Another son of Enlil, Ninurta was the god of the thunderstorm and spring flood. Since the moist air and thunderstorms of spring soften the soil and make ploughing possible, it is understandable that Ninurta is also god of the plough. He is the god of the farmers in the north, in Nippur, and in the east, in Girsu.
His external form was originally the thundercloud, mythopeically experienced as an enormous bird floating on outstretched wings in the sky. Since the roar of the thunder could rightly issue only from a lion’s mouth the bird was early given a lion’s head. The name of the god was, as so often, that of the phenomenon in which he was the power, in this case Imdugud, "heavy rain."
The humanization of the outer form of the thunderstorm god accompanied the socialization of the inner form. Thunder and lightning are violent phenomena. In the thunder the ancients not only heard the roar of the lion or the bellow of the bull, but also at times the rumble of the war chariot, while the lightning became the flash of arrows in the sun. Thus, Ninurta/Ningirsu, having captured his bird form in a battle in the mountains, hitched it before his war chariot and drove it across the skies, rain pouring out of its mouth. As victorious charioteer, the human form of the god became a war leader, a king. At this time, kingship was just emerging. It did, however, furnish the metaphorization and key to the social significance of the power in the thunderstorm which became, like the emergent king, a defender against outer foes and a righter of internal wrongs.
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