of birds” were looked upon as “demons”.
They would appear only once a storm-cloud had consumed the deserts and
would slaughter those whom they took captive, before returning to some
inaccessible region for another year.
There seems every reason to suggest that these fierce “demons” were
not incorporeal spirits at all, but beings of flesh and blood adorned in
cloaks of feathers and bird paraphernalia.
But who were these human demons, and how did they relate to the development of civilisation in Mesopotamia?
The Sumerians were a unique people with their own language and
culture. Nobody knows their true origin or where exactly they may have
obtained the seeds of knowledge that helped establish the various
city-states during the fourth millennium BC. Yet the Sumerians
themselves were quite explicit on this point. They said their entire
culture had been inherited from the Anannage, the gods of Anu, who had
come from an ancestral homeland in the mountains. To emphasise this
point they used an ideogram of a mountain to denote “the country”, i.e.
Sumer, and built seven-tiered ziggurats in honour of these founder gods.
Was it possible therefore that the proposed Watcher culture of
Kurdistan provided the impetus for the rise of western civilisation?
Archaeologists have no problem accepting Kurdistan as the cradle of
Near Eastern civilisation. Shortly after the recession of the last Ice
Age, c.8500 BC, there emerged in this region some of the earliest
examples of agriculture, animal domestication, baked and painted
pottery, metallurgy and worked obsidian tools and utensils. Curiously
enough, from c.5750 BC onwards for several hundred years the trade in
raw and worked obsidian throughout Kurdistan seems to have been centred
around an extinct volcano named Nemrut Dag on the south-western shores
of Lake Van, the very area in which both the mythical lands of Eden and
Dilmun are likely to have been located.
Kurdistan was undoubtedly the point of origin of the so-called
Neolithic explosion from the ninth millennium BC onwards. Indeed, it is
because of this settled community lifestyle in Kurdistan that the
earliest known form of token bartering developed. This primitive method
of exchange eventually led to the establishment of the first written
alphabet and ideogram system on the Mesopotamian plains sometime during
the fourth millennium BC. It is therefore understandable that
civilisation first arose in the Fertile Crescent during this same age.
From here, of course, it quickly spread to many other regions of the Old
In the light of this information it appears that the evolution of the
Middle East seems cut and dry, the actions of a few sophisticated
protoneolithic farming communities located in the mountains and
foothills of Kurdistan being responsible for the growth of civilised
society. Yet what caused this so-called ‘neolithic explosion’, and why
on earth did it start in this remote, and very mountainous, region?
Something was missing, for as Mehrdad R. Izady, a noted scholar of
Kurdish cultural history, has observed:
The inhabitants of this land went through an unexplained stage of
accelerated technological evolution, prompted by yet uncertain forces.
They rather quickly pulled ahead of their surrounding communities, the
majority of which were also among the most advanced technological
societies in the world, to embark on the transformation from a
low-density, hunter-gatherer economy to a high-density, food producing
What might these “yet uncertain forces” have been? Were they the
Watchers, who were said to have provided mankind with the forbidden arts
and sciences of heaven? If so, was I overlooking important evidence
already unearthed by the spades of palaeontologists and archaeologists
that might support such a wild hypothesis?
Turning to the archaeological reports and transactions on excavations
in Kurdistan, I searched long and hard. What I found astounded me. For
instance, in the late 1950s Ralph and Rose Solecki, two noted
anthropologists, were uncovering the different occupational levels
inside a huge cave overlooking the Greater Zab river at a site known as
Zawi Chemi Shanidar, when they made a discovery of incredible
significance to this debate. They unearthed a number of goat skulls
placed alongside a collection of wing bones belonging to large predatory
birds. All of the wings had been hacked from the bodies of the birds in
question, while many had still been in articulation when found. Carbon
14 dating of the organic deposits associated with these remains
indicated a date of 10,870 years (+/-300 years), that is 8870 BC.
