Nanna, the Sumerian Moon god, later known as Nanna-Suen or Sin, is already mentioned in the Old Sumerian god-lists from Fara. His worship can be traced back at Ur since at least the middle of the second millennium Before Common Era. His temple there was called the E-kishnugal, praised in several ancient hymns. The office of high priestess at Ur was customarily filled by a royal princess, and her enthronement was an event of national importance and duly recorded in year names since the beginnings of the Sargon the Akkadian, the first monarch to unify Mesopotamia in an empire. Enheduanna, the daughter of Sargon the Akkadian, was the first recorded High Priestess of Nanna, and she can be considered the first author in Western history, once several temply hymns and compositions of great literary valor are attributed to her. References and theophoric names composed with Nanna are particularly frequent during the period of the Third Dynasty of Ur. At this time many other sanctuaries were built or restored for him, notably the famous ziggurat at Ur by Ur-Nammu, the founder of this golden period of Mesopotamian history. Ziggurats are the Mesopotamian-style pyramids or man-made towers whose steps guided the faithful towards the highest point linking the physical plane to the Heights, the priest/ess being the link with the gods and worlds below.

Nanna the Moon God is the first born of Enlil, Lord Air, and his consort, Ninlil. His birth is told in one of the most passionate descent stories ever written, where young Ninlil, Nanna´s future mother, is raped by the most arrogant and powerful of the young gods, Enlil, who is then tried by the Great Gods and condemned to the Underworld. Ninlil, already pregnant with Nanna, hers and Enki´s child, descends after Enlil to bring him back to the Heights Above. Thus, Nanna is conceived out of youthful impulsiveness, but His coming will bring Change and Growth for His Divine Parents, and together with Enlil, His father, Nanna decides the Fates. Nanna´s consort is Ningal, the daughter of Ningikuga, the Goddess of Reeds, and Enki, the God of Sweet Waters, Magick, Crafts, Arts and Wisdom. Various poetical compositions describe Nanna´s and Ningal´s rapturous courtship. Indeed, we could well say that Nanna and Ningal is a delightful story of young god-meets-maiden goddess in Sumer, and the result of their union could not be more auspicious: Inanna/Ishtar, the Morning and Evening Star, the future Great Goddess of Love and War, Lover, Beloved and Gutsy Avenger in One, and Utu/Shamash, the Sun God and Light of the Day. So out of the love of Nanna for Ningal, the two inner and outer luminaries that brigthen up existence came into being: Love and Daylight.

Another composition that extends Nanna´s connection with light and fertility to include all aspects of fruitfulness and agriculture especially in Sumer is called Nanna´s Journey to Nippur. It begins with a description of Nippur, which is ready built, rich in animal and plant life, but devoid of people. Nanna decides to visit Enlil, his father´s city by boat. He loads it with trees, plants and animals. On the way he stops several times at is greeted by the local gods of each city. Eventually Nanna arrives in Nippur, and Enlil, delighted, celebrates his son and grants him wishes of plenty on his return to Ur. This myth is probably connected with a yearly ritual journey between Ur and Nippur, which may have entailed a ritual exchange of dairy and agricultural products.


Now, how can we understand the Moon´s complex character? Firstly, Nanna the Moon in Mesopotamia is the Master of Time, and therefore at once young and old. By ever renewing himself and illuminating primeval darkness, Nanna brought to humanity a priceless gift: the awareness of Time, the cosmic Measure that enables the contemplation of Eternity through the little and great facts that shape up with Meaning our lives' lows and highs. For as Nanna moved slowly over the night skies changing from waxing to waning glow, He opened the doors of heaven to let in and out days, months and years always to return. Life´s heartbeat then synchronised in perfect harmony with His silvery shine: tides, the coming of spring floods to renew the land, the growth of reeds, the breathing in and out of all greens, abundance of milk, cheese and cream and, most of all, the sacred blood of womanhood. In other words, for our ancestors awareness of the passing of time and the making of the first calendars followed a lunar pattern, in a cycle ever to return.

I would like to draw everyone´s attention now to a recent article by Professor Stefan Maul (University of Heidelberg, Germany) about how Mesopotamians perceived time:

" If one compares Akkadian concepts designating "past" and "future" with their respective German or English counterparts, one immediately makes an astonishing discovery. The etymology of Akkadian concepts for "earlier" [pa*n, pa*na, pa *na *nu(m); pa*ni, pa*nu(m)] or for "earlier time," the "past" [pa *na *tu; pa*ni*tu(m), pa*nu*] indicates that these concepts are derived from the Akkadian pa*num or "front," in the plural pa *n u* or "face."3 The Sumerian corrolary to Akkadian concepts of the past (such as pa *na, pa *na *nu, pa *ni *tu etc. and marh_ru(m)) is formed through the word "i g i ," which means "eye" and also "face," and thus "front" in the figurative sense.4 The same is true of Akkadian concepts designating the "future": the words (w)arka, (w)arka*nu(m), (w)arki , meaning "later" or "afterwards," (w)arku(m), meaning "future," and (w)arki*tu(m), meaning "later," "later time," or the "future," are derived from (w)arkatu(m), meaning "back, behind." The corresponding Sumerian concepts (e g e r , m u r g u, b a r ) also mean "rear" and "backside."... -- it is clear that from the perspective of a Babylonian, the past lay before him or "faced him," while the future (warki*tum) was conceived as lying behind him." " (article in full is in Ancient Mesopotamian Capitals: Reflections and Navel of the World)

Thus, the Mesopotamian conception of time as exposed by Professor Maul reinforces the profound religiosity of our soul ancestors centered on Nanna/Sin as the Prince of the Gods, for Nanna brought the awareness of the past as events that should be always analysed and reviewed, therefore laying before us as the fruits of our deeds, and a vision of the future based grounded on foreknowledge of things past.

