About the Calendar

Vernal Equinox:

This is the time when the day and night are the same length in the spring. Sumerians didn’t have a spring or a fall, they only had a summer and a winter.

In Sumer the summer time it was hot and dry. This was the time of year that the crops did not do as well. The virile life of the vine was extinguished. (remember to keep track of the number of “M’s” as you read Sumer and summer.)

Religiously this was the time when Geshtin-anna returned from the land of the dead and her brother Dumuzi went there. Dumuzi had been the sustaining force of the vines and so this signaled the time when other crops were more important.

It is suggested that the modern Sumerian Recon read from the exploits of Dumuzi at this time of the year. If possible a play should be performed showing how Dumuzi was taken into the underworld and mentioning that he will return in the fall.

As the time of the vine is over fruits and vegetables should be eaten to commemorate this time of the year. There will probably only be a few days between this and the new year, so don’t do anything you will regret.

Bara za Nar: Throne of the Sanctuary

This is the first month of the year, and the New Year celebration is held on the first day of the new moon after the vernal Equinox.

In the spiritual life of the average Sumerian this is one of the most important days of the year. This is when the tablet of deeds as kept by the three moral deities was made permanent. This is similar to the Jewish New Year when the book of life is closed and a new one is opened.

Chief among the three moral deities was Nisaba (or Nidaba depending on your translation) She was a goddess of grain and writing and so was the natural choice of the gods to keep track of the deeds of man. With her were her husband Haia and Nanshe the dream interpreter of the gods.

There is no evidence that Nisaba was particularly import to the city of Nippur. The idea of a book of life however was so important that it was kept even after the other gods were no longer worshiped.

When a person dies this record is used to help show the seven who decree fate just how good or bad a person was. This could help the gods to decide to have mercy in the afterlife. Good individuals were decreed a more favorable afterlife than ones who had not lived such a good life.

As the pressure to show the gods how good you are is now past this is a good time for revelry. Thank the gods for their mercy and kick back and relax. Sumerian Reconstructionists with children might wish also to treat this similarly to Christmas. Give gifts and candy as a reward for children who have been good.

Ezem Gusisu: “the month the horned oxen marched forth”

During the Gusisu festival at this time, it was customary to do a ritual in honor of Enlil and Ninlil the patron deities of Nippur, and to the god Ninurta, who was especially significant to this festival. Each of these three gods was important to the people of Nippur in particular, so if your temple focuses upon different deities, then those deities may be more appropriate.

Though other cities focused on other deities, the gods in this festival had an important roll to play here. Ninurta was a storm god, but he was also the patron god of farmers. Enlil was likewise linked to prosperity among farmers.

In Nippur this was a time when preparations were made for plowing. No actual plowing was performed until the fourth month. The preparations were things such as securing a team of oxen acquiring and retooling equipment. This was the beginning of the entire yearly growing cycle and so it was highly important to get the blessing of the great gods with respect to the renewal of the cultivated ground.

The traditional offering at this festival, as you might expect of a festival centered around the acts of beasts of burden, was a sacrifice of live stock. Obviously the average modern practitioner cant do this, but an offering of meat or of the fruits of ones labor would be appropriate.

The main focus of this festival was the preparation for farming. This was just before the main planting season in Sumer. The culmination of this ritual was placing a seed into the ground. In colder wetter climates that make up much of the northern hemisphere where many pagans now live, this might seem to be completely impractical. It may not be the best time to plant most things, but it is the perfect time to start an indoor garden or to plant bulbs for next year.

Sig Ga “the month the bricks are set in the brick mold”

This isn’t an important holiday month. This was when the conditions for brick making were ideal. The Sumerians were industrious in the extreme and had a definite respect for hard work. Bricks were the fundamental building blocks of civilization.

Spiritually bricks were also associated with the birthing process. The Sumerians knew the value of letting gravity help with the process of giving birth. This is a technique that is regaining favor among doctors today. To do this the mother had to stand with each foot upon a large brick.

