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Why Ishtar?

September 15, 2020

This is the 5th consecutive year that Hands of Change has offered a festival celebrating Sumerian mythology, religion and culture. What we seek to do with Ishtarfest is to help bring back the worship of the elder gods in modern day Paganism.

Greek thought can be directly traced to Mesopotamian/Sumerian societies. Both Hesiod and Homer relied extensively on Sumerian sources for their writings, and strong similarities exist between the two culture’s mythologies. These works were central to the development of Greek thought, which influenced European and American structural and cultural development.

The influence of the Mesopotamian city of Uruk reached as far as Egypt, where similarities can be seen between Sumerian and Egyptian artwork, as well as between their pantheons.

Growing up in our culture with Greek and Egyptian mythology taught in our classrooms, modern Paganism has taken on the flavor of those and more Celtic influences. We believe that it’s time to trace our roots back even farther to the Fertile Crescent to learn about the birth of pagan civilization and its influence on our world today.

The history of the festival, which occurred 6 times in this century, is as follows:

2003 – Shapatu of Ishtar, Two Nights in Babylon

2016 – Ishtarfest, featuring the play The Shapatu of Ishtar

2017 – Ishtarfest’s Sumerfaire, A Sumerian Renaissance Faire

2018 – Ishtarfest, Journey Through The Goddess (centering on the Goddess Chant – Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna)

2019 – Ishtarfest, to the Kur and Back (Sweat lodges and descent ritual)

As we move into our festival, we encourage you to find out more about the links between more modern pagan cultures and the inspiration that they derived from Sumerian religion and mythology. Our presenters will shed light on why Mesopotamia has relevance for Paganism today.

We are very honored to have some amazing speakers this year.

Oberon Zell, the father of modern Paganism, will present Mysteries of Mesopotamia. The Dawn of Civilization began around 10,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia— “The  land between the rivers” (the Tigris and Euphrates). Ancient Sumeria gave us the earliest writing (cuneiform) as well as origin myths that have come down to us in the Book of Genesis. But was there an actual “Garden of Eden”? And if so, where was it located, and what happened to it? And what of the legend of the great flood of Noah? Did that really happen—and if so, when, and how? And what was the Sumerian Underworld told of in the story of the “Descent of Inanna”? Oberon will reveal some of “Hystory’s Mysteries” from his current book project.

Jason Mankey, Llewellyn author and writer of Raise the Horns at Patheos Pagan, will be sharing information about the god Pan, who may have had his roots in Sumerian Dumuzi. Few ancient gods have captivated the modern imagination as much as the Greek God Pan. This workshop follows the history of Pan from his humble beginnings in the mountains of Arcadia to his rise into the pantheon of the ancient Greeks to his re-emergence in the 19th century. Find out what has made Pan so popular and ever-present for the last three thousand years.

Ancient Near Eastern echoes of the Astra Planeta and Greek Mythology will be addressed by Hercules Invictus. The gods and goddesses of both Mesopotamia and Greece have associations with planets in our solar system.

Michael Law will regale us with Hellenistic Astrology that was heavily influenced by Sumerian thought.

James Jacob Pierri of Auset Gypsy will discuss Isis, Ishtar, and the knots that bind. The goddesses Ishtar and Isis have much in common with one another, similarities in myth, image, ritual and magic! At the center of it all is the “Sacred Knot” that both Goddesses possess. His talk will provide visuals and a light meditation ritual.

These speakers and others will begin to unravel the mysteries that Mesopotamia beckons us as modern-day pagans to learn.

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