The first born of Enlil, Nanna seems to refer to him specifically as the full moon, Suen as the crescent, and yet a third name, Asim-babbar, as the new light. His symbol is the crescent moon, and his name is commonly written as the number 30, the days of the month of which he is responsible for. (I haven't been able to find the cuneiform of this, at the moment.)
Nanna’s cosmic functions were essentially to light up the night, to measure time, and to provide fertility.
Corresponding to the phases of the moon, festivals called eshesh (i.e., "all-temple" or "general" festivals) were celebrated on the first, seventh, and fifteenth of the month during the Third Dynasty of Ur. Special offerings were made on the day the moon was invisible and though to be dead: udnua, "the day of lying down," the day Nanna went to the netherworld to judge and make administrative decisions there with the chthonic deities, Enki and Ninki. Eventually, his work in the netherworld done, the god reappears in the skies as the new moon.
The monthly lunar festivals were, it seems, intimately connected with the king and his house. During the Third Dynasty of Ur the offerings on the day the moon was invisible seem to have been in charge of the reigning queen, and in Umma, and perhaps elsewhere, the eshesh festivals were a responsibility of the temples of the deified deceased rulers of the dynasty.
A cause for considerable anxiety was, as might be expected, the occasional occurrence of an eclipse blotting out, or partly darkening, the bright smiling face of the moon. In the first millennium BC such an event was the occasion for the great gods to inquire Suen how the evil portended by the eclipse might be avoided; a seemingly earlier conception, preserved in the so-called "Eclipse Myth," took a more serious view of the event. In that view the eclipse was due to an attack by evil demons on Nanna after they had seduced his two children, Inanna and Ishkur, to their side. In the ensuing crisis Enlil was able to alert Enki, who sent his son Marduk to aid Nanna -presumably with satisfactory results. The text ends with a magical ritual involving the breaking of a thread and ritual ablutions of the king, wholike the new-light, Suen, holds in his hands
Lustrations to keep the bright moon free of defilement appear indeed to have been a fairly general feature of the cult and to have taken place not only at eclipses but annually at New Year, which in Ur probably fell at the beginning of the month Mashdagu, and at the "Great Festival" (Ezenmah) in the ninth month which took its name from it.
Perhaps because the relation of the moon to the tides had been observed or perhaps, because, as god of the cowherders, his worshipers looked to him to provide the spring floods on which they depended, the moon god Nanna-Suen was also a god of fertility.
In the Dumuzi cult the love songs led up to the marriage of the god, which was celebrated in a rite of sacred marriage. In this rite the king assumed the identity of the god while a high priestess seems to have embodied the goddess. Such a rite appears also to have formed part of the Nanna cult. We know that the high priestess of Nanna in Ur, chosen from the royal family, was considered to be the human spouse of the god. She was, as one such high priestess described herself, "the loins suitable as to holiness for the office of high priestess." her title, zirru, is a name for Ningal, the wife of Nanna, so she may well have been a ritual embodiment of the goddess. One may guess that the sacred marriage was celebrated at the Akiti festival of Nanna in the twelfth month, when offerings connected with "setting up the bed" are recorded.
Another rite of spring was the nisag-boat, "the first fruits boat", which took gifts of the first dairy products of the year from Ur to Nippur. The meaning of this ritual act, we would suggest, was religious celebration and sanction of the exchange of products of the different economies of the cattlemen in the southern marshes and of the farmers in the north.
A balbale to Suen (Nanna A)
A balbale to Nanna (Nanna B)
A balbale to Nanna (Nanna C)
A balbale to Nanna (Nanna D)
The herds of Nanna (Nanna F)
A hymn to Nanna (Nanna G)
An adab to Nanna (Nanna H)
A tigi to Suen (Nanna I)
An ululumama to Nanna (Nanna J)
A šir-namšub to Suen (Nanna K)
A šir-namgala to Nanna (Nanna L)
A hymn to Nanna (Nanna M)
A hymn to Nanna (Nanna N)
Home / Sumer / Articles and PDF’s / Fiction / My Stuff / Links / Recommended Books
Questions? Contact Michele at firstname.lastname@example.org
And by all means, let me know if a link doesn’t work. There are a lot of pages on my site, and I try to make sure all links are updated, but sometimes the gods have other plans in mind.