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Introducing Shammash

April 20, 2016

Merry Meet Everyone,

We have some exciting news about the newest public event. IshtarFest registration is now officially open! Both vendors and interested participants are encouraged to apply and space is limited. If you have not already done so, the links to register will be immediately following this blog post.

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 Shammash, the Sun God and Ishtar’s brother of Babylonian mythology. Continue reading on for all the fun:

Shammash, also known as Utu/Šamaš, is the Mesopotamian sun god who was associated with life, justice, divination and the netherworld. He is also the brother of Ishtar.

shammashShammash (Sumerian Utu) is the god of the sun. He brings light and warmth to the land, allowing plants and crops to grow. At sunrise Shammash was known to emerge from his underground sleeping chamber and take a daily path across the skies. As the sun fills the entire sky with light, Shammash oversaw everything that occurred during the daytime. He thus became the god of truth, judgments and justice. Shammash also played a role in treaties, oaths and business transactions, as he could see through deceit and duplicity.
Shammash also played an essential role in sacrificial divination (extispicy) rituals. Extispicy was an important branch of royal court scholarship in existence for over a millennium, whereby the king could receive answers from the gods to specific questions regarding matters of state. The king’s diviners (bārû) asked the gods to write the answer in the liver of a sheep, which was then ‘read’ through examining the liver and counting up its ominous features. As god of truth and justice, Shammash was implored to help provide a correct answer. A late second-millennium prayer to Shammash by a diviner asks him to guide the inquiry and to ‘let there be truth’ in their interpretations of the omens.
Shammash also played a role in the affairs of humanity. Surviving second millennium texts indicate that his assistance was sought against evil and curses. Literary texts describe his protection of the heroic kings of the city of Uruk. In the Epic of Gilgameš he assists the hero Gilgameš in defeating the monstrous Humbaba, the guardian of the Cedar Forest.

In Sumerian tradition, Utu is the son of the moon god Nanna-Suen and the twin brother ofInana. Akkadian tradition sometimes made Shammash the son of Anu or Enlil. The sun god’s wife was Aya, goddess of the dawn. Shammash is attested from the earliest periods right through the timespan of cuneiform culture. He appears in a wide range of text genres including royal prayers and hymns, divination texts, treaties and documents recording business transactions. Shammash symbol from the Akkadian period to the Neo-Babylonian period was the solar disc. It usually took the form of a four-pointed star, with curved lines emerging between each point.

Depictions of Shammash himself survive on cylinder seals, where he is sometimes shown seated and surrounded by worshippers, with his sunrays emanating from his shoulders. The sun god is also portrayed on the famous stele of King Hammurabi from 1760 BCE, which is inscribed with over 282 ‘laws’ for the unified territories of Babylonia. In the image Shammash, as god of justice, presents Hammurabi with tools for ruling justly: he passes the king a measuring rod and rope . Justice in early Mesopotamian was closely allied with the idea that fairness could be achieved through literacy, numeracy and accurate measurement. The measuring instruments are a symbol of powerful kingship, representing the ability to rule justly and fairly.…

To find out how Shammash is a key to the Shapatu of Ishtar, 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: “Utu/Šamaš (god).” Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses -. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <;.


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