God of the Month: Ashnan of Babylon

agriculture barley field beautiful close up

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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

Hardy Grain
Lady of Abundance
We Praise You
Ashnan
The Good Bread of the World

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Gods of Babylon of the Month: March/April

nbmarduknabu

The beginning of the Babylonian year starts at the Spring Equinox. During Nisannu (Mar/Apr) of the Babylonian Calendar), the new moon after the equinox, the Akitu, the New Year Festival is held for twelve days. It starts with purifications and then the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian Creation Epic) is read. This myth begins with the original creation of the world by Tiamat, the God of Chaos, and Apsu, the God of Waters. Later Enlil, a God from the succeeding generation becomes the “Father of the Gods.” Eventually, He cedes his powers to Anu, from yet a newer generation of Gods, who seeks to overthrow the original Gods. After Apsu is killed, Tiamat wages war on the newer Gods. In desperation, Enlil goes to Marduk, the principal deity of Babylon, for help. On the condition that He is made the Ruler of the Gods, Marduk agrees. After killing Tiamat, Marduk remakes the world from her body.

During the Akitu, Marduk disappears. While his and Nabu’s temples are being cleansed, the people search for Him. At this time, they carry the statues of the other Gods to Marduk’s temple. Meanwhile, Nabu, the Scribe of the Gods and Marduk’s Minister, searches for and then frees Marduk from the Underworld. Then in his temple, the priests re-enthroned Marduk as the Ruler of the Gods. Afterwards, they do divination for the coming year. The festival ends with celebrations and the return of the Gods to their shrines.

Meanwhile to begin the growing season, the King would enact a sacred marriage with the temple priestess of Ishtar (Inanna). Their mating is to reaffirm the marriage of Ishtar, the Goddess of Fertility, with her husband, Tammuz (Dumuzi). These marriage rites ensure that the King is accepted as one of the Gods, and blessed by Ishtar, who also blesses the crops.

For Sumerians, the month is called Barazagar (Mar/Apr), the month of first offerings. The Akiti-Sekinku, the festival of harvesting barley, which starts at the full moon. For them, the month’s name – The Goddess of Barley Ashnan is honored as the “good bread of the whole world.”
Note: 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, they standardized their calendar – the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar to unify their empire.

Babylonian New Year’s Festival

God of the Month: Marduk of Babylon

God of the Month: Nabu, Babylonian Patron of Writing

Tiamat

God of the Month: Inanna (Ishtar)

Touched by Hecate

hecateI experienced full blown ritual panic during a seidhr (Norse ritual of speaking to the Dead). At the time, I did not expect to be possessed by a Deity. Usually when people are to be possessed by a God, they plan for it and assemble a crew to help them. I was an “accidental” possession, totally unexpected by anyone.

The seidhr was held at a campground, in the evening. The seidhrwoman sat high on a picnic table, with everyone sitting on either side on benches. Because I came later, I had to sit on the lone chair in the middle of the benches.

Since I am a Roman Polytheist, I prepare for rituals by taking a bath first. Then, I dress in Roman clothing (stola, tunica, and palla). Covering my head with my palla, I am ready for the ritual. Apparently at the seidhr, I resembled the Goddess Hecate.

I have no memory of what happened after we approached the Underworld during the ritual. I was told by witnesses that Hecate took over my body. The seidhrwoman later told me that she had received a vision of Hecate coming to the seidhr dressed as a Roman.

After Hecate left my body, I was totally out of it. I felt like I had been struck by lightning, dragged for miles behind a fleet of Mack trucks, and run over repeatedly. Dazed and confused, I panicked. Fortunately for me, the seidhrwoman knew what to do to help me. First, she had me drink water and eat some crackers. Then, she spritzed me with lavender. All the while, she discussed the weather with me. Eventually, I came back to my body. Since then, I make sure that I have water and crackers with me during a ritual. (I have found that during rituals, I have close encounters with certain Gods and Goddesses.)

