Mesocosm

"A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us." – Franz Kafka

Lettuce is My Hair

with one comment

Inanna's Descent, Sumerian Clay Tablet
Library of Ashurbanipal
British Museum

This charming Sumerian song was composed for a priestess to sing in the guise of the goddess Inanna, celebrating her mystical marriage to her lord Dumuzi, here incarnate as Shu-sin, the king of Ur at the dawn of the second millennium BCE.

The identification of the king with a god and the high priestess with the goddess, usually Inanna or Isthar, was the centerpiece of Sumerian and Babylonian religious culture for many centuries. During the New Year’s festival, the king would ascend the colossal pyramid-like ziggurat in the center of the city, and consummate his love for the goddess in a chamber at its apex. In this way, the Sumerian creation myth was ritually reenacted, setting the cycle of the seasons in motion for another round.

We’ve looked several times at the bull/moon god and his consort/mother on Mesocosm, such as in this post. Inanna and Dumuzi are the earliest such pair to figure in written material.

Though it is riddled with lacunae, the song is lovely, not least for its titular image of lettuce hair, which is beguiling for reasons known only to the vanished Sumerians, I think.
 

Lettuce is My Hair

My hair is lettuce, [planted] by the water,
It is gukkal-lettuce, [planted] by the water….
My attendant arranges it,
The attendant arranges my hair which is lettuce, the most-favored of plants.
The brother brought me into his life-giving gaze,
Shu-Sin has called me to (his) refreshing …. without [end].
[…]
You are our lord, you are our lord,
Silver (and) lapis lazuli – you are our lord,
Farmer who makes the grain stand high, – you are our lord,
For him who is the honey of my eye, who is the lettuce of my heart,
May the days of life come forth…..
It is a balbale of Inanna.

 
Translated by S. N. Kramer, from the indispensable volume:
Pritchard JB (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton University Press. 1969.

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Written by Mesocosm

February 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

Posted in Ephemera, Poetry

Tagged with , , ,

One Response

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  1. I wonder if when the Sumerians speak of “lettuce hair,” they mean a type of lettuce kind of like our green-leaf lettuce, not iceberg or romaine lettuce. Hair arranged in many small waves like green-leaf lettuce could look very attractive, I think.

    Kevan Bowkett

    April 29, 2016 at 9:28 am


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