The bird wings were subsequently identified as those of four Gyptaeus
barbatus (the bearded vulture), one Gyps fulvus (the griffon vulture),
seven Haliaetus albicilla (the white-tailed sea eagle) and one Otis
tarda (the great bustard) – only the last of which is still indigenous
to the region. There were also the bones of four small eagles of
indeterminable species. All except for the great bustard were raptorial
birds, while the vultures were quite obviously eaters of carrion.
The discovery of these severed bird wings had posed obvious problems
for the Soleckis. Why had only certain types of birds been selected for
this purpose, and what exactly had been the role played by these
enormous predatory birds in the minds of those who had placed them
within the Shanidar cave?
In an important article entitled ‘Predatory Bird Rituals at Zawi
Chemi Shanidar’, published by the journal Sumer in 1977, Rose Solecki
outlined the discovery of the goat skulls and bird remains. She
suggested that the wings had almost certainly been utilised as part of
some kind of ritualistic costume, worn either for personal decoration or
for ceremonial purposes. She linked them with the vulture shamanism of
Çatal Hüyük, a protoneolithic community in central Anatolia (Turkey),
which reached its zenith a full 2000 years after these bird’s wings had
been deposited 565 miles away in the Shanidar cave. Rose Solecki
recognised the enormous significance of these finds, and realised that
they constituted firm evidence for the presence of an important
religious cult in the Zawi Chemi Shanidar area, for as she had concluded
in her article:
The Zawi Chemi people must have endowed these great raptorial birds
with special powers, and the faunal remains we have described for the
site must represent special ritual paraphernalia. Certainly, the remains
represent a concerted effort by a goodly number of people just to hunt
down and capture such a large number of birds and goats… (Furthermore,
that) either the wings were saved to pluck out the feathers, or that
wing fans were made, or that they were used as part of a costume for a
ritual. One of the murals from a Çatal Hüyük shrine… depicts just such a
ritual scene; i.e., a human figure dressed in a vulture skin…
Here was extraordinary evidence for the existence of vulture shamans
in the highlands of Kurdistan c.8870 BC! What’s more, all this was
happening just 140 miles south-east of the suggested location for Eden
and Dilmun on Lake Van at a time when the highland peoples of Kurdistan
were changing from primitive hunter-gatherers to settled protoneolithic
communities. Might these goats skulls and predatory bird remains have
some connection with the “yet uncertain forces” behind the sudden
Neolithic explosion in this region? Remember, I had already established
that the Watchers wore coats of feathers, plausibly those of the crow or
My mind reeled with possibilities. What on earth had been going on in
this cave overlooking the Greater Zab, which, of course, has been cited
as one of the four rivers of paradise? Had it been visited by Watchers,
human angels, in the ninth millennium BC? The presence of the predatory
bird remains made complete sense, but what about the fifteen goat
skulls – how might they have fitted into the picture?
A Goat for Azazel
The Pentateuch records how each year on the Day of Atonement a goat
would be cast into the wilderness “for Azazel”, carrying on its back the
sins of the Jewish people. Moreover, Azazel, one of the two leaders of
the fallen angels, was said to have fostered a race of demons known as
the seirim, or ‘he-goats’. They are mentioned several times in the Bible
and were worshipped and adored by some Jews. There is even some
indication that women actually copulated with these goat-demons, for it
states in the Book of Leviticus: “And they shall no more sacrifice their
sacrifices unto the he-goats (seirim), after whom they go a whoring”,
perhaps a distant echo of the way in which the Watchers had taken wives
from among mortal kind. This clear relationship between the Watchers and
he-goats is so strong that it led Hebrew scholar J.T. Milik to conclude
that Azazel “was evidently not a simple he-goat, but a giant who
combined goat-like characteristics with those of man”. In other words,
he had been a goat-man – a goat shaman.
So it seemed that not only were the Watchers “bird-men”, vulture
shamans indulging in otherworldly practices, but also goat shamans. It
is bizarre to think that this association between Azazel and the goat
was the impetus behind the goat becoming a symbol of the devil, as well
as the reason why the world is so adverse to the inverted pentagram