April 1st, 2017 – Fort Russ News –
– Syrian Researchers – – translated by Samer Hussein –
Every year on the 1st of April, New Year holiday is celebrated in accordance with the old Assyrian/Babylonian/Syrian calendar. It is known as “Akitu”. On this day the life cycle gets renewed in nature through the spring equinox (and for the 6767th time in 2017).
Astronomically, April 1st marks the first day of the New Year of the civilization that deeply valued the contact with nature, while also having a vital need to adjust the time with its surroundings.
In linguistic terms, the meaning of “Akitu” refers to the date of sowing and harvesting of wheat. The discovered ancient writings
revealed that the festivity of Akitu first emerged as an agricultural celebration, related to harvest. The latter was performed twice per year, first (Nisannu) towards the end of March and beginning of April and the second (Tisritu), between the months of September and October. This ancient celebration of agricultural nature has eventually become a national holiday that was celebrated on an annual basis.
The holiday occurs in the period of the year when the day and night are in a complete balance with each other, being either at the end of March or the beginning of April, depending on the annual session of the moon. This sheds some light on the beliefs, prevailing at the time and which were shared among Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Syrians. it was believed that the annual
movement of the moon is only a “closed circular motion”, which included the nature and the elements of immortality and the continuation of life.
The celebration was further associated with relationship between the Moon God Nanna and the Sun God Utu. With the passing of time, Nana became the godfather of time in Mesopotamia.
Such was the mythological background of Akitu celebration in the ancient city of Uru. Other Mesopotamian cities, adopted celebrations in accordance with the rites of the main gods that served them.
The feast of Akitu is the oldest festival, recorded in the history of the Middle East and its earliest references go back to the mid-third millennium BC, more precisely to the ancient city of Uru, where Akitu was especially reserved for the Sumerian Moon God Nanna and it was thought that on this occasion His Holiness gets mixed with the beauty and tranquility of nature, thus making it the best opportunity to perform the sacred ritual of marriage, meaning fertility was also a secret attachment to this festivity.
In the time of the Babylonians, Akitu was considered an important religious celebration, marking the triumph of the Storm God Marduk against the creator Goddess (and dragoness) Tiamat. According to the legend, Marduk slew Tiamat and from her devoured body managed to create Heaven and Earth.
In these ancient times, Akitu festivities would last for a period of twelve days, with the first four days being devoted to the practice of religious rituals, prayers and sacrificial rituals, as well as reading the Enuma Elish epic of creation which explains how the Gods became united under Marduk’s command, following his triumph against Tiamat.
The 8 remaining days were devoted to various social and political activities,in addition to some religious rituals. In the ancient city of Babylon, the celebration of Akitu was based on the return of life to nature, after the Gods decided to allow the Underworld God Tammuz to get married to his fiancee, the fertility Goddess Ishtar. Their marriage would eventually result in the blossoming of spring.
The term “House of Akitu” refers to the place, inhabited by the Gods on Earth, and tells a story about how the Gods lived on Earth but far away from the human world. The Gods would only live there temporarily, before moving to the cities where they would then live permanently.
The hidden meaning of Akitu celebration therefore is:
Celebrating the time in which the Gods choose the city that would become their permanent residence. As such, the house of Akitu has to be guardedand protected from that moment until the end of the universe.
The role of the House of Akitu: two constants that can be found for each of the festivals in April and October. The first is that the house Akito, the place where Gods live for several days before moving to their cities, should be placed outside the city walls. The second is that the people should not get something that is unusual in the house, and of course offering the expected performances and prayer in the house of Gods.
Being the main event in the city itself, and it can be said that Akitu first emerged in Uru as a celebration of thebeginning of the moderation cycle. The main theme is to celebrate the arrival of the Moon God Nana, which is symbolized by the moon glowing in the sky, and his triumphant return, following his brief stay in the house of Akitu.
The festival was later adopted in Nippur, also known as the religious capital of Mesopotamia. It was a great opportunity to welcome the local Gods and show them respect that they deserved, while in turn the Gods would bring justice and prosperity to the city. In some of the cities, however, welcoming the Gods (particularly the Fertility Goddess Ishtar) did not always happen in accordance with traditional Akitu routine. Instead, a different celebration would take place where a statue of the goddess would be taken to the house of Akitu, where offerings and prayers would be conducted during its stay. The statue would later be returned to the city in a large convoy.
We can therefore conclude that in the ancient city of Uru, Akitu was first and foremost a celebration of life and nature. This is nicely evident from the legend of Nana and his trip to Nippur. The harvested fruits eventually get shared with everyone, and Nana comes every year from the sky in a boat, full of animals and fruits. Nana eventually concludes his journey by visiting his father Enlil (the Mesopotamian God of Agriculture).
His visit is marked as a celebration of peace, love and sharing of wealth, which will enable the peoples of Mesopotamia (according to the prevailing beliefs in that period) to survive.
To this very day, the people of the land are celebrating Akitu.