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Category: June

Evolution of Tammuz

“We can draw but one conclusion from all this. The resurrection of Tammuz had once been commemorated as well as his death, and the festivals had been identified, not only with that of the Egyptian Osiris, as at Gebal, but also with those of other Semitic forms of the Sun-god, of Hadad and of Rimmon.

Sarcophagus of Psusennes 1 (early 10th century BCE) formed as Osiris, with crook and frail placed to form a cross. From National Museum, Cairo. http://i-cias.com/e.o/osiris.htm

Sarcophagus of Psusennes 1 (early 10th century BCE) formed as Osiris, with crook and frail placed to form a cross. From National Museum, Cairo.
http://i-cias.com/e.o/osiris.htm

When Macrobius states that Adad meant “the only one” in Syrian, he implies that Adad or Hadad--the Sun-god whose festival fell after the harvests of autumn–was identical with Tammuz.

In Babylonia, Tammuz was the Sun-god of spring; his foe was the summer heat; his death was mourned in the month of June. If there was another feast in which grief gave place to joy at his restoration to life, it was separate  from that which celebrated his death, and must have taken place at a different time of the year.

In its transplantation to the west, however, the cult of TammuzAdonis underwent a change. He was identified with other forms of the solar deity; his festivals were merged into theirs; and, except in places like Gebal, where a natural phenomenon prevented the alteration, the anniversary of his death was shifted to the fall of the year.

He ceased to be the Sun-god of spring, and became the Sun-god of summer. In the highlands of Syria the summer was not the dangerous foe it was in Babylonia; it was, on the contrary, a kindly friend, whose heats quickened and fostered the golden grain. Winter, and not summer, was the enemy who had slain the god.

The story of Tammuz was not of Semitic invention, however much it may owe, in the form in which we know it, to Semitic imagination. The month of Tammuz was called in the Accadian calendar “the month of the errand of Istar,” a clear proof that the legend of the Descent of the goddess into Hades was already known.

Nor is the name of Tammuz itself of Semitic origin. The Semites did not agree about the precise form which it should assume, and it is probable that the form (Tammuz) which prevailed in the west was due to a “popular etymology.” At all events, the Assyro-Babylonian form is not Tammuz, but Duzu, itself contracted from Duwuzu, and a fair representative of the original Accadian Dumu-zi or Duwu-zi, “the son of life.”

The word was interpreted by the Semites as meaning the “offspring,” “the only son;”  but it may be merely a shortened form of the name Dumu-zi-apzu, “the son of the spirit of the deep.” The “spirit of the deep” is of course Ea, as is expressly stated in a mythological tablet, where Dumu-zi-apzu is given as the name of one of his six sons.

Professor Langdon suggested that the below seated deity might be Tammuz as a god of grain and vegetation. Ears of grain grow from his shoulders (cf. p. 90. Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races- Semitic. Vol. 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931). Langdon noted that Tammuz/Dumuzi had many roles and manifestations. He was not only associated with dying and resurrected vegetation, he was also identified with freshwater, for water was essential in the irrigation canals of lower Mesopotamia to sustain life. A number of hymns ask Damu/Dumuzi to "arise from the river," to a degree, the annual flooding or rising of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers would assure plentiful water for crops. "O man, my Damu, my irrigator thou art." (p. 343, Langdon) http://www.bibleorigins.net/TammuzGrainGodSeal.html

Professor Langdon suggested that the below seated deity might be Tammuz as a god of grain and vegetation. Ears of grain grow from his shoulders (cf. p. 90. Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races- Semitic. Vol. 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931).
Langdon noted that Tammuz/Dumuzi had many roles and manifestations. He was not only associated with dying and resurrected vegetation, he was also identified with freshwater, for water was essential in the irrigation canals of lower Mesopotamia to sustain life. A number of hymns ask Damu/Dumuzi to “arise from the river,” to a degree, the annual flooding or rising of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers would assure plentiful water for crops.
“O man, my Damu, my irrigator thou art.” (p. 343, Langdon)
http://www.bibleorigins.net/TammuzGrainGodSeal.html

How early the designation must be, is shown by the fact that Ea appears in it as not yet a god, but as a spirit only. We are carried back to the first dawn of Chaldean religious belief. The name was translated by the Semites “Timmuz (or Dimmuz) of the flood” (H.C. Rawlinson, The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, 1886, ii. 47, 29), and the solar character of the deity was indicated by writing his name with ideographs that signified “the maker of fire” (tim-izí).

But this very mode of writing the name, which probably grew up in the court of Sargon of Accad, proves that already the name had lost its last element. The “son of the spirit of the deep” had become “the son of life,” “the only son” of the god Ea.

