The word "religion" means a binding together or a system of beliefs, rituals, and standards of conduct. Religion provides spiritual and ethical guidance and offers an acceptable explanation of the mysteries of death. Religion in Mesopotamia gave the world its first mythology.
Mesopotamian mythology was a series of repeated stories that explained the unexplainable and was the backbone of the religion. The religion of Mesopotamia is the oldest religion that we have RECORDS of.
WHAT WE KNOW:
The Mesopotamians believed:
The Sumerian word for universe is an-ki. This denotes the god AN and the goddesss KI. Their offspring was ENLIL-the air god. He is considered the most powerful god in the Sumerian pantheon. Mesopotamians were polytheistic. In other words they believed in many gods. The Sumerians were clearly in touch with the spirit world...In matters of physical health, they relied on spiritual remedies, and turned to exorcists, to get rid of the demons that were possessing them.
Enlil and his powers...parallels the Greek God Zeus and the Roman God Jupiter.
One of these demons is the wind demon PAZUZU. Even though he was king of the evil demons, his image was used to protect women in childbirth. This is one of the motifs in the film, The Exorcist.
Hundreds of other gods and goddesses were born from these Sumerian gods: UTU--sun god and one of the chief deities; NINHURSAG-Mother Earth and was the source of life; ENKI-lord of wisdom; INANNA-goddess of love and war and was the patron deity of Uruk.
The gods are a window into the value system of the Mesopotamians--they valued fertility, sought protection in war, respected wisdom, and they clearly had a reverence for the earth. According to Mesopotamian mythology, human beings were created so the gods would have servants. One Babylonian creation myth states it like this...
"Man shall be charged with the service of the gods, that they might be at ease."
Notice that this view of God contrasts sharply with the concept that comes to us through the Hebrew and Christian traditions.
In essence---you wanted to treat the gods and goddesses right because they provided you with everything.
Several times a day in an elaborate ritual the god was served a sumptuous meal. The courses were set out before the statue of the god or goddess, music was played, and incense was sprinkled.
Here is a daily menu for the god Anu at Uruk:
They had quite a hearty appetite. The higher-echelon did all the preparation, and private individuals only came into contact with the gods when statues of deities were brought out of the temple and carried through the streets.
The burial rites of Sumerians are tied to their belief in the spirit world and they followed a strict pattern.
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