Mesopotamian, Sumerian & Babylonian Cuneiform: Wisdom Tablets, “Destiny” as Origins of Astrology

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3. “When disaster is self-made, no man can interfere.” (1)

Mesopotamian religious and spiritual traditions carry a uniquely dynamic vision of ‘divinity’ and ‘spirit’. As explained in Secrets of Sumerian Language,” the cuneiform ‘cross’ sign ‘dingir‘ (Akk., ilu ) that prefixes divine names of the Anunnaki pantheon also applies to ‘celestial’ or ‘heavenly’ bodies – “planets” and “stars” symbolic and representative of the Anunnaki pantheon thought to hold precedence over mundane affairs. The belief literally stood that all physical worldly manifestations and outcomes on earth (in the material world) possessed an ‘unseen’ influence of “perturbation” by ‘divine’ and ‘otherworldly’ energetic currents (from the ‘spiritual’ or metaphysical world). Initial correspondents of these currents between individual Anunnaki and their associated planets. Additional systematization of these concepts led the Babylonian inception of astrological traditions still observed today.

cuneisdgsdg nig-ku-lam-ma dingir-ra-na-ka su—tu-tu nu-ub-zu (2)
‘The destruction is from his own (personal) god; he knows no savior.’ (3)

Literal translation of dingir-ra(-na-ka) indicates that the aforementioned disaster comes from “one’s own personal god.” While ancient Sumerian and Babylonian spirituality did incorporate personal tribal or familial (ancestral) ‘deities’ and “guardian spirits,” such are generally related to lesser spirits: the sedu (spirits) and lamassu (guardians) that make greater appearances in the religion and magical traditions of the (post-Sumerian) Babylonian (Akkadian and Assyrian) Mardukites. Modern interpreters of this line read it literally and translate the sentiment as: when a man loses his favor with his personal deity then he has no one to appeal for him to the higher powers. (6)

sumlangthumb In Secrets of Sumerian Language, the distinct philosophical difference in Mesopotamia between ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’ is described based on its cuneiform usage. A person’s life has a ‘destination’ or ‘destiny’ that is fixed “in the heavens” by the gods or ‘stars’ in “zones of influence.” In comparison, a person’s ‘fate’ refers to subconsciously chosen environmental conditions that comprise a life-path that is not necessarily “fixed” while they are on their way to a destination that is fixed. In other words, it is the ‘route’ one travels on their way to a final ‘destiny’. Whether decreed by one’s own ‘personal god’ or ‘personal star’ or even erupting from one’s own “god-self,” this cuneiform line seems to indicate a ‘thing’ that is unavoidable or cannot be prevented by the person themselves or another human: such a thing on earth has been decreed in the heavens. (3)

SUMERIAN VOCABULARY
[nig-] – ‘abstract’ / a thing (7)
ku-lam-ma – destruction (4); a thing forgotten (8)
dingir – ‘prefix determinative’ / god, star, planet, spirit (5)
su—tu-tu nu-ub-zu – it cannot be prevented; or ‘avoided’ (9)

MesopotamianReligionFrontcrop Original analysis of the original Sumerian Proverb tablet series occurred using an elementary understanding of cuneiform script and Mesopotamian languages. Thorkild Jacobsen replaced Gordon’s original translation of su—tu-tu as “savior,” noting the Akkadian equivalent (‘ekimu‘) implies to “rob, steal or take away” (and not “to save”), meaning that the disaster/destruction that has been brought on into one’s life cannot be “touched” or “interfered” with and is thus “inevitable.” This more advanced rendering reveals a much deeper understanding of the ideal that what a person is due, they are due and a person receiving the harsh lessons of their life is unable to be assisted or coddled through it by any other power – they must simply experience, endure and, hopefully, survive the course with lessons learned. Quite simply, no one can interfere and safeguard against a person hellbent on making their own mistakes. (3)(9)


(1) Translation of Sumerian Proverb tablet by Joshua Free for Sumerian Wisdom II (tentative title) materials, the forthcoming sequel to Sumerian Wisdom & Anunnaki Prophecies: The Book of Sajaha the Seer edited by Joshua Free. These tablets attempt to preserve Sumerian language proverbs in cuneiform script during the Old Babylonian period.

(2) Derived from the original “Sumerian Proverbs” collection found in Nippur by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Some transliterations omit the ‘-na-ka‘.

(3) Original translation provided in the “Sumerian Proverbs” museum monograph by Edmund Gordon. The translation and interpretation has since been updated by Thorkild Jacobsen in the 1959 edition notes to the monograph: “–the disaster is of his own making (lit., ‘is of his personal god’), it brooks no interference.” His interpretation warns that “against self-imposed burdens, self-willed destruction, others can do very little.”

(4) Vocabulary supplement derived from the ‘Sumerian Glossary and Concordance’ for the Gordon “Sumerian Proverbs” museum monograph.

(5) Vocabulary inclusion of student translation is derived from the Mardukite handbook: Secrets of Sumerian Language edited by Joshua Free.

(6) Edmund Gordon explains his interpretation: “When a man’s personal god is against him, he has no one to intercede on his behalf before the assembly of the gods.”

(7) The Sumerian cuneiform prefixing sign ‘nig‘ – found at the start of lines throughout this particular series of ‘proverb’ tablets – indicates an attached statement regarding a ‘thing’ as an “abstraction” (concept) rather than always to be treated as a literal “thing” (object).

(8) An alternate translation to nig-ku-lam-ma is offered in the collected notes and revised additions of the 1959 edition by Edmund Gordon as: “a thing which has been forgotten.”

(9) Alternatively suggested by Joshua Free as “no one can prevent” or “no one can avoid” from the literal Akkadian ekimu – “none may ‘steal’ away.”

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One response to “Mesopotamian, Sumerian & Babylonian Cuneiform: Wisdom Tablets, “Destiny” as Origins of Astrology

  1. Pingback: NEW BABYLON RISING – Cuneiform Tablets of Mesopotamia, Sumerian Wisdom Proverbs & War in Iraq – Spring 2015 eZine | BABYLON 3.0 - A Brave New Babylonian Rising

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