Tammuz, Dumuzi, Ningishzida and Jesus Christ

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

27 April 2004

McCall understands that the individual between 'the snakelike creatures' may be Dumuzi (the biblical Tammuz of Ezekiel 8:14, whom Jewish women mourned in the Jerusalem Temple ).


"Cylinder seal impression which may portray Dumuzi retained in the underworld, flanked by snakes." (cf. illustration and text on p. 71. Henrietta McCall. Mesopotamian Myths. London. British Museum Publications in cooperation with the University of Texas Press, Austin. 1990, 1993)

I make the following proposals on the below seal : The seal is divided into four scenes, (1) Dumuzi's Capture and binding; (2) His descent into the underworld via its gate; (3) His being naked in the underworld and under demonic control; (4) His resurrection as a Vegetation deity in the Spring. Perhaps the structure below the half-naked Dumuzi is the barred gate of the Underworld that he descends into (?); The bearded individual to the observer's left, wearing a horned crown with hands and feet bound (?), may refer to the "demi-god-king" Dumuzi's being _first bound_ and then carried off by Ugalla demons to the underworld leaving his sceptre behind which is above his arms (?) ; the "snake-like creatures on either side of the bound Dumuzi may represent the Ugalla demons who bound Dumuzi; the individual on the observer's right may be a "naked" Dumuzi in the underworld guarded by his captors, the Ugalla snake-like demons (?); the individual standing on the quadruped may be  Dumuzi as a Vegetation god, and this god holds two tree branches, perhaps bearing fruits (?) perhaps symbolizing his return to the earth in the Spring as the vegetation which comes back to life after Winter (?); the beast he stands upon may be the serpent-dragon called Mushhushshu, meaning "furious snake," who's curious tail is replicated in another seal (scroll down below) ? Professor Stephen H. Langdon (Mythology of All Races, Semitic. Vol 5. 1931:284) understood that the Mushhshshu beast was but another form of Ningishzida (nin.gish.zida meaning perhaps, 'Lord of the Good Tree'), who was _another aspect_ of Dumuzi, and the beast might even be an aspect of Dumuzi himself to the degree that Dumuzi was called ama-ushumgal-anna 'the great serpent-dragon of heaven'.  Click on the following url for hymns about Dumuzi as a "bridegroom" and his "binding" by demons http://www.mindspring.com/~mysticgryphon/duhymn.htm

The "binding of Dumuzi by the demons appears to have involved the use of "sticks of wood" for his hands, and the seal (below) seems to show a "stick-like" object binding his hands and feet. Cf. the below quote from the hymn titled "The Dream of Dumuzi" :

"The Ugallu, hated and feared by men, 
Are coming on the boats. 
They carry wood to bind the hands; 
They carry wood to bind the neck. 
Sister, run!" 

The seventh Ugallu cried: 

"Rise, Dumuzi! 
Husband of Inanna, son of Sirtur, brother of Geshtinanna! 
Rise from your false sleep! 
Your ewes are seized! Your lambs are siezed! 
Your goats are seized! Your kids are seized! 
Take off your holy crown from your head! 
Take off your me-garment from your body! 
Let your royal sceptre fall to the ground! 
Take off your holy sandals from your feet! 
Naked, you go with us!" 

The Ugallu seized Dumuzi."

The "binding" of Dumuzi's feet, while not mentioned in the above hymn, does appear in another version :

"They [the demons] held on fast to holy Inanna and stricken with terror she gave Dumuzi into the power of the devils. They said, ' This boy, put fetters on his feet, truss him up, pinon his neck in stocks...they pinioned that boy by the arms..." 

(p. 156. "Inanna's Journey to Hell." N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin Books. London. 1971)

Also of interest is that Sandar's rendering mentions that Dumuzi was transformed into a snake by the sun-god Utu, enabling him to escape for the moment from the demons who had bound him. The snakes on the seal, however suggest to me that they are the demons.

"Utu, you are the brother of my wife, Inanna, I am your sister's husband...Change me, transform my body into a snake, and take my hands and feet away. Transform me so that my devils will not hold me and I shall escape. Utu received his tears, changed his body and Dumuzi escaped." (p. 151. Sandars. 1971)

Note: The seal does NOT follow in detail the above hymn exactly. There may have been different portrayals of the events of the binding of Dumuzi, or the artist may have simply taken "liberties" with the iconic portrayal. For example, Dumuzi is shown only half-naked, his upper torso having no clothes as he enters the gate to the Underworld. This iconographic portrayal does, however, agree with the myth called the "Descent of Inanna into the Underworld." Inanna was Dumzui's bride, and she has him taken to Hell to be her surrogate so she can be released from the Underworld. In the Inanna myth she surrenders various peices of clothing at each of Hell's seven gates until she appears completely naked when presented to her sister who is Hell's ruler. So, Dumuzi's partial nakedness at Hell's gate in the seal may be reflecting aspects of the Descent into Hell by his bride Inanna. Upon Inanna's release from Hell, all her clothing was restored her as she passed back through the various gates. Of interest in the seal is that the last image (4) shows Dumuzi fully clothed again, possessing crown, clothing and sceptre (the branches being a "type" of sceptre ?) as in scene (1) when he was bound, which suggests for me his release from Hell and restoration of his clothes to him as occured for Inanna when she returned to the earth's surface. The Mushhshshu  serpent-dragon Dumuzi stands on was, according to Professor Stephen H. Langdon, an aspect of Ningishzida, who was considered a Vegetation deity like Dumuzi, the name Ningishzida being understood to mean "Lord of the Good Tree," so perhaps the two branches with fruit (his "new" sceptre?) held by Dumuzi allude to the serpent-dragon as a Tree-deity or even an animal manifestation of both Ningishzida and Dumuzi?

