Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nanshe

In Sumerian mythology, Nanshe was the daughter of Enki (her father) and Ninhursag (her mother). Her functions as a goddess were varied. She was a goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility and fishing. Like her father, she was heavily associated with water. She held dominion over the Persian Gulf and all the animals within. Her seat of power was the Sirara temple, located in the city of Nina.

Nanshe's father, Enki, was later tasked with organizing the world and assigning every god a function. Nanshe was assigned dominion over the Persian Gulf, on which floated her father's awe inspiring sea shrine. As a secondary function, she was to ensure than shipments of fish reached the mainland. When heading onto the mainland, she sailed by barge from the Gulf. She had a strong connection with wildlife, especially birds and bats. In one hymn, she converses with ravens and pelicans, among other species.

The Goddess of Social Justice

During the time of Gudea (2144 - 2124 BC), many hymns to Nanshe appeared showing her in an elevated position in the pantheon. She was the widely worshiped goddess of social justice. She nurtured orphans, provided for widows, gave advice to those in debt, and took in refugees from war torn areas. Several other gods appeared to be under the command of Nanshe. Hendursag and Haia were her assistants. Nisaba, sometimes portrayed as Nanshe's sister, was her chief scribe.

On the first day of the new year, a festival was held at her temple. People came from all over the land to seek her wisdom and aid. Visitors were cleansed in the river of ordeals and then, if worthy, given an audience with the goddess. Nanshe settled disputes and handled court cases amongst mortals.

Holding a higher ranking in the pantheon during this era, Nanshe sometimes shared the same tasks as Utu, the traditional god of justice. She sat on the holy thrones with the other prominent gods, and was seen as a goddess of protection. At one point, Ninurta, the mighty god of war, turns to her for guidance.

The Goddess of Prophecy

Nanshe had the ability to give oracular messages and determine the future through dream interpretation (Oneiromancy). Her priests were also granted these abilities after conducting a ritual that represented death and resurrection. Despite the ritual, Nanshe is not depicted as life-death-rebirth deity in any known hymns or myths.

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