BAHRA et Bet Nahrain

 Akitu Celebrations
The New Year Celebration -
April 1st 


   April 1st - Akitu Celebrations 6759 
   Watch the Parade in Nuhadra below
Roosh Min Sheenta . . Roosh Ya Omta!

                                Akitu  ..  April 1                                     
It was the tradition of our ancestors,  
the inhabitants of Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia), to celebrate the New Year annually on the first day of Nissan (April), a celebration of revival and renewal of nature. This was one of the most important religious and national celebrations held in Bet-Nahrain.

 The Assyrian new year (Akkadian
: Akitu) lies on - April 1 

At Ashur (or Babylon) the New Year festival lasted for twelve days. The first four days of Nissan were in fact largely given to preliminaries including the necessary purification, and culminating in the recitation of the epic in the temple, and the ENUMA ELISH itself was solemnly recited on the fourth day of the festival. On the fifth, the king began to play his leading part. Within the shrine of Ashur (or Marduk), he was confronted by the high priest, who stripped him of his regalia and placed them before the god's image. The priest then struck his face, made him kneel and declare his innocence: "I have not sinned, O lord of the lands ..." The priest addressed him on behalf of the god, announcing that his prayer was heard and that he will increase thy dominion, heighten thy loyalty, then gave back the regalia and struck the king again. If the blow drew tears (fertilizing rain?), it was a good omen. In this curious rite, evidently, the ruler was purified and his reign renewed in preparation for the universal renewal in which he was to participate. On the same day emotion grew in the streets. The god had disappeared, the power of death held him captive in the mountain, nature was lifeless hung in suspense, chaos might be about to return. The crowds began to work themselves up, they ran hither and thither, wailing and lamenting; the people's eyes were turned toward the ziggurat - there was Ashur's "tomb", there he was imprisoned in the dusty dark of the Netherworld and needed the help of their mournings. 
                                                  Khäb Nësán (April 1st) - Assyrian New Year
                                                                                 Kha Besan   (April 1st)   Assyrian New Year
he next day, Nissan 6, was full of excitement. The crowds must have surged along the riverbanks to watch the arrival of the visiting god -- images as they arrived at the quays in their sacred barges. They came from Nippur and Uruk, from Kutha and Kish. Most important of all Marduk's own son, Nabu, who was a resident at Borsippa, came to Babylon as the Savior of his father. Possibly he led a triumphal procession of all the gods up from the river; the king was there and poured a libation. Not so much was known of the actual "liberation" which may have been enacted on the seventh day. In some manner Nabu led the gods against his father's foes and Marduk was set free from the mountain. Nissan 8 was a solemn day. All the divine images were assembled in the Ubshuukkinna, which here as elsewhere represented the place of assembly for the gods. They were ranged in order of precedence and stood facing Ashur (or Marduk), on whom they bestowed their united power, giving him "a destiny beyond compare." While the king, the priests and the images were occupied in this way within the walls of the Esagila, the populace were to remain hushed and peaceful, a day of calm between the lamentations and the outburst of rejoicing. It was the ninth day that saw the great procession of gods and people from the Esagila to the Festival House (Bit Akitu), set in beautiful gardens outside the city. Eventually, Ishtar went with Ashur (or Marduk) and the king proclaimed the start; The Lord of Ashur (Babylon) goes forth, the lands kneel before him. Sarpanitum (Ishtar) goes forth, aromatic herbs burn with fragrance. By the side of Ishtar, while her servants play the flute, goes all Ashur exultant.

Sennacherib had the drama shown on copper doors of the Bit Akitu at Ashur -- where of course Ashur was the protagonist; the drama of the battle, between Ashur (god) and Tiamat, and the subsequent creation of heaven, earth and mankind seems to have been expressed by symbolic acts. With chaos defeated and order triumphant once again, Ashur led the way back to Ashur (city) through crowds roaring out their ritual cries of joy. This return may have taken place on the tenth of Nissan, after a grand banquet held in the Festival House.