Secondly, Nanna is the Secret-Hearted and will bestow vigilance and and illumination for the diligent student of the Soul's mysteries. This is better explained in The Phoenician Letters (Davies and Zur, Mowat Publishing, Manchester, UK, 1979), Nanna-Sin is the last letter of a series of ten from master to acolyte prince. One of the striking points about Nanna-Sin raised by the master refers to Nanna as the image of things. As such He has the quality of change, because the Moon is never the same in two days. The same way it is very difficult to talk of "the tableness of tables or the lilyness of a lily", and that this is the reason why legends and stories were made, to be passed on in a way that would speak to the heart and memory of humankind, so that "reason would not interfere with its hearing" (page 98).

I never cease to marvel at the beauty of this statement, because again we have another Mystery teaching within the Mesopotamian tradition, that take us back to the roots of consciousness and awareness of the Divine for our soul ancestors. What the master is really telling us here is that one of the sources of ancient wisdom in Mesopotamia comes from sacred storytelling, most probably from a time before all befores, or the oral tradition, as told in myths and parables which mirrored the inner fabric of consciousness and reflected communities´ highest aspirations. The master states that "these stories are meant to give to the mind of man images by which to think", for "stories are images, a personal image which tells a story real within oneself", and that they "carry an heroic quality, something from former times that is relived in the life of each man". To illustrate his point, the master illustrates his point by retelling in detail to the acolyte the story of Gilgamesh, or Aromea. However, the master´s retelling of Aromea´s/Gilgamesh´s story differs from the Epic in its ending, because the master´s account is a success story, i.e.:

"...Aromea entered again into the life of man, where he ruled as a good ruler, made peace with Tiach-al-Zach, mated and begat child" (page 106)

Thus, we have a healed Gilgamesh who lived his mortality to the fullest to deserve immortality in the hearts, minds and souls of his people, as stated in the Prologue of the Gilgamesh Epic, Tablet 1. But there is more, because at the end of his journey,

" ... he [Aromea-Gilgamesh ]carried as rememberance an amulet containing the fragment of wisdom, so that he would go down into death with it in the hope of not sleeping, and he made a song to the god Sin [Nanna].... for You bring change and need and sustenance, and man is the creature of your form" (pages 106 and 107).

Indeed, taking the imagery of the Phoenician Letters, we can say that Aromea-Gilgamesh gets back to his kingdom (or image of Rimon) to become a good ruler (emulation of the image of Nanna-Sin), who can be likened to the Crown of Heavenly Leadership on Earth (Kether of the Cabala) a future sovereign should emulate. The Phoenician Letters involve the training of a priest-king, and I would dare to say that any similarity with the Cabala is not a coincidence, as the Phoenician Letters can be seen as a proto-Cabala, Mesopotamian style.

Moreover, for a Mesopotamian mystic it is clear from the Prologue of the Epic of Gilgamesh that the king of Uruk did heal himself in the end by becoming a great king, by building the walls of Uruk and being called "he to whom wisdom clung like a cloak". For a Mesopotamian in the mind, body, heart and soul, it is the life of the spirit as manifested on earth that matters most. And this is one of the riddles embedded in the first Epic of human history many are heart-blind to see.

The Phoenician Letters also explains why Nanna-Sin is particularly the ruler of women, "for the months of the moon are the days of a woman´s courses, and the days of her conception are the ten months of the god Nanna-Sin". The master goes on to affirm that this is the reason why there is no priest of Nanna-Sin, but a high priestess ruling His rites.

Finally, it is important to mention various phases of the lunar cycle were celebrated, the king being the main celebrant in many of these rites. When the Moon disappeared during eclipses, especial care and incantations were recited for the protection of the king on earth as well.

During the New Moon, Nanna spends his days of sleep in the Underworld, where He also decides the fates of the dead.

One of my favorite alchemical quotations is by Gerhard Dorn, a Swiss alchemist of the 17th century. It says: "Blind Soul, arm thyself with the Torch of the Mysteries, and in the night of Earth, thou shalt uncover thy Guide. Follow Him/Her, for S/He holds the keys to your lives, past and to come".

The beauty of these words evoke the rapturous feelings I have for the Silvery Moon Lord and Impetuous Lover, the Secret-Hearted and Master of Time of Mesopotamia.

Father Nanna, Praise!


Back To 'Lords of Passion...'

Back To The 'Gods'-Section