The Ishtar Gate is a website dedicated to providing information on the religious and cultural practices of the Sumerian people, from the perspective of a modern revivalist or reconstructionist who is interested in recreating and practicing Sumerian-derived religious principles that are suited for the modern day. It was established by a devotee of the Sumerian path who wished this information to be gathered together in one easily accessible place, rather than having to be woven together from disparate academic and Pagan sources. It is intended to be a constantly growing guide that evolves with the author's knowledge and understanding, and may never meet certain standards for "completeness", but it is presented in the best of faith as a sincere outline of the principles of the modern Sumerian religion.
By "Sumerian", we mean the ethnolinguistic culture and civilization which flourished in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley c. 4000 - 2000 BCE and their faith system, which emphasises reverence for the gods, for the forces that make civilization possible, and for the rights, dignity and equity of human beings. The Sumerians made innovations in science, mathematics, agriculture and governance that we still use today, inventing the wheel, the calendar, the plough, the principle of writing and even the brewing of beer. They were the first to keep records, the first to study the stars, the first to establish permanent cities and dedicate them to a shared endeavour between the human and the divine. We value the principles of faith, independence, discovery, curiosity, community, honour, tolerance, inclusivity and ambition that caused the Sumerians to be one of the most industrious, inventive and productive civilizations before the Industrial Revolution, placing them 5000 years ahead of their time, and we strive for an understanding of the divine attributes and principles that inspired them.
By "reconstructionist", or "revivalist" (there is some quibbling about the terminology), we mean that it is also important to place the Sumerian faith and civilization in its proper historical context. Sumerian civilization flourished for two thousand years, and changed dramatically in that time, just as our own civilization was in the height of the Roman age 2000 years ago. Just like modern humans, a person or nation's stated principles didn't always match their actions. A person does not need to have lived in a modern Enlightenment-era society to have experienced compassion, love, dismay, mourning or reverence, and we find in Mesopotamia a corpus of information depicting how people at the dawn of recorded history strove to make sense of those questions.
Sumerians were one of many ethnic groups in the region, which also included Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and a little further afield, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Israelites and a complex assortment of nomadic peoples. These civilizations were in a constant state of flux*, traded widely with one another, rose and fell in their fortunes and engaged in cultural exchange to a massive degree. They inspired one another to varying extents, with Sumerian civilization being a particularly prestigious export up to about 1500 BCE, and Babylonian in the period following it. These Bronze Age civilizations would, themselves, inspire classical-era ones such as Greece, Rome, Carthage and Persia. Those civilisations, in turn, inspire societies like the one we stand in today.
*The Sumerian faith teaches that a state of flux is the natural state for a civilization. Populations, societies and peoples are never static. A point well worth remembering when considering the wider context of the modern world!
It is precisely the point, in the Sumerian faith, that human activity is always busy and bustling, always moving us onwards, even if onward we don't know where to. Cities and civilizations are human creations with the hallmark of divine creation stamped into every brick, with the divine residing in and all through our cities and human constructions. The deities that the Sumerians believed in maintained their primordial pull to awe and reverence even when known by different names, even when their attributes were combined and subsumed into other deities, even as the cultural and ethnic makeup of the region and the world shifted like the windswept sands, so too were those records of the attributes of civilization and divinity that the Sumerians thought so precious broken up, dismantled, and delivered to us in a perilous, fractious state.
There are two tendencies to misinformation and willful historical ignorance regarding Mesopotamia and the Sumerian faith: the first speaks to a kind of ancient exceptionalism, a vision of Sumerian civilization as an island of liberation in a thorny sea of brambles. Common in this sort of interpretation is the vision of Inana in her attributes as the Lion of Heaven; a picture of feminine ferocity she may be, but this doesn't imply any enlightened feminist tendencies on the view of lords and kings of Mesopotamia who claimed to rule in her name. The second would be modern exceptionalism, where a modern reader dismisses the work of the Sumerians and other civilizations as implausible or irrelevant owing to their antiquity; all manner of conspiracy theories beneath mention belong here.
We seek knowledge, truth and awareness. We seek a firm foundation for the study and practice of the faith traditions and the personal relationship with the Divine that we share with the ancient Sumerians. It is for those purposes that The Ishtar Gate is established with the following aims:
To provide resources about ancient Mesopotamian culture, society, language, and religious practice, and to make such information available as freely as possible
To promote visibility of Mesopotamian religion and belief systems
To build contacts with other Mesopotamian, Ancient Near East (ANE) and wider Pagan and interfaith groups
To respond to falsehoods and negative depictions about the peoples, religion, and customs of ancient Mesopotamia
𒆬 𒀭𒈹 𒊩𒌆𒈬