English: Imre Schrammel: Tammuz (deity). Statu...
Imre Schrammel: Tammuz (deity). Statue in National Theatre of Miskolc, Hungary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Gilgamesh epic, Tammuz is a dead Babylonian vegetation god residing in the underworld. He is adored by his sister Ishtar, and by her counterpart in Syria, Astarte.

According to Babylonian myth, every year Tammuz rises from the underworld for a short while. His yearly return to the underworld was met with mourning and funeral ceremonies.

As with so many dying and rising gods in world myth, anthropologists believe that the myth of Tammuz signifies the agricultural cycle.

But the cyclical myth also invites a psychological interpretation. As hinted at by Joseph Campbell, C. G. Jung and others, residing in the underworld could represent a solitary, contemplative life. And yearly returns to the visible world could symbolize those necessary periods of social interaction.

Gilgamesh by litmuse
Gilgamesh by litmuse

A Tammuz cult also appears in the Hebrew Bible. It’s not entirely clear to scholars how the followers of Yahweh viewed this.¹

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammuz_%28deity%29


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