It is thus that a mythological tablet gives “the River-god,” who is but Ea under another title, a single son Duzi, where the name has assumed its contracted Semitic form, and is written with ideographs that mean “the heart of life.”

A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 231-3.

The Lamentations for Tammuz

“On the one hand, we now know who was that Tammuz in whose honour Ezekiel saw the women of Jerusalem weeping at the gate of “the Lord’s house.”

On the other hand, it is clear that the Tammuz and Istar of the Babylonian legend are the Adonis and Aphrodite of Greek mythology. Like Tammuz, Adonis, the beloved one of Aphrodite, is slain by the boar’s tusk of winter, but eventually ransomed from Hades by the prayers of the goddess.

It has long been recognised that Aphrodite, the Kyprian goddess of love and war, came to Hellas from Phoenicia, whether or not we agree with Dr. Hommel in seeing in her name a mere etymological perversion of the Phoenician Ashtoreth.

Adonis is the Phoenician Adoni, “my lord,” the cry with which the worshippers of the stricken Sun-god mourned his untimely descent into the lower world.

The cry was familiar throughout the land of Palestine. In the valley of Megiddo, by the plain of Jezreel, each year witnessed “the mourning for Hadad-Rimmon” (Zechariah xii. ll),while hard by Amos heard the men of Israel mourning for “the only son” (Amos viii. lo), and the prophet of Judah gives the very words of the refrain: “Ah me, my brother, and ah me, my sister! Ah me, Adonis, and ah me, his lady!” (Jeremiah xxii. 18).

Monument funéraire, Adonis mourant: Museu Gregoriano Etrusco, Vatican. Uploaded by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adonis#/media/File:0_Monument_funéraire_-_Adonis_mourant_-_Museu_Gregoriano_Etrusco.JPG

Monument funéraire, Adonis mourant: Museu Gregoriano Etrusco, Vatican.
Uploaded by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adonis#/media/File:0_Monument_funéraire_-_Adonis_mourant_-_Museu_Gregoriano_Etrusco.JPG

 The words were carried across the western sea to men of an alien race and language. “Cry ailinon, ailinon! woe!” says the Greek poet of Athens, and already in Homeric days the dirge was attributed to a mythic Linos whose magic fate was commemorated in its opening words: “0 Linos, Linos!”

Linos, however, had no existence except in a popular etymology; the Greek ailinos is in reality the Phoenician ai-lénu, “alas for us!” with which the lamentations for the death of the divine Adonis were wont to begin.

Like the refrain quoted by Jeremiah, the words eventually go back to Babylonia, and find their counterpart in the closing lines of the old Babylonian poem I have translated above. When Tillili commences her wail over the dead Tammuz, she cries, like the women of Judah and Phoenicia, “0 my brother, the only one!”

It was, above all, in the Phoenician town of Gebal or Byblos that the death of Adonis was commemorated. Here, eight miles to the north of Beyrût, the ancient military road led from eastern Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean, and brought from early days the invading armies of Babylonia and Assyria to the coasts and cities of Canaan.

Hard by was the river of Adonis, the Nahr Ibrahim of to-day, which rolled through a rocky gorge into the sea. Each year, when the rains and melting snow of spring stained its waters with the red marl of the mountains, the people of Gebal beheld in it the blood of the slaughtered Sun-god.

It was then, in the month of Tammuz or June, that the funeral-festival of the god was held. For seven days it lasted. “Gardens of Adonis,” as they were called, were planted, pots filled with earth and cut herbs, which soon withered away in the fierce heat of the summer sun–fitting emblems of the lost Adonis himself.

Meanwhile, the streets and gates of the temples were filled with throngs of wailing women. They tore their hair, they disfigured the face, they cut the breast with sharp knives, in token of the agony of their grief.

Their cry of lamentation went up to Heaven mingled with that of the Galli, the emasculated priests of Ashtoreth, who shared with them their festival of woe over her murdered bridegroom.

Adonis, the young, the beautiful, the beloved of Ashtoreth, was dead; the bright sun of the springtide, like the verdure of nature which he had called into life, was slain and withered by the hot blasts of the summer.”

A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 227-9.

Tammuz and Ishtar, Adonis and Aphrodite, Attis and Cybele, Isis and Osiris

As has been indicated already, the myth of Tammuz and Ishtar furnished the groundwork for certain myths of classic Greece and Rome.

The Phoenician Astarte (Ashtoreth), a development of Ishtar, became in time the Aphrodite of the Greeks, a deity who plays a part in the Adonis legend analogous to that of Ishtar in the Tammuz story. The name Adonis itself is derived from Adoni (‘my lord’), the word with which the Phoenician worshippers of Tammuz hailed the setting sun.

