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Friday, 30 August 2013

Sumerian reconstruction.

Though I spent three or four years practicing Tibetan Buddhism, this was not 'my' religion. If there had been a community of Sumerian re-constructionists around, I would have joined them.

But I don't think that I would have learnt as much about faith and devotion, or basic etiquette such as never blowing out candles (disrespectful to fire), don't put sacred texts on the floor, or throw anything away in the rubbish bin that has a sacred image on it (if you accidentally put a text on the floor, touch it to your head as an apology)

Sacred images should be destroyed by fire.

Water used for offering bowls is thrown onto the land, not down the sink.

Images of gods are to some extent the god...
Behave with respect before the image.

It is easier to learn from a religion that has maintained its oral tradition.
And to learn behavior when you see it rather than read about it.

Plus, a lot of what is done is not done for the reasons people say it is...

Tradition is a method of transmission; even if you don't know the meaning of an action, something of the original meaning is transmitted.

So?
So...the Older Gods...

Chose us
We don't chose them.

We don't pray to the gods because they are nice
We pray because that's the way it is.

If the gods chose to make life better or worse for us, we still pray.
Prayer is an offering

The gods are terrifying
They are other

And after death?

There is no salvation...
No heaven and no hell

After death there is decay and amnesia.

The cult of the Otherworld?
Of 'The Light Without End', isn't 'Babylonian' at first.

It seems to be a 'Persian' concept.

Becomes 'Orphic'

Becomes the mystery religions...
Promise a place in Heaven for those who have received the initiation.

One of the reasons following the myth of Persephone; especially the rites of Eleusis, is so interesting, is because it gives an insight into the time when 'Orphic' salvation met prosaic, gloomy. 'Babylonian' ash-lands, and The Road That Goes One Way...

Reconstruction?
We live in a culture that is often ignorant of the influence Mesopotamian beliefs and knowledge have had on it. Traces and parallels of Mesopotamian religion run through the bible and Homer. So many of the bible stories are Mesopotamian: Noah (Atrahasis), the garden of Eden (Shamhat and Enkidu) and the story of Job...just for starters.

Then we have mathematics, the sixty minuet hour and geometry...

Something seems to have been lost when Akkadian/Sumerian was forgotten.

Cuneiform and Akkadian were replaced by Aramaic (starting around 800 BC), then  Dumuzi became Tammuz and Inanna became Astarte.

The stories shift like water fitting the vessel that contains it.

Regardless of how much information we collect
There is no one alive today who knows how the original rites were performed.

Therefore....
Reconstruction?

I don't see the need
Mesoptamian religion was so much an 'arm of the state'..a city temple housing the statues of the city gods provided work for the priests (in carrying out ceremonies), a place for well to do fathers to leave their daughters (celibate priestesses) for the exorcists and scribes, for the butchers sacrificing animals, for cooks preparing food. So many animals were slaughtered that it is logical to imagine that once the food had been offered to the gods and the essence consumed by them, the now Holy food was distributed to various outlets; to shops and to the poor.

The temple, as all temples inevitably discover, has to become a business.
Eventually..