|Part of a series on|
|Part of a series on|
|Religions of the ancient Near East|
Sumerian religion was the religion practiced and adhered to by the people of Sumer, the first literate civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerians regarded their divinities as responsible for all matters pertaining to the natural and social orders. 3–4:
Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.
Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages, and one of the first civilizations in the world along with Ancient Egypt, Norte Chico and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus of which enabled them to settle in one place. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr and date to between roughly c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC.
Literacy is traditionally defined by dictionaries as the ability to read and write, although broader interpretations insist that any particular instance of reading and writing is always taking place in a specific context, as the proliferation of concepts like "conventional or basic literacy, functional literacy, digital literacy, media literacy, legal literacy, computer literacy, medical literacy and information literacy" suggest. The general consensus among researchers that literacy always includes social and cultural elements is reflected by UNESCO's inclusion of numbers, images, digital media, cultural consciousness, and other means of understanding, communicating, gaining useful knowledge, problem-solving, and using the dominant symbol systems of a culture in its definition of literacy. The concept of literacy is expanding across OECD countries to include skills to access knowledge through technology and ability to assess complex contexts.
Before the beginning of kingship in Sumer, the city-states were effectively ruled by theocratic priests and religious officials. Later, this role was supplanted by kings, but priests continued to exert great influence on Sumerian society. In early times, Sumerian temples were simple, one-room structures, sometimes built on elevated platforms. Towards the end of Sumerian civilization, these temples developed into ziggurats—tall, pyramidal structures with sanctuaries at the tops.
A ziggurat is a type of massive structure built in ancient Mesopotamia. It has the form of a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels. Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, the now destroyed Etemenanki in Babylon, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān and Sialk.
The Sumerians believed that the universe had come into being through a series of cosmic births. First, Nammu, the primeval waters, gave birth to An (the sky) and Ki (the earth), who mated together and produced a son named Enlil. Enlil separated heaven from earth and claimed the earth as his domain. Humans were believed to have been created by Enki, the son of An and Nammu. Heaven was reserved exclusively for deities and, upon their deaths, all mortals' spirits, regardless of their behavior while alive, were believed to go to Kur, a cold, dark cavern deep beneath the earth, which was ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal and where the only food available was dry dust. In later times, Ereshkigal was believed to rule alongside her husband Nergal, the god of death.
A creation myth is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it. While in popular usage the term myth often refers to false or fanciful stories, members of cultures often ascribe varying degrees of truth to their creation myths. In the society in which it is told, a creation myth is usually regarded as conveying profound truths, metaphorically, symbolically and sometimes in a historical or literal sense. They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths—that is, they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.
In Sumerian mythology, Nammu was a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology.
Anu or An is the divine personification of the sky, supreme god, and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion. Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers, and he is described in one text as the one "who contains the entire universe". He is identified with the north ecliptic pole centered in the constellation Draco and, along with his sons Enlil and Enki, constitutes the highest divine triad personifying the three bands of constellations of the vault of the sky. By the time of the earliest written records, Anu was rarely worshipped, and veneration was instead devoted to his son Enlil, but, throughout Mesopotamian history, the highest deity in the pantheon was always said to possess the anûtu, meaning "Heavenly power". Anu's primary role in myths is as the ancestor of the Anunnaki, the major deities of Sumerian religion. His primary cult center was the Eanna temple in the city of Uruk, but, by the Akkadian Period, his authority in Uruk had largely been ceded to the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven.
The major deities in the Sumerian pantheon included An, the god of the heavens, Enlil, the god of wind and storm, Enki, the god of water and human culture, Ninhursag, the goddess of fertility and the earth, Utu, the god of the sun and justice, and his father Nanna, the god of the moon. During the Akkadian Period and afterward, Inanna, the goddess of sex, beauty, and warfare, was widely venerated across Sumer and appeared in many myths, including the famous story of her descent into the Underworld.
Enki is the Sumerian god of water, knowledge (gestú), mischief, crafts (gašam), and creation (nudimmud), and one of the Anunnaki. He was later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians. He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field. Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for "40", occasionally referred to as his "sacred number". The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu was, in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.
