A Bountiful Harvest – Mythology of Ancient Mesopotamia
Several poems describe a god’s journey or procession by barge. These accounts probably relate to real-life rituals in which statues of gods were ferried from their home cities to a site of pilgrimage where they received a blessing.
In the springtime, a barge bearing the year’s first yield of dairy produce would set out from the city of Ur. At the city of Nippur the goods would be exchanged for produce made by the herders of the south around Ur and those of cultivators in the north around Nippur.
The patron god of Ur was the moon god Nanna (also called Suen or Sin). In a mythical version of this ritual, Nanna decided to visit his parents Enlil and Ninlil at Nippur. He sent men to all the corners of the Earth to gather materials for building a barge and rejoiced as they returned one by one with precious cargos of exotic woods. Nanna then prepared a rich array of gifts for his parents and set off on his journey.
On the way upstream, Nanna stopped at five different cities. At each stop, the patron goddess of the city, seeing his abundant cargo, would welcome him and press him to stay, but at each stop he refused, saying, “I am going on to Nippur.”
Finally, the barge docked at the quayside in Nippur and Nanna announced the full list of his offerings to his father’s doorkeeper, who was delighted and opened the gates to the temple. Enlil was similarly overjoyed by his son’s arrival and staged a banquet, offering him his best beer. In return for his herders’ gifts, Nanna asked Enlil for a blessing and some produce from the local fields. Enlil gave him all that he asked for and in great joy Nanna took these blessings home to Ur.