Though no rituals are specifically mentioned for this time, it would not be inappropriate to read the myth where Enki and Ninhursag create mankind. This glorifies the work of the gods, the work of man to honor them, and presents man with their place in the grand order of the universe.

Su-numun “To pour grain”

This is when the actual plowing takes place. Plowing would go on for four months until the festival in the eighth month when it the plow was let go. This is not, as some have suggested, a harvest month. In northern climates harvesting might take place for some crops at about this time, but this was the height of the hot dry season, so harvesting would be out of the question.

There were four main phases in the agricultural cycle for the farmer First, acquisition and retooling of equipment. This was marked by gusisu festival. Second, preparation of fields to get ready for the actual seeding. This was started with the Su-Nunum festival. Third, early and late seeding which occurred in what we might think of as the fall. Fourth and finally, the actual harvesting. This was marked by the sekinku festival.

At the beginning of this month it would be appropriate to read from the debate between the plow and the hoe. This tale gives the reader some respect for the fundamental processes involved from the point of view of the spirit of the plow and the spirit of the hoe.

Ne Izi Gar “The month of Ghosts”

This month translates roughly to the month when lamps are lit. This is an odd thing to do right after the Summer (Two M’s here) solstice. Other cities held this celebration at other times however.

This festival is the Sumerian equivalent of Halloween. It is all about the connection between the living and the dead. It is about mourning. It is about being alive. Most importantly, it is about respecting the dead.

Appropriate myths for this festival are the death of Ningishzida and the death of Gilgamesh. These myths both concentrate upon the passing over into the next life of one that is held dear.

The actual festival of ghosts occurred in the middle of this month during the first day of the full moon. It is at this time that spirits of the dead followed a special passage of light leading from the darkness of the netherworld back into the world of the living for a brief stay. The setting of fires and lighting of torches by each household would guide the spirits back to the ancestral home, where a ceremonial meal, called the be-IZI-gar offering, awaited.

A few days before the full moon of this month at around the eleventh day, it is customary to give offering to the gods associated with the underworld. This is to help the friendly dead find their way home, or to thank the dead for releasing the spirits from their duties in the underworld.

Sisig, a god of dreams, is in charge of this gateway. His name is Si and ig, translating roughly to light ray and door. He might also be the little brother of Namtar mentioned in the standard Babylonian version of Gilgamesh when he visits Utnapishtim. He is mentioned briefly in the Sumerian poem “the death of Gilgamesh.” He may have embodied the breeze that lifted Enkidu’s shade from the netherworld.

Another possible origin of this god is as the setting sun. In this version he would have been the offspring of Utu the sun god. Utu was believed to ascend and reascend from the netherworld everyday. Sisig could be the lingering light rays which offer the dead a means of ascending in certain circumstance. It should be noted strongly that this is all speculation. We haven’t seen a scholar piece two words together on Sisig.

Temple of Sumer sees the first of the month to be the beginning of the opening of the gate to the underworld. This would be linked intimately with the phases of the moon. In this month the dead come through the moon, come through the dreams, and come through any other path that they can. The new moon festival at this point would be in preparation for the coming of the ghosts.

At the eleventh, it is just before the three days of the actual full moon. This is roughly the fourteenth fifteenth and the sixteenth of the month. It is here that offerings are made to the gods to help with the natural flow of ghosts.

When the full moon is at it’s fullest we have the gate at its most open. It is at this point that the dead come through in earnest. Through the rest of the month the dead would be drifting back home to Kur.

Not everything at this time was good. At this time evil spirits, angry dead, and harmful wielders of magic might also find their way up from the underworld through the gate of light. Offerings at this time were appropriate to keep these harmful dead from causing harm to the home. These offerings were also made to gods in order that they would interceded on behalf of their followers, protecting them from these evil spirits.

Kin Inanna “work of Inanna”

This month’s name means roughly “the work of Inanna” and it is when the goddess statues were purified in the waters of the river. The changing of the seasons is about to happen, and this signifies the cleansing of Inanna before the return of her beloved husband.

