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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Calendars of the Past: Arḫu Shabāṭu

We’re pleased to share our platform with another member of the Mesopotamian polytheist community.

Seph Gonzalez is a Mesopotamian polytheist living in the American Midwest. He is devoted to the local pantheon of the Lagash city-state, and moderates a Reddit community (r/Sumer) dedicated to the reconstruction and revival of Mesopotamian polytheism in its many forms.

His content shared here will highlight the Standard Mesopotamian calendar and the culture of the ancient Mesopotamian people.

Gudea, ruler of the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia ruled c. 2144–2124 BC.

In the standard Mesopotamian calendar—in use across the kingdom of Babylonia since ca. 1400 BCE and the kingdom of Assyria ca. 1100 BCE—the name of the eleventh month is shabāṭu. Cohen, in the 2015 update to his study of the calendars and festivals of the Ancient Near East, traces the etymology of the month-name to the Akkadian šabāṭu, which the CAD defines as: v.; 1. to strike or hit (said of demons or illness), 2. to blow (said of the wind), 3. to sweep. Cohen believes that “to blow (said of the wind)” is an adequate description for a winter month, and I find the onset of illness, as per definition 1, to be a fitting association in the modern day as well.

Deity Highlight: 𒀭𒀏 — Nanshe

In Sumerian mythology, Nanshe or Nanše was the daughter of Enki and Ninhursag.

Her functions as a goddess were varied. She was a goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility and fishing. She is most likely symbolized by pelicans and fish.

During the time of Gudea (2144 – 2124 BCE), many hymns to Nanshe appeared showing her in an elevated position in the pantheon. She was the widely worshiped goddess of social justice. She nurtured orphans, provided for widows, gave advice to those in debt, and took in refugees from war torn areas.

Holding a higher ranking in the pantheon during this era, Nanshe sometimes shared the same tasks as Utu, the traditional god of justice. She sat on the holy thrones with the other prominent gods, and was seen as a goddess of protection.

“O lady, O queen, O goddess,
Your right hand is justice.
Utu has entrusted his power unto you;
Your mercy is without end.
O Nanshe:
Great is your name in Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.

O lady, O queen, O goddess,
The power that casts down the proud and exalts the humble.
The downcast look upon you and are strengthened;
The widow and the orphan find comfort in your great house.
O Nanshe:
Great is your name in Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.

O lady, O queen, O goddess,
Your left hand is liberty.
The man in bondage looks upon you and is freed from his shackles;
The ravaged find healing in your embrace.
In your presence the oppressed may live and move and have their being.
O Nanshe:
Great is your name in Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.”

The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation

Part one.

Part two.

Part three.

Part four.

Here begins Tablet IV…

Lahmu and Lahamu took their seat in the holy assembly. To their left, the Igigi gods took their seats in the holy assembly; to their right, the Anunnaki gods took their seats in the holy assembly. Anshar, Anu, and Ea led Marduk to the feet of the holy mother and the holy father. They prepared a dais for him and presented him before the assembly of the Holy Ones to receive from them the right to rule.

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