In the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar (Note 1), the month beginning at the new moon of April is Ajaru (Ayyaru). From Astrolabe B (Note 2), “The month Ajaru, the Pleiades, the Seven Gods, the opening up of the ground, the oxen are yoked, the land becomes arable, the ploughs washed, the month of heroic Ningirsu, the great ensi (priest) of Enlil.” (Note 3) (This is the month that “the horned oxen march forth.”) Also, the Sacred Marriage of Nabu and Tasmetu is celebrated to ensure the fertility and abundance of the land.
In the Old Babylonian Calendar, it was called Ezem Gusui because of the Gusisu Festival. Since this is the month of spring storms, the land is prepared for sowing. The Gusisu Festival is held at the full moon (about April 22). Ningirsu, who is the Warrior God, becomes Ninurta, the Farmer God. The Son of Enlil (the Keeper of the Tablets of Destiny), Ninurta brings the rains of spring. Before the inundation of the fields in May/June, irrigation ditches are repaired and filled. In addition, the oxen and ploughs are prepared for the spring farrowing. This festival was held for three days with the entire pantheon of Gods receiving offerings.
To honor Ninurta as Lord Plough and Master of the Fields, “The Debate Between the Hoe and the Plough” is read. (Note 4) This debate highlights the Hoe’s importance in civilization, since it builds the cities. Meanwhile, the Plough provides grain for the cities.
Then, the “Song of the Ploughing Oxen” is sung. This song depicts spring ploughing as the “faithful farmer with oxen.” One stanza is “My king, I want to praise the leading oxen of the plow: ‘Ellu! go, oxen, go, put the neck under the yoke, go, royal oxen, go, put the neck under the yoke! Step on the furrows of the fertile field, that the sides be made straight. With your lion’s tail beat the sides of the plow, Your step, oxen, rejoices the people, you have been given strength to work! The oxen you guide, Lipit-Istar (the king), and your song is a pleasure.”
The Sacred Marriage of Nabu, God of Wisdom and Abundant Harvest with Tasmetu, Goddess of Listening and Sexual Attraction is celebrated. (Note 5) As a Divine Couple, they come together as bride and groom. After spending six days and seven nights together, the two Gods are served a banquet by the king and the people. From this marriage will come peace and prosperity to the land.
Note 1. The Babylonians had a lunar calendar and added months beyond the 12-month year. They kept their year keyed to the equinoxes. Between 1750 – 1500 BCE, the Babylonians standardized their calendar – the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar to unify their empire.
Note 2. Astrolabe B has 12-month sectors with the rising of the stars. It lists the main events in the Babylonian Wheel of the Year.
Note 3. The Seven Gods, who are associated with the Pleiades, can be called to fight evil demons.
Note 4. 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.
Note 5. Tasmetu is first named as Nabu’s Consort. However, the Babylonians regarded Nanaya to be his Consort, while the Assyrians thought that Tasmetu was.