Ninḫursaĝ, also known as Damgalnuna or Ninmah, was the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the "true and great lady of heaven" and kings of Sumer were "nourished by Ninhursag's milk". Sometimes her hair is depicted in an omega shape and at times she wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders. Frequently she carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.
Utu, later worshipped by East Semitic peoples as Shamash, is the ancient Mesopotamian god of the sun, justice, morality, and truth, and the twin of the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven. His main temples were in the cities of Sippar and Larsa. He was believed to ride through the heavens in his sun chariot and see all things that happened in the day. He was the enforcer of divine justice and was thought to aid those in distress. According to Sumerian mythology, he helped protect Dumuzid when the galla demons tried to drag him to the Underworld and he appeared to the hero Ziusudra after the Great Flood. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, he helps Gilgamesh defeat the ogre Humbaba.
Sumerian religion heavily influenced the religious beliefs of later Mesopotamian peoples; elements of it are retained in the mythologies and religions of the Hurrians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and other Middle Eastern culture groups. Scholars of comparative mythology have noticed many parallels between the stories of the ancient Sumerians and those recorded later in the early parts of the Hebrew Bible.
The Hurrians were a people of the Bronze Age Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language called Hurrian and lived in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia. The largest and most influential Hurrian nation was the kingdom of Mitanni, the Mitanni perhaps being Indo-Iranian speakers who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians. The population of the Indo-European-speaking Hittite Empire in Anatolia included a large population of Hurrians, and there is significant Hurrian influence in Hittite mythology. By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples. Their remnants were subdued by a related people that formed the state of Urartu. The present-day Armenians are an amalgam of the Indo-European groups with the Hurrians and Urartians.
The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia, centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region, which the Bible also called Akkad. The empire united Akkadian and Sumerian speakers under one rule. The Akkadian Empire exercised influence across Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Anatolia, sending military expeditions as far south as Dilmun and Magan in the Arabian Peninsula.
Assyria, also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East and the Levant that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC until its collapse between 612 BC and 609 BC - spanning the periods of the Early to Middle Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age. From the end of the seventh century BC to the mid-seventh century AD, it survived as a geopolitical entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers such as the Parthian and early Sasanian Empires between the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, the final part of which period saw Mesopotamia become a major centre of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.
Sumerian myths were passed down through the oral tradition until the invention of writing (the earliest myth discovered so far, the Epic of Gilgamesh, is Sumerian and is written on a series of fractured clay tablets). Early Sumerian cuneiform was used primarily as a record-keeping tool; it was not until the late early dynastic period that religious writings first became prevalent as temple praise hymnsand as a form of "incantation" called the nam-šub (prefix + "to cast"). These tablets were also made of stone clay or stone, and they used a small pick to make the symbols.
Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material is received, preserved and transmitted orally from one generation to another. The transmission is through speech or song and may include folktales, ballads, chants, prose or verses. In this way, it is possible for a society to transmit oral history, oral literature, oral law and other knowledge across generations without a writing system, or in parallel to a writing system. Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, for example, have used an oral tradition, in parallel to a writing system, to transmit their canonical scriptures, secular knowledge such as Sushruta Samhita, hymns and mythologies from one generation to the next.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia that is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature and the second oldest religious text, after the Pyramid Texts. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about Bilgamesh, king of Uruk, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur. These independent stories were later used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian. The first surviving version of this combined epic, known as the "Old Babylonian" version dates to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipit, Shūtur eli sharrī. Only a few tablets of it have survived. The later "standard" version compiled by Sîn-lēqi-unninni dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC and bears the incipitSha naqba īmuru. Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve-tablet version have been recovered. Some of the best copies were discovered in the library ruins of the 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.
Cuneiform or Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, was one of the earliest systems of writing invented by the Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia. It is distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. The name cuneiform itself simply means "wedge-shaped".
