Calendars of the Past: Áraḫ Nisannu

From guest contributor, Seph Gonzalez, for our series the “Calendars of the Past”.

Happy New Year, fellow Mesopotamian Polytheists! Or, as it was called in Assyria and Babylonia: zagmukku!

Today marks the first day of the Mesopotamian New Year and the advent of its first month. The month is called Nisannu, an Akkadian word derived from the Sumerian nesaĝ₂, a “first fruit offering.”

During the month of Nisannu a portion of the city’s bounty is presented before its tutelary-deities in order to receive their blessings. A further offering was prepared and then presented to the god Enlil in his temple at the city of Nippur. This offering was delivered by boat, accompanied by the cultic image of the city’s tutelary-god, as recorded in the myth of “Nanna’s Journey to Nippur.” In the myth Nanna (the tutelary-deity of Ur) sails by boat to the city of Nippur, ensuring that the bounty of his city reaches Enlil, despite many other goddesses trying to persuade him to give it to their cities instead.

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Calendars of the Past: Araḫ Addaru

From guest contributor, Seph Gonzalez, for our series the “Calendars of the Past”.

The twelfth month in the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar is called Addaru. According to Cohen (Festivals, 274), the name of the month might be etymologically derived from the Akkadian word adāru, meaning: “to be gloomy,” “to become obscured (said of heavenly bodies),” or “to be afraid,” depending on context.

In the modern day, Iraq experiences nearly constant cloud coverage during March and receives most of its rainfall: an accumulated 33mm of precipitation. These clouds, acting as a curtain between the earthbound observer and their celestial focus, might be the source of the month’s name.

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Calendars of the Past: Araḫ Šabāṭu

From guest contributor, Seph Gonzalez, for our series the “Calendars of the Past”.

Please be mindful that all the dates and times listed here are for Chicago, IL. in the American Midwest. Precise dates and times will be different for many of our readers.

With the beginning of February upon us, we come to the advent of Month XI in the calendars of Ancient Mesopotamia. In the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar this month is called: Šabāṭu, meaning “to blow,” a phenomenon ascribed to the wind and very relevant for those of us making our way through the heart of winter, when the cold wind blows and chills us to the bone.

This year, Šabāṭu lasts for 29 days, beginning on 02 February with the appearance of a waxing lunar crescent, visible at 3.6% illumination from 8:21 am until 6:56 pm; and concluding on 02 March with the new moon, its absence from the heavens noticeable from 6:47 am until 5:45 pm. The appearance of the full moon, when the exuberant face of Nanna-Suen illuminates the heavens, occurs from 16 February at 5:26 pm, until 17 February at 7:36 am. Armed with this information, the month’s eššeššu festival will be celebrated on the evening of 16 February, with its corresponding kispū ceremony on the morning of 02 March.

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Calendars of the Past: Araḫ Ṭebētu

The tumultuous year of 2021 has ended and we’re back with more content from guest contributor, Seph Gonzalez, who has written another painstakingly researched article for our series the “Calendars of the Past”.

The month of Ṭebētu lasts for thirty days this year, beginning on 03 January 2022 with the first visibility of a waxing lunar crescent at 7:50 a.m. (as visible from Baghdad, Iraq). An eššeššu festival—during which devotees are encouraged to prepare a cultic meal for their Gods—occurs on 17 January, marking both the the midpoint of the month and the appearance of the Full Moon, visible from 5:40 p.m. until 8:15 a.m. the following morning. The month concludes on the first day of February, accompanied by the New Moon, which goes dark at 8:46 a.m., signaling the advent of the kispū ceremony, during which devotees are encouraged to provide libations for their deceased loved ones.

Advent

As August comes to an end, I’m reminded of something that once seemed insignificant.

September 24, 2021, will mark the fourth anniversary of É-Sangamon (Temple Sangamon), the small temple dedicated to the gods of Mesopotamia that was founded in the American Midwest.

The temple shares its name with the region and river which ensures the fertility and stability of the region.

