Temple of Sumer

Welcome to the Temple of Sumer, a resource for those interested in learning about the religion and myths of the Sumerian peoples. We will be bringing you all and any information that you might need in order to understand the myths, and reconstruct the religion. In our books section you will find reviews of the best books on the Ancient Near East along with books to avoid and why. We will be paying particular attention to how useful the books are to both the beginning and advanced student. In our myth section you will see our modern English versions of the myths. We will be bringing you an easy to understand version of the myths without losing the meanings and implications that were put there by the peoples of the Ancient Near East. Over in our religion section you will find information on how you as a Sumerian Reconstructionist can help bring an ancient religion back to life. We will tell you about the morals, beliefs, and practices of ancient and modern Sumerian practitioners. In our biblical section we will be showing some of the places where the bible gets some of its most popular ancient myths. We will show how some traditions and customs are far older than once suspected, and we will explain why people do what they do. Our links section provides on line resources where you might find electronic resources such as the ETCSL from Oxford university, and an on line Lexicon of the Sumerian language. Also in here you will find links to message boards and other resources where Sumerians and other Reconstructionists get together. Community is important for every religion, so we will be adding resources to allow people from distant lands to get together. We hope to eventually make a message board, and an off line place of worship, but for now enjoy our guest book and feel free to send one of us an Email.

What is Reconstructionism?

If you've heard the word Recon in pagan circles, you may find that it refers to a highly educated individual who has some differing views from the rest of the group. Often this individual will correct others on various pieces of information from history. This is not to say that they are correct, and that everyone else is wrong. It just reflects a completely different point of view from modern neo-paganism. Reconstructionist pagan religions start with a religion that has not been worshiped for hundreds if not thousands of years and attempts to bring it back. It is imposable to bring a religion back exactly the way it was, because the culture that the religion developed in is now gone, but we can bring back the traditions and the beliefs in order to honor the gods. There are various religions that we cannot reconstruct because we don't have enough information about them. If we can't read the language of the people and not enough was written about the people, then we cannot reconstruct the religion. This is what prevents people from reconstructing


Minoan and Etruscan religion. We simply don't have enough pieces of the puzzle to make out a picture. There is more to reconstructing a religion than simply getting a list of the gods and worshiping one or more of them. It does no good to worship a god or goddess if you have no idea who they are, what they have done, and what they want from their worshipers. To find this information out we need research and study. This is what gives Recons the reputation for being obsessed with research.

How to Recon The first thing to do when reconstructing a religion is to find out who the people were. This allows you to get an idea of how to approach the gods, what sort of mind set that they instilled in the people who worshiped them. We may not be able to reconstruct an ancient culture, but we need to understand why they did what they did. Once you have a good idea of who the people were you need to understand the gods. The best way to do this, at least at first, is to read the myths. The myths give us a glimpse into the lives of the gods. They tell us who the gods were by showing us a glimpse of some of the notable things that they have done. Many of the ancient myths are damaged or flawed. We should attempt to figure out what those myths meant and what might have been in the places that are damaged. On the other hand there is a point where speculation should stop. A real Recon will never make up the ending of a myth. It is considered particularly despicable to make up sections of a myth simply to forward one's own religious beliefs. Some stories were humor and not meant to be taken seriously at the time. This needs to be kept in mind. Ancient peoples had a sense of humor and were sometimes even allowed to poke fun at the expense of their gods. Some of these stories reflect humorous views of the myths, where others were meant to depict some comical aspect of the gods. Either way they are useful in telling about the nature of the gods. In some religions when one section of the religious doctrine contradicts another section of the religious doctrine the worshipers are encouraged to ignore the contradictions as though they weren't there. Reconstructionist religions have many myths that contradict other myths. There were many differing groups in most ancient religions, and each of them had a different way of looking at the gods. There will be times when two conflicting myths must be reconciled. One view will need to be accepted while another view will need to simply be understood. Myths and ancient belief sometimes do not mesh well with modern beliefs and scientific knowledge. The ancients weren't always right. Occasionally the ancients were completely wrong about something. We don't simply throw out these ancient beliefs as foolish. Some of the beliefs were meant to be taken spiritually, while others make sense given the context that they lived in. The earth might not be flat, but the sections that they lived in might be.


The myths don't tell us everything about a god. There might be a god known for farming prosperity that has a myth where they are a warrior. This doesn't mean that they were a god of war, just that they have taken up arms at one time. It would be like presuming that a person who joined the military for four years was a military commander. To find out more about the gods you need to read literature written by ancient sources and the scholarly studies that have been written about them since. This requires more research and study. It also requires access to a moderate supply of books and journals. Once you are this far you can start to reconstruct the rituals and forms of worship. You have enough to know how to be respectful of the ancients, and have probably picked up useful pieces of information along the way. Be careful as you reconstruct a religion not to throw in old beliefs and biases. If you came from a religion that believed in reincarnation for example, then you might try to see reincarnation or karma in your new religion. If these elements are not there, then don't add them. If you are forced to disregard what the ancient peoples held dear, or if you are unwilling to give up a strongly held belief, then perhaps Reconstructionism isn't for you. Communities Many of the ancient religions have already been reconstructed to some extent. Greek, Norse, Egyptian and Roman religions have been reconstructed and are there to provide support for the interested Recon. There are also small pockets of Recons who can be found here and there almost at random who are not part of a community, but who would like to be. They may worship less popular pantheons such as Sumerian, Canaanite, Aztec, or Welsh just to name a few. The first thing to do when looking into a community is to check to see if they are a healthy community. If they tell you not to do research or that they will tell you all that you need to know about the gods, then you should stay away. Religions with a large number of secret teachings or that all live in one big house are other things to be cautious around. Get to know the texts that your prospective community draws from. The community shouldn't hide the myths from you or twist the myths to suit their own purposes. They should be free and open with information and act as guides and teachers who help you understand myths and scholarly texts. A good community should provide education and emotional support. They should stimulate the mind rather than provide dogma. They should provide answers to why they believe what they believe, and how their beliefs differ from the beliefs of other similar communities. Above all a community should expand your social contact with others rather than restrict it. If the community tells you that they are to be your only contact with the outside world then they are attempting to indoctrinate you rather than educate you. Warning signs It is sadly true today that there is a lot of bad information out there. It is easy to assume that something is correct when you see it in two or three 3

sources. There are several things to keep an eye out for when reconstructing a religion so that you don't fall into bad habits, or get bad information. Almost all ancient pagan religions were polytheistic. They believed in the individuality of the gods as well as believing in a multitude of gods. This is to say that with a few exceptions the gods were not treated as archetypes. If one were to say that a god was a war god this does not mean that there aren't other war gods, or that being a war god was the only defining feature of that god. If you were to say that your mail carrier were not a real person, but simply the modern representation of the concept of a messenger, then your mail carrier might get offended. Saying the same sort of thing about your nation's leader would imply that one leader is just as good as another. This may sound reasonable, but the argument is quashed the moment a truly bad leader comes into power. The maiden, mother, crone belief is another example of archetypes. Most goddesses were not able to be categorized in this fashion. Inanna, a popular goddess among neo-pagans, was taken from a Sumerian goddess of love and war. She is no maiden, being in fact a goddess of prostitutes. Though some scholars suggest that there is a chance that she may have had a child, she was never motherly, and is certainly not a mother goddess. She is also not a crone as she is described as a youthful goddess without whom sex does not happen. So what is she? She is Inanna, an important individual goddess among many individuals. In modern neo-paganism there is a movement to include some aspects of Christianity into their spiritual paths. Since many Recons come to the religion from one neo-pagan path or another, this trend has been brought into some Reconstructionist communities. If your religion didn't have angels, heaven, hell, a universal force of good and evil, a belief in sin, or an all powerful god, then don't feel the need to add these elements. Some religions will have some of these beliefs, but others will not. Respect the ancient beliefs enough not to mix and match where you don't have to. Recons, being a part of the larger pagan community, are surrounded by neo-pagan beliefs. As with Christian beliefs, you shouldn't add reincarnation, karma, and matriarchies where they aren't appropriate. If your religion had an afterlife, then with a few exceptions they wouldn't have had Reincarnation, and it certainly wouldn't have been universal. Karma is incompatible with any religion that doesn't have universal reincarnation, and the more outlandish rule of three was not found in any ancient religion. Recons tend not to mix religions even if their patron culture adopted other gods and goddesses. This is because they don't want to blur the lines of their religion any more than the erosion of centuries already has. Mixing and matching religious beliefs leads to beliefs that don't mix well with each other. It wouldn't do for example to worship an underworld goddess and also believe that you were born with bad karma from your previous life.

Biblical Parallels

Sumerian Reconstructionists hear all the time that there are biblical connections with some Sumerian myths and practices. For some these connections with the bible's ancient past are what brought them to Sumerian Reconstructionism. Commonly Christians argue that these myths simply show that the myths only show that pagans have twisted the myths over time, and that the biblical versions are the original unaltered truth. Texts in the bible telling who wrote it and where they came from tell another story. These biblical texts are backed up by historical records and Scientific dating that tells that the biblical stories were indeed written later. There are similarities that can be drawn between any two myths. Some of these are relevant and some of them are not. A single unqualified similarity does not mean that there is a connection. When two myths come from the same area there will usually be some awareness of an older myth by the people who profess the newer myth. These similarities are there, but the fact that there is a similarity does not mean that the myths speak of a universal truth. What may be true for the ancient Israelites and the Sumerians or the Akkadians might not be true of the ancient people of India for example. It is important to know the similarities are there. These myths let Sumerian Reconstructionists know their place in the modern world. They allow us to see similarities to our distant cousins in Judaism and other religions. They show us not to be offended when an over zealous Evangelical tells us that are going to hell because we don't believe in god. Creation of the earth: A pattern of events The biblical story is Semitic and comes to us from semitic sources. This blurs the lines between the Sumerian gods Enlil and An. Both gods were called El, and it is from this word that we get Elohim. (See: Elohim) The world was created six days with one day for rest. Seven is a holy number in Sumerian numerology. There were seven gods who decree fate, and seven gates to the underworld. The number seven can be seen at all levels of Sumerian Mythology. In the bible, Elohim moved over the deep to create the universe. In Sumerian mythology the universe was created out of the deep. Likewise, in the bible the heavens were separated from the earth by Elohim. In some creation stories the Ki and An were separated by Enlil. The second, somewhat conflicting, myth of the creation of the earth comes in Genesis 2:4 where the waters are made to flow upon the earth. This can be seen as being remarkably similar to the creation myth of Enlil's creation of the hoe. In it the rivers are made to flow over the land in much the same way as is presented in Genesis 2:6. Garden of Eden: A godly tradition of gardens In the biblical account Adam and Eve live in an idyllic garden, and Eve presents Adam with a fruit that he is not supposed to eat. In the earlier Sumerian version, Enki is presented with fruits that he should not eat by his minister Isimud. The garden itself is interesting for its parallels in Sumerian, and later Babylonian cultures. The gods were said to like plants and growing things. 5

For this reason Temples had farms and gardens. Ziggurats were given gardens that made the long ascent up to the most holy of places at their tops more pleasant. Even the word Eden comes from Sumer. It is derived from Edin meaning steppe plain or grazing land. The Sumerian word implied that it was between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers as that would be the logical place for such a land. In one of the Gilgamesh myths Inanna had a garden of her own. In that garden she had a tree. At the base of this tree was a snake. In Genesis 3:1 there was also a tree and a snake. Rather than being a threat, this snake was more of a tempter. In Genesis 4:15 Cain is banished to the land of Nod, a place east of Edin. If we take the garden as being the fertile crescent that is made lush between the Tigris and the Euphrates, then the land of Nod would be the Island of Dilmun. The land of Dilmun itself is closely associated with gardens. The myth of Enki and the Garden is set in Dilmun. Utu, the sun god, was even said to bring fresh water up from the ground to water Dilmun. On their own each of these things is little more than an interesting coincidence. Together these coincidences paint a picture of the sort of background that inspired the first parts of Genesis. Creation of man: Bread and Clay The Sumerians thought of man being different from the animals because man alone had the ability to create and maintain civilization. This meant that an uncivilized man was not fully human. This also means that to create humanity was to invent civilization. This way of thinking can be seen in the creation myths where the creation of man is linked to the creation of an implement of civilization. In the myth "Creation of the Hoe" for example, man is linked to the creation of a farming implement. Likewise in the myth "Debate Between Cattle and Grain" man is created to make proper use of cattle and grain. In the myth of Enki and Ninma the creation of man is connected with the creation of several goddesses intimately involved in civilization. The humans that were created were placed into a society that was already there. This showed that humans weren't what was being created, but rather civilized humans. In the bible man was created in Genesis 1:27 and again in Genesis 2:7. In the first version man and woman were created at the same time in the image of God. He gave the earth to man and told them to subdue the earth. In the second version man was created first. He was made from the dust of the earth, and Elohim breathed life into him. In the first biblical myth of the creation of man, man is created in the image of god. In several ancient Mesopotamian versions, man is birthed from special birth goddesses. In one myth a god is even used as part of the material to create man. In Sumerian creation stories the forming of man is described as being like the baking of bread or clay. In the second version of the creation story as with several Sumerian versions man is created from clay.


Creation of woman: One rib more or less In the Sumerian myth of Enki and the garden Enki cheats on his wife with his children and then consumed a group of plants created by the his union with the last of his children. Ninhursag punished him for his behavior with several curses. One of these curses caused pains in his rib. Enki's health degenerated to the point where he was next to death. Ninhursag finally had mercy upon him and removed his pains. The one in his rib became Ninti. The lady who makes live as well as the lady of the rib. In the biblical version Adam's rib was used to create Eve. The word Eve is usually taken to mean the lady who makes live, and she came from Enki's rib. The double meaning of the word "ti" makes sense in Sumerian, but does not in Hebrew. There is one more interesting thing about this myth. For a long time people thought that male humans had one less rib than females. This was simply assumed to be true because it was presented in the bible. It was thought that the biblical myth was a reflection of people realizing that one rib was missing. The interesting part comes with the fact that males and females have the same number of ribs. Lilith: Not in the bible, and barely in the myth In one part of one of the Gilgamesh myths a Lilitu demon is in a tree with a snake living at its base. Gilgamesh chops down the tree and chases the minor demoness off. In this myth Lilith is a wind demon similar to an owl. The Lilitu demon was a minor Sumerian wind demoness. The name breaks down to "lil" meaning wind, and "itu" meaning moon. Together Lilitu means moon wind. Lilitu were wind demons that were dangerous to infants and pregnant women. In a Jewish myth Lilith is a demoness who was the first wife of Adam. She wanted to be the dominant one in the relationship and was made an example of in Jewish mythology. The fact that she later became a symbol of feminism is actually a little ironic. Lilith, in the Jewish version, was told that her children would constantly be killed. In response she kidnapped and adopted human infants to be slain instead of her own children. The reasons are different, but the elements are the same. Cain and Able: Inanna prefers the Farmer The struggle between farmers and herders is a common motif in Mesopotamia. It shows up early on in the story of Cain and Able where the moral is that a sacrifice of vegetation is nothing compared to a sacrifice of meat. In the myth "Inanna Prefers the Farmer" Dumuzi, the shepherd god, competes with a farm god for the affections of Inanna. Inanna ends up preferring the farmer, but Dumuzi ends up wooing her after threatening the farm god with violence. In each of these myths similar things happen, but with reversed roles. Cain committed violence against able, and the outside force preferred the farmer to the shepherd in the biblical version.