Works Used:
Kaldera, Raven, “The Eightfold Path to Altered States of Consciousness.” 2006. Web. http://www.northernshamanism.org/the-eightfold-path-to-altered-states-of-consciousness.html , <Accessed 3, December 2018>.

Kaldera, Raven, “Spirit Possession.” 2010. Web. http://www.northernshamanism.org/spirit-possession.html, <Accessed 3, December 2018>.

Retelling of the Myth of Romulus and Remus for Modern People

mobsters2

Patrick Dempsey from “Mobsters”

Since myths are theology, a way to understanding them is to re-enact them. By taking different roles in a myth, a person can gain different perspectives and deeper understanding. Hidden aspects often become apparent. Meditating inside a myth can yield further insights.

For my meditation, I decided to rewrite the myth of the founding of Rome. After reflection, I choose to write a crime noir story. I realized that at their core, the Romans knew that they were criminals, who “made good.” Romans were realists about who they were. Their focus was on their destiny through war and guile.

Read the myth here: The Founding Myth of Rome
—–
In the City of Alba Longa, the Numitor Crime Family ruled the criminal underworld. The head of the Family, Don Numitor was so powerful that he had a seat on the National Commission, which ruled the criminal underworld of the nation. The head of the Commission (the Boss of Bosses) was Don Maroni (Mars, the God of War). In addition, Don Maroni was interested in Rhea Silvia, Don Numitor’s daughter.

Meanwhile, Amulius seized control of the Family from his unsuspecting brother. After his coup, Amulius confined Numitor to his home, and forced his niece into a convent. To ensure that Rhea Silvia remained at the convent, Don Amulius bribed the Mother Superior.

After Don Maroni found out where Rhea Silvia was, he also bribed the Mother Superior to ensure that his visits were unimpeded. In a few months, Rhea Silva became pregnant. Therefore the Mother Superior asked Don Amulius to come and fetch his niece. After he arrives, she informs him that the father of his niece’s children is none other than Don Maroni. Not willing to offend the Boss of Bosses, Don Amulius imprisons her with her father in their house.

However, Don Amulius regarded her children to be a different matter. He would tell Don Maroni, that the two boys died at birth. Meanwhile, he ordered one of his men to “take care” of them. The goon dumped the twins into the Tiber River. They floated downstream until a stray dog paddled out and pulled them to land. Since she had lost her puppies, the mangy dog nursed the boys as her own. Then, a passing farmer heard their cries, rescued them, and took the babies to his farm. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised Romulus and Remus as their own sons.

Like many young men, Romulus and Remus longed to leave the farm and go into the city. During a trip to Alba Longa, Romulus and Remus got into trouble. Don Amulius’ men dragged them to the “Padrino,” Don Amulius, since Remus had killed their Capo (Crew Boss). However, Romulus escaped, and formed a gang of toughs to storm Don Amulius’ office to rescue his brother. In the melee that followed, he killed Don Amulius.

The Underboss of the Amulius Family recognized the two brothers as the children of Rhea Silva and Don Maroni. Because of this, he offered them the position of Don of the Family. But, Romulus decided that his grandfather be reinstated instead, and their mother freed. After reuniting with their mother, and learning who their father was, Romulus and Remus set out to start their own crime family, in another city.

Empowered by being the sons of Don Maroni, the two brothers gathered an impressive group of criminals. As they searched for a suitable city, Romulus and Remus fought with each other. Arriving at a likely town, their arguing became more intense about who would be boss of the new crime family. After Romulus claimed that he received a sign from their father, he decided that this small town is the place to start their Family. Moreover, he announced that he would be the Don. Chagrined at being ignored by his brother, Remus taunted him for being so stupid to set up “business” in such a small town. Enraged, Romulus killed him. After ruing the murder of his brother, Romulus gave Remus a magnificent funeral. Then, he became Don Romulus, the head of the Rome Family, his new crime organization.

