A New Jersey Yankee in King Ashur’s Court
by J.M. Ream

When my husband and I embarked upon the Druid path, we did not know where it would take us, but we hoped it would be exotic and exciting. My personal path is “The Nature of the Gods,” and with this in mind we decided to cycle pantheons for several moons. We have explored many different ones—Norse, Welsh, even Chinese, in an effort to meet them all before deciding who to share water with long term. It’s been a whirlwind tour of the realm, kids, and I can tell a tale or two about the places I’ve seen—as exotic and exciting as you can stand. I’m remembering one now... (wavy screen signaling flashback)...

A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away from New Jersey, a Druid Maidenfaire embarked upon a quest—for employment. She lived on foreign soil (now known as Virginia) favored by the fair face of the sun, where the weather was fair-to-middlin’, tho’ warmer than she was used to, and inhabited by a strange people who worshipped an exacting and enigmatic god. Our Maidenfaire, a performer of sorts, was hired by a puppet theater, not-for-profit (both the theater and the girl, as it happens.) Her job was to present environmental education shows for elementary school children, playing Sammy the Seagull and Chessie the Manatee. (RULE #1: Nature is Good!!!) She soon realized, however, that her co-workers were not cut from the same altar cloth as she. Oh, they were very nice, (aren’t they all when they’re not voting) and never came out and challenged her faith as SO MANY do in this land. They did, nonetheless, talk incessantly about their own faith (probably because they saw her Pagan bumper stickers). Being new to the Bible Belt, Maidenfaire did not realize that this theater was brought to you by Jehovah.

Yes, kids, it turned out the environmental shows were subsidizing a puppet ministry for the Big JC. (dun dun Dun!) Yet, the strangers needed her sorry Pagan performing butt real bad, for they allowed her sinful hands to besmirch their sanctified animal totems (yea, and a plague of puppets rained down upon them). Well, kids, Maidenfaire was not supposed to work weekends because she had another job. But, verily, the Puppet Master said unto her, “I need you to work the puppet festival in Va. Beach.” She said, “Lo, I say unto you, no way.” The girl had gained in wisdom, and she knew it was a big convention for you-know-who. Besides, she had to work at her other job. But the Puppet Master insisted, and she was sore afraid. He wanted her to learn “Jonah and the Whale” just in case she was ever needed to fill in. Maidenfaire was conflicted. It DID sound kind of animisty, AND she’d never actually have to perform it because it was always scheduled for SUNDAY and this girl breaks that particular commandment regularly, AND she didn’t want to blow her first job reference ’cause the Puppet Master seemed to know everyone in town...it’s the same old story, kids. Maidenfaire needed cash, so, like Jonah, unwilling to go and do as he was commanded (did he have to work, too?), she begrudgingly motored to rehearsal.

Unlike the other shows that were peopled with animals, this one was full of human puppets, the only other mammal being the whale. It began with Puppet Villagers portside, saying, “Oh, look at those poor children from Ninevah getting off the boat, their parents teach them all wrong.” Maidenfaire wondered where Ninevah was—was that, like, the wrong side of town? Then the Puppet Villagers sang a song about the seedy, uneducated people of Ninevah (uptempo!) saying the men wear blue ribbons in their beards. (Is that still illegal in NJ?)

Maidenfaire came on in Act II. Her part was El Capitan of the ship upon which Jonah tries to ditch his duty. You may recall this part, kids—big storm blows up (storm god? Maidenfaire wonders), and the sailors pray in gobbeldy-nonsense language to their gods to stop the storm, to no avail. (Damn, the gods must be pissed!) As stagehands thrash an unwieldy plywood ship backstage, El Capitan darts out and appeals to the third god of the Nature Trinity. Then the sailors haul Jonah out of the steerage and blame him for everything.
And Maidenfaire felt fouled, cheapened, disgusted with herself. She looked at her hand holding the puppet as if it offended her. “I cannot do this,” said she. “I know the good people of Ninevah, I know their children. Although I do not know these Gods, they are my Gods, and I must know their real names and worship them, for these yokels know not what they do.”