If this ordering of the days is correct, then it was that night, either in Esagila or in the chapel with the couch on the ziggurat, that the sacred marriage of Ashur and Ishtar, perhaps enacted by the king with the high priestess, was celebrated and the renewal of all nature secured. On the eleventh day, the gods had a second assembly for the determination of destinies comparable to that of the eighth. This time, however, it was the destiny of mankind that had to be settled. Just as in Genesis, the creation of man in the ENUMA ELISH followed that of the natural world. This last solemn rite of the New Year festival seems in fact to celebrate the moment when Ashur and Ea killed Kingu and from his blood, they formed mankind... Ea then imposed toil on man and set the gods free. The twelfth day of Nissan was the day of departures. The quays must have been thronged once more as all the visiting gods, and perhaps visiting royalty as well, set out on the waterway that would take them home.

Mr. Canoon in his article [1], described the 6th day as that, a hooligan is chosen to rule the land (during the daytime) surrounded by madmen and lawless companions who kill, steal, rape and spread chaos. At sunset, the impostor king is dethroned and stripped of his regalia and offered to the legal king who reclaims his throne amidst rejoicing of the populace. The aim of such display is to remind the inhabitants of the benefits of justice and stable rule, and the triumph of order over that of chaos.

Finally, the new year festival has left its mark on the contemporary Assyrian; where to this day, they indulge in the game of luck (fortune telling) with the hope of knowing their fortune for the coming year and from this tradition developed the habit of gambling practiced by some Assyrians on new year's eve. Also present day Assyrians living in the northern villages of Bet-Nahrain place a bunch of green grass (or NISSAN'S BEARD) on the thresholds or lintels of their houses on the 1st day of Nissan, an indication of green pastures, fertility and prosperity in the new year.

Another custom inherited from these festivals is on the 10th of Nissan, the day of the sacred marriage of Ashur and Ishtar, as mentioned earlier, a large number of marriage ceremonies took place on the same day in different Assyrian cities. Consequently it was impractical to hold every marriage celebration separately, but instead the brides paid a visit to every house in their city. To this day, the Assyrians uphold this tradition whereby on Ascension Day (KALO SOLAQA) groups of young brides visit every house in their village (or city) and they receive presents which then they share or distribute among the brides of each group. We can also attribute to the "April Fool" to what took place on the fifth day of the New Year festival where the god disappeared and disorder prevailed.

 Assyrian Calendar

The Assyrian Calendar begins with the first recorded year of the "beginning of civilization" (shooraya d'mdeetanayoota) as seen through the eyes of the ancient Bet-Nahranaye (Mesopotamians). These ancient inhabitants of Assyria, Babylon, and Sumer believed that civilization was a "gift from the gods" and it was marked from the time "kingship was lowered from heaven."

The earliest sign of municipal administration (kingship in pre-historic sense) appears during the Halaf Period in Mesopotamia (over 7000 years ago). The most notable characteristics of this period are the "sitting goddess figurines" indicating a goddess-worshipping culture and the distinctive colored potteries with geometric designs pointing to the existence of a high-culture civilization in Mesopotamia.

The Sumerian term akiti meant "building life on earth" symbolizing the handing of life from gods to man. The Babylonians adopted this term and called their New Year festival Akitu (modern-day Kha b'Neesan).

According to the latest archeological findings in Anatolia, the transformation of localized settlements to the first cities took place between 4300 to 3450 B.C.. Religion was the main focus of socialization during this period and each city possessed a religious complex (i.e. ziggurats). Each city was administered by a "local king" or lugal. Archeologists refer to this period as the Early to Middle Uruk Periods.

In the 1950's Assyrians believed that based on the research findings of their contemporary archaeologists the first construction of the city of Ashur's temple during the Uruk Period took place around 4750 B.C. This date was then recorded as the beginning of "civilization" in Mesopotamia. In fact, the impetus behind this decision was the publication of a series of articles in the Assyrian magazine Gilgamesh, edited by the famous brothers Addi and Jean Alkhas and Nimrod Simono.

It is possible that the exact date of the beginning of civilization in Mesopotamia may vary as more accurate research reveals the existence of a more ancient and "civilized" culture in Bet-Nahrain. This fascinating topic remains as enigmatic as the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ whose year of birth has been the fulcrum of historicity for the past two thousand years.

Incidentally, the Jewish Calendar has very questionable origins also. It begins with the year 3760 B.C. (as opposed to Assyrian 4750 B.C.). Indeed the year 3760 B.C. coincides with the time "kingship was lowered to mankind" in the city of Kish, southern Bet-Nahrain.




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