Happy Mesopotamian New Year! Akitu was celebrated at the start of the year from Sumerian times until the end of Babylonian civilization, and naturally the details changed significantly over the course of thousands of years. However, this is something of a reconstructed outline of what went on, with attention particularly paid both to the cultural context of many of the events, as well as to how some of those might be adjusted for modern neo-pagans attempting to reconstruct the holiday.
This episode is based off a post I wrote in 2020, which you can read in unedited form here: https://oldeststories.wordpress.com/2020/03/27/mesopotamian-new-year-akitu-festival-and-you/
Reprints of all Hymns, in order:
“Hymn of the First Three Days”
“Lord without peer in thy wrath,
Lord, gracious king, lord of the lands,
Who made salvation for the great gods,
Lord, who throwest down the strong by his glance,
Lord of kings, light of men, who dost apportion destinies,
O Lord, Babylon is thy seat, Borsippa thy crown
The wide heavens are thy body….
Within thine arms thou takest the strong….
Within thy glance thou grantest them grace,
Makest them see light so that they proclaim thy power.
Lord of the lands, light of the Igigi, who pronnouncest blessings;
Who would not proclaim thy, yea, thy power?
Would not speak of thy majesty, praise thy dominion?
Lord of the lands, who livest in Eudul, who takest the fallen by the hand;
Have pity upon thy city, Babylon
Turn thy face towards Esagila, thy temple
Give freedom to them that dwell in Babylon, thy wards!”
“Who Has Not Sinned?”
I, your servant, have committed every sin, I stood before you, (but) I spoke falsehood, I uttered lies, I indulged crimes, I spoke harmful words, you know what they are.
I committed an abomination against the god who created me, I acted sacrilegiously, I kept on doing evil.
I envied your vast possessions. I yearned for your precious silver, I lifted my own hand to touch what should not be touched.
I entered the temple without being pure, I committed one terrible outrage after another against you, I went beyond your limits of what was offensive to you, I cursed your divinity in the rage of my heart.
I have persisted in every sort of crime, I kept on going as I liked and incurred iniquity.
It is enough, O my god, let your heart be calmed! May the goddess who grew angry be pacified completely. Disssolve the ire you harbored in your heart.
May your inmost self, which I swore by, be reconciled with me. Though my crimes be numerous, clear my debt. Though my iniquities be seven(-fold), let your heart be calmed.
Though my [si]ns be numerous, show great mercy and cleanse [me].
[O my god], I am exhausted, grasp my hand, from the gr]ound and hold up [my] head, save my life!
(Thirteen lines fragmentary)
Let the day be joyful [for] the shepherd of the people,
[Let me si]ng of you, let me p[r]aise your divinity.
Let me sound your praises [to] the numerous [peoples]!
“God of my Family”
O my god, my lord, who created my name, Guardian of my life, producer of my progeny, O angry god, may your heart be calmed, O angry goddess, be reconciled with me.
Who knows where you dwell, O my god? Never have I seen your pure standing place or sleeping chamber.
I am constantly in great distress: O my god, where are you? You who have been angry with me, turn toward me.
Turn your face to the pure godly meal of fat and oil. That your lips receive goodness. Command that I thrive, Command (long) life with your pure utterance.
Bring me away from evil that, through you, I be saved. Ordain for me a destiny of (long) life. Prolong my days, grant me (long) life!
Link to the full Enuma Elish in translation: https://www.ancient.eu/article/225/enuma-elish—the-babylonian-epic-of-creation—fu/
Also, there is a book by Karel Van der Toorn, called Babylonian New Year, which I would dearly love to read, but is trapped behind the restrictive and terrible web of academic publishing. If anyone knows where I can get a copy without paying out the ass, do leave a comment here or contact me by email.
Are you a Mesopotamian polytheist, or interested in the community? There are probably places that I don’t know about, and if you are in a major city there might be a local group for you, but the two places I can recommend to anyone are reddit.com/r/sumer for questions and gatewaystobabylon.com for information.
Feel free to leave comments here or email me with any questions and I will be happy as always to discuss with you.