Monday, 28 March 2016

hot cross-buns or imitation is the greatest form of flattery

The good doctor and faithful chronicler remind us on this Easter Monday of other ancient rites of Spring—though the mourning and fast seems transposed to the high summer months of Sumer with the solstice rather than the equinox, and it’s always dicey having truck with the elder gods since there’s not the same level of scholarship and sometimes parallels are forced (or our bias looks to distance them). In any case, there was a prolonged funeral service held every year just as the daylight started to wane a bit more than it had the day prior, and during this time is was in keeping for the mourners to make the sign of a “t” across their chests and eat little cakes stamped with a “t” for the departed but soon to return of shepherd-god Tammuz (Dumuzid), loyal consort of fertility goddess Inanna (Istar, to whom eggs and bunnies were sacred). Accounts become conflated but some hold that Tammuz (still the name of the month of July in some Arabic languages some four millennia later) died whilst defending his flock from a marauding boar.
Other mythological traditions support this trope, including the enchantress Circe turning hapless men into swine, the battle-boars of the Norse gods and the jealous god Ares (Mars) transforming himself into one to kill Adonis. Inanna threatens to make the world an infertile wasteland, unless Tammuz is returned to her. Another version offers that Tammuz dies at his own volition in order to harrow the Underworld, as for reasons only known to the goddess, she popped in to check in on the vanquished Bull of Heaven (done in by Gilgamesh and his partner in crime, Enkidu in an earlier episode) and managed to get herself stuck there. Tammuz and his lady-love only manage a compromised ransom, however, and Tammuz spends half a year imprisoned to be relieved by Inanna to serve out the rest of the annual sentence, an unsatisfactory arrangement like that movie Ladyhawke. Maybe a year without Winter (or without Summer) reunites them.