The theme can again be seen in the myth "Debate between Cattle and Grain" where Lahar, god of cattle, and his sister Ashnan, goddess of grain, were created so that the gods could enjoy their products. These gods were unable to make effective use of these items, so man was created. The Sumerian gods, being relatively peaceful by comparison, did not end up at each others throats. They did however argue about who is the greater, in the process belittling the other's product. We don't know who won that argument as we do not yer have the end of that myth. Abraham of Ur: A direct connection How do we know that the Sumerian myths came before the biblical myths? In the bible Abraham is said to come from the city of Ur of the Chaldeas. That means that Abraham would have come out of the middle east and been aware of the myths, customs, and beliefs of the people of Ur. Abraham was thought to have lived sometime around 1850 BC. This would have placed him as a contemporary with Sargon the first of Assyria, not to be confused with Sargon the great founder of the Akkadian Dynasty, according to G. Roux. He would have been an Akkadian speaking person from Babylon. This would have been long before the Chaldeans, but the city would still be the same. The bible described Abraham's behavior and the behavior of those who were with him and we can easily see that they were shining examples of what an Akkadian of the day would have been like. He was gracious as both a host and a guest. He was loyal to his personal god, going so far as to make a traditional covenant with him. This connection is important. Some have argued over the years that the early parts of the bible were simply stories made up for entertainment or for other reasons. This connection shows not only where the myths come from, but it puts them in a context that makes sense for the culture of the day. Over time this man who followed many gods would give rise to a people who recognized many gods but followed only one as we can see in the time of Moses. From there they would go through the reforms of Leviticus and develop into the strictly monotheistic people that we think of today as the Jews. From there the monotheism would break down into a triumvirate with an evil god as their rival and be added to a host of saints and angels to become the Christian pantheon of today. The flood: Removing man from the earth The biblical account of the flood is presented as a dramatic and universal apocalypse. Mankind had sinned and was condemned to death. Exactly what their sin was, or why the animals and plants were being punished for these crimes remains unclear. In the biblical version the flood covers the entire world and kills everyone. Though various similar stories have spread widely across the world starting in the middle east, it is hardly universal. Egypt, a country near Mesopotamia, welcomed flooding. In their land Floods were more of a predictable blessing than an unexpected threat. Archaeologically we find that there is no evidence that the histories of hundreds of civilizations ended in a deluge. Palaeontology also does not 8

bear this story out as there were no mass extinctions to suggest a world wide flood. Even common sense tells us that if the world were to flood that the fresh waters and salt waters would mix and kill all of the fresh water fish. Where then would such a story come from? Why would it touch so many people? It did so because in a sense it happened. The world was not flooded, but all of the world that mattered to the ancient Sumerians was. They knew that the world extended beyond where they had been just as they knew that they weren't the only humans around. By their definitions though the world was flooded. The Mesopotamians had several flood stories Atrahasis, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, and a few others. In most Sumerian and Babylonian myths mankind was annoying to the gods and the flood was sent to shut mankind up. The Ten Commandments The Ten commandments: a contract between a people and their personal god 1. no gods before An / No foreign gods 2. no false Idols 3. don't misuse god's name 4. Remember the Sabbath 5. Honor your ancestors 6. Don't murder 7. Don't commit Adultery 8. Don't Steal 9. Don't lie in court 10.Don't covet

Sumerian Religion Chapter 1: Morality
1)Sumerian Sin The Sumerians didn't have the same idea of universal sin that is common in modern Christian communities. There were no ten commandments, and there was no original sin. There was sin however. Sin in ancient sumer is an act that offends ones personal gods. One could also offend the gods in general by upsetting the established order of the universe. In Christianity and Judaism, when one breaks the ten commandments they have transgressed against a contract. In Judaism this transgression was a bad mark against the whole community, while Christians considered sin to be a personal transgression. Abraham of the bible was a Semite who worshiped the Akkadian and Sumerian gods. It is not surprising therefore that the ten commandments were a contract between him and his personal god El. It was written in the standard two tablet format with all content copied equally on each tablet. In their original form they are a valuable look into the moral values of the people.


The Sumerians also looked at law as something handed over to man by the sun god Utu. Civilization was highly important to the Sumerians and was a part of the personal connection that brought them closer to their gods. The rules of society were therefore an integral piece of their moral beliefs. Breaking the law was not a sin however. It was simply another way that one could upset the order of the universe, and it came with it's own punishments. 2)Sumerian moral guidelines 1) Servitude: The gods created man to do tasks for them. This means we are the slaves, or servants, of the gods. From the point of view of the gods this is the defining reason that we were created. To these ends we need to work hard in this life to better ourselves and the world around us. Part of this servitude is tribute to one's gods. The gods cherish a good servant the same way that you or I would so hard work is rewarded in this life and the after life. The gods do not require us. If all of the civilizations of the world were to fall and nobody were left to give service to the gods, then the gods would be forced to do the work themselves. They appreciate the work that we do, but we cannot hold this over their heads. We simply do not have the reach to hold such things over the heads of the gods. 2) Hospitality: The exact specifics of hospitality are not set in stone, however the basics are clear. Anyone that is a brother or sister to you in the spiritual sense may ask help of you in a time of need. It is the mark of a morally good man to grant hospitality if possible. A host must make every attempt to make their guest comfortable for the duration of their welcome. It is the duty of the guest not to ask too much of the host. Hospitality goes both ways. Just as one person needs to be a good host, the other person needs to be a good guest. The gods and demons themselves observe the laws of hospitality, and are punished for breaking its rules. In ancient times if one granted hospitality it included a foot bath, and the offer of a meal in addition to a place to stay for a time, and protection from any threats from the outside. Hospitality was often granted for a limited period of time, and also commonly included the exchange of minor gifts. 3) Death: Death is inescapable it should be prepared for rather than ignored. In life a Sumerian must prepare the things that they are to have in the afterlife, they must prepare to give offerings to their gods, and they must prepare themselves mentally. This doesn't mean that fate can't be avoided for a time, simply that it will eventually come to us all. The struggle for life is a noble task, but reality of deaths eventual hold must always be remembered. If one does not prepare for death, they will arrive in the afterlife caught short. They will not be able to pay the gate keepers to allow them access to the rest of the underworld. They will be unable to give offerings directly to the gods. They will have none to tend to their needs. In essence they will live as the poorest of the poor in the outskirts of the underworld. 10

The dead must be buried with their burial offerings promptly after death, and whenever possible offerings must be made for them. Traditionally this would include drinkable water and the occasional votive servant or other small statue. These offerings were made at or near the grave as the grave was a spiritual gate to the land of the dead. The dead must never be cremated or left out to rot as this bars the dead from the underworld. The Sumerians called ghosts, those whose homes are the ruins. This was probably because a ruined city has none to bury the dead and allow them access to the afterlife. 4) Law: Utu handed down law to mankind. This was one of the things that made Sumerians civilized. And to the Sumerians if you were not civilized, then you weren't human. Man has been attempting to adapt these laws ever since. Even the ten commandments was copied off of pieces of the code of Hammurabi. The gods judge us on our actions rather than our thoughts, so correct action is more important than correct thought. To think about breaking the law is not the same as actually breaking the law. It is important to work within the system to effect changes in the world around you. Occasionally this is imposable, but order is the ideal that must be striven for. 5) Destiny: The seven great gods decree fate. As a group they judge the outcome of every event, but even so this is not a license to do whatever you wish with the excuse that it is preordained that you are to do this. Each of the seven gods works to change your destiny one way or another, and you must work to both convince them and alter your own fate. Your destiny is wrapped up in your potential. If you have great potential, then you must look to see where you are in the order of the universe and find the place where you can do your best. Simply because a great destiny has been decreed for you does not mean that you will not have to get up and go to it. In the same way, simply because a terrible destiny has been decreed for you does not mean that you should not work to avoid it. Some of the gods may wish to give hints as to what the future might hold. Utu has been known to give hints in the form of prophecies for example. Other gods wish to make requests upon your behavior. Listen to their advice, and earn their favor. 6) Order: Enlil decreed that the order of the universe should be set. The clever god Enki created the divine "Me", or order of the universe. These "Me", pronounced may, are both the rules of the universe and the power over the universe. Understanding a thing gives one a measure of power over that thing. The gods have decreed a proper place and a destiny for everyone. If you seek that place then you will maintain the decreed order of the universe, and the world around you will work smoothly. Order is not the same as balance, but the concept is similar. One must seek to find equilibrium with the world around them rather than stagnation. When one upsets the order of the universe one invites strife into their life and must ask the forgiveness of the gods. The gods


determined the order of the universe and they will punish those who disrupt it. There is more to the order of the universe than simply not rocking the cosmic boat though. The order of the universe reflects itself in both the physical and the spiritual universe. One image reflects onto the other. 7) Loyalty: The Sumerians worshiped their own gods and not those of other nations. Occasionally the gods of other nations would be adopted, but they were not worshiped until that point. Gods of other nations may be recognized, and their spirits may do tasks for the gods of the Sumerian pantheon, but Sumerians must not worship them. In modern times this seems to be the hardest rule not to break. Sumerian Reconstructionists are constantly around other pagans, and asked to join in their rituals. As a Sumerian, you are allowed to participate so long as no foreign gods are invoked. 3) Forgiveness and favor Eventually everyone is going to offend the gods in some way or other. What pleases one god might be offensive to another. If nothing else, there is always the risk of misinterpreting the will of the gods. Each offense is not considered unforgivable. If one offends one of the gods or even their own personal god, then there were several things that one could do in order to regain the favor of that god. These include asking for forgiveness, making right what was done, and making an offering to the gods. At times one can loose favor of a god simply by being part of a community that has offended the gods. Entire cities could offend the gods with their behavior. Obviously one could always distance ones self from the community, but community was extremely important to the ancient Sumerians, so this was obviously to be avoided. In these instances it was all the more important to be on good terms with ones personal god. If one was on good terms with their personal god, then that god might intercede between them and the other gods. The gods are not unfeeling, and they will hear the pleas of the other gods or those who serve them. One doesn't need to have done something to offend the gods to seek their favor. Humans have sought the favor of the gods to help them in their personal goals since the beginning of recorded history. As ancient Sumer was present at the beginning of recorded history, we have many examples of humans acting to gain the favor of the gods in their endeavors. 1) Atonement: The first thing that should be tried whenever the gods have been offended is atonement. If you know that you have done something wrong, then putting things right is the most obvious way to return to the good graces of the gods. Not only does this simple act bring the favor of the gods, but it also corrects any disturbance to the proper order of the universe. Even if the gods still hold a grudge for past actions it is a good first step. Not to mention the fact that maintaining the proper order of the universe is simply the right thing to do. 12

2) Scapegoats and the substitute king: There were instances when a community has offended the gods. This might be the fault of the king, spiritual leader or the community. It might even be the fault of some outside agency. The community might not even know what it is that they have dine, but for whatever reason they want to return to the good graces of the gods. Thankfully the Sumerian gods respect the significance of symbolism. This means that there are some symbolic means that the community can use in order to regain the favor of the gods. If a community has a curse upon them, then this curse can be taken away from the community by means of a scape goat. A scape goat is a literal goat that has had a communities curse transfered onto it. The curse is taken away from the community when the goat is driven out into the wilderness. If the gods find this vessel acceptable, then they will allow the curse to befall the sacrificial goat rather than the community. For the modern Sumerian Reconstructionist, a goat may not be available. This does not mean that the scape goat method can't be used. A curse can be transfered to any suitable substitute. There are some crimes so terrible that only the death penalty can atone for. This sacrifice of a human in the name of justice was not commonly done, but it had been known to happen on extremely rare occasions. There are even instances in myth where a god has been sacrificed for the greater good of the gods. If a king were to have done something so terrible that he thought that he needed to make the ultimate sacrifice, it was his right to do so. This suicide could take away not only his own problems, but the problems of the entire community. It was not a selfish act, and the ancient Sumerians did not look down upon it. There were times however when the king was needed to lead his people more than his sacrifice was needed to save it. For times like this there was a special office called the substitute king. This person served as a stand in for the king on many occasions in life, he would be a friend and a companion. On rare occasions the king may decide that they have made a mistake so bad that his substitute king could take the place of the king in even in death. In modern times, taking of a persons life for religious reasons is not only frowned upon, it's illegal. In this circumstance it is not hard to let religion conform to modern society. Law and religion are supposed to be separate in many western countries, and the Sumerian religion is not the official religion in any modern country. This means that the substitute king is not a viable option for any modern Sumerian Reconstructionist. On the other hand the office of substitute king usually does not involve death, and so might still have value. 3) Sacrifice: The word "sacrifice" is almost a swear word among modern pagans, as it requires that one give up something that they value. Some call it wasteful since the gods don't actually need what we could give them. Some are ashamed to admit that the gods are greater than us, or that they deserve to be given offerings. Others are frightened by the 13

simple fact that in ancient times it was not uncommon to sacrifice something living to the gods. The truth is that sacrifice is a part of every religion and it is most definitely a traditional part of Sumerian religion. Sacrifice requires that one give up to the gods something that is both valuable to them and valuable to the gods. Traditionally sacrifices are burned on an altar. Gibil, god of fire and messenger to the gods, would carry the offering up to heaven and give its essence over to the gods. This offering could be fish, it could be a goat, it could be clothing, it could be anything that the gods might find valuable. In ancient times human sacrifice did happen, but there is little evidence that humans were commonly offered up to the gods. There were also instances of blood sacrifice to some gods such as Nergal, but again it is unclear how many of the gods wanted a sacrifice of ones own blood. 4) Offering: There is an important difference between an offering and a sacrifice in the Sumerian religion. An offering is a gift of ones best that is shared with the gods. Offerings are given over to the gods in spirit and actually holds even more value to the worshiper who holds them. Traditional offerings include beer, fish, bread, clothing, and jewelry. Anything that the ancient Sumerians cherished could be given over as a traditional offering. Modern Sumerian Reconstructionists aren't limited to the traditional offerings, but giving something relatively close is always preferred as it is reminiscent of the ancient people that the gods once loved, and the modern worshiper respects. If a lamb, for example, were to be given over to the temple, then its life might be sacrificed to the gods, but then the meat and wool could be used by the temple and worshipers. Not every Sumerian Reconstructionist has the luxury of being part of a temple. One of the beautiful things about the Sumerian religion though is that it is perfectly suited to the solitary worshiper. Even the common practitioner can have an idol of their personal god to give an offering to. It is not hard to dedicate a mouth watering meal to the gods in prayer before eating it. In a ritual a favored beer could be dedicated to a persons personal god, and then after the ritual is over the beer would then be enjoyed. 5) Plea and bribe: From time to time an unfavorable destiny will be decreed for a worshiper. The worshiper may not have done anything wrong. Bad things happen to even the best worshiper simply because that is the way that the proper order of the universe. It is also not too late to change it. Sometimes it only takes a heart felt request for assistance to sway the will of the gods. This is true even if one's personal god isn't directly involved in determining fate. Even if a person's personal god is merely the god of tin, that god can act as an intermediary between the worshiper and the seven who decree fate bringing the pleas of the worshiper to the gods. However there is a difference between a plea for help and a constant request for favors. The gods want the best for their servants, but at the


same time the order of the universe places the gods above man kind. The gods greatly resent being treated as our servants. If you know that your request is somewhat frivolous, it might be a good idea to make an offer to the gods. This practice was one of those that was retained by the ancient Israelites, biblical descendants of the Sumerians.

