[Welcome to our column, Talking My Path. Here, polytheists, witches, and Pagans of any tradition are invited to discuss and celebrate their spirituality in a series of five short questions. If you would like to participate, don’t hesitate to email Rebecca Buchanan at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
ev0ke: How do you define your particular tradition or path? Does it have a specific name?
SD: My spiritual praxis is informed by Sumerian and Akkadian religious practices and mythology. Those of a like mind agree that our shared tradition is “Sumerian Reconstruction.” I have, at times, referred to it as Mesopotamian Polytheism and Kaldanism (the Arabic word for “Chaldeanism”). As with anyone who would consider themselves a reconstructionist to one degree or another, there’s a great deal of research that often comes with the territory. While I am not as staunch as some of my peers who adhere to tradition as closely as possible, I nonetheless find that it is necessary to look to the past for guidance, while simultaneously keeping my eyes on the present.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?
SD: The Sumerians believed that civilization was a gift from the gods. I believe that this gift should be honored and with it the numerous (positive) advances that civilization has given us. I believe that in doing so, I can ensure that the legacy of the Mesopotamian people maintains its relevance in a modern world.
Among the many gods who have a place in my home (which supports a temple room large enough to accommodate others), I honor Inanna, a goddess who needs no introduction; Nanna-Sin, the god of the moon and his spouse, Ningal, goddess of divination and dreams; Utu, god of the sun and justice; Gula, goddess of healing; and Marduk, the patron of Babylon. For over a year now, after a divination ritual performed by an acquaintance, I have developed a more robust devotional praxis dedicated to Ishkur, god of abundance and storms (among numerous other things). There have been numerous synchronicities and events related to Ishkur which have been witnessed by myself and others. This strongly indicates to me that these experiences are more than mere coincidence.
In the spirit of relevance, I conflate certain elements from Mesopotamian geography, myth, and religion with my local geographic area. Some examples include conflating two prominent rivers near my home with the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. The local rivers are vital for the growth of the land and have had a sacred significance for the indigenous people that once lived in this land. They feed natural aquifers and creeks, and lend their names to the region of the American Midwest in which I reside. There is even a large hill resembling a ziggurat in a local park which has served as a site for numerous public and private ritual gatherings.
My spiritual praxis also includes honoring the spirits of the land in and around my home. There is a rich diversity of spirits and I have worked in earnest to gain their trust.
ev0ke: Among the various festivals and holy days celebrated in your tradition, which is the most important to you, and why?
SD: A number of those who identify with the Sumerian Reconstruction movement refer to the Nippur Calendar, which is the most concise of the lunar calendars of the Ancient Near East. Among the numerous holy days and festivals, that predate the Wheel of the Year by millennia, is the festival known as Kin-Inanna. Kin-Inanna translates to “Work of Inanna” and is a time when her idols, temples, and shrines were ritually washed. To me, this is the perfect time to thoroughly and reverently clean one’s ritual spaces, idols, bathe ritually, and contemplate the notion that “cleanliness is next to godliness.”
ev0ke: Which texts, websites, or other resources would you recommend to someone interested in your tradition?
SD: There are a number of resources I cherish. While my list of recommendations is exhausting, those I suggest the most are Thorkild Jacobson’s Treasures of Darkness, Betty de Shong Meador’s Inanna: Lady of the Largest Heart, and Benjamin R. Foster’s magnum opus, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. Another great resource is The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. The ETCSL, as it’s known, is an online project of the University of Oxford, which comprises a selection of nearly four hundred literary compositions transliterated and translated available for free to the public.
ev0ke: Is there anything you would like to add, such as creative projects you are undertaking, festivals or events you will be attending, and so on?
SD: I’m researching my Middle Eastern and Asian ancestry in comparison with my spiritual and religious orientation. My mother is Pakistani and the cultural, artistic, and religious diffusion from the Middle East into South Asia is a fascinating subject.
I have submitted the first manuscript for a series of books I’ve been researching and writing which will later be published by Nephilim Press. Once published, these books will offer readers the opportunity to initiate themselves into a Mesopotamian mystery tradition akin to that of the mystery traditions of Isis, Persephone, Orpheus, and Dionysus in Greece. It is my hope that this tradition will foster community growth and give others a template from which they can develop and enrich their own praxis.
I have a number of other writing and research projects, art projects, and speaking engagements lined up. I am eagerly awaiting confirmation to present again at Paganicon in March 2020.
I’ve also recently completed work on an adaptation of The Descent of Inanna. This is slated for inclusion as classroom material for California State University, Los Angeles’ ancient history syllabus next year.