This is a month of cleaning. It is therefore just about the best time that you could have to clean one’s altar. This was traditionally the time when goddess statues were cleaned, but if you don’t worship a goddess there is no reason you shouldn’t clean the statue of your god on this day.

A good myth to read on this day would be the myth at the tail end of the myths connected with the descent of Inanna where she confronts Belulu. This myth shows how Inanna protected Dumuzi’s flock while he was away.

Autumnal Equinox

As with the Vernal equinox, the day and night are both the same length. This is another important holiday for the Sumerians. At this time Dumuzi comes back from the underworld and his sister Geshtin-anna took his place. This is the beginning of the cooler wet season in Sumer when ground water increases and vines begin to regain their vigor.

At the Vernal equinox you read from the exploits of Dumuzi and saw that Inanna’s actions led him to his unfortunate fate. With his return it is now time to read from the descent of Inanna to see what led to the situation in the first place. You will see how she was tempted by Galla demons and how she, if for only an instant, sat upon the throne of Urugal itself.

Dumuzi was a shepherd god, and his flock has been tended in his absence for quite some time. Good offerings at this time are wool and the meat of livestock. In the northern climates this is still a good offering as the weather is about to get colder.

Though not Nippurian, it is interesting to note that the Akitu festivals were originally held on the Equinoxes. The Sumerians used the moon to track the equinoxes though obviously they wouldn’t land at the same spot in the lunar month every year. In Ur these festivals were held in month one and seven. This lost all significance in Nippur when they moved the festival to months four and twelve and made them the main harvest festivals.

Duku “Festival of the Sacred Mound”

In Nippur there is a temple called the E-Kur. Among other things, the name of this temple means house of the underworld and house of the mountain. The main festival was probably held within this temple. As such it was probably only practices by a select few. Sumerians of today should always consider themselves part of that select few where they can. It is important for each of us to understand the workings of the inner temples.

In Nippur, the Sacred Mound was situated in the Tummal complex. The Sacred Mound was the place where Enlil’s more distant ancestors dwelt. The god En-duku-ga and goddess Nin-duku-ga, lord and lady of the Sacred Mound, are listed throughout the canonical lamentations and the god lists. This demonstrates the primordial nature of the Sacred Mound. These primordial gods even predated Enlil himself, and Enlil is the first born son of An and Ki. They may be the parents of one of Enlil’s parents, or they may go even further back.

Scholars have different views about what the sacred mound actually represented. Van Dijk suggests that the Sacred Mound the mountain from whence the Sumerian gods originally came from. As such the mound in Nippur would represent the place where the culture of the Sumerian people originated. Jacobsen on the other hand suggests that Duku was a holy place in Nippur designating a plastered over pile of grain, and that its underground connotations had to do with underground storage. It should be noted that other cities had sacred mounds, most notably Eridu and the temple of Ningirsu.

Either way, this mound represents a part of what makes the Sumerians civilized. It also serves as a symbol of Enlil’s greatness. Enlil is the head of the pantheon, and his ancestors are the power that got him there. This also reflects the general morality of the gods. In some religions the gods work by different rules than do their people. Enlil respected his ancestors and followed the laws just like the people of his city did.

The cupcake is a suitable offering for this holiday. Bread making is a fundamental building block of civilization and demonstrates the cultivation and refinement of grain. Cooking it up into a cake and frosting it shows a mound of grain plastered over. The cupcake recipe should include milk as this was one of the most common offerings to the mound through the year.

A good passage to read at this time is the debate between cattle and grain. The myth shows another view of the founding of civilization as well as presenting he importance of cattle and grain.

On the last two days of this month, just before the eighth month’s new moon festival there should be another observance. These are traditionally the days when the spirits of the dead are remembered. The mound covered over the entrance to the realms of Apsu and Kur, and might have been placed over the house of the god Enki himself.

Though the mound was positive, this was a somber festival. This was a time when the dead were remembered and when the gods of the underworld were contacted. The festival at the end of the month is a bitter sweet combination of the good and the bad. It recalls those lost in the past, but it calibrates their achievements. It looks back, but it also looks forward to the next growing season.