Chapter2: Worship and Beliefs
1) Personal gods: Each person or family had a personal god to act as an intermediary between the worshiper and the greater gods. These gods would plead the worshipers case to the greater gods, and particularly between the worshiper and the seven who decree fate. The personal god is like a third parent in that you can count the brothers of your personal god as your uncles. This leads to some confusing family trees as often the gods are listed instead of one parent or another. Confusing the matter is that all gods that father and mother were both terms of respect. As the name suggests a personal god is a god that has a deep connection with their follower. A person's personal god is as close to a companion to their follower as an animal lover is to their pets. The term monolatry means the worship of one god among many. This is likely how Abraham of the city of Ur worshiped. In contrast to the monotheism that the modern descendants of Abraham use, monolatry does not deny the existence of the other gods. 2) Vessels of the gods: The gods can inhabit any suitable vessel. Most of the time this means that a statue of a god can be addressed as though it were the god. This works in reverse as well. An image of an Imdugud bird can provide a place for the Imdugud bird to inhabit, and the bird can act through the vessel to protect a home. Like the Egyptians, the Sumerians believed that some individuals could be personal incarnations of the gods. This is evidenced in the way that humans were sacrificed in tombs like the royal tomb of Ur. There is evidence that the woman at the center of the tomb may have been a vessel for the goddess Inanna. Being a human vessel for a god is not the same as being a god. One of the most important differences is that the vessel of a god does not have the power of a god. The priest of Ningishzida, the god of dawn, can't return from the dead every day with the dawn for example. 3) Idolatry: It is hard for people today to understand the purpose and symbolism behind idolatry. Even the term idolatry has taken on bad connotations due to the Judao-Christian commandment against the worship of false idols. Who wants to be thought of as the guy that worships statues? This would be the same as asking why a Christian would worship crossed sticks.


Idolaters are not actually worshiping the statues that they appear to be worshiping. They are actually worshiping the god represented by the statue. In Sumerian religion, as in many religions where idolatry is practiced, the statues represent a connection between the physical world and the spiritual world. A votive statue of a man worshiping a votive statue of a god IS the same as a man worshiping the god in person. The statue of the worshiper is acting as a vessel for the spiritual essence of the worshiper just as the statue of the god is a vessel for the actual god. People in the Christian religion go to church and commune with their god but they are not in the physical presence of their god per se. They are symbolically in the presence of their god. If a statue of the virgin Mary begins to bleed it is not the wood or the stone that is bleeding, but rather a spiritual manifestation through an appropriate vessel. The Sumerians are doing no less than this when it appears that one is worshiping statues. Everything on a Sumerian's altar exists and is real in the spiritual realm. When the statue of a worshiper is placed on an altar in a position where it is worshiping the gods it begins to show devotion to the gods continually every moment of the day. Not every statue represents a physical person. Some statues are votive worshipers or servants that exist entirely on the spiritual realm. These votive statues serve various functions depending on their form. 4) Ziggurats: This is an artificial mountain where the gods are worshiped. They are pyramids with steps that look more like Central American step pyramids than Egyptian pyramids. A Ziggurat was the ultimate temple to a god and served as a physical recreation of their spiritual home. Ziggurats are decorated with growing things to please the gods. They are never approached directly, but instead the paths that lead to the top are given every possible twist and turn. As the Sumerians had strict class based clothing taboos, those who are permitted would approach unclothed. This showed that even the priests and kings were slaves to the will of the gods. Modern Sumerian Reconstructionists do not have the luxury of building themselves a Ziggurat, but ancient Sumerians did keep altars. For the modern Recon it is an easy matter to keep their altar at the highest available point, such as the top of a book case or dresser. Turning the altar to one side so that the image of the god is at one side is also useful as this prevents the worshiper from approaching the gods directly by making them climb and turn before worshiping. If the clothing taboo is imposable to observe then one can simply observe the spirit of the practice. Approaching the gods in simple garments and poor clothing shows them the same respect for the same reasons. It is more important that one aproaches the gods humbly than that they approach them in no garment at all. 5) Slavery: Man was created to do the work of the gods. They don't need us at all, but that does not mean that they don't want us. We are their servants and this 16

makes us no better or worse than demons. Mankind was made to be a useful servant, but a slave nonetheless. For this reason the Sumerians had a fantastic work ethic. The gods wanted man to work and so man worked. This work ethic is ingrained into the religion. In Sumer slaves were given far more rights than you might suspect. They could own property and run a business for example. A slave's life was not easy, but it was not imposable. This is exactly how Sumerians viewed their world. It was traditional for the high priests to approach their god in the nude to show that even though they were exalted among the slaves and had been given a high place in the world, that they were simply slaves to the gods. They showed reverence and obedience to their god. They would follow instructions given to them by their gods faithfully, and they expected to interact with their gods regularly.

Chapter 3: Gods
Language and the nature of the gods: You never really know a god or goddess in the Sumerian pantheon unless you understand their names and where they come from. Each god has a name that tells not only what they were called, but also who they were. Their names were descriptive and told something about them. The Akkadians adopted the Sumerian religion and the Sumerian gods, but called them by different names. These different names weren't different gods, but rather different ways to understand the same gods. The Akkadian language was vastly different from the language of the Sumerians meaning that the symbols and words that could be used to describe the gods would be different, but the gods were still the same. The Sumerian language is interesting in that every word could be used to mean about a half dozen things, and some words could be given many more definitions than that. This pun filled language is useful in understanding their culture in that each word association told a little more. It can be confusing in that the same word could be used to mean something vastly different in two differing contexts. Though it is perfectly valid to use the Akkadian language to talk about the gods, we will be using the Sumerian names to differentiate between Sumerian and later Babylonian beliefs. The Babylonians used the Akkadian language, but over time they changed some of the core Sumerian beliefs. The Seven Who Decree Fate: These were the seven greatest gods. They each had a hand in determining destiny. Presumably each of these gods had a copy of the tablet of destiny, or else they had possession of the Me. These were equivalent in that they gave those who possessed them an understanding of the nature of the universe. To understand a thing was to have power over a thing. Though each of the gods had a say in the way destiny would play out the determining of destiny was not a democratic process. One god could over rule the other six if that god were aggressive enough. This happened in myth on several occasions.


Though the seven seemed all powerful and all knowing, there were a few things that they were forbidden to have power over. No god could have control of destiny and also have control over the land of the dead. When Inanna attempted to take the throne of Kur from Ereshkigal she was slain for it. When Enki went down to the underworld to save Ereshkigal at the dawn of time he gave the ruler ship of the realm to Ereshkigal rather than attempting to keep it for himself. 1) Anu or An: In myth, this god is often present, but is rarely if ever the central figure. He is extremely powerful, being the father of the father of the gods and one of the seven who decree fate, but he rarely uses this power. It is thought that he was once the head of the pantheon in the earliest days of Sumer. For most of available Sumerian mythology he was not the head of the pantheon. That honor was given to his first born son Enlil, the lord of the winds. As a god he is the manifestation of the realm of heaven. His name An was also the name for heaven. That is to say he is the lord of heaven as well as being heaven itself. His consort was the goddess Ki or Ninki at one point, but after the birth of Enlil they were separated. There are connections between him and the Judeo-Christian god Eloheim. In Akkadian, the language Abraham most likely spoke, El was both the name for An and for his son Enlil. El translates roughly to the word lord. As it is unlikely that Elohim refers to the same god in every situation, there is a good chance that the title referred to An on several occasions. 2) Enlil: He is the first born son of An and Ki and had a hand in separating the heavens from the earth. His myths blur together with the older myths of An since both were the head of the pantheon at one time and both are translated as El in Akkadian. In character though they are quite different. An was never a particularly active member of the pantheon, while Enlil took an active role in ruling the pantheon. Enlil is considered to be the father of the gods though Enki could just as easily claim that title. Both gods had quite a number of children, though three of Enlil's descendants are among the seven who decree fate. His name means "lord of the wind" or "lord of the spirits". As such it is only natural that he is the head of the gods. He is the manifestation of the realm between the heaven and the earth. The goddess Ninlil was destined to be his consort, but he had intercourse before his bride to be was ready. He was condemned for this rape by the entire pantheon. She did not hold this act against him for all time as you might expect. She even acted to save him from death and had bore many of the gods in the process. 3) Enki: He is the god of wisdom, magic, cleverness, fertility, and invention, but he is primarily the god of fresh waters. All of these other aspects are simply extensions of his affinity to fresh water. He even made his home in the deep. His name, En-ki means "lord of the earth", as that was meant to show that he was lord of the things below the wind and heaven. His name also 18

relates to the fact that his consort Ninhursag was the lady of the earth, and couples are often given similar names. His father was An the god of heaven, and his mother was Apsu the goddess of the deep. This makes him a half brother to Enlil, the lord of the gods. His children were an entirely separate lineage of gods to those of Enlil. Enki ruled over the Igigi gods while Enlil ruled over the Anuna gods. In the earliest times Enki defeated Kur and became En-Kur lord of the underworld. As an underworld god Enki placed Ereshkigal in charge of the underworld and had power over life and death. 4) Ninhursag: She is the goddess of the earth, and is also the Sumerian mother goddess. You would expect this to make her popular with modern neo pagans, but this is not the case. She has been forgotten for the most part as a mother goddess, ironically in favor of goddesses of war and demons of disease. She is a nature goddess, but this doesn't exactly make her a goddess of the wilderness. Civilization was a central focus of the Sumerian gods. Cultivation and gardening is a major part of what makes a people civilized. Ninhursag is generally a pleasant goddess, but she can become angry if she believes her children have been treated badly. Even as an angry goddess she is quite forgiving. Her name derives from the words Nin, meaning lady, Hur meaning valleys? and Sag meaning fortune. (Note, look this up. It contradicts the accepted translations.) 5) Nanna: In Akkadian he or Sin or Suen: the god of the moon is a god who rides a boat across the sky. He seduced his wife Ningal the lady of the reeds rather romantically. The Sumerians saw the tide as Nanna caressing the reeds. Nanna was also responsible for the more gentle necessary floods. He was the inspiration for the chief Muslim god Allah, though personally I don't see the two as anything alike. 6) Utu: the sun god was also the god of prophecy. In later times he became associated with the horse and the sun disk. His father was the moon god and in many myths his sister was Inanna. Utu was a friend to mankind in that he attempted to show man something of the fate that the seven had decreed for them. The sun god was also legalistic. He was the one who gave law down to mankind, and he meted out justice in the underworld. There are connections between him and the Aten from the reign of Ankhenaten as well as Mazda from Zoroastrianism. 7) Inanna: She is presently really popular as a mother goddess, but she wasn't a mother goddess at all. She was a liberated woman who genuinely cared for her worshipers even though she was also depicted as being a wild and loose young lady. She is associated with owls, war, and wisdom. She started out as the guardian of the date stores and in myths involving her dates pun with jewelry. Her symbol is the ring poll as this is also the symbol of the date stores. She came to be associated with love and war. Underworld Gods 19

1) Kur: the manifestation of the underworld is the dragon Kur. He was defeated by Enki at the dawn of time when Ereshkigal had been given over to him as a wife. He still exerts power trough galla demons as these demons are lesser manifestations of the dragon himself. Kur is located below the Apsu or under the Ki. This is not to say that if you dig far enough you will find it. Kur is a spiritual realm. 2) Ereshkigal: She had been sent down to the underworld to be the wife of Kur. Enki set her up as the absolute ruler. She took Gugalanna as her husband, but he was slain by Gilgamesh. After that time she sent Namtar to make the other gods bow before him. This symbolized a fear of death. Only Nergal refused to bow and he was dragged by Udug demons to the underworld so that Ereshkigal might kill him. Not only does she not kill him, but she is defeated by him in battle. He ravages her and she likes it so much that when he departs she commands that he come and be her consort or she will send the dead to consume the living. 3) Gugalanna: the bull of heaven is also known as the divine canal inspector of the gods. Together with Ereshkigal they bore a son Ninazu. Gugalanna died when the hero Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu killed him in battle. His horns were devoted by Gilgamesh to his personal god. 4) Ninazu: is a healing god who sleeps in the underworld. Long before the death of Gugalanna Ninazu ruled the underworld. There is a rivalry between him and Nergal as Ninazu once ruled the underworld and was swept to the side when Nergal became his mothers consort. 5) Nergal or Erra: The Sumerian warrior god Erra was once one of the twins that guarded the gates to the underworld (represented in later astrology as the constellation Gemini) Nergal was a god of war and disease who drank the blood of the living and was often represented as a dragon. (There are no connections between him and Vlad Dracul other than the fact that both have spawned vampire myths.) Nergal was the god implored to in order to help against rebellion. If you will notice similarities between the names of him and Ereshkigal that is because the two are wed though Ereshkigal is still the reigning partner. 6) Namtar: As the major god of death and fate it was his job to act out the wishes of his mistress Ereshkigal. The demon Namtar was the minister of Ereshkigal. Fate and death were synonymous. To the Sumerians death was something that could not be escaped at all. 8) The Udug demon of Nergal from whom none can escape: As far as I can tell that's his name. He seems to act as the minister to Nergal. This would mean that his job was to ferry those who died in battle and perhaps those who died from disease to the underworld. 9) Gatekeepers and guides: the demon Neti is the best known gate keeper of the underworld because he is noted as being the gate keeper in 20

the decent of Inanna, but there were several other more important gate keepers including the twins and Utu. They acted as toll masters and in some cases also as judges of the dead who came to them. Another important figure is Urshanabi who was the boatman that took Gilgamesh to Ziusudra beyond the sea of life and death. I see a similarity between him and Charon, but Pen (our expert Hellenist) didn't say that she knew of any direct relations. Other Gods 1) Imdugud: Son of Anu this lion headed bird began as a storm god, and later drifted down to be considered a demon, and then a class of demons. Most Imdugud birds are female and carvings of them were placed over doorways to protect the home. Imdugud himself plays prominently in a myth where he obtains the tablet of destiny from Enki for a short time. 2) Dumuzi: Once a human king, Dumuzi was adopted as a god and quickly came to prominence. He married Inanna, and his wedding is recognized in the sacred marriage ceremony where the physical incarnation of Dumuzi (the king) would symbolically wed Inanna in the form of the high priestess. 3) Ningilin/ Ninkilim: She was the goddess of magic and mongooses. She could help protect against snakebites and her wisdom allowed her to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Worship of her was important to farmers who wished to prevent rodents from eating crops. 4) Ninkasi: She is a grain goddess she is more important as the patron goddess of beer. Specifically red beer sacred to the Sumerians. Nisaba or Nidaba: She is a grain goddess, and the patron goddess of writing. It was her job to keep a record of the deeds of mankind in a book that became permanent every New Year. This custom is still observed today in the Jewish New Year festival.