The myth of Adonis is perhaps the most nearly related of any to that of Tammuz, since its chief characters are acknowledged counterparts of those in the Babylonian legend, while the tale of Ishtar’s descent into Hades may be regarded as a sequel to the Greek story, or rather to an early Babylonian variant thereof.

Briefly outlined, the story runs as follows: Adonis was the fruit of an unnatural union between the Syrian king Theias and his daughter Smyrna (Myrrha). Theias pursued the princess, intending to take her life for the crime, but the pity of the gods turned her into a tree from which, at the end of ten months, Adonis was born. It is said that a boar rent open the tree-trunk with its tusk, and thus enabled the divine infant to see the light.

Aphrodite, charmed with the beauty of the child, gave him into the care of Persephone, who was so enamoured of her charge that she afterwards refused to give him up. The goddesses appealed to Zeus, who decreed that Adonis should spend six months of each year with Aphrodite and six with Persephone in the underworld; or, according to another version, four months were to be passed with Aphrodite and four with Persephone, while the remaining four were to be at his own disposal.

He was afterwards slain by a boar sent against him by Artemis (herself, by the way, a development of Ishtar). It may be remarked that Aphrodite, who figures, like Ishtar, as the goddess of love and beauty, is also closely associated with the nether regions, perhaps because she was identified with the Babylonian goddess in her journey to Hades in search of her spouse.

Akin to Adonis is the god Attis, who likewise, according to one version of his myth, is slain by a boar. After his death he becomes a pine-tree, and from his blood violets spring. He is beloved of Cybele, the mother-goddess, who laments his untimely end.

In the Adonis legend there is evidence of some overlapping. Persephone, or Proserpine, who here corresponds to the Allatu of the Babylonian variant, figures in another well-known myth as the prototype of Tammuz. When she is carried off to the nether-world by Pluto, her mother, Ceres, will not suffer the corn to grow while her daughter remains a prisoner. Like Ishtar in search of her spouse, the mother-goddess seeks her child with weeping and lamentation. Through the eating of a pomegranate seed, Proserpine is finally obliged to pass four (or six) months of every year with her dark captor, as his consort.

Another myth which has affinities with the tale of Tammuz and Ishtar is the Egyptian one which deals with the quest of Isis. The god Osiris is slain through the machinations of his brother Set (who, being identified elsewhere with a black hog, recalls the boar which slew Adonis and Attis), and his body, enclosed in a chest, is cast into the Nile.

Afterwards the chest is thrown up by the waves, and round it springs miraculously a tamarisk tree. Meanwhile Isis, wife and sister to Osiris, travels hither and thither in search of his remains, which in due time she finds. However, the chest is stolen from her by Set, who, taking therefrom the body of Osiris, tears the corpse into fourteen pieces, which he scatters through the land. Isis still pursues her quest, till she has found all the portions and buried them.

These tales were the mythical correlates of certain ritualistic practices designed to bring about the change of seasons, and other natural phenomena, by means of sympathetic magic. The burden of a great duty falls upon the shoulders of primitive man; with his rites and spells and magic arts he must assist the universe in its course.

His esoteric plays, typifying the mysterious fact of growth, are necessary to ensure the sprouting of the corn; his charms and incantations are essential even for the rising of the sun; lacking the guarantee of science that one season shall follow another in its proper order, he goes through an elaborate performance symbolizing the decay and revival of vegetation, believing that only thus can the natural order be maintained. Through the force of sympathetic magic he sees his puny efforts related to the mighty results which follow them.

This, then, is the origin of the ritual of the Tammuz festival, which may conceivably have had an existence prior to that of the myth itself. The representation of the death and resurrection of the god, whether in myth or ritual, had undoubtedly a seasonal significance, wherefore the date of his festival varied in the different localities.

In Babylonia it was celebrated in June, thus showing that the deity was slain by the fierce heat of the sun, burning up all the springtide vegetation. Ishtar’s sojourn in Hades would thus occupy the arid months of summer.

In other and more temperate climes winter would be regarded as the enemy of Tammuz. An interesting account of the Tammuz festival is that given by an Arabic author writing in the tenth century, and quoted by Sir James Frazer in his Golden Bough.

Tammuz (July). In the middle of this month is the festival of el-Būgāt, that is, of the weeping women, and this is the Ta-uz festival, which is celebrated in honour of the god Ta-uz. The women bewail him, because his lord slew him so cruelly, ground his bones in a mill, and then scattered them to the wind. The women (during this festival) eat nothing which has been ground in a mill, but limit their diet to steeped wheat, sweet vetches, dates, raisins, and the like.”

The material for this description was furnished by the Syrians of Harran. Of the curious legend attaching to the mourning rites more will be said later.”

Lewis Spence, Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria, 1917, pp. 131-5.

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