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Introducing IshtarFest

April 11, 2016

Merry Meet Everyone

We have some exciting news about the newest public event. IshtarFest (formerly introduced as Shapatu of Ishtar) registration is becoming public soon and we will inform you all when you can register as soon as we are able. So please stay patient just a little bit longer, we appreciate it! In order to get everyone excited for IshtarFest, each week we’re going to give you bits and pieces of information about the production in hopes that each of you will have a better understanding before attending the festival!

This week we’re going to introduce to you to the basics of Ishtar and Tammuz’ mythology. Continue reading on for all the fun:

ishtar & hades

Ishtar in the Underworld

Among the gods of Babylonia none achieved wider and more enduring fame than Tammuz, who was loved by Ishtar, the amorous Queen of Heaven–the beautiful youth who died and was mourned for and came to life again. He does not figure by his popular name in any of the city pantheons, but from the earliest times of which we have knowledge until the passing of Babylonian civilization, he played a prominent part in the religious life of the people.

In his character as a long-lived patriarch, Tammuz, the King Daonus or Daos of Berosus, reigned in Babylonia for 36,000 years. When he died, he departed to Hades or the Abyss. Osiris, after reigning over the Egyptians, became Judge of the Dead. Tammuz of the Sumerian hymns, however, is the Adonis-like god who lived on earth for a part of the year as the shepherd and agriculturist so dearly beloved by the goddess Ishtar. Then he died so that he might depart to the realm of Ereshkigal, queen of Hades. According to one account, his death was caused by the fickle Ishtar. Ishtar’s innocence is emphasized by the fact that she mourned for her youthful lover, crying.

Tammuz died with the dying vegetation, and Diarmid expired when the hills apparently were assuming their purple tints. The month of Tammuz wailings was from 20th June till 20th July, when the heat and dryness brought forth the demons of pestilence.

The fact that Ishtar descended to Hades in quest of Tammuz may perhaps explain the symbolic references in hymns to mother goddesses being in sunken boats also when their powers were in abeyance, as were those of the god for part of each year. It is possible, too, that the boat had a lunar and a solar significance.

Tammuz, like Heimdal, is also a guardian. He watches the flocks and herds, whom he apparently guards against the Gallu demons as Heimdal guards the world and the heavens against attacks by giants and monsters. The flocks of Tammuz, Professor Pinches suggests, “recall the flocks of the Greek sun god Helios. These were the clouds illuminated by the sun, which were likened to sheep–indeed, one of the early Sumerian expressions for ‘fleece’ was ‘sheep of the sky’. The name of Tammuz in Sumerian is Dumu-zi, or in its rare fullest form, Dumuzida, meaning ‘true or faithful son’. There is probably some legend attached to this which is at present unknown.”

Tammuz is “the healer”, and Agni “drives away all disease”. Tammuz is the god “of sonorous voice”; Agni “roars like a bull”; and Heimdal blows a horn when the giants and demons threaten to attack the citadel of the gods. As the spring sun god, Tammuz is “a youthful warrior”, says Jastrow, “triumphing over the storms of winter”. The storms, of course, were symbolized as demons. Tammuz, “the heroic lord”, was therefore a demon slayer like Heimdal and Agni. Each of these gods appear to have been developed in isolation from an archaic spring god of fertility and corn whose attributes were symbolized. In Teutonic mythology, for instance, Heimdal was the warrior form of the patriarch Scef, while Frey was the deified agriculturist who came over the deep as a child.

It is evident that there were various versions of the Tammuz myth in Ancient Babylonia. In one the goddess Ishtar visited Hades to search for the lover of her youth. A part of this form of the legend survives in the famous Assyrian hymn known as “The Descent of Ishtar”. It was first translated by the late Mr. George Smith, of the British Museum. A box containing inscribed tablets had been sent from Assyria to London, and Mr. Smith, with characteristic patience and skill, arranged and deciphered them, giving to the world a fragment of ancient literature infused with much sublimity and imaginative power. Ishtar is depicted descending to dismal Hades, where the souls of the dead exist in bird forms:

I spread like a bird my hands.

I descend, I descend to the house of darkness, the dwelling of the

god Irkalla:

To the house out of which there is no exit,

To the road from which there is no return:

To the house from whose entrance the light is taken,

The place where dust is their nourishment and their food mud.

Its chiefs also are like birds covered with feathers;

The light is never seen, in darkness they dwell….

Over the door and bolts is scattered dust.

When the goddess reaches the gate of Hades she cries to the porter:

Keeper of the waters, open thy gate,

Open thy gate that I may enter.

If thou openest not the gate that I may enter

I will strike the door, the bolts I will shatter,

I will strike the threshold and will pass through the doors;

I will raise up the dead to devour the living,

Above the living the dead shall exceed in numbers.

The porter answers that he must first consult the Queen of Hades, here called Allatu, to whom he accordingly announces the arrival of the Queen of Heaven. Allatu’s heart is filled with anger, and makes reference to those whom Ishtar caused to perish:

Let me weep over the strong who have left their wives,

Let me weep over the handmaidens who have lost the embraces of their husbands,

Over the only son let me mourn, who ere his days are come is taken away.

Then she issues abruptly the stern decree:

Go, keeper, open the gate to her, Bewitch her according to the ancient rules;

that is, “Deal with her as you deal with others who come here”.

As Ishtar enters through the various gates she is stripped of her ornaments and clothing. At the first gate her crown was taken off, at the second her earrings, at the third her necklace of precious stones, at the fourth the ornaments of her breast, at the fifth her gemmed waist-girdle, at the sixth the bracelets of her hands and feet, and at the seventh the covering robe of her body. Ishtar asks at each gate why she is thus dealt with, and the porter answers, “Such is the command of Erishkigal.”

After descending for a prolonged period the Queen of Heaven at length stands naked before the Queen of Hades. Ishtar is proud and arrogant, and Erishkigal is there too, all to eager to punish her rival whom she cannot humble….

To find out how this story ends, join us on Friday, June 17th, 2016 – Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for the Shapatu of Ishtar in Central NJ. This information is brought to you by the Hands of Change coven, a non-profit organization for Earth based spirituality. To register for this event, please click here. If you’d be interested in vending for this event, please click here.

Source: Mackenzie, Donald A. “Myths of Babylonia and Assyria.” Gutenberg. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16653/16653-h/16653-h.htm&gt;.

 

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