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Observations placeholder

Mesopotamian - Means of achieving spiritual experience 02 Enacting Ritual and ceremony



Type of Spiritual Experience


Great use was made of ritual and ceremony.  Numerous festivals were held, the akitu was performed on a number of occasions in the year. The Akitu or Akitum was generally a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.  It was a grain festival - grain being symbolic.

There was a New Year festival, rituals known as ‘dullu’ which have survived from Uruk, and ritual feeding of deities.

 The daily care of gods, the sanctuary and its offerings was carried out by priests.  There were many prayers and hymns and ‘the lifting up of the hands’ – prayers accompanied by praying and accompanied by music were an established part of the rituals from old Babylonian times.  There were lamentations, prayers of thankfulness, requests for help, prayers for special occasions.  Hymns to deities or planets stem from the earliest period.  Some are straightforward praise and worship others are for processional and liturgical use.

More than a hundred royal hymns in Sumerian laud the rulers of the dynasties of Ur.  In effect, any occasion could result in a song being composed and sung at a festival.  Early Mesopotamia seems to have been awash with singing and music, ritual and celebration.

A description of the experience


Dr Joan Oates – Babylon

There seem to have been a considerable number of regular festivals in [Mesapotamia] including ceremonials of thanksgiving and sheepshearing; various cities had their own calendar of seasonal feasts.  The greatest fetival was that of the New year.  Even in Neo  Babylonian times it took place during the first eleven days of Nisan, the month in which fell the Spring equinox.

The ritual for the first few days included various ceremonial ablutions and prayers, and on the evening of the fourth day the whole of the Epic of creation was recited.  Some scholars believe it was actually enacted rather in the manner of a medieval mystery play.  Later ceremonies included the famous procession during which the king took the hand of the god and led him from the shrine along the processional Way.  There was also the sacred marriage…

One ritual text specifies that ‘the people of the land shall light fires in their homes and shall offer banquets to all the gods.  They shall speak the recitations’

The source of the experience

Mesopotamian system

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Enacting ritual and ceremony