Hailed as the “Good Bread of the Whole World,” Ashnan is depicted with grain sprouting from her shoulders. This is because the Sumerians called this Goddess, “The Growing Grain, the Life of Sumer.” Since She is the Goddess of Barley, Ashnan was invoked in treaties by the Mesopotamians. If anyone broke a pact, Ashnan would withhold her abundance, and they would starve.
The Babylonian calendar was divided into two seasons – summer and winter. Winter, which began at the autumn equinox, was the time of the barley sowing (the Akiti-sununum). Summer, which began at the spring equinox, was the time of the barley harvest (the Akiti-sekinku). Ashnan was honored at both festivals, as it was Her who sustained the people.
In the “Debate Between Sheep and Grain (note),” Ashnan and her sister Lahar, the Goddess of Sheep, were created by the Annunaki (the Great Gods) to feed Them. Later the two Goddesses get drunk and argue over who is more important. Enlil, the Holder of the Tablets of Destiny, and Enki, God of Water and Wisdom, intervene. They tell the two Goddesses that Both need to stand together as sisters. Enki ends the argument with, “From sunrise to sunset, may the name of Grain be praised. People should submit to the Yoke of Grain. Whoever has silver, whoever has jewels, whoever has cattle, whoever has sheep shall take a seat at the gate of whoever has grain, and pass his time there.”
Note: The Sumerians wrote debates (disputations) as a part of their theology to explain the relations between the Gods and humans. Seven are known – Bird and Fish, Copper and Silver, Millstone and Gulgul-stone, Hoe and Plough, Date Palm and Tamarisk (Tree and Reed), Winter and Summer, and Sheep and Grain.
Lady of Abundance
Goddess of Barley
The Hardy Grain of Bread and Beer
The Growing Grain, the Life of Humans
Gift of the Great Gods
Baskets of You Build the Cities
Baskets of You Build the Nations
You feed Humanity and the Gods
Lady of Abundance
We Praise You
The Good Bread of the World