In the Sumerian city-states, temple complexes originally were small, elevated one-room structures. In the early dynastic period, temples developed raised terraces and multiple rooms. Toward the end of the Sumerian civilization, ziggurats became the preferred temple structure for Mesopotamian religious centers.Temples served as cultural, religious, and political headquarters until approximately 2500 BC, with the rise of military kings known as Lu-gals (“man” + “big”) after which time the political and military leadership was often housed in separate "palace" complexes.
Until the advent of the lugals, Sumerian city states were under a virtually theocratic government controlled by various En or Ensí, who served as the high priests of the cults of the city gods. (Their female equivalents were known as Nin.) Priests were responsible for continuing the cultural and religious traditions of their city-state, and were viewed as mediators between humans and the cosmic and terrestrial forces. The priesthood resided full-time in temple complexes, and administered matters of state including the large irrigation processes necessary for the civilization's survival.
During the Third Dynasty of Ur, the Sumerian city-state of Lagash was said to have had sixty-two "lamentation priests" who were accompanied by 180 vocalists and instrumentalists.
The Sumerians envisioned the universe as a closed dome surrounded by a primordial saltwater sea.Underneath the terrestrial earth, which formed the base of the dome, existed an underworld and a freshwater ocean called the Apsû. The deity of the dome-shaped firmament was named An; that of the earth was named Ki. First the underground world was believed to be an extension of the goddess Ki, but later developed into the concept of Kur. The primordial saltwater sea was named Nammu, who became known as Tiamat during and after the Sumerian Renaissance.
The main source of information about the Sumerian creation myth is the prologue to the epic poem Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld , 30–33 which briefly describes the process of creation: originally, there was only Nammu, the primeval sea. :37–40 Then, Nammu gave birth to An, the sky, and Ki, the earth. :37–40 An and Ki mated with each other, causing Ki to give birth to Enlil, the god of wind, rain, and storm. :37–40 Enlil separated An from Ki and carried off the earth as his domain, while An carried off the sky. :37–41:
The ancient Mesopotamians regarded the sky as a series of domes (usually three, but sometimes seven) covering the flat earth. 180 Each dome was made of a different kind of precious stone. :203 The lowest dome of heaven was made of jasper and was the home of the stars. The middle dome of heaven was made of saggilmut stone and was the abode of the Igigi. The highest and outermost dome of heaven was made of luludānītu stone and was personified as An, the god of the sky. The celestial bodies were equated with specific deities as well. :203 The planet Venus was believed to be Inanna, the goddess of love, sex, and war. :108–109 :203 The sun was her brother Utu, the god of justice, :203 and the moon was their father Nanna. :203 Ordinary mortals could not go to heaven because it was the abode of the gods alone. Instead, after a person died, his or her soul went to Kur (later known as Irkalla), a dark shadowy underworld, located deep below the surface of the earth.:
The Sumerian afterlife was a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground, 114 and was believed to be ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal. :184 All souls went to the same afterlife, and a person's actions during life had no effect on how the person would be treated in the world to come.where inhabitants were believed to continue "a shadowy version of life on earth". This bleak domain was known as Kur, :
The souls in Kur were believed to eat nothing but dry dust 58 and family members of the deceased would ritually pour libations into the dead person's grave through a clay pipe, thereby allowing the dead to drink. :58 Nonetheless, funerary evidence indicates that some people believed that the goddess Inanna, Ereshkigal's younger sister, had the power to award her devotees with special favors in the afterlife. During the Third Dynasty of Ur, it was believed that a person's treatment in the afterlife depended on how he or she was buried; :58 those that had been given sumptuous burials would be treated well, :58 but those who had been given poor burials would fare poorly. :58:
The entrance to Kur was believed to be located in the Zagros mountains in the far east. 114 It had seven gates, through which a soul needed to pass. The god Neti was the gatekeeper. :184 :86 Ereshkigal's sukkal, or messenger, was the god Namtar. :134 :184 Galla were a class of demons that were believed to reside in the underworld; :85 their primary purpose appears to have been to drag unfortunate mortals back to Kur. :85 They are frequently referenced in magical texts, :85–86 and some texts describe them as being seven in number. :85–86 Several extant poems describe the galla dragging the god Dumuzid into the underworld. :86 The later Mesopotamians knew this underworld by its East Semitic name: Irkalla. During the Akkadian Period, Ereshkigal's role as the ruler of the underworld was assigned to Nergal, the god of death. :184 The Akkadians attempted to harmonize this dual rulership of the underworld by making Nergal Ereshkigal's husband.:
