Babylonian Month: December/January

During the solstices in Mesopotamia, a ritual to balance the Day and Night is held. At the winter solstices, the Daughters of the Moon leave the Ezida, the House of the Night. They walk to the Esagil, the House of the Day. Meanwhile the Daughters of the Sun leave the Esagil and go to the Ezida. The Goddesses greet each other as they pass by. In the winter, this ritual is to lengthen the days, in the summer, the nights.

In Sumer, the tenth month is called Ab-e, which was changed from Ku-su, by Sugli, King of Uruk. (The kings controlled the calendar.) He had wanted to celebrate his thirty-year jubilee. His successors kept Ab-e as the month name. During this month, they would honor the mythic kings of their cities. (Modern people honor the mythic individuals of their countries in Ab-e.)

In Babylon, the tenth month is called Tebetu. The Festival of the Boat of An (the Father of the Gods) is held during this month. This Festival commemorates the taking of the Mes (Note 1) by Inanna from Enki, the God of Wisdom and Fresh Waters. The Festival of the Boat of An (Note 2) could be regarded as celebrating the transfer of power from the Gods to allow civilization to begin among the humans.

Offerings of dates, chickpeas, lentils, and sesame oil are transported by boat (Note 3) from the temple of An to Inanna’s. (In modern rituals, a wooden boat is moved from the altar of An to Inanna’s.) They are made at night for An, and later for Inanna at dawn.

Going to where Enki lives in Eridu, Inanna gets Him drunk and steals the Mes. She departs in An’s barge from Eridu to Uruk, taking them with Her. Meanwhile, Enki tries to get them back but is unsuccessful. However, the Gods do allow Inanna to disburse the Mes. (The myth: Inanna and Enki http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.3.1#).

After landing the Boat of An, Inanna sings, “Today I have brought the Boat of Heaven to the Gate of Joy. It shall pass along the street magnificently. The people shall stand in the street full of awe, in joy. The old men of the city comfort, the old women counsel, the young men strength of arms, the children joy. The king shall slaughter bulls, shall sacrifice sheep. He shall pour beer from a bowl. He shall have the šem and ala drums sound, and have the sweet-sounding tigi instruments play. The foreign lands shall declare my greatness. My people shall utter my praise.”

Notes:
Note 1. Mes are the divine decrees which establishes the world order. They range from objects (weapons) to emotions (terror) to culture (hair styles).
Note 2. As the Father of the Gods, An allows the transfer of power. Inanna using his barge is symbolic of this.
Note 3. Babylonians had full-sized barges for the Gods to travel in. They would row the barges from city to city for a processional of the God. Meanwhile, at the God’s temple, the boat was displayed with the statue of the God and the God’s treasures.

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