I understand that certain motifs associated with Dumuzi/Tammuz and his companion Ningishzida came to be assimilated to Jesus Christ in New Testament times, being fused with additional resurrection motifs from the Greek 'god of the Vine' (wine), Dionysus. Could the "branch" held to the nose of certain reprobate Jewish priests/worshippers in Ezekiel's vision (Ezek 8:17) be alluding to the two branches being held by the god Dumuzi/Tammuz who stands on the Serpent-dragon in the below seal ? That is to say the Tammuzi/Dumuzi cult was introduced to Jerusalem by some Jewish priests by Exilic times and perhaps some of these concepts came to be fused to the Messiah-Christ by some heretical Jewish groups by Christian times? Dumuzi's branch, which symbolizes him as the Spring vegetation may have come to be reinterpreted as the Davidic "branch" associated with the Messiah (Jer 23:5) ? Christ is portrayed as a bridegroom who _willingly_ lays down his life in the Spring as a surrogate in Hell for his "bride" the Church, whereas Dumuzi also called in hymns "the bridegroom," is an _unwilling_ surrogate for his bride, Inanna. Inanna was three days and nights in the underworld before being released and the same period holds for Christ. Dumuzi is allowed a resurrection from Hell in the Spring for six months each year because his sister Geshtinanna was _willing_ to become his surrogate for him rather like Christ. Christ is called the "True Vine," and Geshtinanna means "Lady of the Vinestock or Grape-vine."

Sandars notes that Geshtinanna is "the vine of heaven":

"And I Geshtinanna, the vine of heaven, the daughter -what does it matter? My heart is piping grief for him...where the young man used to live, piping where Dumuzi pitched in the desert, once upon a time on Shepherd's hill."  (pp.162-3. Sandars. 1971)
Note -below- the Mushhushshu two-horned serpent-dragon beast which supports on its back a bearded god (not identified by McCall) with mace in hand and wearing a horned crown. The Mushhushshu was associated with several different gods over a long period of time, Ninazu ("Lord Healer'), father of Ningishzida, who was also identified with the beast, possibly Dumuzi, to the degree Langdon has noted that Ningshzida is an aspect of Dumuzi, later Marduk and even Asshur were also identified with the serpent-dragon. The beast's tail appears similar to the quadruped in the Dumuzi seal above. Another horned god presents a human petitioner carrying an offering, perhaps a goat ? (cf. p. 53. H. McCall. Mesopotamian Myths. 1990, 1993)
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Bibliography :

Jeremy Black & Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London. British Museum Press, in co-operation with University of Texas Press, Austin. 1992.

Samuel Noah Kramer. Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B. C. [Revised edition]. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1961. 1972. reprint 1997. ISBN 0-8122-1047-6.

Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races, Semitic. Vol. 5. Marshall Jones Company. Boston. 1931.

Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997.

Henrietta McCall. Mesopotamian Myths. London. British Museum Press, in co-operation with University of Texas Press, Austin. 1990, 1993.

N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia. London. Penguin Books. 1971.


Dumuzi Hymns

Below, a cylinder sealing, which Professor Kramer proposed was showing a scene in the Underworld. He understood that flames erupt from a mountain, and that the goddess on the far right might be Inanna. He noted a bull-man being seized by a fiery god on the far left. I would like to hazard the following identifications: 1) Kramer is right, the scene is dealing with events in the Underworld; 2) The bull-man being seized on the far left is Enkidushown as half man-half bull on some very early Old Babylonian cylinder seals; 3) the  nude (?) god standing next to the goddess holds what appears to be a tri-form branch (like Tammuz in the above seal), perhaps he is the deceased Dumuzi or Tammuz ? The goddess with flames erupting from her back and a ring in her hand might be Erishkigal ? The god dressed and seated on the fiery mountain might be Nergal, husband of Ereshkigal (rulers of the Underworld). The kneeling male servant is some minor functionary.( cf. plate VII, facing p. 33 for the below photo. Samuel Noah Kramer. Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B. C. [Revised edition]. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1961. 1972. reprint 1997. ISBN 0-8122-1047-6 paperback [Kramer notes the photo is from Henri Frankfort. Cylinder Seals. London. Macmillan Company. 1939. Plate XVIIIj.])