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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 36

Moon worship appears to have been as ancient as water worship, with which, as we have seen, it was closely associated. It was widely prevalent throughout Babylonia. The chief seat of the lunar deity, Nannar or Sin, was the ancient city of Ur, from which Abraham migrated to Harran, where the "Baal" (the lord) was also a moon god. Ur was situated in Sumer, in the south, between the west bank of the Euphrates and the low hills bordering the Arabian desert, and not far distant from sea-washed Eridu. No doubt, like that city, it had its origin at an exceedingly remote period. At any rate, the excavations conducted there have afforded proof that it flourished in the prehistoric period.

As in Arabia, Egypt, and throughout ancient Europe and elsewhere, the moon god of Sumeria was regarded as the "friend of man". He controlled nature as a fertilizing agency; he caused grass, trees, and crops to grow; he increased flocks and herds, and gave human offspring. At Ur he was exalted above Ea as "the lord and prince of the gods, supreme in heaven, the Father of all"; he was also called "great Anu", an indication that Anu, the sky god, had at one time a lunar character. The moon god was believed to be the father of the sun god: he was the "great steer with mighty horns and perfect limbs".

His name Sin is believed to be a corruption of "Zu-ena", which signifies "knowledge lord".[66] Like the lunar Osiris of Egypt, he was apparently an instructor of mankind; the moon measured time and controlled the seasons; seeds were sown at a certain phase of the moon, and crops were ripened by the harvest moon. The mountains of Sinai and the desert of Sin are called after this deity.

As Nannar, which Jastrow considers to be a variation of "Narnar", the "light producer", the moon god scattered darkness and reduced the terrors of night. His spirit inhabited the lunar stone, so that moon and stone worship were closely associated; it also entered trees and crops, so that moon worship linked with earth worship, as both linked with water worship.

The consort of Nannar was Nin-Uruwa, "the lady of Ur", who was also called Nin-gala. She links with Ishtar as Nin, as Isis of Egypt linked with other mother deities. The twin children of the moon were Mashu and Mashtu, a brother and sister, like the lunar girl and boy of Teutonic mythology immortalized in nursery rhymes as Jack and Jill.

Sun worship was of great antiquity in Babylonia, but appears to have been seasonal in its earliest phases. No doubt the sky god Anu had his solar as well as his lunar attributes, which he shared with Ea. The spring sun was personified as Tammuz, the youthful shepherd, who was loved by the earth goddess Ishtar and her rival Eresh-ki-gal, goddess of death, the Babylonian Persephone. During the winter Tammuz dwelt in Hades, and at the beginning of spring Ishtar descended to search for him among the shades.[67] But the burning summer sun was symbolized as a destroyer, a slayer of men, and therefore a war god. As Ninip or Nirig, the son of Enlil, who was made in the likeness of Anu, he waged war against the earth spirits, and was furiously hostile towards the deities of alien peoples, as befitted a god of battle. Even his father feared him, and when he was advancing towards Nippur, sent out Nusku, messenger of the gods, to soothe the raging deity with soft words. Ninip was symbolized as a wild bull, was connected with stone worship, like the Indian destroying god Shiva, and was similarly a deity of Fate. He had much in common with Nin-Girsu, a god of Lagash, who was in turn regarded as a form of Tammuz.


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