The Founding Myth of Rome

romulus1

The founding myth of the City of Rome centers on the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. This myth encompasses the circumstances of their birth, their coming of age, and the death of Remus by his brother. What makes this myth remarkable, for me, is that this is essentially the creation myth for ancient Romans. The myths of Romans usually focused on civic ethics or piety toward the Gods. (Any myth that detailed the creation of the world was usually adapted from the Greeks.) This founding myth presents the belief of the Romans that they were called to a greater destiny in the world. However, they were unsparing in highlighting that Romulus murdered his brother or that the original Romans were criminals.

The elements of this myth are twins with a divine parentage: in their case, Mars, the God of War. Numitor, their royal grandfather is overthrown by his younger brother, Amulius. After killing the male heirs, he forces Numitor’s daughter, Rhea Silva, to become a Vestal Virgin. During her service as a Vestal, Rhea Silva is visited by Mars. She later gives birth to his twins.

Romulus and Remus, the twins, are sent out to be killed by their great uncle, but are saved through magical intervention. The River God, Tiberius guides the basket to a river bank. A wolf rescues them and nurses them until they are found. Meanwhile, a woodpecker sent by Mars ensures the safety of the twins.

A childless couple, Faustulus and his wife Acca Larentia adopts the twins and raise them as shepherds. When the brothers are grown, they get into trouble with King Amulius’s men. When they were taken before their great uncle, who happens to be the king, Romulus kills him. Later, the brothers reinstate their grandfather and free their mother. Afterwards, Romulus and Remus leave to find their own fortune. Along the way, they argue over where to establish their new city. Goaded into fury by Remus, Romulus kills his brother. Filled with remorse, he buries Remus with great pomp, and then founds The City of Rome.

Read the full myth here: Romulus and Remus

Lilith: The Goddess of Demons

Lady-Lilith

“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1867)

Lilith is a difficult Goddess to understand. What is known about Her comes from dubious Jewish lore. She emerged fully formed as the Mother of Demons in Medieval Times, and then She received a makeover in modern times. The Goddess Religions want to see Lilith in a positive light as the first proto-feminist. Now this Goddess has bizarrely contradictory attributes, which confuses me.

“The Alpha-Beta of Ben Sira” (Pseudo-Ben Sira, 9th Century) is the problematic source for Lilith. According to it, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. In the first creation (Note 1), Yahweh created male and female, at the same time, from the earth. As the equal of Adam, Lilith refused to be dominated by him. Fleeing her husband, she “pronounced the Ineffable Name (of Yahweh) and flew away into the air.” Lilith went to the Red Sea, the dwelling place of demons.

Adam complained to Yahweh about Lilith abandoning him. The God sent three angels to convince her to come back. Since Lilith knew the hidden name of Yahweh, He could not compel her to return. When the three angels threatened to kill her demon children, Lilith countered with preying on newborns. After that, Yahweh, the angels and Lilith came to an odd pact. She could continue to kill babies unless they wore an amulet with the names of the three angels. However, Lilith had to endure with death of a hundred of her own children each day. (This was to explain why newborns die unexpectedly.)

“The Zohar,” compiled by Moses de Leon (1250-1305) (Note 2), called Lilith “a temptress of innocent men, breeder of evil spirits and carrier of disease.” As the Queen of the Demons, She was the succubus who attacked men in their sleep. Because Lilith drove men’s lust, the Shekhinah (the Female Part of Yahweh) went into exile.

In “A Treatise on the Left Emanation” by Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Kohen (the 13th century), Lilith is paired with Samael (Satan). Writing about evil, Rabbi Isaac said that Samael and Lilith were twins, created by Yahweh. Samael, regarded as The Angel of Death, became the “Great Demon,” and Lilith his partner in evil.

The Goddess Religions have reclaimed Lilith as the first pro-feminist. The Dark Goddess Lilith is their Patroness of Witches. She teaches women to embrace their sexuality and live according to their own rules. Some see Lilith representing “the power, politics and psychology of sex.” To stand up to the patriarchy, She sacrifices her children daily.

