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Mesopotamia / Religions / Gods and goddesses /

Tammuz, god of Mesopotamia

In Mesopotamian religions, god of fertility in the nature. Tammuz is in many myths represented a as a shepherd. Most myths make him son of Enki and the goddess Duttur, in other myths his mother is the cow goddess, Ninsun.
The oldest name, in Sumerian religion, was Dumu-zid, transformed into Tammuzi in Akkadian religion. His name can be translated into The Flawless Young.
In Assyrian religion, his character shifted from pastoral to agricultural. Here he was associated with grain, and his death came with grain being milled.
The cult of Tammuz goes back to at least long before the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE. His oldest characteristic is as a pastoral deity. The myths of Tammuz had great appeal, involving large sections of the population, and would become the dimension of Mesopotamian religion surviving the longest in time: it is attested that the festival of Ta'uz was acted out in Iraq as late as late as the 11th century CE.
There were two yearly festivals connected to Tammuz, both relating to myths that are found in several versions.
In the first, Tammuz marries Inanna/Ishtar. This could be a grand festival, and at Umma it was acted out in February or March with the king taking the role of Tammuz, performing ritual sex with a priestess.
The other category of myths plays an important part for New Year, where he is sacrificed to save the life of his wife, Inanna/Ishtar, after she has been captured in the underworld.
New Year celebrations were acted out around mid-summer, around the month of July. Myths and rituals relate to death securing rebirth. While resembling religious ideas from other religions where one and the same god die before being reborn, in this case one god dies to allow his loved one to return to life.
-Scholars questions his actual role and importance of Tammuz. There is one piece of evidence that strongly indicate his position to have been inferior, that of King Hammurabi not mentioning Tammuz among the gods he lists to guarantee his code of law.

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By Tore Kjeilen