Chapter 4: Ghosts, demons, magic and misfortune
Ghosts and demons basic information: The first and most important thing to remember about the spirits and creatures of the middle east is that no general type of creature is all good or all evil. Just like people and animals, they are individualistic. Galla: underworld bailiff. Manifestations of the underworld itself. Mashkimu: Underworld inspector. Gidim: Encroaching darkness, hungry ghost. The Gidim could possess the living by entering through the ear. Udug: The Udug demon is a generalized demon. Udug seems to be a generalized word for demon. Asag, Galla, and many other demons can be grouped under this term.


Asag: Griffin like desert demon. The Asag is a man with wings and often a birds head. Lilitu: Owl like wind demon known for killing infants and mothers. Dim-Shap: Bear like monster. Udug Hul texts: The texts you see here were adapted from the most viable of the texts found in "Forerunners to Udug Hul" by Geller. This book is an outdated translation of only the Udug Hul texts written by the Sumerians. It is full of holes and broken texts on how to deal with demons from a Sumerian point of view. A viable text is one that has enough meat on it to adapt. We're not going to copy the entire book for our audience. That wouldn't be fare to Mr. Geller. That means that we need to pick out just the best ones. Legend: Tablet and Text Notation is in black and bold. 1 (1) Geller's translations are in bold and blue. (2) Paragraphs are each numbered. (3) Line numbers are in parenthesis. 1 Adapted text is in black. Paragraph numbers should roughly line up with the translations. * Commentary is in green and Italics. This is a place for annotation of the texts as they are translated. (1) After each text containing a large number of names a list of demons and gods is present along with a rough description of who they are. Tablet 3 Text 1 (01) Enuru Incantations 1 (02) The Namtar spirit was wandering about in heaven, (03) the Asag demon was prowling around like a storm on earth, (04) the evil Udug demon was running amok in the street, (1) while evil Alad envelops him like the Ulu demon. (2) These demons agitated the distraught man, and struck that man. (3) He did not know his own anatomy, where illness crouched. 1 Namtar, the spirit of fate and death, was traveling about through heaven. The Asag, the eagle Djini, was prowling the earth like a storm. An evil demon was rampaging through the street while evil Alad surrounded him like the Ulu demon. A distressed man was agitated and struck by each of these demons. He didn't even know his own body where illness settled. *This paragraph sets the stage for something bad to happen. Death was in heaven and probably being given instructions. The powerful Asag caused destruction where it wandered. I'm thinking this is a metaphor for a sand storm. Ulu are unknown to me. 2 (4) I am Enki's man, (5) I am Damgalnunna's man, (6) the great lord Enki has sent me. (7) It is I who was approaching the sick man, (8) when I entered his house, (9) and it was I who placed my hand upon his head, (10) and was carefully examining the sinews of his limbs, (11) and I who recreated the incantation of Eridu for him. (12) After I have administered the incantation to the sick man [...]


2 I am the agent of Enki and his wife Damgalnunna who lives with him in the Apsu. I was sent by Enki, as a doctor for the sick man. I came into the sick man's house, examined him, treated him, and spoke the incantations over him. *The writer identifies himself as an agent of Enki and his wife perhaps the next paragraph would have alluded to Asalluhi, we'll simply have to wait for more texts to be translated. The writer states that he is a qualified medical practitioner / exorcist. It reads more like a medical journal than a religious text to me. It is interesting to note that the incantations themselves are only refered to, and not listed. Perhaps the text would have continued on to say them, but I don't think so. This was probably written by an Akkadian speaking man who used Sumerian as a scholarly as well as a sorcerous language. If the incantation were to be found I suspect it would be written in Akkadian so as to lessen it's power for storage. 3 (13) They are the messengers of Enlil, lord of the lands. (14) The evil Udug of the steppe killed the victim, (15) as the evil Ala covered him like a garment. (16) While the evil ghost and evil Galla seized his body, (17) and while the Dimme and Dima infected his body, (18) the lil demons, inhospitable winds of the steppe, swept along, (19) approached the distraught man's side, (20) and set the grievous Asag disease in his body 3 The inhospitable wind demon of the steppe defeated the victim while the evil Ala surrounded him like a set of clothes. The evil Galla and ghost took hold of his body, and the Dimme and Dima infected his body. With this done, the wind swept along. These are the messengers of Enlil, lord of the gods, and they placed the Asag disease in him. * I am equating the demon (Udug) of the steppe and the wind (lil) of the steppe. As I see it this is a description of a coordinated demonic strike on a victim. The Ala holds the victim still while the wind plunges in the knife. The Galla possesses the corpse and the Dimme and Dima ate away at the prize. If any of this is mistranslated I would suspect that it is the translation of the word "killed", the reason being that you don't heal a dead man. The note that Enlil is ultimately responsible speaks to the time that this was penned down. Enki is now less responsible for bad things, and Enlil is more responsible. Perhaps this is related to Enlil's connection to spirits and demons, and Enki's connection to raw magic. 4 (21) Since his body contained the evil of the broken oath, (22) the demons injected his bad blood separately. (23) Since his body contained the Namtar demon with its evil, (24) or since his body contained its venomous evil, (25) or since his body contained an evil curse, (26) or since his body contained the evil of punishment, (27) or since the venom of misdeed hung over him, (28) thus have the demons wrought evil, approached the distraught man's side, (20) and set the grievous Asag disease in his body. 4 The man's body had been tainted by a broken oath, and so the demons each injected poison into his blood. His body either contained Namtar demon as the result of a curse laid upon him. This punishment was done 23

to him because of a misdeed. This is how the demons have done this to him and infected him with the Asag disease. *Our doctor diagnoses the causes of the disease before proceeding. The demons each injected poison in addition to the other things that they have done. Why did they do this? Because the man had angered a god or a sorcerer who has cursed them. There seems to be no blame upon the individual who had been the recipient of the broken oath from earlier. Perhaps what I took as a sandstorm metaphor was meant to refer more to a plague. I would have to know more about the Asag disease. 5 (29) The evil man, evil eye, evil mouth, and evil tongue, (30) the evil [...] worked woe in him. (31) They roared at him from the mountain like wind in a porous pot. (32) The destructive acts bound the mouth, (33) and the spells through their evil seized the tongue. 5 An evil man with an evil eye spoke dark words that howled down from the mountain like wind through the holes in a pot. This spell worked havoc on the afflicted man. It caused his tongue to be seized and bound his mouth taking away his voice. *Here we definitely have a sorcerer. It is specifically an evil man rather than a demon or a god. The use of the evil eye and the words binding the target sound more like manipulation of magic than manipulation of demons. The presence of demons suggests that perhaps practitioners of the arts were simply assumed to know both. The fact that this is something I have been arguing for years, and this section conveniently points in my favored direction makes it possible that I am simply reading too far into the texts. I will have to read on to find more evidence. The disease that is afflicting him is taking hold of his tongue. Perhaps a tooth problem or tetanus. Tooth problems were treatable, but could get really bad. Tetanus attacks the joints and shuts the mouth. I don't think this was treatable. I also suspect that he had a fever. 6 (34) As the great lord Enki left, there was the Evil god. (35) The demons plagued that man at the main crossroad. 6 Enki had departed, and in his place was Enlil a hostile god who did not want anything good for the afflicted man. At the crossroads he was set upon by demons who served this god. *You will note a similarity between P6 and P3, and also P5 and P1 I see these as building upon the earlier paragraphs to add more detail. This makes the evil god Enlil. This makes sense as he was earlier noted as the one behind the other demons. I changed it from "evil" to "hostile" as I think the sense of evil as inherently evil is too ingrained in the modern psyche. This was not a concept shared by the Sumerians, Akkadians, or Babylonians. 7 (36) I am Enki's man, (37) I am his messenger. (38) To heal the man in his illness, (39) the great lord Enki sent me. (40) Since he made his holy incantation into my incantation, [...] 7 Lord Enki acts through me. I am his messenger, and I came to heal the afflicted man's illness. Enki taught me his incantation, and I have made it my own. With this incantation I am able to help this man. [...]


*We have a break in the text here. I think it may have said something brief about how he healed the ailments in addition to the incantations. I have read that the incantation followed by physical treatment was the common practice. 3 lines restored (a) Causing his pure mouth to be my pure mouth, (b) his pure spell to be my pure spell, (c) his pure prayer to be my pure prayer. 8 Enki has given me the words to say, and he has given me his clean mouth to say them with. I am able to cast his pure spell and pray with his purity. No hint of uncleanliness can touch my mouth. * After adapting the patch in the text it is interesting to look back at my commentary. My guess was reasonable, it was simply wrong. Instead of talking about another stage of treatment he talked about cleanliness. Having a pure mouth obviously had a lot to do with hygiene to our modern eyes, but in this instance it had more to do with ritual purification. The beneficial hygienic aspects are a happy coincidence. Again though, this section seems to indicate a doctor rather than simply a wielder of magic. Demons being simply another vector for disease to spread through. From a magical standpoint this section tells us that ritual purification is important in the casting of this type of magic. At the very least, a modern practitioner might want to brush their teeth before starting a spell. More likely they would want to have regular dental visits. 9 (41) That which surely attacked the limbs is in the sick man's body. (42) It is an effective incantation, the word of Enki. (43) They were the evil ones who were indeed uprooted. 9 The demons that hindered the sick man's limbs was in his body. I used the incantation of Enki. The incantation was effective and the malicious entities were uprooted from the sick man's body. *Again it would be instructive to know what that incantation was exactly. This is definitely useful in it's own right, but it doesn't answer certain fundamental questions. 9 (44) In my hand I raised the manu wood, the exalted instrument of heaven. (45) Pisangunu, the herald of Kulaba, walks behind me while I enjoy good health. (46) As the good Udug walked with him on my right side, (47) and the good Lamma walked with him on my left side, (48) Geshtin-anna, the great scribe of Arali, recited with each one of them the liturgy of the holy incantation. Ningirsu, the lord of the weapon, surely adjured you. 9 I raised the Manu wood staff, a renown tool of heaven, in my hands. The herald of Kulab, Pisangunu, walks behind me and so my health is good. To my right is the good demon, and to my left is the good Lamma. Dumuzi's sister Geshtin-anna, the great scribe of the underworld, chanted the incantation with each of these spirits. As Ninurta, master of weaponry, solemnly instructed you. * Knowing what a Manu wood staff is made of would be greatly useful to a modern Sumerian magical practitioner. I know I would like to have one. Oh, and in case anyone doesn't know,Kulab is the city where Gilgamesh came from originally. It is located within Uruk. Uruk grew to encompass Kulab in much the same way that Chicago came to envelop the cities in northern Illinois. 25

10 (50) May they who are the evil ones not approach my body, (51) nor go behind me, nor enter my house, (52) nor climb on my roof, nor slip into my dwelling. (53) Be you adjured by heaven, be you adjured by earth. 10 "May those with bad intentions not approach me from the front or from behind. May they not come into my house, climb my roof, or enter my door. You are instructed by heaven and by earth," we chanted. *This looks to be the incantation he was talking about. The tone of these lines changed so I attempted to keep it close to the original. It is interesting that it is not invoking any god or demon here, but rather invoking by heaven and earth. Gods were mentioned in the previous line, but more for them to lend their strength to the chant rather than to give the chant authority. A distinct difference. Instructing them thus is like saying, "You know the order of the universe, obey the rules." (54) Incantation: the Asag: binding of illness [...] Incanation: An incantation against the Asag, and the binding of the diseases that they cause. *The Sumerians seem to have placed the titles at the ends of their compositions. List of demons and gods (1) Ala: A demon I don't know. Perhaps a shortened version of Alad, a male protective spirit. The suffix suggests lesser spirit. (2) Alad: A male protective spirit. (3) Arali: another name for the underworld. Also another name for Ereshkigal. (4) Asag: A winged eagle headed demon similar to an angel or a Djini in Assyrian art. They were considered to be particularly powerful. Like the Alad we see the glimmerings of two sides to them. Evil Asag when named in incantations are demons of sickness. When shown in art they seem to be more similar to the incantation priests themselves. (5) Damgalnunna: The wife of Enki who lives with him in the deep. Not much is said about her in the myths. She is the mother of Asalluhi, potentially a Sumerian form of Marduk, though Marduk is also mentioned in these texts separately from Asalluhi. (6) Dimme and Dima: More demons I don't know anything about. (7) Enki: Lord of wisdom, magic and fresh water. He lives in the abyss, a place accessible by way of Eridu, his city. Enki is also the main god of T/S. (8) Enlil: Wind god and head of the pantheon. He is more beneficial in earlier texts than this one. He is master of spirits and as such is a lord over demons. (9) Galla: Demon of the underworld. Their chief duty is to bring the dead to the underworld. They get over enthusiastic about this and will attempt to bring as many into the underworld as they can. They are harmful, but not evil by nature. (10) Geshtin-anna: Dumuzi's sister. Here she is presented as the scribe of the underworld. (11) Gidim: Ghost. a spirit who has died, but was not properly buried. Here it would benefit greatly from taking a victim and killing it. This would allow 26

it a way to be burried and so enter the underworld on another's ticket as it were. (12) Lamma: something like a Djini. (13) Lil: this means wind, spirit, or wind spirit. By nature it was the servant of Enlil. (14) Namtar: God of fate and death, and minister of Ereshkigal. (15) Pisangunu: the herald of Kullab. Not an entity I am familiar with. I know I have heard the name before though. (16) Udug: Any demon. (17) Udug of the steppe: I equate this to be a form of wind demon. As such it would be subservient to Enlil. (18) Ulu demon: The direct transliteration of Ulu demon is U18-Lu-Gin7. Checking this with the lexicon gets: U18 (huge), Lu (male, person, or any of a number of other definitions.) and Gin7 (Similar to, like.) like a huge male demon. Tablet 3 Text 3 (73) Enuru Incantation 1 (74) I am the incantation priest, the high priest of Enki. (75) I am the purification priest of Eridu, (76) [...] I am the incantation priest. 1 I am the high priest of Enki. I know his sacred incantations. I perform purification rites for Enki's city of Eridu. I am superbly qualified for the task that is before me. A strong opening. The doctor puts the patient at ease and frightens the demons at the same time. 2 (77) In my going to the sick man's house (78) In my pressing on the door of the house (79) As I call out to him at the gate (80) When I would cross the threshold of the house, (81) When I would enter the house [...] (82) Utu is before me, Nanna is behind me, (83) Nergal is at my right side, (84) and Ninurta is at my left side. 2 Going past the door of the house brings me into another place. Simply opening the door and walking through would put a normal man at risk of the forces within. When I cross the threshold however, I walk with the god Utu in front of me and Nanna, his father, behind me. My way is therefore divinely lit and the actions of the demons are controlled. To my right is Nergal, and to my left is Ninurta. Both are powerful warriors who have the force needed to command even the most powerful of demons. It is interesting that these four are here. Utu, Nanna, and Nergal have strong underworld associations. Nergal is a master of demons of disease ammong others, and Ninurta has been shown to fight against demons in the myths. 3 (85) As I would approach the patient, as I would prop up the sick man's head (86) may the good Udug and good Lamma stand at my side. To aid me in my actions I request the assistance of a good demon and a good Lamma spirit. Stand with me at my side and assist me if you would. Something you do not really see in a lot of modern magic, but that was present in the ancient world is politeness to demons that you are asking


the assistance of. It is bad form to command the aid of forces you are dependent of the good will of. It is also interesting to note that the demons aid is requested while the aid of the gods is stated as fact. Since the aid of the spirits is politely requested and the presence of the gods is simply noted with pride it might be inferred that this exorcist is experienced in his work and has a close relationship with the gods. (87) Gap 12 lines restored but not translated (88) Be adjured by heaven and earth. (89) Incantation List of demons and gods (1) Lama -Good: This is a spirit that is usually depicted as being helpful. (2) Nanna: The moon god. The MALE moon god. He is father of the Sun god who is also male. He is romantic with his wife and protective of the people of Sumer. That being said, he would later serve as the inspiration for Mohammed's Allah. (3) Nergal: Governor of the Underworld. Husband to Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. God of war, and plague. Associated with lions, and popular well outside of Sumer in the ancient world. (4) Ninurta: Ninurta is a warrior storm god. He wields the deified sword Sharur. He was one of the most important gods in Sumer. If there were an eighth god who decreed fate, then it would be him. (5) Udug -Good: This simply means good demon. Good is perhaps not the proper term. Helpful would be more accurate. (6) Utu: He is the sun god and also a governor of the underworld. He is the god of law and justice. Nanna is his father, and Inanna is his sister.