Apin Du-a “The plow is let go”

The eighth month was another important month agriculturally. This was when the people of the city could finally let the plow go for eight months. It was a cessation of a difficult task for a time and was well worth celebrating.

It didn’t seem to be an important month religiously. At least it didn’t seem to be as important as the first, fifth, sixth, and seventh months. No major myths are reflected at this time.

We have very little information about any elaborate festival for this month. It seems to be more like a day of cessation of labor. The Sumerians were a hard working people, but even they had times when you needed to simply let things go and relax.

Gan Gan-e “When the clouds came out”

This is right around when the rain actually hit the Sumerians. The people of Nippur would probably give respect to Ninurta at this time as he was the storm god most associated with farmers. Shepherds might have worshiped Ishkur as he was associated with shepherds, and people purely of the city might have worshiped Imdugud as he was the storm god who acted as protector of the home.

Another less likely but possible interpretation of the name of this month would be the month when the murderers are expelled. If that is the meaning of this month it suggests that this is when scape goats are expelled from the city taking with them the sins of the people. Murderers themselves would likely have been executed much more promptly for their crimes.

A good passage to read at this time would be the exploits of Ninurta, or Ninurta and the turtle. Any myth involving one of the storm gods would be appropriate at this time. They show how the various storm gods are heroic and strong protectors of the order of the universe.

Ab-ba-e “The opening of the land” formerly Ku Su “To lie down and spread”

As Ab-ba-e, this tenth month of Nippur, comes from Ab, meaning opening, and e meaning plot of land. The month of Ku Su comes from Ku meaning “to lie down” and Su meaning “to spread.” Ku Su therefore means the month where things are laid down and spread.

This month was the only month to have a name change, as well as a significance change. In later UrIII times it was dedicated to a festival which honored the deceased UrIII kings.

We don’t know much about the origional month of Ku Su. It is likely, judging from the other months, that this is a month where a specific farming task was performed. We don’t even know if a specific festival was performed on this day. We at Temple of Sumer have decided instead that it would be prudent to follow what we know of Ab Ba E.

This month was changed to a month where dead kings are honored. It is a good time to read some of the hymns such as those to Ur-Nammu and to Sulgi. It is also a good time to light a candle to your deceased loved ones. Offer them water and say a prayer to your personal god on their behalf.

Ud Duru “Month of the fresh Emmer wheat” or Ziz-a “Month when the Emmer wheat crop is flooded.”

Both month names are equally valid. Either way this month has to do with the Emmer wheat. It is a crop that is needed to make beer and bread. This month name suggests that it must have been harvested a month before the barley crop.

Historically and culturally this is fascinating, but unfortunately for purposes of religion this isn’t all that important of a month. We don’t know what offerings were made or if there is a major festival other than the new moon festival. Drink a beer or two, bake a loaf of bread.

Se Kin Ku “Harvest festival of Enlil”

This celebration was not simply a celebration for the city of Nippur, it was a festival held throughout all of Sumer. This was the main harvest month and one of the coolest months in the entire year. This month festival’s name is the most common in all of the calendars in the entirety of Sumer. This was when Barley was harvested.

The actual festival likely took place in the full moon and may have been similar to Sukkot, the Jewish festival of booths. The full moon would have allowed for work to be performed through the night. This was particularly important considering that there were fewer daylight hours at this time of the year.

If we take our guidance from the observances of Sukkot, then this would have culminated in a feast. The American holiday of thanksgiving was a reflection of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and many of the themes were reflected.

Also this is the second Akitu festival in Nippur. The significance of the second Akitu festival here is the harvest festival itself. Originally in Ur, The Akitu festival were connected to the Equinoxes through the moon god Nanna, when they came to Nippur they corresponded instead to Nippur’s main agricultural festivals. The Akiti-Sunumun of the 4th month, and the Akiti-Sekinku of the 12th. These are the start of plowing, and the harvest.