|Letter to Prof. Simo Parpola|
- Sunday, April 25 2004, 18:39:01 (CEST)|
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Is Tammuz symbolised by the Mesopotamian Tree of Life?
Dear Prof. Parpola,
I have recently delved into the Myth of Ishtar and Tammuz. This research led me to the following assumption which I would like your help in confirming.
Throughout the Old Testament the green (evergreen) tree is mentioned as a place of worship. (See Deuteronomy 12:2, 1 Kings 14:23, 2 Kings 16:4, 2 Kings 17:10, 2 Chronicles 28:4, Isaiah 57:5, Jeremiah 2:20, Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:13, Jeremiah 17:2, Ezekiel 6:13, Ezekiel 17:24, Ezekiel 20:47, Hosea 14:8)
In the Ishtar and Tammuz myth, Tammuz dies young and his birth is honoured on his birthday which coincided with the Winter Solstice. This was celebrated around December 21st. Part of the religious ritual involved cutting down a young evergreen tree as a way of commemorating the premature death of Tammuz. Along with this the Babylonians would also burn a Yala (Yule) log, called "the log of the son.” It was burned in the fire to symbolise the death of Tammuz. The next day the evergreen tree would be decorated with silver and gold. The log that was burned was now alive again as the Tammuz tree. The Old Testament book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:3-4) also describes how the Birth of Tammuz was celebrated in ancient Babylon , "..for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax; They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not."
Ishtar is at times also depicted with symbols of fertility, such as the date palm.
The best example of what an evergreen palm tree of life depicting Tammuz is taken from the throne room of Ashurnasirpal II which shows the "Tree of Life" affixed and appearing to be decorated in much the same way that Jeremiah(Jeremiah 10:3-4) described.
In other words the King was showing himself as the resurrected divine son of the gods bringing fertility to the land. Now if we consider the Ishtar and Tammuz myth and the sacred marriage between Ishtar and Tammuz that was re-enacted by the king/high priest and high priestess during the Assyrian-Babylonian New Year festival, can it be assumed that the symbol in Assyrian palace iconography known as the Tree of Life is none other than the god of fertility himself, Tammuz?
The Assyrian King would therefore be acting as the son of the gods on earth and is literally the god of fertility Tammuz. This is made apparent in another panel from the bed chamber in palace of Ashurnasirpal II in which a winged King is shown holding a raised stalk of wheat in his right hand and a kid (baby goat) in his left hand. This symbol could depict the King as the born-again Tammuz, who besides being a youthful shepherd, was also the god of crops and fertility.
If it turns out to be the case then the very same Tree of Life depicted on the bas relief in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II not only symbolises Tammuz, but is also used by the Western world today to celebrate Christmas!
So far this is just a theory and I’d appreciate your opinion on this theory and any sources, should you have them, which may support or even negate this theory.
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
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