It is generally agreed that Sumerian civilization began at some point between c. 4500 and 4000 BC, but the earliest historical records only date to around 2900 BC. 178–179 The earliest Sumerian literature of the third millennium BC identifies four primary deities: An, Enlil, Ninhursag, and Enki. These early deities were believed to occasionally behave mischievously towards each other, but were generally viewed as being involved in co-operative creative ordering.The Sumerians originally practiced a polytheistic religion, with anthropomorphic deities representing cosmic and terrestrial forces in their world. :
During the middle of the third millennium BC, Sumerian society became more urbanized. 178–179 As a result of this, Sumerian deities began to lose their original associations with nature and became the patrons of various cities. :179 Each Sumerian city-state had its own specific patron deity, :179 who was believed to protect the city and defend its interests. :179 Lists of large numbers of Sumerian deities have been found. Their order of importance and the relationships between the deities has been examined during the study of cuneiform tablets.:
During the late 2000s BC, the Sumerians were conquered by the Akkadians. 179 The Akkadians syncretized their own gods with the Sumerian ones, :179 causing Sumerian religion to take on a Semitic coloration. :179 Male deities became dominant :179 and the gods completely lost their original associations with natural phenomena. :179–180 People began to view the gods as living in a feudal society with class structure. :179–181 Powerful deities such as Enki and Inanna became seen as receiving their power from the chief god Enlil. :179–180:
The majority of Sumerian deities belonged to a classification called the Anunna (“[offspring] of An”), whereas seven deities, including Enlil and Inanna, belonged to a group of “underworld judges" known as the Anunnaki (“[offspring] of An” + Ki). During the Third Dynasty of Ur, the Sumerian pantheon was said to include sixty times sixty (3600) deities. 182:
Enlil was the god of air, wind, and storm. 108 He was also the chief god of the Sumerian pantheon :108 :115–121 and the patron deity of the city of Nippur. :58 :231–234 His primary consort was Ninlil, the goddess of the south wind, :106 who was one of the matron deities of Nippur and was believed to reside in the same temple as Enlil. Ninurta was the son of Enlil and Ninlil. He was worshipped as the god of war, agriculture, and one of the Sumerian wind gods. He was the patron deity of Girsu and one of the patron deities of Lagash.:
Enki was god of freshwater, male fertility, and knowledge. 75 His most important cult center was the E-abzu temple in the city of Eridu. :75 He was the patron and creator of humanity :75 and the sponsor of human culture. :75 His primary consort was Ninhursag, the Sumerian goddess of the earth. :140 Ninhursag was worshipped in the cities of Kesh and Adab. :140:
Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, sexuality, prostitution, and war. 109 She was the divine personification of the planet Venus, the morning and evening star. :108–109 Her main cult center was the Eanna temple in Uruk, which had been originally dedicated to An. Deified kings may have re-enacted the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzid with priestesses. :151, 157–158 Accounts of her parentage vary; :108 in most myths, she is usually presented as the daughter of Nanna and Ningal, :ix-xi, xvi but, in other stories, she is the daughter of Enki or An along with an unknown mother. :108 The Sumerians had more myths about her than any other deity. :xiii, xv :101 Many of the myths involving her revolve around her attempts to usurp control of the other deities' domains.:
Utu was god of the sun, whose primary center of worship was the E-babbar temple in Sippar. 184 he was believed to protect the righteous and punish the wicked. :184 Nanna was god of the moon and of wisdom. He was the father of Utu and one of the patron deities of Ur. He may have also been the father of Inanna and Ereshkigal. Ningal was the wife of Nanna, as well as the mother of Utu, Inanna, and Ereshkigal.Utu was principally regarded as a dispenser of justice; :
Ereshkigal was the goddess of the Sumerian Underworld, which was known as Kur. 184 She was Inanna's older sister. In later myth, her husband was the god Nergal. :184 The gatekeeper of the underworld was the god Neti. :184:
Nammu was the primeval sea (Engur), who gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first deities; she eventually became known as the goddess Tiamat. An was the ancient Sumerian god of the heavens. He was the ancestor of all the other major deitiesand the original patron deity of Uruk.