A name that is Potawatomi in origin, “Sain-guee-mon”, meaning “where there is plenty to eat” the name Sangamon also lends itself well to the Sumerian saĝ-ĝá-mu-ún (𒊕𒂷𒈬𒂦) which means “foremost home with a high name”, or “foremost temple, home with a high name” when preceded by the Sumerian term É (𒂍) meaning temple.

Five years ago, before the temple was founded, those liturgical and ritual texts that I had written would never have been considered worthwhile publishing for others. While such texts were shared amongst friends and fellow members of my spiritual community, I never expected that this work would be printed and bound for individuals all over the world to purchase. That however, never stopped me from writing hymns, rituals, and even clumsily formulated theophoric names.

The latter of which included Dumu-amarutu (son of the solar calf — an allusion to Marduk), Dumu-tur (little son), and even Ur-Ninegal (servant of the lady of the exalted house — an allusion to Inanna). All names that I fancied to be appropriate for myself — none of which stuck with me. Instead I chose to keep my birth name. After all, being named after a prophet and a king is sufficient. I digress however, as I could talk about names ad nauseum.

Just last week, I received the tangible form of years of work, fully realized and illustrated.

It still feels surreal and I’m certain that I’m not alone in feeling this way, as many new authors must feel this way. The response has been overwhelming and I am thankful that my contribution to the esoteric community has received a warm welcome.

As history informs us, 2021 BCE saw the gradual decline of the Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur III) and the waning power of the Neo-Sumerian people. Despite this decline however, the Ur III period witnessed a boom in arts, culture, architecture, and literature on a grand scale. In fact, such mass-produced literary texts included the Epic of Gilgamesh.

My many conversations with my colleagues and friends leads me to believe that the esoteric community — specifically our corner of the esoteric community as Mesopotamian polytheists, pagans, and occultists, is experiencing something akin to a renaissance as 2021 CE slowly becomes 2022 CE. Despite the challenges that last year and even this year have posed for all of us, artists I have the privilege to know are flexing their creative muscles to brings the gods of Sumer, Akkad, Nippur, Babylon, and Aššur to life; academic pagans and polytheists are expanding our views and assumptions by sharing new insights informed by new research; community leaders are organizing conferences online to provide a platform for the Mesopotamian community; temples are being established both on and offline.

Perhaps several millennia of silence have come to an end.

Samuel David

Calendars of the Past: The Festival of Tammuz

Guest post by Seph Gonzalez

With the procession of Ṣilluš-ṭāb and Kaṭuna on 21 July behind them, and the withering power of the midsummer sun beginning to scour the earth from above, the people of Ancient Mesopotamia prepared for one of the most mournful episodes in their calendrical year: the Festival of Tammuz.

Marking the anniversary of Dumuzi’s murder at the hands of the gallû and subsequent imprisonment in the netherworld as a substitute for the goddess Inana, the Festival of Tammuz was a somber observance that lasted for three days: from the 26-28 of Duʾūzu in the cities of Ashur and Nineveh, and the 27-29 of Duʾūzu in the cities of Arbela and Nimrud.

Using the Ashur dating, this year the Festival of Tammuz begins on 05 August and concludes on 07 August.

We are all, no doubt, familiar with the narrative myth of *Inana’s Descent to the Netherworld*, during which the goddess Inana abandons the heavens and her earthly temples on a misguided quest to add the kingdom of the netherworld to her realm.

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Calendars of the Past: Araḫ Addaru Arkû

Guest post by Seph Gonzalez

Calendars in Mesopotamia were primarily lunar in nature, with certain solar phenomenon, including the solstices and equinoxes, also being observed. Both the length of a given year and the duration of its constituent months were determined by the phases of the moon, and each year consisted of twelve standard months that varied in length between 28 and 30 days. Every new year began in the spring, with the first sighting of a waxing lunar crescent following the vernal equinox, stabilizing New Year’s Day somewhere between 22 March and 21 April. There is no evidence of a standardized system for intercalating months to account for equinoctial precession prior to 500 BCE, but both the Sumerians and Semites did make use of an intercalary month when it became visibly apparent that the first month of the new year was going to arrive before the vernal equinox had occurred.

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