This is only the beginning of the tale, kids. Maidenfaire quit the puppet theater and embarked upon her true quest to discover the Gods of Ninevah.

This proved to be no simple task for me. (I only wish I was still a Maidenfaire.) I was determined to hang with the Assyrians because of the Ninevah reference. Babylon gets far too much press, anyway. Before any ritual could be done, I had to identify the pantheon, lumped, for scholarly purposes, under the category of Mesopotamian.
Ya got’cher Babylonian, ya got’cher Assyro-Babylonian, ya got’cher Sumerian—too easy to say they shared gods, plus these regions were always at war with each other. When all was said and done, I had performed enough research to write a thesis. I read the Book of Jonah and the five books of Moses. While at the library, an historical fiction book, “The Assyrian,” jumped off the shelf at me. That did it.

Eurisko Grove is proud to present The Assyrian Pantheon, featuring these unknown talents:

Ki as the Earth Mother
Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld and commander
of the seven gates, as the Gatekeeper
Nabu, patron of scribes, as the Bard
The Medes, monotheistic cultist hordes who brought
Ninevah to her knees, as the Outdwellers
and the god we all know and love, Pan, in his
recurring role as Grove Patron.
Guest Stars:
Ashur and Ningal—Litha
Shamash and Aia—Lammas
Ea and Ninki—Mabon
Ishtar and Tammuz—Samhain
Omens brought to you by Motherpeace Tarot.
Special roles were written in for the Nature Trinity
that was making Jonah seasick:
Enki, god of the waters—Well
Enlil, wind god—Tree
Anu, sky god—Fire

Pre-show purification—According to the five books of Moses, Pagans were asked to give their golden earrings to the church when they gave up their gods. (Early Christians were obsessed with shekels.) We wore golden earrings into ritual, and, of course, blue ribbons. We used a red velvet altar cloth. We burned jasmine and “Perfumes from Ancient Times” incense. We washed each other’s hands and feet, pouring from left hand into right and sprinkling seven times. A silver coin was dropped into the well for Ishtar, Goddess of prostitutes.
It was ridiculously hard to find info about the consorts. For Ningal, I learned that the main road through Ninevah was named for her. According to Genesis 10, Assyrians are descendants of Ashur, one of the sons of Sem, who was a descendant of Noah, and this Ashur’s descendants ruled one of the 12 tribes of Moses. According to “The Assyrian,” Ashur was once King of Ninevah, so, appropriately, our offering was Budweiser, the King of Beers. For Praise Offerings, I spoke of Ninevah’s historical accomplishments, including the first university and first significant library—30,000 remaining fire-hardened tablets are on display at the British Museum. I read some verses from the Assyrian epic poem, “Erra and Ishum.”

For Lammas, I learned that the Bull of Heaven was created and offered to Shamash. I found a telegram about the discovery of the actual bull, from 1929:

The offering was Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull.

Ea, Lord of the Earth, was the master craftsman and patron of purifying/feet and hand washing, and Ninki’s symbol is the double snake. The Mabon offering was lemongrass and ginger water, as Ea is also the God of the Sweet Waters.

Wine will be offered at Samhain. We will be partying with Ishtar and Tammuz, both mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. According to “The Assyrian,” virgins went to Ishtar’s temple when they wanted to marry. The price of virginity was a silver coin, and the woman was then blessed by the Goddess. Whatever happens at Samhain is between me and my Priest.

The Mesopotamians were a warlike people, and warlike people trashed our Twin Towers. The most important thing I gained from this cycle is an insight into this situation. I submit to you, gentle readers, that we are not at war with the Assyrians. We are at war with The Medes.

I am now satisfied that the Gods of Ninevah are not mocked. I have decided not to lop off my hand.
Traveling with the Gods has proven most definitely exotic and exciting, kids. Should you choose this exotic path for yourself, I can only offer this advice: Keep your hands and feet inside the ride.