Chapter 5: Death burial and the underworld
1) What shapes your arrival in the underworld You can take it with you: The first and most difficult concept to accept about Sumerian mortality is that you can be buried with statues and gifts and that they can be there for you in the underworld as if by magic. In western culture we hear time and again that you can't take it with you. That materialism, though instinctual, isn't right. To the Sumerians materialism had it's place in the order of the universe. You wanted to be buried as a king with many offerings and gifts. "If I'm wrong, then I'll shrug my shoulders, but if you're wrong you could be miserable for all eternity." This statement has been used by some as a means to frighten them into converting to one religion or other with an afterlife, and it works equally well in Sumerian religion. If a Sumerian isn't buried with the proper respect or offerings then their afterlife could be impoverished for all eternity. As with the objects on a Sumerian's altar, the objects that they are buried with have a spiritual presence. They are in effect real in the afterlife. As such it is a good idea to provide for one's self in the afterlife with servants, wealth, and items of comfort. These things allow the person a measure of


comfort in the afterlife as well as providing them with the means to be useful and productive in the afterlife. An artist might choose to be buried with artist supplies. The spirit of those objects would arrive with them in the afterlife. Someone who was not provided with offerings, at death or after, would be poor in the afterlife. For this reason a modern Sumerian might choose to provide objects that they want to have in the afterlife. Offerings In ancient Sumer the dead were usually buried close to home. There would be a wing of the house where the dead were buried. Offerings could be made to the dead in these rooms and these offerings would arrive in the underworld for the use of dead loved ones. In the epic of Gilgamesh Gilgamesh had the opportunity to speak to his dead companion Enkidu. He asked a number of questions about people in the afterlife. Many of the things that he heard from his friend have led later scholars to think that the dead are doomed to misery. This was meant to teach a lesson however. The continued existence of the dead is people are dependent on several factors. Some of them are controllable and some aren't. If people had many children they could expect to have their children provide offerings for them. There were several ways that the offerings could be given. An offering could be placed directly into the grave after burial, but those left behind did not have to go this rout. They could dedicate the offerings to an image of the deceased and that would work as well. In modern times many people would rather forget the dead. In Sumer they did not have that luxury. They knew that dead who were buried poorly and then not given offerings would return to the land of the living as Gidim. These covetous ghosts could do physical harm to the living even going so far as to possess them by entering through the ear. Haunting the living as an impoverished or vengeful Gidim is not the worst thing that could happen to a person at burial. The dead in Sumer were always buried. They were never cremated except in the most extreme of cases. A person whose body was cremated did not go to the land of the dead. They, like the smoke and fire that consumed them, would go up to heaven. Being barred from the underworld and going up to heaven was considered the worst thing that could happen to a person when they died. Heaven was a perfectly decent place for the gods to be, but it simply was not where the dead belonged. That was not the proper order of the universe. Being Cremated was worse even than being doomed to walk the living world. The best thing that could happen is to get a place near the feet of Ereshkigal. These facts help to tear down the preconception that the Sumerian afterlife was abysmal. Many Reconstructionists in our era don't have large families to provide offerings for them. Likewise many do not have parents who are members of their religion to give offerings to. Their parents, not being Sumerian, might not even appreciate an offering. That judgment call should be made with care. 29

How you die How you die is something you have some control over. If you smoke constantly you are more likely to die from cancer, but then again you are also more likely to die in a fire. A person who drives too fast might die in an accident, but might also have a heart attack. Even a person attempting to commit suicide could mess it up and then end up dying another way. In essence your death is not something you have total control over. You can influence it one way or another, but you cannot have utter control over it. Death is just an instant though. It is better to prepare to be dead than to prepare to die. In order to better prepare for death it is best to strive for life. As we live we experience things that become a part of us. A nurturing upbringing might lead to a person becoming kind, or perhaps spoiled. Death, as an often defining life experience, also leaves a mark on the soul. The way that a person dies is a clear indicator of what condition that they will be in when they arrive in the afterlife. People who leave behind loved ones often have visions and dreams of the dead as they were continuing on as though nothing happened. If they die from a wasting disease they might be ill, but still hanging on. A person who had been shot might be slowly recovering from a wound. A traumatic death might leave traumatic marks on the soul, while a violent but sudden death might actually be preferable in the way that the death is instantaneous. When you are told that your dead loved ones did not suffer, this is what makes the loss easier to bare. How you lived Your life is not meaningless. It doesn't simply boil down to the guided application of resources and a roll of the dice for what kind of death you will have. A person can die well, and be buried well by people who continue to give offerings and still not have a happy afterlife. The way that you behaved in life does matter. Part of the fate that the gods decree for us is our place in the afterlife. As we live some of the gods keep a record of what we do. When we die the gods are told of how we upset the order of the universe, or how we helped maintain it. The gods are told about how we lived within the Sumerian moral code, and how we honored the gods in life. Keep in mind that the Sumerian moral code is similar to the Christian version of the Ten Commandments, but at the same time there are important differences. The Sumerians had a slightly different mind set to the wandering herders who became the Jews, and a particularly different mind set to the cultures that shaped western culture into what it is today. Most notable here is that the gods are not all of one mind. They get along better than many pantheons, but they still have disagreements and different ways of looking at the world. Once you get into the underworld there are other more obvious ways that the way that you lived will impact you. The people that you knew before they died have memories, and they have had time to get used to the underworld. Additionally, the people you knew who are still alive have the


ability to leave you sacrifices. Being kind to others can therefore be simply a practical investment. 2) The history of the dragon Kur The underworld is a vast and complicated realm with many confusing myths and rules. It's rules are relatively consistent, but they need to be pieced together from many differing sources. The history of Kur is a complicated tangle of myths. Attempts were made to remove bias from the myths and to keep in mind the few basic rules of the underworld, but there is no guarantee that the interpretation presented here is indeed the right one. The underworld has several rules that must be obeyed even by the gods. The first of these rules is that an unfair balance must always be struck between the land of the living and the land of the dead. This balance is commonly called the conservation of death. None can return to the land of the living without providing a replacement in the land of the dead. The opposite does not hold true. People can die without the land of the dead needing to provide a replacement in the land of the living. The next rule is one that only the gods need to follow. None can rule in both An and Kur. This rule can be seen in the prelude to Gilgamesh, it can be seen in the later myth of Ereshkigal and Nergal, and it can be seen in the myth of Inanna's descent to the underworld. The third rule is that the living must respect the dead while in their presence. This rule is why the living go to the land of the dead in mourners clothing and in whispered silence. This rule is a matter of courtesy, but one that is strictly enforced. Likewise when the dead come to the land of the living they must obey our hospitality laws. Kur, like Ki, An, Apsu, and others, is not just the name of a realm, but also the name of the spirit that personifies it. Kur lies outside of the Anki, that is to say out side of the universe. Within the Apsu the universe, Anki, was created and it split apart into the land the air and the sky. Each of these realms were ruled by a god. The Sumerians envisioned Kur as lying under the land of the living as people are buried under the ground and so the gates of the underworld lead downwards. Within the realm of An was a beautiful young woman by the name of Ereshkigal. She was taken by Kur to be the bride of the underworld. Enki, whose mother was the Apsu, and who made his home in the great deep, sailed to her rescue. The dragon Kur made the waters turbulent in an effort to stop Enki, but Enki made his way to Ereshkigal and placed her upon the throne of the underworld. Ereshkigal made her home in the underworld and grew to adulthood in that land. Ereshkigal could not return to the realm of An because not even the gods were allowed to rule in both the land of the living and the land of the dead. She took the bull of heaven, Gugalanna, as her husband. Together she and the bull had a child Ninazu. Some scholars also believe that the gate keeper Neti and the god of death Namtar were also her children. Namtar served as her minister deciding ultimately who would be privileged with the opportunity to go into the queen's presence. 31

Ninazu fathered Ningishzida, the god of the dawn. Ningishzida's tragic fate was to die, but he knew a clever way out. He would build a throne that would take him from the land of the dead to the land of the living. This throne was near to the throne of Ereshkigal's and he would use it to return to life for half of the day. It is presumably through this chair that Ninazu was able to return to the land of the living without having someone stay behind in his stead. At this time the twin brothers Lugal-irra and Meslamta-Ea, more commonly known as Nergal, guarded the gate between the land of the living and the land of the dead. He and his twin brother have been confused with one another often through history, and Nergal may in fact be the other brother instead. One day Inanna was provoked by Gilgamesh and decided instead to send the bull of heaven after him. An attempted to persuade Inanna not to take this course of action, but she insisted. The bull of heaven was sadly slain by Gilgamesh. His body was desecrated, his rear leg was torn off, and his head was offered as a sacrifice to Gilgamesh's personal god. Several plotting Galla demons convinced Inanna to go down to the underworld to conduct Gugalana's funeral and attempt to take the throne of the underworld while she was at it. Ereshkigal was understandably upset at having the one responsible for her husband's death conduct the funeral. Her anger only grew when Inanna took the throne. Her husband's memory had been completely disrespected. Inanna's time on the throne was short. By sitting upon the throne she had attempted to take power in both heaven and the underworld. She was struck dead by the gods. Ereshkigal hung her corpse on a meat hook next to the throne as a punishment. Inanna had arranged for this eventuality and had her servant go to various gods to see if they would help her. The only god who did was Enki. The god of magic fashioned two funeral priests out of the clay from under his finger tips. He then gave each of these figures the food and water of life. The funerary priests traveled to the underworld and mourned Ereshkigal's loss giving compassion where none had given it before. This moved the queen, who promised the priests anything that they wanted. The priests asked for the corpse of Inanna. Ereshkigal was upset, but gave them what they desired. Inanna was returned to life, but was forced to have someone go to the underworld in her place. Her husband Dumuzi had not properly mourned her, so she decided that he would remain in the land of the dead instead of her. Dumuzi's sister Geshtin-anna chose to spend half of the year in the underworld instead of her brother. This sacrifice drove the seasons. Eventually Gilgamesh died as all mortals do. He had lived a good life and he was beloved by the gods. His destiny was to die and this had been ordained by the seven who decree fate, but they decided to add one last twist when he got to the underworld. He would be placed in a position of honor above all other mortals. Hoping to cheer Ereshkigal up the gods threw a party. Ereshkigal could not come to heaven, but she could send Namtar up instead of her. While there he would accept her presents and bring back food. This greatly pleased


the queen of the underworld who was still mourning the death of her husband. Namtar had all of the gods in heaven bow before him symbolically showing that even they respected the power of death. Nergal refused to bow showing that he had no fear of death. Namtar, as the god of death, was enraged by this and reported this to his queen. When he returned to heaven he could not find Nergal. Nergal decided to lay siege to the underworld and take dominion over that land. He gathered together a small army of demons and constructed a chair like the one Ninazu owned and marched upon the gates of Ganzer. When he reached Ereshkigal's throne in the underworld he took the queen to bed and she fell in love with him. After several days of passion, Nergal snuck off back to the land of the living where his actions were well known. In order to escape the land of the dead he had built a chair such as the one used by Ningishzida. Ereshkigal was enraged at having been taken advantage of and threatened to unleash the dead to consume the living if Nergal was not returned to the underworld to become her husband. Nergal accepted his fate and became the king of the underworld. His power was second only to Ereshkigal herself. Ninazu, who had been attended by a dragon, lost this dragon to Nergal when he lost his place to Nergal. There was tension between the two gods, but no outright conflicts have yet broken out. 3) Geography of Kur Urugal: It is here that Ereshkigal's great throne resides as well as the throne of her husband Nergal. That makes this the capital and most important city of the underworld. It is in fact the only city mentioned being in the underworld. There may be other cities in the underworld, if there are we know nothing about them. The word Urugal derives from Uru meaning city, and Gal meaning great. Urugal therefore means great city. It is there that most of the dead reside. If one keeps in mind that the dead are expected to continue using the skills that they learned in life, you can imagine how great the city must be. As the sun dips over the horizon Ninazu, the god of the dawn, travel into the underworld. Presumably Utu, the god of the sun, goes with him. This means that the luminous glow of the sun can be seen coming from Ereshkigal's city. A wonder to behold. There is a large courtyard beyond Ereshkigal's throne room as a barrier between her inner sanctum and the main city. In order to go from the main city through the court yard, and into Ereshkigal's presence one needs to get the approval of Namtar. This is one of the main services that any of the ministers of the gods provide. Beyond the city of Urugal are wastelands where the less fortunate among the dead are forced to eat dust. This stark contrast to the great city is what the myths about the underworld are warning us about. Provide for your future and the future of those loved ones that have passed away or you will not have a comfortable eternity to look forward to.