Polytheist theologians discuss whether the Gods can be differentiated or do their aspects refer to one being? For example, Anubis of Egypt, in the early dynasties, can be regarded to be a different God than Anubis of Cleopatra’s time. However, Anubis could also be the same God with more attributes.

According to Raven Kaldera, a shaman of Northern-Tradition Paganism, Gods have “horizontal” and “vertical” aspects. (Note 3) “Vertical” aspects range from a personal experience to a diffuse unknowable presence. “Horizontal” aspects entail the attributes of the Gods such as Jupiter being both the God of Thunder and the God of Government.

I have unanswered questions about Lilith. Are there more than one Goddess? Is Lilith of the Middle Ages the same Goddess of the Goddess Religions? Could She be considered a “pop culture” God because the Goddess Religions rewrote the lore?

From what I can discern, Lilith is the Dark Aspect of the Divine Feminine in Jewish Monotheism. She is a counterpart to the Shekhinah. My theory is that once Monotheism defined that the Divine be only a single male Deity, the feminine aspects went underground. They have come out sideways as Lilith and the Shekhinah. (Note 4). The Goddess Religions which worship only the Divine Feminine has elevated Lilith to be an aspect of the Goddess.

Notes:
1. Genesis details two creations. It is believed that the lore tries to reconcile the two, with Eve being Adam’s second wife. Made from his rib, she is subordinate to him.
2. “The Zohar” is a fundamental work of Kabbalism (Jewish mysticism).
3. Kaldera, Raven, “Dealing with Deities.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2012.
4. The Dark Aspect of the Divine Masculine came out as Samael (Satan).

Showing Respect for the Gods

ancient architecture brick brick wall

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Piety for a Roman Polytheist includes using the proper gestures as well as offering the correct sacrifices. For the Gods of the Sky (i.e. Jupiter), a person looks to the sky, and has the palm of their right hand face up. For the Gods of the Underworld (i.e. Consus), the palm is facing down. For the Gods of the Earth (i.e. Tellus), the hand touches the ground. For other Gods, the palm faces the God’s Home. For Neptune, that would be the nearest body of water, and for Silvanus, the woods.

When I leave my home, I put my right palm to the door. I say prayers to the Gods of the Door (Note 1) to watch over my home. When I return home, I do the same and thank Them for their graciousness in keeping my home. Entering and exiting buildings, I do the same with my prayers to Janus, Who Guards the Liminal Places.

This may seem rather prosaic, but I am left-handed. Doing the opposite is automatic to me, so I have to concentrate on using the correct hand. The only time that the left hand is used is in making offerings. Since using both hands at once is problematic for me (Note 2), I do the following -right first, then left.

There are prohibitions for other gestures since they involve gaining power over the Gods. A person may never cross their arms, fingers, or legs when they pray. This is a form of magic against the Gods. Christian style of prayer with the hands clasped together is considered malefic magic.

When a Roman encountered a God (Note 3), they usually remained silent and standing. In “Fasti,” Ovid relates his discussion with Janus, who appeared in his room. Ovid could ask questions of the God, but only at the God’s leave.

The Gods will converse with people and listen to them. For example, King Numa convinced Jupiter to accept plants for sacrifices. However, this was at Jupiter’s discretion. King Numa could not arbitrarily decide to offer plants without first asking the God. To keep the Pax Deorum (Peace of the Gods), Numa accepts Jupiter’s final decision. But like any good Roman, he set up a contract between himself and the God.

Notes:
Note 1: They are Cardea, Forculus, Janus and Limentinus.

Note 2: Because of my brain injury, I cannot use both sides of my body at the same time. If I do, I have seizures.

Note 3: Godly encounters include having the hair on your head stand up. A tingling feeling over takes you, and you feel fried by the electricity coursing through your body.