Tammuz

Tammuz, in Mesopotamian mythology (Babylonian-Akkadian), is equated to Adonis.

He was the consort and brother of Ishtar, as the Sumerian god Dumuzi and consort of Inanna. When she descended into the neither world she was a hostile and threatening figure which even made Ereskigal’s face blanched upon her approach.

Isthar, when there, was overcome by death which resulted in the depletion of the springs of fertility on earth. Ea secured her release by means of a brilliant eunuch which captivated the heart of the mistress of infertility and death.

The cult of Tammaz was a major one including the annual event, presumably in the fall, of what was known as ‘Ishtar’s wailing for Tammaz.’ The event commemorated death, marriage, and resurrection which was deeply associated with the agricultural fertility cycle.

Some say that one phrase of these annual ceremonies included the marriage of the king to the goddess who was substituted by a priestess.

Also women of the cult wailed for Tammaz near the temple when the cult spread to Cannan which the prophet Ezekiel preached defiantly against (Ezek. 8:14). A.G.H.

 

Tammuz in Mesopotamian Mythology

Tammuz, known as Dumuzi in Sumerian mythology, is a prominent figure in Mesopotamian mythological traditions, particularly in Babylonian-Akkadian lore. This deity holds a significant place in the pantheon and shares similarities with the Greek figure Adonis.

 

Tammuz’s Relationship with Ishtar (Inanna):

Tammuz is often depicted as the consort and, interestingly, the brother of the goddess Ishtar (also known as Inanna in Sumerian mythology). Their relationship plays a crucial role in various mythological narratives.

 

Ishtar’s Descent into the Netherworld:

One of the most notable stories involving Tammuz and Ishtar revolves around Ishtar’s descent into the netherworld. In this tale, she transforms into a hostile and threatening figure, striking fear even in the heart of Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld.

 

Ishtar’s Capture by Death and the Consequences:

During her time in the netherworld, Ishtar encounters death, which leads to profound consequences. Among these consequences is the depletion of the springs of fertility on the earthly realm. The story illustrates the interconnectedness between the divine realm and the natural world.

 

 Ea’s Intervention and Ishtar’s Release:

To secure Ishtar’s release from the netherworld, the god Ea devises a clever plan involving a brilliant eunuch. This plan successfully captivates the heart of Ereshkigal, ultimately leading to Ishtar’s return to the land of the living. Ea’s intervention showcases the resourcefulness of Mesopotamian deities.

 

The Cult of Tammuz and Annual Commemorations:

The cult of Tammuz was a prominent and enduring aspect of Mesopotamian religious life. It included various rituals and ceremonies, with one of the most notable being the annual event known as «Ishtar’s wailing for Tammuz.» This event, presumably held in the fall, served as a commemoration of themes such as death, marriage, and resurrection.

 

Symbolism of the Agricultural Fertility Cycle:

The rituals associated with Tammuz and Ishtar held deep symbolic significance, particularly in relation to the agricultural fertility cycle. The cycle of death and rebirth mirrored the changing seasons and the agricultural calendar, emphasizing the importance of these deities in ensuring bountiful harvests.

 

The Marriage of the King to the Goddess

A notable aspect of these annual ceremonies was the symbolic marriage of the king to the goddess. During this ritual, the goddess was often substituted by a priestess, symbolizing the divine union between the ruler and the divine feminine. This symbolic act reinforced the king’s role as a representative of the divine on Earth.

 

The Wailing Women of the Tammuz Cult:

In addition to the marriage rituals, women who were part of the Tammuz cult would engage in lamentations and wailing for Tammuz. These mournful expressions of grief occurred near the temple and were a significant part of the cult’s practices. This tradition eventually spread to Canaan, drawing the attention of the prophet Ezekiel.

 

Ezekiel’s Defiant Preaching Against the Tammuz Cult:

Prophet Ezekiel, in his teachings, expressed strong opposition to the cult of Tammuz and its associated practices, including the wailing for Tammuz. His defiance is documented in the book of Ezekiel (Ezek. 8:14), highlighting the religious diversity and conflicts of the time.

 

Conclusion

Tammuz, or Dumuzi, and his connection with Ishtar represent a fascinating aspect of Mesopotamian mythology. Their stories, rituals, and symbolism shed light on the intricate relationship between mythology, religion, and the natural world in ancient Mesopotamia. The annual ceremonies and cult practices associated with Tammuz continue to captivate the imagination, offering insights into the spiritual and agricultural aspects of this ancient civilization.

 


Sources:

Cotterell, Arthur, ‘Isthar.’ A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980, p. 36
Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 1069-1070