The Sumerians had an ongoing linguistic and cultural exchange with the Semitic Akkadian peoples in northern Mesopotamia for generations prior to the usurpation of their territories by Sargon of Akkad in 2340 BC. Sumerian mythology and religious practices were rapidly integrated into Akkadian culture, [ citation needed ]presumably blending with the original Akkadian belief systems that have been mostly lost to history. Sumerian deities developed Akkadian counterparts. Some remained virtually the same until later Babylonian and Assyrian rule. The Sumerian god An, for example, developed the Akkadian counterpart Anu; the Sumerian god Enki became Ea. The gods Ninurta and Enlil kept their original Sumerian names.
The Amorite Babylonians gained dominance over southern Mesopotamia by the mid-17th century BC. During the Old Babylonian Period, the Sumerian and Akkadian languages were retained for religious purposes; the majority of Sumerian mythological literature known to historians today comes from the Old Babylonian Period,either in the form of transcribed Sumerian texts (most notably the Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh ) or in the form of Sumerian and Akkadian influences within Babylonian mythological literature (most notably the Enûma Eliš ). The Sumerian-Akkadian pantheon was altered, most notably with the introduction of a new supreme deity, Marduk. The Sumerian goddess Inanna also developed the counterpart Ishtar during the Old Babylonian Period.
The Hurrians adopted the Akkadian god Anu into their pantheon sometime no later than 1200 BC. Other Sumerian and Akkadian deities adapted into the Hurrian pantheon include Ayas, the Hurrian counterpart to Ea; Shaushka, the Hurrian counterpart to Ishtar; and the goddess Ninlil, [ citation needed ]whose mythos had been drastically expanded by the Babylonians.
Some stories recorded in the older parts of the Hebrew Bible bear strong similarities to the stories in Sumerian mythology. For example, the biblical account of Noah and the Great Flood bears a striking resemblance to the Sumerian deluge myth, recorded in a Sumerian tablet discovered at Nippur. 97–101 The Judaic underworld Sheol is very similar in description with the Sumerian Kur, ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal, as well as the Babylonian underworld Irkalla. Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer has also noted similarities between many Sumerian and Akkadian "proverbs" and the later Hebrew proverbs, many of which are featured in the Book of Proverbs. :133–135:
|Ninḫursaĝ|| Enki |
born to Namma
born to Namma
| Nisaba |
born to Uraš
|Ninkurra|| Ningal |
maybe daughter of Enlil
|Nanna|| Nergal |
maybe son of Enki
| Ninurta |
maybe born to Ninḫursaĝ
| Baba |
born to Uraš
|Uttu|| Inanna |
possibly also the daughter of Enki, of Enlil, or of An
| Dumuzid |
maybe son of Enki
|Utu|| Ninkigal |
Enlil, later known as Elil, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with wind, air, earth, and storms. He is first attested as the chief deity of the Sumerian pantheon, but he was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hurrians. Enlil's primary center of worship was the Ekur temple in the city of Nippur, which was believed to have been built by Enlil himself and was regarded as the "mooring-rope" of heaven and earth. He is also sometimes referred to in Sumerian texts as Nunamnir. According to one Sumerian hymn, Enlil himself was so holy that not even the other gods could look upon him. Enlil rose to prominence during the twenty-fourth century BC with the rise of Nippur. His cult fell into decline after Nippur was sacked by the Elamites in 1230 BC and he was eventually supplanted as the chief god of the Mesopotamian pantheon by the Babylonian national god Marduk. The Babylonian god Bel was a syncretic deity of Enlil, Marduk, and the dying god Dumuzid.
Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the "Queen of Heaven" and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star. Her husband was the god Dumuzid and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur.
Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices of the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, particularly Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia between circa 3500 BC and 400 AD, after which they largely gave way to Syriac Christianity. The religious development of Mesopotamia and Mesopotamian culture in general was not particularly influenced by the movements of the various peoples into and throughout the area, particularly the south. Rather, Mesopotamian religion was a consistent and coherent tradition which adapted to the internal needs of its adherents over millennia of development.
Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali is a deity that was worshipped throughout ancient Mesopotamia with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. Other names for him are Erra and Irra.
Sīn or Suen or Nanna was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with the Semitic Sīn. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sīn's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north. A moon god by the same name was also worshipped in South Arabia.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology. In later East Semitic myths, she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. "Lady of the Great Earth".
The Anunnaki are a group of deities who appear in the mythological traditions of the ancient Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. Descriptions of how many Anunnaki there were and what role they fulfilled are inconsistent and often contradictory. In the earliest Sumerian writings about them, which come from the Post-Akkadian period, the Anunnaki are the most powerful deities in the pantheon, descendants of An and Ki, the god of the heavens and the goddess of earth, and their primary function is to decree the fates of humanity.
In Sumerian religion, Ninlil, also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil. Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia and Nunbarsegunu. Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu and Antu. Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.
Ninshubur was the sukkal or second-in-command of the goddess Inanna in Sumerian mythology. Her name means "Queen of the East" in ancient Sumerian. Much like Iris or Hermes in later Greek mythology, Ninshubur served as a messenger to the other gods.
Aya in Akkadian mythology was a mother goddess, consort of the sun god Shamash. She developed from the Sumerian goddess Sherida, consort of Utu.
Geshtinanna is the ancient Sumerian goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation, the so-called "heavenly grape-vine". She is the sister of Dumuzid and consort of Ningisida. She is also the daughter of Enki and Ninhursag. She shelters her brother when he is being pursued by galla demons and mourns his death after the demons drag him to Kur. She eventually agrees to take his place in Kur for half the year, allowing him to return to Heaven to be with Inanna. The Sumerians believed that, while Geshtinanna was in Heaven and Dumuzid in Kur, the earth became dry and barren, thus causing the season of summer.
Queen of Heaven was a title given to a number of ancient sky goddesses worshipped throughout the ancient Mediterranean and Near East during ancient times. Goddesses known to have been referred to by the title include Inanna, Anat, Isis, Ishtar, Astarte, Astghik and possibly Asherah. In Greco-Roman times Hera, and her Roman aspect Juno bore this title. Forms and content of worship varied. In modern times, the title "Queen of Heaven" is still used by contemporary pagans to refer to the Great Goddess, while Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglican Christians now apply the ancient title to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The Abzu or Apsu, also called engur, is the name for fresh water from underground aquifers which was given a religious fertilising quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology. Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu. In this respect, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology it referred to the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above.
Zuism or Sumerian-Mesopotamian Neopaganism define a modern Pagan new religious movement based on the Sumerian religion, and calls itself the "oldest religion, foundation of all major religions". Modern Sumerian-Mesopotamian religious groups already existed since the 1980s; however, the first institutional form of the movement was founded in Iceland in 2010, and in 2013 Zuism was registered among the religions recognised by the Icelandic government. After the mid-2010s, branches of the church were established in other countries of central and northern Europe.
The ancient Mesopotamian underworld, most often known in Sumerian as Kur, Irkalla, Kukku, Arali, or Kigal and in Akkadian as Erṣetu, although it had many names in both languages, was a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground, where inhabitants were believed to continue "a shadowy version of life on earth". The only food or drink was dry dust, but family members of the deceased would pour libations for them to drink. Unlike many other afterlives of the ancient world, in the Sumerian underworld, there was no final judgement of the deceased and the dead were neither punished nor rewarded for their deeds in life. A person's quality of existence in the underworld was determined by his or her conditions of burial.