The Standard of Ur, Nanna´s sacred city
Nanna and Ningal can be easily described as the Sumerian quickest, happiest and less complicated version of myth of young god meets young goddess and both fall for each other at first sight. But who are they, the young god and goddess?
Nanna is the Moon god, later called Sin by the Babylonians and Assyrians, the first born of Enlil, the all powerful Air God and his consort, Ninlil, lady Air. Nanna is the Torch of the Night, which by ever renewing himself and illuminating primeval darkness, brought along 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, and opening the doors of heaven to let in and out days, months and years always to return, life's heartbeat synchronised in perfect harmony with the Moon's 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.
Nanna the Moon according to the Sumerians is at once young and old, bringing Rest to the land and the living, dreams and the wildest fantasies. Much loved and feared by some, Nanna's shine makes everything equally far and near, close by and yet mysteriously remote. His is a strangeness both intimate and frightening, for his coming brings either sweet dreams or weird, challenging nightmares to play during slumber. But if one chooses to, Nanna will also bestow vigilance and illumination for the diligent student of the Soul's mysteries. One of his common epithets is Prince of the Gods, and He is also said to be impetuous and gay.
Ningal, on the other hand, is the beloved daughter of Ningikuga, the Goddess of Reeds, and Enki, the God of Magic, Crafts and Wisdom. To fully understand Ningikuga as a Great Goddess, it is necessary to go back in time to the Southernmost part of Mesopotamia, where people started first gathering in settlements and to build the first huts for housing and temples for the gods also made of reeds. It was in a place called Eridu, the first identified settlement in South Mesopotamia and city dedicated to Enki, where "kingship descended from the heavens to the land". Ningikuga is therefore a very old Goddess, who tell us of the beginnings of organised life, once reeds were used to build houses, temples, furniture, sailing rafts, as well as fences to prevent flooding the neighbouring areas. Her relationship with Enki dates therefore from the very beginning of urbanised life in Sumer. Their daughter, Ningal, is said to be young and pretty, as well as to possess the gift to unveil the language of the Unknown revealed in images, age-old legends, poetry and most of all, in dreams. Thus, in her we have another timeless archetype of wholeness: She is the goddess of Dream Interpretation, of insight and divination, therefore somewhat reserved, living with her mother in the fertile marshlands of South Mesopotamia. And it is Ningal who first falls in love with Nanna, as the young lord progressed upon the night skies.
When Nanna and Ningal finally meet by the marshes, after a succession of Moon seasons (or years), it is love at first sight. Being young and full of desire, they meet by the reeds and make wild and sweet love for for a full, intense forthnight, hidden from the older and wiser gods. Then, on the eve of the night of the Dark of the Moon, Nanna says goodbie to Ningal, promissing to return in two nights´ time.
Perhaps because so much joy the ancient gods did not want the young ones to hide, and most certainly because a love so great need to be protected within the sacred ties and rites shat should bind couples for the sake of the offspring to come, the Great Gods find a way to hide Nanna´s moonshine from the skies for more than one, two, three more nights. Thus, hardly containing his impatience, Nanna descends to the Earth in disguise, and as a pilgrim, begging for shelter, face hidden not to be recognized, he knocks at Ningal´s and Ningikuga´s door, and to woo Ningal to meet him again later in the marshes. But this time Ningal tells him to wait. With the certainty of a woman who knows her own heart, mind, body and soul, she states that she would only come to Nanna when a set of requirements of hers should be fulfilled. Only then she would come to live with him in Ur. And this is exactly what Nanna does, acknowledging Ningal as his true consort and beloved.
What are the timeless lessons contained in this myth for us today? Clearly, the following: a) divine lovemaking is spontaneous and certain license is conceeded to the young in Mesopotamia, who nevertheless b) must make official their liaison and c) be faithful to the vows made to each other. I stress the point that Ningal meets Nanna for the first time (and a couple of other times too!), but it is herself that sets up a series of conditions before welcoming back the Moon Lord into the sweetness of her company. This is a remarkable example of feminine assertiveness, and the male god graciously concedes defeat and does exactly as he had been asked by the lady of his heart.
This myth also shows that love is very much about the surrender of selves that open up to each other, where both partners are victors. Its keyword is reciprocation, the Dance of Intimacy and Play that is built up in Everyday Life with Creativity, Sexyness and Imagination and leads to Eternity.
And it is not by chance that the two participants of this happy love story, Lord of the Moon and His Consort , become later the father and mother to the brightest lights that illuminate humankind: Utu the Sun, the Outer Light of the Day, and Inanna/Ishtar, the Great Goddess of Love and War, Love being the Truest Inner Light that makes everything special and the simplest things divine.
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