Ganzer: The land of the living and the land of the dead need to be kept apart. There are dead who would return to consume the living, and there are powers that the living could steal from the dead. The fortress guarding the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead is called Ganzer. The underworld needs a fortress that is strong, because occasionally some of the more powerful gods attempt to break in. Inanna had the strength to rip open the gates, and threatened to do so in one myth. Nergal, being powerful but not as powerful as Inanna, took a small force of demons to force the gates of the underworld. For most the grave is the gateway that leads to the underworld. It is how the soul gets from the land of the living to the land of the dead. The grave is fitted with offerings for the dead to take with them into the underworld. These offerings would include offerings for the gatekeepers. Ganzer has seven gates guarded by seven gate keepers. Another version of the fortress has it that there are fourteen gates. The chief of these gate keepers is the minor god Neti in any version. The gates are often described as being bound or locked with a cord. Id-Kura: The river of the underworld or the man eating river. This is a river that pulls people from the living realm to the land of the dead. The word Id-Kura translates roughly as Id, River, with Kur, meaning underworld, and ra meaning flood. It plays a strong part in the myth where Enlil is condemned to death and the myth where the child Damu falls into the river. It was understood in these myths that the river would lead into a cave and from there the river would lead directly into the underworld. Though the river bears some passing similarities to the Greek river Styx, it should be pointed out that we don't actually know that they are in fact connected. We do know that the Greeks borrowed several elements from Sumerian mythology. 4) The Restless Dead The dead can take many forms and follow some specific rules depending upon what form that they take. An understanding of what they are and why they do the things that they do will bring a better understanding of how to deal with them, and how to avoid upsetting them. Gidim: In ancient Sumer there was a fear of ghosts, but this was not the child like fear that we have come to associate with the fear of ghosts. There was no belief that all ghosts were evil. Gidim were simply the shades of people who had died. They were one form that the dead could take when they passed into death. Gidim, like any spirit in ancient Sumer, had both a good side and a bad side. When a person was not buried with offerings, or if a person was not buried at all then they could not make it into the underworld. The Gidim were said to make their homes in the ruins of cities that were ancient even in those times.


When a Gidim, by choice or not, walks in the world of the living, they have some ability to force their will upon the living. They can enter the bodies of the living through the ear and take control. They can cause pain or sickness to the living. The dead would do this in order to get revenge upon the living for ignoring them or for dishonoring their memories. Gidim could be protected against by enchanted ear jewelry. Sorcerers could protect against them or use them to act upon others. Vampires: There were times when gods such as Ereshkigal, Nergal, or Inanna threatened to break down the gates of the underworld and let the dead consume the living. The word vampire didn't come into usage until millennia after the fall of Sumer, but the concept was remarkably similar. Vampires were restricted from doing things such as breaking into the house of a member of the living, or from coming out during the day because they were constricted by the laws of hospitality and other similar laws governing the behavior of the dead. Obviously the Sumerians did not call them vampires, but they didn't call the dead who consume the living much of anything else either. Vampire is just as good of a word as any, but there are a few important differences between them and the modern concept of vampires. Crosses are a Christian concept based upon a roman form of torture and execution, and as such do not relate to Sumerian vampires. Garlic as a ward against vampires comes to us from Egypt. In Egypt spirits could be driven away by bad smells.

Chapter 6: Building a religion in a modern world.
under construction Ensi: The title of Ensi is similar to the title of high priest in other groups. It implies both political and spiritual leader. Sukkal: The Sukkal is the chief adviser to the Ensi. All Sumerian groups seem to have one no matter what the person actually is called. Scholar: the worshipers and followers of a god from the sumerian pantheon are not simply those who sit in a church and get preached at. Symbols Ritual Through the Eyes of the Sumerian Reconstructionist Preparation You will need an altar set up already. At it's most basic you need a statue of your personal god, one of yourself worshiping your god, a basin for water, and an incense or scented oil burner. The statue of the god should be treated as reverently as you would treat the god. Likewise the statue of the worshipers should be as reverent as you yourself would be. The statues of worshipers should be opposite the god. The god should be higher or larger than the worshipers. The position of the water basin and the incense or oil is less important. The water basin should have water in it at all times even when there is no ritual going on.


You could also have statues on your altar that act as servants or guardians. Any guardians should be facing outwards at the edge of the altar like gargoyles. Any servants should be placed in a position appropriate to their intended purpose. The nature of any statue should be treated as being identical to its form. That is to say that a statue of a scribe can be assumed to take notes and records on the spiritual level the same way that a physical one would for the physical world. Guardians are like gargoyles and as such are beings to be respected in their own right. Choose which demons and spirits you use as guardians on your altar with care. You should probably stick with Sumerian spirits and demons where possible, though unlike gods you are not forbidden from dealing with the spirits of other cultured. You should have your offering ready ahead of time. You should go into your ritual with an idea of what you want to say and do. As always a little bit of respect and organization goes a long way. Types of offerings Traditional offerings could be anything from clothing, to food, to works of art, to temples. The purpose of humanity is to provide these offerings to the gods so that they do not have to provide these offerings for themselves. The gods are perfectly capable of providing their own offerings, and occasionally make offerings to one another in one form or another. It is obvious that the gods do not take the physical offering, and nobody is suggesting that they did. Traditionally when large offerings of clothing or food are offered these offerings would be distributed to the temple staff and those in need. Charity is not the primary purpose of offerings even though the gods look fondly upon it. Offerings provide the essence of the objects to the gods. If a person offers a loaf of bread and some beer to the gods in a ritual, and then after the ritual consumes these, then the essence of the offerings is given to the gods. Offerings aren't all used by the worshipers. Some are left for the gods; other offerings are burned. Doing this every now and again proves to the gods that you are honest in your devotion and that you are not making offerings just to have them for yourself. Traditional food offerings are things like beer, bread, fish, meat, water, and fruits such as pomegranates. Traditional offerings of precious objects are things such as gold, silver and lapis lazuli with lapis being the most precious of the three. The gods were also said to enjoy growing plants. Not all objects were physical objects whatsoever. The gods were also given offerings of services. The order of the universe needs to be maintained, and the gods need to be honored. Poems, hard work, and other services that glorify the gods are greatly appreciated. As with just about everything in Sumer there are occasionally substitutions. The burnt essence of a fish can be given by giving a roasted fish, by incinerating a fish, or by burning a replica of a fish. Likewise the statues of worshipers upon an altar give devotion to the gods constantly,


while the physical form does the physical work needed to maintain civilization. In ancient times animals would routinely be sacrificed for devotion. In modern times this isn't always practical, but sculpting an animal for the sole purpose of being given as an offering to the gods is. Statues of Worshipers In ancient times votive statues would be made out of clay. Their eyes would be large, we might call them anime eyes today. Their hands would be clasped with the right hand over the left. They would also have their right shoulder uncovered. These would be the statues of worshipers that every Sumerian has on their altar. The clothing would not be the finest available, but rather it would be rather poor quality in general. This was because the Sumerians had clothing taboos when dealing with the gods. The worshipers were absolutely in a lower position than the gods. They were considered to be slaves, and slaves wore poor quality clothing than their masters. When a statue was finished the mouth would be cleaned. This ritual is called the opening of the mouth, and was meant to be similar to a birthing ceremony. From that point onwards the statue would be considered to be connected to what it represents or to be alive in its own right. Now we have access to Sculpey clay, soapstone, wood, and other materials. These give us the luxury of carving statues to approximate what we look like with more detail. When carving a modern statue the iconography is important. The statue should be depicted as worshiping. They should not be dressed in fine clothing. They should be carved with all distinctive features of the worshiper. If you have a beard and glasses, then so should your statue. Each altar should have a focus of worship. This is usually a god, but you can also make an ancestor shrine for the purpose of giving offerings to the dead. We will cover funerals and ancestor offerings in another section. The statue of the god should be higher and larger than any other statue on the altar. They should be dressed in fine clothing. Most importantly they should have all possible iconography of the god. Iconography is important because we don't have exact pictures of the gods. When carving a god look at what they are the god of, and how they were described in myth. Look at the great deeds that they have done, and the things that were done to them. In addition to these vital statues, an altar can be adorned with guardian statues. These would normally be placed over doorways, or in auspicious places in the house. Unfortunately this is not always practical in this day and age, so Temple of Sumer advocates placing these at the edge of the altar facing outwards like gargoyles. Though Imdugud statues were the most common statues to have as protectors, many other good demons were employed for similar purposes. Choose your protector demons carefully, and think about the character of the demon before you even start. When carving a demon we do many of the same things that we would when carving the statue of a god. You need to see what they are a demon of, what they did in myth, and how they were depicted in the past. A 37

protector statue should not be bigger than the statues of the worshipers. They should not be placed in a position of devotion, but they should be treated with respect. Like the statue of a god, the statue of a demon is acting as a vessel for a potent essence. One final statue that should be covered is the servant statue. In ancient times the temples would have a full staff. There would be people to serve as chanters, as scribes, and any other conceivable task. We don't have that luxury today, so we make do with a substitute. Servant statues attend the needs of the gods spiritually. They should be carved in such a way as to look like what they are supposed to do. A scribe might be carved with a tablet and a stylus. A cleaner might be carved with a broom. As our materials have developed over time, so too has our subject mater. When you carve a scribe, you can carve them with a laptop instead of a clay tablet. When you carve someone who cleans, they can be given a vacuum rather than a broom. Respect and custom In ancient Sumer there were ancient temples on step pyramids called Ziggurats. These Ziggurats have stairs, these stairs twist several times to prevent worshipers and priests from approaching directly. They were also built high to be symbolically close to the gods. In the home the ancient Sumerians had recessed altars built into their walls. These altars were similar in some ways to the Sumerian temples, but they also had much more variety. A home altar could honor the worshiper's ancestors, a personal god, or one of the greater gods. After the ancient Jews lost to the ancient Romans there was a change in tradition from an orientation around the large community of the temple to a set of smaller communities with a Rabbi rather than a priest leading them. Similarly Temple of Sumer advocates a blending between the Ziggurat and the Altar. This obviously isn't required, but it is suggested, as many of the gods followed by the modern Sumerians are the major gods of the religion. The altars of Temple of Sumer are recommended to be high up and turned at a right angle with the statue of the god on the right side and the worshipers on the left facing the god. Clothing is important, but the way that clothing is used has changed a lot over the last few thousand years. In ancient times a worshiper would wear poor clothing or none at all when approaching their god. For practicality sake we suggest that yo do not dress up, but do not go into every ritual naked. Dress down for the ritual in other words. The reason that the Sumerians dressed like this is the same reason that they did not approach their gods directly. They dressed in such a way as to show respect to the gods. The gods are our superiors, not our equals, and not our servants. They deserve to be shown every piece of respect that they can be given. Innovation


In an ideal world we would all have access to everything that the gods want. We would know what would serve as a suitable substitute when we don't have what we need. We would have records of what was traditional. We don't live in a perfect world. The materials available to us are different from those available in ancient times. Wood an modern tools are readily available while kilns to fire clay in have become less available. Many of the ancient inscriptions have become damaged, or their translations don't make sense to us. While we can't do things exactly the way that the Sumerians did in ancient times, we don't always want to. We aren't reenacting the religion; we are reconstructing it. This means that we take the evidence we had of what the gods did like and we do our best to approximate this and improve upon it. The gods do not always like things that we think that they like. Like us their tastes develop over time. If they do not like something they will let us know. The downside to this is that it takes personal experience, and not every worshiper agrees. This experience is called Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis or UPG. Most UPG tells us things that the gods do and do not like. Customarily if a food offering is given in good faith, and the gods like it they will make it taste somewhat better than it ordinarily would. If they do not like the offering they may make it taste bad. Not all UPG will agree. Not all UPG is correct. Not all UPG will even make sense. Keep these things in mind when dealing with the revelations of the gods. Temple of Sumer treats it like witness testimony. It should always be backed up by two unrelated reliable witnesses. Forms of address The ancient Sumerians had a wide selection of literary styles, but one element holds true throughout. The triplicate form of description is used throughout Sumerian literature. You start with a basic description of something to set a framework for the subject. You move on to tell some details that build upon the basic framework. You then conclude with something specific. After this you say what you are going to say about it. The reason for this is possibly because the Sumerian language has a lot of room for pun and double meaning. Being descriptive in such a way sets context so that the reader or listener can understand what is being said. You might for example say: Your servant beseeches you oh god of water I beseech you oh god of wisdom and magic I, your servant Edward beseech you far seeing Enki, god of fresh waters Bless my future endeavors. When you address the gods you may choose to use this form as a framework for a more traditional chant. It would set the stage with formality and respect, and the god that is being addressed might be impressed with your effort. Ritual 39

Now that the basics have been covered, the ritual itself might seem rather simplistic by comparison. Keep in mind though that this is simply a basic ritual designed by one temple. With the material above you should be able to modify it in order to make it as elaborate as you need. Approach your altar indirectly and with respect. Check the water basin; if it is low refill it. Light your candle or oil burner. Clasp your hands with your right hand over your left. Greet your god in a manor befitting that god. Present your offerings and state them as such. If you need the help of the gods this would be the time to do so, but do not come to the gods only to make requests. Remember: you serve them, they do not serve you. If you are dedicating any pieces to your altar you should do this now. Make sure to symbolically wash the mouth of the statue before adding it to the altar. From this point on, the statue should be treated as a vessel for whatever it represents, even if it represents you. To conclude the ritual simply bow your head, blow out the candle, and withdraw. Now is the appropriate time to consume any food that is meant for your god. It is to be understood that while you are consuming the physical form of the offering, they are consuming the spiritual form of the offering. That is it, that's all that there is to it. You obviously can add more in an effort to honor the gods. Remember however that you are constantly worshiping the gods in the form of your votive worshiper. You don't need to constantly be doing ritual because of this. Prayer, Daily worship, and Lamentation Flattery and Respect. One major part of each ritual is Prayer. Not all prayers are particularly elaborate. Many simply praise the gods, others do not only this, but are extensive and complex. The important thing to remember when composing a prayer to the gods is that the god must always be given their proper credit. With this in mind, the first thing to do is to praise the god or gods being addressed as extensively as possible. The gods seem to appreciate praise as much if not more than mortals do. It not only flatters them, but it also gives them the credit that they deserve. In modern times the praise form serves an additional purpose. It reminds us that the gods have their place, and that man has theirs. The place of the gods is firmly above ours. In modern society praise of the gods is a fading art. In our pride many people in the modern era like to think that we are on top of the world without thinking that there is something above us. Some also like to think that since the gods created us to do work that they did not want to do that they couldn't do this work. The gods have had to do for themselves for centuries, they aren't going to die without us. That does not mean that the gods think nothing of us. We are valued by our gods, and the offerings that we give are appreciated. If they were not appreciated the gods would not have set up the practice of offerings in the religion of ancient Sumer. 40

