The land of Mesopotamia is located in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. The first cities of the world were formed on this axis, which means civilization began from here. The Sumerian people built the first set of cities here between 4000 and 3500 BC. The belief system of the people equally spread far and wide as their cities grew in size and population. Additionally, the ancient people of Mesopotamia worshiped several gods and goddesses; they equally carried out several rituals and practices dictated by each of these deities. Many of these practices have spread to other civilizations.
The Mesopotamian cultures supported a polytheistic belief system; this means they have multiple gods and goddesses. They equally accept that the deities created demons and that these demons can either be good or bad. The deities will punish the people if they are angered but will bless the people if they are kept happy; the worship practices and rituals carried out by these people are designed to keep the gods consistently happy; these rituals and practices need to be carried out periodically. The people also believe that any misfortune they experience must be because the gods or deities are not happy with them. They hold this belief even for natural disasters.
Each of the cities has its patron deity. Each of the deities also has a particular occasion or element to which it is connected. Some of the deities rule the skies, rainfall, earth, the sun, the moon and so on. The gods are worshiped in temples called Ziggurats. The temples usually contain carved human figures representing the particular deity being worshiped in the temple. The carved figures usually have clasped hands and wide eyes, which indicates that the deities are praying for the people of Mesopotamia. The rituals carried out in the worship of the deities are equally done in the temples.
The common deities
The common deities that form the center of Mesopotamian religion are highlighted below:
- An, which is the sky god. It is equally considered as the father or head of the other gods. He is not depicted. His other name is Anu.
- Enki, which is the god of fresh water. He is deemed to be wise and appears bearded and depicted as a man in the midst of water flowing around him. His other name is Ea.
- Inanna, who is the goddess of love, war, and fertility. She was considered as the most important of all female deities. Her other name is Ishtar.
- Nanna, who was the god of the moon. He is the offspring of Enlil and Ninlil. He is believed to travel across the sky in his boat made of woven twigs with stars and planets. His other name is Sin.
- Utu, which is the god of justice and sun. He is considered to be in the underworld between sunset and sunrise. His other name is Shamash.
Many of the gods mentioned above have gone into extinction. However, they are still being worshiped as deities among few local communities in Mesopotamia. Bear in mind also, that other countries or cultures have adopted some of them.