[This issue, we sit down with author Samuel David. Here, David discusses Mesopotamian polytheism; the forthcoming Rod & Ring; the organization Four Reeds; and various upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more eclectic and intuitive?
Samuel David: At one point I identified as a Sumerian reconstructionist. As of now, however, I don’t find it as necessary to have an official name for my praxis as I once did.
Personally, I think “Mesopotamian polytheism” suffices as it encompasses the complementary religious expression of the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians who were the spiritual inheritors of the Sumerians.
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers do you honor in your tradition?
SD: Primarily, I have a devotional relationship with the gods that form the pantheon of the temple I established with several others in September 2017.
The gods of this pantheon consist of Inanna (Akkadian: Ishtar), who needs little in the way of introduction as the great mover and shaker within Mesopotamian myth and religion; Dumuzid (Akk: Tammuz), the god of shepherds, fertility, passionate love, and husband of Inanna; Utu (Akk: Shamash), the solar god of justice and mercy; Ishkur (Akk: Adad), the god of storms, divination (along with Utu/Shamash) and purification rites who carries prayers to Heaven; the lunar god Nanna (Akk: Suen); Ningal, the goddess of dreams who is also the spouse of Nanna and the mother of Inanna, Utu, and (according to some texts) Ishkur.
Marduk also has a place among these gods as my “original” patron you could say. He was one of the first gods I knew by name as a child who wasn’t the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
My praxis also includes maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with chthonic spirits and the genius loci of the region in which I live.
ev0ke: If you could correct one common misconception about ancient Sumer, what would it be?
SD: The Sumerians (and Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians) believed that civilization was a divine gift — one that was embraced and honored, not shunned or denigrated.
ev0ke: Which organizations, institutions, or groups would you recommend to people who are interested in learning more about ancient Sumer and modern Sumerian polytheism?
SD: There are a number of great resources. If folks are looking for interactive communities, I highly recommend the r/Sumer subreddit, Enenuru.net, Templo de Inanna, Temple of Inanna, Temple of Sumer, and Temple of Inanna and Dumuzi.
ev0ke: Your first book, Rod & Ring: An Initiation Into a Mesopotamian Mystery Tradition, will be released shortly by Anathema Press. First, congratulations! Second, why did you decide to write Rod & Ring? What drew you to creating it?
SD: Thank you!
If you go to your local bookstore, the New Age/Occult/Neopagan section is filled with books that largely focus upon western occultism, Wicca, heathenism, eclectic neopaganism, and witchcraft.
There’s little in the way of accessible material devoted to Mesopotamian spirituality that maintains the actual spiritual current of the past while making it relevant to us here in the present.
I wanted to create something that remained true to the source material to fill that void — it’s the book I would have wanted for myself when I was actively searching years ago.
ev0ke: What will readers find in Rod & Ring?
SD: The book consists of four key parts. The first serves as a primer of sorts with various rituals that the reader can utilize through the course of the book or outside of the framework of the book itself. The second, third, and fourth parts of the book are immersive and sequential mythopoetic rituals.
The reader or initiate becomes a part of the mythology as they journey across the earth and encounter various gods who bestow the powers of civilization (reminiscent of the divine measures, or Mes, that Inanna acquires from Enki), descend into the Underworld and encounter those gods that rule there, and ascend into Heaven to encounter the prime movers and shakers of the cosmos and challenge those beings who strive against order.
These rituals were written with a spirit model in mind but are accessible to those who perceive the gods as archetypes.
The format of the text allows for both the solitary practitioner to initiate themselves and leaders of covens, temples, or circles to initiate members if they choose to utilize the book for that purpose.
In addition to the rituals themselves, there are also devotional compositions that the reader may incorporate into their praxis or adapt for their own purposes, formularies for magica materia, and beautiful artwork by the incredibly talented Johnny Miller.
ev0ke: What do you mean by “mystery tradition”? And how did you go about creating it?
SD: We have countless resources concerning the mystery traditions surrounding Isis, Dionysus, Mithras, Orpheus, Persephone — each of these being incredibly moving for the initiated; however, we have no codified historical examples of a Mesopotamian mystery tradition.
The structure of the mystery tradition is wholly inspired by the extant information translated from the historical source material of the descent myths of several gods and mortals, as well as what could be considered “ascent myths” of those gods and mortals.
The text I’ve written follows the same format found within this literature from changing repetitions known historically as “balbale”, intoned passages meant to induce an altered state, and spoken dialogue in a format that is historically consistent with that form of literature known as “adamanduga.”
ev0ke: Did you approach Anathema Press, or did they come to you? If the former, how did you pitch the book to them?
SD: I had no intention of ever submitting my work for publication in the beginning. A friend of mine, however, Jack Grayle, was instrumental in convincing me to do so.
I had initially submitted my manuscript to another publisher, but the project was stalled due to unforeseen circumstances. I took a chance with Anathema after some nudging and the rest is history.
I couldn’t be happier.
ev0ke: You are also the founder of Four Reeds. What is the purpose of that organization, and how can people become involved with it?
SD: The purpose of Four Reeds is to highlight the specific subculture of Mesopotamian polytheists, pagans, and spiritualists (or however else one chooses to identify within that current), as there isn’t much visibility for our shared community.
Much like other formal organizations, the endgame is to provide such individuals with a voice, a platform, and to ensure that our collective contributions to our greater spiritual communities are recognized.
If readers wish to learn more, I welcome them to check out our website, fourreeds.org, for more information.
As COVID becomes better managed, I foresee Four Reeds becoming much more active.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
SD: I am currently working on a manuscript dedicated to the god Dumuzid which details his mythos, the evolution of his worship, and his relevance in ritual magic within the various cultures of the Mesopotamian people.
Like Rod & Ring, it will also include ritual, liturgy, and myths in the form of prose and serve to contemporize the spiritual current of this bewildering and complex god. In fact, one could go so far as to say that it could be considered a companion work that builds upon the foundation laid by the first book.