Role of the personal god Even if the god that you are worshiping isn't the primary god of something, doesn't mean that they are helpless in that area. Enki for example is not a god of writing, but he can be prayed to for help in writing. One's personal god is an intermediary between the worshiper and the rest of the gods. The personal god in question passes on the request to the god that would be more appropriately asked. In modern times it isn't uncommon for one of the major gods of the pantheon to choose worshipers and become their personal god. In ancient times on the other hand this was not nearly as common. Most people in ancient times had their own personal god who would intercede with for them with the greater powers. This personal god might be a god of something, a minor place entity, or even a god of a family. No matter how powerful the personal god in question is, they behave somewhat like a guardian angel. They act on their own to benefit those who they are fond of, and they accept prayers on behalf of those that worship them. Your personal god is literally a spiritual parent. Their brothers and sisters are your spiritual aunts and uncles, and they were referred to as such in recovered documents. They are to be treated with respect and they treat us like members of their families. Types of Prayer Praise prayer is easily understood, but rarely done. The gods should occasionally be directly recognized for what they have done and for what they are capable of. Their power is great, and they seem to like being told this. Dedication is when you make note that a certain thing or event is specifically for the gods. Dedicatory prayers are the method in which we offer things to our gods. When we place something on our altars to our gods it should be dictated. When we make a food or similar offering that we are dedicating the spirit of to our gods this is no less of a dedication to the gods even though those dedicating it will be using or consuming it themselves. This goes back to the idea of substitution, the idea that the spirit of something can be the same even if the physical form isn't exactly. In myth the gods can be seen to give offerings to each other and to praise each other for their greatness. This is simply the custom that the Sumerian gods happen to prefer when dealing with each other and when humans address them. One of the most confusing types of prayer for our modern minds to get a handle on is Lamentation. This is more than just complaining, but might not seem like it on the surface. On the surface a lamentation seems to simply be a mourning of ones self. Belaboring all of the trials that one is being put through. From the point of view of a dog who has been rapped upon the nose for something bad that they have done, one can attempt to growl, or run away, but whimpering is the response that is being sought. It shows that one does not like what has happened to them. 41

Taking this example further, if a dog breaks its leg while playing and it whimpers, then the master's attention is drawn to the plight of the dog. They can give the care that is needed to the one who needs it most if they know when suffering is too extreme. In essence the gods determine when bad things happen. No one god is ultimately responsible for all bad things that happen like they would be in a monotheistic system. A personal god who listens to a lamentation takes this mournful petition to the gods, and the relevant gods may take the plight to heart. Request prayers are perhaps the most common prayer. They are not perhaps the most appreciated, but they are definitely used the most often. In at least one version of the flood myth the earth was flooded because humans bugged the gods too much. Remember, the gods are not our slaves. We are the slaves of the gods. It is ok to ask the gods for help when you need it, but the gods are not a cosmic Santa Claus. They want what is best for their servants, but servants are what we are. That does not mean we will be pushed beyond our capacity, the gods designed our souls with remarkable endurance. If something before us is beyond our capabilities then that is the time to plead to the gods for help or to lament your fate to the gods.

Format The Sumerians used a literary style that made a vague statement and built upon it in subsequent lines. While we don't have to do this ourselves it might be a good idea to compose a prayer with the same care that one composes a poem. The Sumerian literary style often used a triplicate form where the same thing is said three times in different forms. In this form one starts with the general and moves to the specific. They did not always use three lines to do this, occasionally they would use two, and often they would add a line at the end to punctuate their statement. Written prayers are a special way to honor the gods with your words. The examples of prayers written down in the past generally show special prayers and lamentations. Thankfully we have a number of these written in both Sumerian and Akkadian over a large swath of time. Remember that the written word was new in the time of the Sumerians. They saw it as one of the gifts of the gods that set them apart from the animals and wild men of surrounding countries. As such writing a prayer down was a way to add extra significance to the words. Don'ts Do not threaten the gods. This sounds like a no brainier, but it is actually more common than you would think. Common threats are to stop doing rituals if the god does not give the "worshiper" what they wish. Another common threat is that the "worshiper" will do harm to the altar or take items away in order to punish the gods. It stems fundamentally from a non Recon-ish perspective on the gods in general. The idea that without worshipers the gods are either helpless, 42

powerless, or that they will fade away. From a Reconstructionist point of view we worship the gods because we believe that they are real and deserve to be worshiped. As one might expect this doesn't work all too well. The gods are not the sort to be harmed by their worshipers. If the gods could be recreated to suit our needs, then we would create a religion based around wish fulfillment. A religion based around the "worship" of some sort of cosmic Santa Claus that gives you whatever you want whenever you want it. Bolstering this are a few myths where a super human individual injures or kills a god. These instances were under special circumstances or with the help of super human strength, or an enchanted weapon. It is somewhat of an underestimation to think that the gods, regardless of their relative strength, might be harmed by a random worshiper. Do not beg extensively. In one of the flood myths, mankind was culled because they would not allow the gods a moment peace with their excessive begging and pleading. It is interesting to note that mankind's advocate in that myth had been sleeping at the time. It puts our place into perspective to think that we might be struck down simply for being excessively annoying. That is not to say that you should never ask for anything. It is a foolish servant who never asks their master for supplies needed to perform their job properly. What is being said is that each worshiper should think for a moment and question if their request requires divine intervention. This is a particularly important thing to keep in mind if you happen to come from one of the Neo pagan faiths that treat prayer and magic as identical. They are not the same. Magic is the use of the supernatural to do something for one's self. A god may be asked to help, but this help should not be treated as a given. Prayer on the other hand is communication with the gods. Communication does not presume that the other party will definitely do something for you, but also does not preclude it. There is a difference therefore between asking a god to do something for you and magic. Do not come to the gods with disrespect or a superior attitude. Ziggurats were built with turns in their paths to make it difficult or imposable to approach the gods directly. Temple of Sumer advocates that something similar be integrated into the altars of modern worshipers. Not every prayer will be done at one's altar or before the figure of one's god. There are other ways to show respect for the gods however. One can address them with more than just their name. One might Address Enki as Enki, wisest of the gods, and god of fresh waters for example. This shows respect to his power and glory and shows that you know more than just one simple aspect. Temple of Sumer also suggests dressing in humble clothes when addressing the gods. This doesn't mean that you should go to them without bathing or washing your mouth, simply do not dress up for any special occasion honoring the gods. The gods should be approached as being superior in most if not all ways. Do not presume that the gods need us or that they are helpless. We are here to serve them. This goes back to what was said earlier about not threatening the gods. The gods are here to rule over us, and we are here 43

to do that which they do not want to. They can do what we can do, and they can replace us if we aren't able to do what they want us to do. On the other hand good dedicated help is what we were created for. With all of the talk about what not to do, it is important to remember that the gods are more likely to be forgiving to a servant who has done well for them in the past. Seek to do what will make the gods happy rather than simply avoiding that which will make them angry. The Calendar of Nippur Temple of Sumer uses the calendar of Nippur mainly because the people of that city kept the best records. It is therefore easiest for the modern Reconstructionist to use it for their yearly Festival calendar. Modern archaeologists have written more about the months of Nippur than they have about the months of any other city, and they have done a good job doing it. Unfortunately, the calendar of Nippur is not completely understood, and there are parts where we don't have enough information to work with. Non Nippurian elements are added only where necessary. These will be made note of in the texts. Even if other cities had kept better records we would still have chosen the calendar of Nippur. The months of Nippur were stable from one era to the next. With all of the dynamic changes that happened throughout Sumer, the consistency of this calendar cut across all of them. It is therefore easier for Recons to use this calendar. We can be comfortable in the knowledge that Sumerians, at any time in their history would have recognized what the people of Nippur were doing. We also use the calendar of Nippur because it gives a good counterpoint to the mainly Enki or Inanna focus that many modern Sumerians had. Enki and Inanna were important, but Ninurta and Enlil were important as well. These were some of the gods of Nippur. The calendar has been set up in a manor that can be used by modern practitioners. Suggestions for how the calendar can be used by Recons in northern climates where the summer and winter cycle is a little different than it is in the middle east are provided where they are appropriate. Calendar of Nippur with modern dates 2007 2008 2009 2010 10 Ab-ba-e 11 Ud Duru 12 Se Kin Ku Vernal Equinox 1 Bara za Nar 2 Ezem Gusisu 3 Sig Ga Jan 19 Jan 8 Dec 27 Dec 16 Feb 17 Feb 7 Jan 26 Jan 15 Mar 19 Mar 7 Feb 25 Feb 14 Mar 21 May 16 June Mar 21 Mar 21 Mar 21

Apr 17 Apr 6 Mar 26 Apr 14 May 5 Apr 25 May 14 June 3 May June 12


16 Summer Solstice 4 Su-numun 5 Ne Izi Gar 6 Kin Inanna Autumnal Equinox 7 Duku 8 Apin Du-a 9 Gan Gan-e June 21 June 21

24 June 21 June 23 June 21 July 12

July 14 July 3 Sept 11 Sept 21 Oct 11

Aug 13 Aug 1 July 22 Aug 10 Aug 31 Aug 20 Sept 8 Sept 21 Sept 29 Sept 21 Sept 18 Sept 21 Oct 8

Nov 10 Oct 29 Oct 18 Nov 6 Dec 9 Nov 27 Nov 16 Dec 5

Winter Dec Dec Dec Dec 21 Solstice 21 21 21 *Add an intercalating month beginning on Mar 16 2010 and ending Apr 13 2010. Vernal Equinox: This is the time when the day and night are the same length in the spring. Sumerians didn't have a spring or a fall, they only had a summer and a winter. In Sumer the summer time it was hot and dry. This was the time of year that the crops did not do as well. The virile life of the vine was extinguished. (remember to keep track of the number of "M's" as you read Sumer and summer.) Religiously this was the time when Geshtin-anna returned from the land of the dead and her brother Dumuzi went there. Dumuzi had been the sustaining force of the vines and so this signaled the time when other crops were more important. It is suggested that the modern Sumerian Recon read from the exploits of Dumuzi at this time of the year. If possible a play should be performed showing how Dumuzi was taken into the underworld and mentioning that he will return in the fall. As the time of the vine is over fruits and vegetables should be eaten to commemorate this time of the year. There will probably only be a few days between this and the new year, so don't do anything you will regret. Bara za Nar: Throne of the Sanctuary This is the first month of the year, and the New Year celebration is held on the first day of the new moon after the vernal Equinox. In the spiritual life of the average Sumerian this is one of the most important days of the year. This is when the tablet of deeds as kept by the three moral deities was made permanent. This is similar to the Jewish New Year when the book of life is closed and a new one is opened.


Chief among the three moral deities was Nisaba (or Nidaba depending on your translation) She was a goddess of grain and writing and so was the natural choice of the gods to keep track of the deeds of man. With her were her husband Haia and Nanshe the dream interpreter of the gods. There is no evidence that Nisaba was particularly import to the city of Nippur. The idea of a book of life however was so important that it was kept even after the other gods were no longer worshiped. When a person dies this record is used to help show the seven who decree fate just how good or bad a person was. This could help the gods to decide to have mercy in the afterlife. Good individuals were decreed a more favorable afterlife than ones who had not lived such a good life. As the pressure to show the gods how good you are is now past this is a good time for revelry. Thank the gods for their mercy and kick back and relax. Sumerian Reconstructionists with children might wish also to treat this similarly to Christmas. Give gifts and candy as a reward for children who have been good. Ezem Gusisu: "the month the horned oxen marched forth" During the Gusisu festival at this time, it was customary to do a ritual in honor of Enlil and Ninlil the patron deities of Nippur, and to the god Ninurta, who was especially significant to this festival. Each of these three gods was important to the people of Nippur in particular, so if your temple focuses upon different deities, then those deities may be more appropriate. Though other cities focused on other deities, the gods in this festival had an important roll to play here. Ninurta was a storm god, but he was also the patron god of farmers. Enlil was likewise linked to prosperity among farmers. In Nippur this was a time when preparations were made for plowing. No actual plowing was performed until the fourth month. The preparations were things such as securing a team of oxen acquiring and retooling equipment. This was the beginning of the entire yearly growing cycle and so it was highly important to get the blessing of the great gods with respect to the renewal of the cultivated ground. The traditional offering at this festival, as you might expect of a festival centered around the acts of beasts of burden, was a sacrifice of live stock. Obviously the average modern practitioner cant do this, but an offering of meat or of the fruits of ones labor would be appropriate. The main focus of this festival was the preparation for farming. This was just before the main planting season in Sumer. The culmination of this ritual was placing a seed into the ground. In colder wetter climates that make up much of the northern hemisphere where many pagans now live, this might seem to be completely impractical. It may not be the best time to plant most things, but it is the perfect time to start an indoor garden or to plant bulbs for next year. Sig Ga "the month the bricks are set in the brick mold" This isn't an important holiday month. This was when the conditions for brick making were ideal. The Sumerians were industrious in the extreme


and had a definite respect for hard work. Bricks were the fundamental building blocks of civilization. Spiritually bricks were also associated with the birthing process. The Sumerians knew the value of letting gravity help with the process of giving birth. This is a technique that is regaining favor among doctors today. To do this the mother had to stand with each foot upon a large brick. Though no rituals are specifically mentioned for this time, it would not be inappropriate to read the myth where Enki and Ninhursag create mankind. This glorifies the work of the gods, the work of man to honor them, and presents man with their place in the grand order of the universe. Su-numun "To pour grain" This is when the actual plowing takes place. Plowing would go on for four months until the festival in the eighth month when it the plow was let go. This is not, as some have suggested, a harvest month. In northern climates harvesting might take place for some crops at about this time, but this was the height of the hot dry season, so harvesting would be out of the question. There were four main phases in the agricultural cycle for the farmer First, acquisition and retooling of equipment. This was marked by gusisu festival. Second, preparation of fields to get ready for the actual seeding. This was started with the Su-Nunum festival. Third, early and late seeding which occurred in what we might think of as the fall. Fourth and finally, the actual harvesting. This was marked by the sekinku festival. At the beginning of this month it would be appropriate to read from the debate between the plow and the hoe. This tale gives the reader some respect for the fundamental processes involved from the point of view of the spirit of the plow and the spirit of the hoe. Ne Izi Gar "The month of Ghosts" This month translates roughly to the month when lamps are lit. This is an odd thing to do right after the Summer (Two M's here) solstice. Other cities held this celebration at other times however. This festival is the Sumerian equivalent of Halloween. It is all about the connection between the living and the dead. It is about mourning. It is about being alive. Most importantly, it is about respecting the dead. Appropriate myths for this festival are the death of Ningishzida and the death of Gilgamesh. These myths both concentrate upon the passing over into the next life of one that is held dear. The actual festival of ghosts occurred in the middle of this month during the first day of the full moon. It is at this time that spirits of the dead followed a special passage of light leading from the darkness of the netherworld back into the world of the living for a brief stay. The setting of fires and lighting of torches by each household would guide the spirits back to the ancestral home, where a ceremonial meal, called the be-IZIgar offering, awaited. A few days before the full moon of this month at around the eleventh day, it is customary to give offering to the gods associated with the underworld. This is to help the friendly dead find their way home, or to thank the dead for releasing the spirits from their duties in the underworld. 47

