Nabu is a Babylonian god, the son of Marduk and his consort Sarpanitum, and grand-son of Ea. The etymology of his name is disputed: could be derived from nb´ or to call, announce, meaning something like "He hwo has Called", or it could be from ne/abu, for shining, brilliant, or from a quite different unknown old-Syrian root. His power over human existence is immense, because He engraves the destiny of each person, as the Gods have decided, on the tablets of sacred record. Thus, He has the power to increase or diminish, at will, the length of human life. His symbols are the clay/stone tablet with the writing stylo, and his sacred animal is t he winged dragon who is initially his father´s. He wears a horned cap, and stands with hands clasped, in the ancient gesture of priest/esshood

Originally, Nabu was a West Semitic deity, mentioned among the Ebla gods. By the beginning of the second millennium BCE, the Amorites had introduced him to Mesopotamia, probably at the same time as Marduk. The two gods continued to have close connections throughout their history (well into the Persian period and beyond). While Marduk became Babylon´s main deity, Nabu resided in nearby Borsippa in his temple E-zida. He was first called the "scribe and minister of Marduk", later assimilated as Marduk´s beloved son from Sarpanitum, Marduk´s consort. Nabu is accorded the office of patron of the scribes, taking over from the Sumerian goddess Nisaba. His consort is Tashmetum, whose name derives from the Akkadian "shamu", meaning something like "the granting of requests", thus being a merciful mediator, protector against evil and goddess of love and potency. Astronomically, Tashmetum is identified with the sign of Capricorn. It is important nevertheless to point out that in Sumer the goddess of writing was Nisaba/Nidaba, not Nabu. Thus, He represents a futher stage of perception of knowledge

A fair number of beautifully written tablets were deposited in Nabu´s sanctuary as ex-voto offerings, but so far no literary text extolling the deeds and functions of His have been found. Nabu was also worshipped in Assyria: Shalmanesser I built the first Nabu sanctuary in Ashur ca. 1300 BCE, and others followed in Nineveh, Kalah and Khorsabad. Following the expansion of the Assyrian empire from Sargon II onwards, he became one of the great gods of the realm and was frequently invoked in royal inscriptions. His popularity among the Assyrians is also well documented by numerous private names, letters and prayers. Being the patron of the scribal arts, he also represented the cultural traditions of the South, which were greatly admired. After the downfall of Assyria, Nabu rose to a high rank in the Neo-Babylonian pantheon, first as Marduk´s son and then in his own right. His cult in fact endured well into the Parthian period. With his elevation to the ranks of the great gods, Nabu became a cosmic deity, entrusted with the Tablets of Destiny, 'pronouncing the Fate" of humankind. The texts equate him with Ninurta. He was also sometimes mentioned as the god of water and of the fertility of fields, maybe through his descent from Ea/Enki, with whom he also shares the epithet of god of wisdom.


During the Akitu, the New Year´s Festival in Babylon, Nabu is the royal prince of the gods who comes to liberate his father Marduk, ritually held in the Underworld, and as such behave as the Avenger of his Father and Hope for Balance Restored in the Land. Nabu´s role in Assyria is taken up by Ninurta. Thus, on the sixth day of festivities, Nabu comes from Borsippa to Babylon together with foreign high dignataries and other gods, taking up residence in his chapel in Marduk´s temple. The following day, accompanied by these gods, Nabu liberates Marduk from the ritual representation of the Underworld on earth, and in the eighth day in triumph father and son return to Babylon to proceed to the First Determination of Destiny. For those interested in comparisons between Egypt and Babylon, here we have an interesting parallel. In Mesopotamia, Marduk or Ashur are not dying or dead gods who are not restored to power and as such succeeded by the royal prince. This is the case of Egypt, where Osiris really dies and Horus takes up his place. In Babylon and Assyria, Marduk and Ashur face the Underworld initiation to return in triumph to the Heights Above. The bond both gods have with their divine sons is a bond forged in life, loyalty and love and joy. Compare then with Egypt: the saga of betrayal and revenge, whereas in Mesopotamia we have a life-affirming ritual that speaks of the depth of family ties to restore harmondy and celebrate union in all levels and spheres.

There is a wonderful reference on the Sacred Marriage of Nabu and Tashmetum, which reads as follows:

' Tomorrow, that is, ont he fouth day of Iyyar, toward evening, Nabu and Tashmetum will enter the bedchamber. On the 5th day, they shall be given of the king´s food to eat, the temple overseer being present. A lion´s head and a torch shall be brought to the palace. From the 5th to the 10th both gods will stay in the bed chamber, the temple overseer staying with them. On the 11th day Nabu will go out, he will exercise his feet; he will go to the hunting park; he will kill wild oxen, then he will go up and dwell in his habitation. He will bless the king... I have written to the king my lord in order that the king my lord know about it" (Zimmern, "Zum babylonischen Neujarfest" pg. 152


Finally, let´s examine what The Phoenician Letters say about Nabu. The letter attributed to Nabu is the second, after the considerations of the first, which involved Adad and the knowledge and knowing of Nature and the physical world. The second letter calls Nabu the god of speech, the god of letters and the god of science, and then asks:

" and why is it that the god of speech can speak to earth? Can we speak to earth? But the earth speaks. Can we speak to the water? But the water speaks. And the fire. They speak and and we recognise. Why the god of writings? In the sky, signs; in the fire, visions; in the water, shapes; and on the earth, letters. Know the signs and your eyes will speak for them. The Black men, the Yellow men, the Brown men speak. We hear, listen, and do not understand. In the signs they write we may understand their speech. But the eyes must recognise (Lishtar´s emphasis).

Why the god of science? The laws of the beasts, the law of the arts, the laws of growth and decay, seed time and harvest, sickness and health. The laws of water, earth, fire and air. When we recognise them, them we know how we may act, in the smallest way for the best result. " page 15

Knowledge thus under the aegis of Nabu includes all sorts of symbolic and practical understanding one can get by being and living in the world, by observing and learning, so that the eyes can recognise, and the mind, heart, body and soul never forget. This way Nabu is the inspired voice, and "from Him all that can be communicated comes, the laws and the signs and the symbols - all are His, and the eyes and ears, the mouth and the nose and the fingers, the common senses", as well as all the numbers: "Nabu is the architect, He also measures and weighs, He plans the foundations and measures the heights".

Summing up, it is clear that in the bright figure of Nabu, the Heavenly Crown Prince of Babylon, there was a statement of faith in the continuity of life based on all sorts of knowledge and knowing to be applied in all facets of human endeavour. Another mighty healing that should be brought to light because it is grounded in the voices of our soul ancestors. Voices which never really ceased to speak up to the hearts, minds, bodies and souls those who dared to listen to the Call, and inflamed the works of Kramer, Bottéro, Oppenheim, Jacobsen, Adapa, Esharra, Shem, Lilinah...


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