Babylonian Month of June-July

The month of mid-June to mid-July is called “Dumuzi (Tammuz).” This fourth month of the Babylonian year is named for the God of Fertility and Shepherds. With the advent of the hot, dry summer, Dumuzi goes to the Netherworld to live for six months. The months between June and September are the months that the Dead can roam among the living.

On the 18th day of this month, the statue of Istar (Dumuzi’s wife) is washed, and Dumuzi’s one is anointed in oil. Starting on the 25th day, people honored his death. On the “Day of the Striking,” Dumuzi’s statue is displayed. During “The Day of the Screaming,” people wailed for Him. On“The Day He is caught,” barley is burned and his statue is thrown out the main gate. (This refers to the Galla coming from the Underworld to fetch the God.) On the “Day of the Stall (where He was captured),” Dumuzi’s statue lies in state. At this time, a priest whispers prayers into the statue’s ears.

Meanwhile, in Sumer, the month is called “Su-numum” after the Akiti Su-numum (the Ploughing Festival). Ploughing has begun and will continue for four more months. This month is also referred to the “Month of the Barely Seed,” reflecting the preparation for the planting season. Stones and stubble are removed, and the rows are ploughed. Burnt offerings of fruit and oil are made to the plough. (Traditionally, the festival is started at the full moon after the summer solstice.)

Since Su-numun is also the onset of summer, there also rituals that focused on death and mourning. The first day of the month is “The Festival of the Canebrake (Apum).” (This was traditionally held on the new moon after the summer solstice.) “Canebrake” refers to the burial practice of wrapping the corpse in a shroud and laying it in the burial marshes. “In the reeds of Enki” refers to the canebrake receiving the body. Burial marshes were common. During the festival, it is customary to read laments such as “Lament over the Destruction of Ur” and “Lament over the Destruction of Ur and Sumer.” The “Time of the Great Wailing” commemorates when Ur was destroyed by the Elam and Sua peoples in 2004 BCE.

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Ninurta/Ningirsu of Babylon

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First known as the Storm God, Ningirsu was depicted as a thunderbird in Sumerian iconography. Later, He was shown as a God with wings. Both images emphasized this God’s powers in bringing the thunderstorms and floods of the springtime. By flooding the Tigris River, Ningirsu prepares the arid lands for planting.

Later, Ningirsu, the Storm God, becomes Ninurta, the Farmer God (in the “Epic of Anzu”). As the Master of the Fields, He provides the water for irrigation. Called the “life-giving semen of the red land,” Ninurta spreads abundance throughout out the land.

“The Farmer’s Almanac” (circa 1700 BCE) is considered to be Ninurta’s instructions for growing barley. First the fields are flooded in May-June, allowing the water not to rise too high. Then the fields are cleared of weeds and fenced in. Grain is planted and prayers are made to Ninkilim, the Goddess of Field Mice. Instructions for planting and hoeing continue through the planting year. Finally in April-May, the fields are cleaned of the harvest and readied for planting.

After fighting Asag, the Stone Being, Ninurta becomes the Warrior God. In the Lugal-e (“The Exploits of Ninurta”), the rocks of the mountains revolted. Asag, leading the others, aimed to crush the plains. With His Mace, Sharur (the Smasher of Thousands), Ninurta puts down the rebellion. By digging and piling up rocks that came after Him, He creates the irrigation systems of Babylon.

After the rebellion, Ninurta decides which rocks to punish or reward. Those who rebelled against the established order were not permitted strength. The flint would be easily flaked by antlers, and the limestone would crumble easily in water. Meanwhile, those who helped the God were rewarded. The lapis lazuli and hematite would be valued as much as gold. (One could interpret the Lugal-e as describing the beginning of agriculture, metallurgy and alchemy.)

In the “Epic of Anzu,” the Anzu Bird steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil, the Holder of the Tablets. (These tablets decreed the fates of the Gods and humans.) The Anzu Bird uses their power to turn back time. Meanwhile, Ninurta volunteers to retrieve the Tablets. After many trials, Ninurta finally defeats the Anzu Bird through trickery, and returns the Tablets to Enlil.

For the Assyrians, Ninurta was the Divine Hero and Prince of the Gods. The King of Assyria strove to be like the God – merciful, just, strong, and able to guarantee order. When the king went into battle, he would invoke Ninurta since this God was the King of Battle. In Assyria, Ninurta was credited with victories in battle.