Sisig, a god of dreams, is in charge of this gateway. His name is Si and ig, translating roughly to light ray and door. He might also be the little brother of Namtar mentioned in the standard Babylonian version of Gilgamesh when he visits Utnapishtim. He is mentioned briefly in the Sumerian poem "the death of Gilgamesh." He may have embodied the breeze that lifted Enkidu's shade from the netherworld. Another possible origin of this god is as the setting sun. In this version he would have been the offspring of Utu the sun god. Utu was believed to ascend and reascend from the netherworld everyday. Sisig could be the lingering light rays which offer the dead a means of ascending in certain circumstance. It should be noted strongly that this is all speculation. We haven't seen a scholar piece two words together on Sisig. Temple of Sumer sees the first of the month to be the beginning of the opening of the gate to the underworld. This would be linked intimately with the phases of the moon. In this month the dead come through the moon, come through the dreams, and come through any other path that they can. The new moon festival at this point would be in preparation for the coming of the ghosts. At the eleventh, it is just before the three days of the actual full moon. This is roughly the fourteenth fifteenth and the sixteenth of the month. It is here that offerings are made to the gods to help with the natural flow of ghosts. When the full moon is at it's fullest we have the gate at its most open. It is at this point that the dead come through in earnest. Through the rest of the month the dead would be drifting back home to Kur. Not everything at this time was good. At this time evil spirits, angry dead, and harmful wielders of magic might also find their way up from the underworld through the gate of light. Offerings at this time were appropriate to keep these harmful dead from causing harm to the home. These offerings were also made to gods in order that they would interceded on behalf of their followers, protecting them from these evil spirits. Kin Inanna "work of Inanna" This month's name means roughly "the work of Inanna" and it is when the goddess statues were purified in the waters of the river. The changing of the seasons is about to happen, and this signifies the cleansing of Inanna before the return of her beloved husband. This is a month of cleaning. It is therefore just about the best time that you could have to clean one's altar. This was traditionally the time when goddess statues were cleaned, but if you don't worship a goddess there is no reason you shouldn't clean the statue of your god on this day. A good myth to read on this day would be the myth at the tail end of the myths connected with the descent of Inanna where she confronts Belulu. This myth shows how Inanna protected Dumuzi's flock while he was away. Autumnal Equinox As with the Vernal equinox, the day and night are both the same length. This is another important holiday for the Sumerians. At this time Dumuzi comes back from the underworld and his sister Geshtin-anna took his 48

place. This is the beginning of the cooler wet season in Sumer when ground water increases and vines begin to regain their vigor. At the Vernal equinox you read from the exploits of Dumuzi and saw that Inanna's actions led him to his unfortunate fate. With his return it is now time to read from the descent of Inanna to see what led to the situation in the first place. You will see how she was tempted by Galla demons and how she, if for only an instant, sat upon the throne of Urugal itself. Dumuzi was a shepherd god, and his flock has been tended in his absence for quite some time. Good offerings at this time are wool and the meat of livestock. In the northern climates this is still a good offering as the weather is about to get colder. Though not Nippurian, it is interesting to note that the Akitu festivals were originally held on the Equinoxes. The Sumerians used the moon to track the equinoxes though obviously they wouldn't land at the same spot in the lunar month every year. In Ur these festivals were held in month one and seven. This lost all significance in Nippur when they moved the festival to months four and twelve and made them the main harvest festivals. Duku "Festival of the Sacred Mound" In Nippur there is a temple called the E-Kur. Among other things, the name of this temple means house of the underworld and house of the mountain. The main festival was probably held within this temple. As such it was probably only practices by a select few. Sumerians of today should always consider themselves part of that select few where they can. It is important for each of us to understand the workings of the inner temples. In Nippur, the Sacred Mound was situated in the Tummal complex. The Sacred Mound was the place where Enlil's more distant ancestors dwelt. The god En-duku-ga and goddess Nin-duku-ga, lord and lady of the Sacred Mound, are listed throughout the canonical lamentations and the god lists. This demonstrates the primordial nature of the Sacred Mound. These primordial gods even predated Enlil himself, and Enlil is the first born son of An and Ki. They may be the parents of one of Enlil's parents, or they may go even further back. Scholars have different views about what the sacred mound actually represented. Van Dijk suggests that the Sacred Mound the mountain from whence the Sumerian gods originally came from. As such the mound in Nippur would represent the place where the culture of the Sumerian people originated. Jacobsen on the other hand suggests that Duku was a holy place in Nippur designating a plastered over pile of grain, and that its underground connotations had to do with underground storage. It should be noted that other cities had sacred mounds, most notably Eridu and the temple of Ningirsu. Either way, this mound represents a part of what makes the Sumerians civilized. It also serves as a symbol of Enlil's greatness. Enlil is the head of the pantheon, and his ancestors are the power that got him there. This also reflects the general morality of the gods. In some religions the gods work by different rules than do their people. Enlil respected his ancestors and followed the laws just like the people of his city did. The cupcake is a suitable offering for this holiday. Bread making is a fundamental building block of civilization and demonstrates the cultivation 49

and refinement of grain. Cooking it up into a cake and frosting it shows a mound of grain plastered over. The cupcake recipe should include milk as this was one of the most common offerings to the mound through the year. A good passage to read at this time is the debate between cattle and grain. The myth shows another view of the founding of civilization as well as presenting he importance of cattle and grain. On the last two days of this month, just before the eighth month's new moon festival there should be another observance. These are traditionally the days when the spirits of the dead are remembered. The mound covered over the entrance to the realms of Apsu and Kur, and might have been placed over the house of the god Enki himself. Though the mound was positive, this was a somber festival. This was a time when the dead were remembered and when the gods of the underworld were contacted. The festival at the end of the month is a bitter sweet combination of the good and the bad. It recalls those lost in the past, but it calibrates their achievements. It looks back, but it also looks forward to the next growing season. Apin Du-a "The plow is let go" The eighth month was another important month agriculturally. This was when the people of the city could finally let the plow go for eight months. It was a cessation of a difficult task for a time and was well worth celebrating. It didn't seem to be an important month religiously. At least it didn't seem to be as important as the first, fifth, sixth, and seventh months. No major myths are reflected at this time. We have very little information about any elaborate festival for this month. It seems to be more like a day of cessation of labor. The Sumerians were a hard working people, but even they had times when you needed to simply let things go and relax. Gan Gan-e "When the clouds came out" This is right around when the rain actually hit the Sumerians. The people of Nippur would probably give respect to Ninurta at this time as he was the storm god most associated with farmers. Shepherds might have worshiped Ishkur as he was associated with shepherds, and people purely of the city might have worshiped Imdugud as he was the storm god who acted as protector of the home. Another less likely but possible interpretation of the name of this month would be the month when the murderers are expelled. If that is the meaning of this month it suggests that this is when scape goats are expelled from the city taking with them the sins of the people. Murderers themselves would likely have been executed much more promptly for their crimes. A good passage to read at this time would be the exploits of Ninurta, or Ninurta and the turtle. Any myth involving one of the storm gods would be appropriate at this time. They show how the various storm gods are heroic and strong protectors of the order of the universe.


Ab-ba-e "The opening of the land" formerly Ku Su "To lie down and spread" As Ab-ba-e, this tenth month of Nippur, comes from Ab, meaning opening, and e meaning plot of land. The month of Ku Su comes from Ku meaning "to lie down" and Su meaning "to spread." Ku Su therefore means the month where things are laid down and spread. This month was the only month to have a name change, as well as a significance change. In later UrIII times it was dedicated to a festival which honored the deceased UrIII kings. We don't know much about the origional month of Ku Su. It is likely, judging from the other months, that this is a month where a specific farming task was performed. We don't even know if a specific festival was performed on this day. We at Temple of Sumer have decided instead that it would be prudent to follow what we know of Ab Ba E. This month was changed to a month where dead kings are honored. It is a good time to read some of the hymns such as those to Ur-Nammu and to Sulgi. It is also a good time to light a candle to your deceased loved ones. Offer them water and say a prayer to your personal god on their behalf. Ud Duru "Month of the fresh Emmer wheat" or Ziz-a "Month when the Emmer wheat crop is flooded." Both month names are equally valid. Either way this month has to do with the Emmer wheat. It is a crop that is needed to make beer and bread. This month name suggests that it must have been harvested a month before the barley crop. Historically and culturally this is fascinating, but unfortunately for purposes of religion this isn't all that important of a month. We don't know what offerings were made or if there is a major festival other than the new moon festival. Drink a beer or two, bake a loaf of bread. Se Kin Ku "Harvest festival of Enlil" This celebration was not simply a celebration for the city of Nippur, it was a festival held throughout all of Sumer. This was the main harvest month and one of the coolest months in the entire year. This month festival's name is the most common in all of the calendars in the entirety of Sumer. This was when Barley was harvested. The actual festival likely took place in the full moon and may have been similar to Sukkot, the Jewish festival of booths. The full moon would have allowed for work to be performed through the night. This was particularly important considering that there were fewer daylight hours at this time of the year. If we take our guidance from the observances of Sukkot, then this would have culminated in a feast. The American holiday of thanksgiving was a reflection of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and many of the themes were reflected. Also this is the second Akitu festival in Nippur. The significance of the second Akitu festival here is the harvest festival itself. Originally in Ur, The Akitu festival were connected to the Equinoxes through the moon god Nanna, when they came to Nippur they corresponded instead to Nippur's 51

main agricultural festivals. The Akiti-Sunumun of the 4th month, and the Akiti-Sekinku of the 12th. These are the start of plowing, and the harvest. Recommended Reading "The harps that once" by Thorkild Jacobsen • Use for beginners: ** • Objectivity: **** • Use for Experts: ***** • Presentation of myths: ***** • Selection of myths: ***** • Unusual myths: ***** This is a book of myths that contains many of Jacobsen's own translations. He writes the myths in modern English with a little verse here and there. He also has access to myths that a lot of people don't. He uses the Chicago collection rather than the Oxford collection giving him access to myths that you don’t always come in contact with. "The treasures of Darkness" by Thorkild Jacobsen • Use for beginners: *** • Objectivity: * • Use for Experts: **** • Presentation of myths: *** • Selection of myths: *** • Unusual myths: **** This is Jacobsen’s book on Sumerian religion and culture. It is similar to Kramer’s Sumerians, but you need to keep in mind that Jacobsen had his own moral bias. "From Distant Days" by Foster • Use for beginners: ***** • Objectivity: **** • Use for Experts: *** • Presentation of myths: ***** • Selection of myths: *** • Unusual myths: ***** This is a book of myths translated from Akkadian into verse. As the contemporary Akkadians worshiped largely as the Sumerians did, this can be a valuable resource for the beginning Sumerian. These are myths that Sumerians would have been familiar with in most instances. Each myth has a helpful section explaining each myth in simple English. On the down side it does not have an index and so is a little difficult to use once you have already read the material. The book also has a broad outlook on the myths of Mesopotamia rather than just those myths from Sumerian times, so it is dotted with a number of Babylonian myths written in Akkadian. "Mesopotamia" by Jean Bottero • Use for beginners: * • Objectivity: *** • Use for Experts: *** • Presentation of myths: **


Selection of myths: * Unusual myths: ***** This book is like S.N. Kramer’s book the "Sumerians", and T. Jacobsen’s "Treasures of Darkness" in that it gives a cultural over view of Mesopotamian beliefs with a strong emphasis on Sumer. The main problems that I have with it is that it seems to take Mesopotamia as though it were a single uniform entity, and it doesn't have a proper index. This book does however have a number of valuable entries on death that many other authors shy away from. It mentions the rare instances of human sacrifice, and gives insight into the Sumerian views on the afterlife. "Mesopotamia" by Gwendolyn Leick • Use for beginners: * • Objectivity: ***** • Use for Experts: ***** • Presentation of myths: * • Selection of myths: * • Unusual myths: * This is a survey of Mesopotamia city by city. It shows some of the highlights of a select few important cities in Mesopotamia. It is a good book, but not one I would recommend for the beginning Sumerian as it presents only snippets of the myths and the beliefs of the Sumerians. "The Sumerians" by Samuel Noah Kramer • Use for beginners: **** • Objectivity: **** • Use for Experts: ** • Presentation of myths: *** • Selection of myths: *** • Unusual myths: * This book seems to be the first archeology book that every Sumerian gets their hands on. As far as that goes it isn’t a bad book, but it is a bit out of date. Some of Kramers theories have held true, but others have been greatly improved upon as new information has been made available. "Sumerian Mythology" by Samuel Noah Kramer • Use for beginners: **** • Objectivity: **** • Use for Experts: ***** • Presentation of myths: **** • Selection of myths: **** • Unusual myths: ***** This contains several of Kramer’s translations of the Sumerian myths. It is good but rather short. I should also add that his translations here are actually better than many later translations. The book is a quick read, but packed with good information. Moreover the book can be read for free on line at sacred texts dot com under the section on the Ancient Near East. "Ancient Iraq" by George Roux • Use for beginners: *** • Objectivity: ***** • Use for Experts: ***** • Presentation of myths: **
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Selection of myths: * Unusual myths: * This book is oddly by a journalist, and yet has a better survey of Mesopotamia from place to place and time to time than many Assyriologists do. The book is a collection of articles about the Sumerians and their culture and beliefs. It is great for anyone interested in culture in Mesopotamia in general rather than just Sumer. The down side for the modern Sumerian Reconstructionist is that it doesn't concentrate on the religion. "Myths from Mesopotamia" edited by Stephanie Daley from Oxford World Classics • Use for beginners: *** • Objectivity: *** • Use for Experts: **** • Presentation of myths: **** • Selection of myths: ***** • Unusual myths: *** This is a good source for myths written in the Sumerian language from Sumer and Babylon. The myths are presented in verse as direct translations rather than in modern English, but they are still relatively easy to understand. There are relatively few translation difficulties, but Daley is apparently a bit prudish in her outlook. This only ever comes up once or twice in her edits and more reflects the Oxford outlook on sex than any personal bias. "Gods Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia" by Black and Green • Use for beginners: ***** • Objectivity: ***** • Use for Experts: ***** • Presentation of myths: * • Selection of myths: * • Unusual myths: * Every Sumerian should have this book. It is a dictionary of Mesopotamian gods demons symbols and practices. There are interesting entries on the subject of altars, offerings, and magic that are useful to the modern Sumerian. I can't stress enough how great this book is. I still need to review “Babylonian magic and Sorcery” by king, “Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East”, “The Epic of Gilgamesh” translated by Andrew Geoge, “Life in the Ancient Near East” by Snell, and “The Idea of History in the Ancient Near East” by Robert C. Denton. I should also put publication dates. Links Sumerian Lexicon version 3.0 by Hallorian This document translates Sumerian into English. It isn't useful if you want to write or say anything in Sumerian, but it is useful if you want to understand a word or if you want to know what something is associated with. It is amazingly useful to me, but wouldn't have been if I were just starting out. Rating:***
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ETCSL These are translations from the oxford collection. They don't have all of the myths that are available, but they do have most of the most common myths. As with other oxford Sumerian materials it is fantastic until sex is mentioned. (It should be pointed out that the Oxford Egyptology department doesn't seem to have this problem) Rating:**** Tablet of Destiny Internet Sacred Text Archive


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