The Ancient Sumerian Religion

The Ancient Sumerian Religion

The Sumerian Religion holds its beliefs around Heaven and Earth, with Earth being a disc-shaped object with a space around it consisting of Heaven and a solid surface made of Tin. The Sumerians described the existence of air between Earth and Heaven, with it being called ‘lil‘. They believed that all other planets were also made of lil and the universe was surrounded by a primal sea which gave birth to the universe and created life. Their religion was vastly based around the worship of nature, e.g. wind and water with various gods having direct control over these natures.

Upon death, Sumerians believed that bodies would pass through to the nether world, ruled by Nergal and Ereshkigal, through their soles and graves with the possiblity of access being gained through special areas of their cities and following these extremely important rules:

  • No weapons to be carried
  • Clean clothes must be worn without sandals
  • No noise to be made
  • No dousing with good oil
  • Not allowed to treat family as if normal

After a soul passed into the nether world, it had to travel across a river by boat, being transported by a boatman, to face Utu who would pass judgement on their soul as good or bad. If a sole was deemed to be good, then that soul would have a lifetime of happiness.

If the above rules were not followed, the individual’s soul would be trapped in the nether world until it was released by a god, who were traditionally gods existing in human form who acted just like normal humans. The most important god was Enlil and was known as the king of heaven and earth, having designed the universe. Enlil was one of four main deities, the others being An, Enki and Ninhursag – together they were responsible for creating all the other gods in the universe. An was the head of the Pantheon, Enki developed and carried out Enlil’s plans, with Ninjursag known as the mother of all things living. Along with these 4 gods sat Nanna, Utu and Inanna who together as a group of 7 would decree the fates of all souls.

The general belief was that Sumerians would exist to serve the gods as they so wished, with sacrifice, prayer and worship taking up most of their daily lives. Sacrifices of animals and food were commonplace in their local temples, with the main temple being aligned to the patron deity and being run by a sanga, who was solely responsible for the day-to-day running of the temple, with the spiritual side of the temple being run by an ‘en’.

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