Note: Nimrod the Mighty Hunter, in Genesis, is Ninurta.

Names of Ninurta
Storm of Majestic Splendor who makes the Rainbow
Master of the Fields
Lord Plough
Farmer of Enlil
Mighty Farmer Turned Warrior
Antelope of Heaven
Conqueror of Chaos
Lord Whose Powerful Arm is Fit to Bear the Mace
Divine Son and Avenger of His Father Ashur
Young Warrior
Champion of the High Gods
Hero of Heaven and Earth
Sheriff of the Gods

Girra (Gibil): God of Fire of Babylon/ Sumer

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The God of Fire, Girra (Gibil) is also the God of Light. His temple in Mesopotamia was called the “House of Awesome Radiance.” Because fire is basic to civilization, He is regarded as the “Founder of the Cities.”

As fire, Girra has many forms. He is the burning heat of summer, the destroyer of crops. Burning the fields, Girra sears the plains. He is the heat that warms the home and cooks the food. As the fire of purification, Girra burns away the baleful energies. He brings the creative fire to the smith and mason.

Note: Gibil and Girra were once regarded as separate Gods. Later, they were merged into one God.

Noble Girra
You purify the temples
You purify the bridal beds

Noble Girra
You sear the land
You set the mountains on fire

Noble Girra
You warm our hearts
You cook our food

Noble Girra
You set the brain on fire
You spark new ideas

Noble Girra
You are the Founder of Cities

May/June: Month of the Brick Gods of Sumer

In the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar, the month starting from the new moon of May is called Simanu (“Month of the Brick Gods”). The King would lay the first brick in the brick mold. Then brickmaking and construction could begin in earnest. The Gods of Bricks and Building were honored in eight rituals that centered on the brick kilns.

For modern people, this can be the time to celebrate masonry and other aspects of building. Think of how bricks provide for safe and snug homes. The beginnings of civilization could be said to be represented by bricks and mortar.

The Gods of Bricks and Building are:
Girra: The God of Fire. The God of Kilns
Kabta: God of Pickaxes, Construction and Bricks
Kulla: The God of Building.
Musdama: The God of Foundations. The God of Architects
Arazu: The God of Completed Construction
Nuska: The God of Fire. The God of Civilization.

Note: In Sumer, the time of the inundations of the fields also began at the new moon of May. The month of May-June in the Nippur calendar is known as Sig-ga.

Babylonian Gods for April/May

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 (farmer) of Enlil.” (Note 3) 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.

To honor Ninurta as Lord Plough and Master of the Fields, “The Debate Between the Hoe and the Plough” (etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section5/tr531.htm) 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.”

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.  Nabu, God of the Month

Notes:
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.

 

God of the Month: Ashnan of Babylon

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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

Gods and Their Cycles

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As with everything in the universe, the Gods have also their cycles. When They move about our world, we sense Them deeply, When the Gods leave, They become remote to us. For example, Nanna-Suen, the God of the Moon of the Babylonians, follows the phases of the moon. He disappears at the dark and new moons. In the winter, when Odin rides with his Wild Hunt, a person can expect to encounter Him.

Modern people are baffled by cyclical time. Since the industrial age, societies have adapted to machines, which have no slack periods. People, on the other hand, have circadian rhythms that do not conform to unchanging machine time. Therefore, modern people become flummoxed with the disruption that the flu season brings. Even a snowfall will gum up the “well-oiled machine” of work, school, and commerce. Used to the inflexible rhythms of the industrial age, people have lost the ability to deal the ebb and flow of their lives.

Therefore, many people become alarmed when they no longer can sense a particular God. They forget that Gods are not on “machine time.” What we need to do is to understand the cycles of the Gods we revere. If we follow their rhythms, we will be in sync with the Cosmos.

For me, the Babylonian Gods are at their strongest during the equinoxes. The Babylonians have divided their calendar to start and end at the equinoxes. The summer, when the heat ruled the land, is the time for the Dead and Ancestors.

With the Gods of Canaan, summer is when Mot, the God of Death, stalks the land. Then, ‘Anat, a warrior Goddess, battles Mot and kills Him. With the coming rains of autumn, Ba‘al Haddad returns from the Underworld.

To know the Gods, the first thing is to step out of machine time. Remember that the Gods are not robots, but a part of the Cosmos. As we experience our ebbs and flows, so we can Theirs.