Zuism or Sumerian-Mesopotamian Neopaganism define a modern Pagan new religious movement based on the Sumerian religion (and later Mesopotamian religions which continued it), and calls itself the "oldest religion, foundation of all major religions". Modern Sumerian-Mesopotamian religious groups already existed since the 1980s; however, the first institutional form of the movement was founded in Iceland in 2010, and in 2013 Zuism was registered among the religions recognised by the Icelandic government. After the mid-2010s, branches of the church were established in other countries of central and northern Europe.
|Type||Neopagan new religious movement|
|Region||Mostly Iceland, central and northern Europe|
|Origin||1980s (early informal groups), 2010 (Icelandic institutionalisation) |
|Members||1,605 (Iceland 2019)|
In late 2015 the Zuist Church of Iceland was taken over by a new leadership, under which the church was turned into a medium for a mass protest against the nationally mandated tax on religious membership; Icelanders began converting in large numbers as the new leadership promised that the tax received by the Zuist Church would have been used to refund the church members themselves. After a legal struggle, in 2017 the original directors of the church were restored to power. They decided to maintain the previous leaders' principle of refunding church members, and also to devolve funds to social welfare institutions. Zuism has spread considerably in Iceland by attracting members among younger, internet-connected, less Christian generations of Icelanders.
Terminology and definition
Modern Sumerian-Mesopotamin religion has been known as "Zuism", "Sumerian-Mesopotamian Neopaganism" or "Sumerian-Mesopotamian Reconstructionism", "Babylonian Neopaganism" or "Babylonian Reconstructionism", and "Kaldanism" (which means "way of Chaldeans", Chaldea being a late term for Sumer). Among them, Zuism has become the most popular descriptor for the movement, by virtue of being the name under which the religion is recognised by Icelandic law. The name "Zuism" originates from the Sumerian verb zu 𒍪, meaning "to know", and is defined as a "way of knowledge", of knowing the appropriate modality of being human, in harmony with divinity. It is equated with the Greek term gnosis.
Zuism is defined as an international religious movement which intends to represent all the groups professing Sumerian-Mesopotamian religions. The Zuist Church of Iceland, the organisation recognised by the Icelandic government, has established branches throughout various countries and intends to be a platform for all Zuist believers. Many Zuists and Sumerian-Mesopotamian Neopagans are contributing to the development of the movement both within and outside the Zuist Church.
Though seldom used, the term "Pagan" is accepted within Zuism in the original Latin meaning of pāgānus, that is to say "civilian", related to the noun pāgus ("region/district/settlement/establishment/kinship" of a civilisation), to pāx ("peace") and the verb pācō, pācāre, pācāvī, pācātum ("to make peaceful/appease"), and to the verb pangō, pangere, pepigī, pāctum ("to fasten/fix/set/establish"), all coming from the Indo-European root *pak-, *pag- ("to be firm/steady/standing"). In the Zuist usage, it means human society when it is divinely established in a celestial civilisation. Zuists reject the modern American distortion of the term as meaning any abnormal pseudo-religious movement, anything antisocial, uncivil, without normal civilisation.
Zuism is defined as the knowledge on how to appropriately stand in-between Heaven (𒀭 An or Dingir) and Earth (𒆠 Ki), by acting in accordance with the creative word (𒌓 utu) and the measures (𒈨 me) represented by the gods (𒀭 dingir), all constituting the energetic logos (𒆤 lil) of Heaven. The compound Anki (𒀭𒆠, literally "Heaven-Earth") defines the ordered world, the cosmos, when the Earth is organised in accordance with Heaven's laws. The lil ("wind" or "breath") is the Sumerian concept of logos ("word" and "order"), but also pneuma, the substance of all things, especially in its shifting and moving state prior to coalescence into any shape.
Gods are held to be immortal beings, who are human-like and yet invisible to human eyes. They are potencies who guide the development of the universe. The four main divine beings are: ① the universal supreme An/Dingir (literally "Heaven" or "Sky", astrally identified as the north ecliptic pole encompassed by the coil of the constellation Draco, and with all the constellations spinning around it; the Little Bear is his chariot, MULMar.gid.da.an.na, the "STARChariot of Heaven"), which is in turn identified as ② Ki or Ninhursag (𒀭𒊩𒌆𒉺𒂅; literally "Earth" or "Lady of the Mountains and Valleys"); ③ Enlil (𒀭𒂗𒆤; literally "Lord of the Breath", the god of weather and thunder, identified as MULApin, the "STARPlough", that is the constellation Triangulum, and generally with the northern sky—called Path of Enlil—, that is to say the circle nearest to the north ecliptic pole An; his wife Ninlil 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒆤, literally "Lady of the Breath", is MULMar.gid.da, the "STARChariot", the Great Chariot) and ④ Enki (𒀭𒂗𒆠; literally "Lord of the Squared Earth", the god of water and craft, astrally identified as MULIku, the "STARField", that is the Square of Pegasus, and generally with the southern sky—called Path of Enki—, that is to say the circle farther from the north ecliptic pole An). Sky, earth, air and water are thus considered the fundamental elements of the cosmos.
An, Enlil and Enki
An is the supreme God of the universe, the supreme being, the utmost power and prime mover of creation, and therefore the utmost ancestor of all beings. It is "the one who contains the entire universe". He is the father of all the star-gods and contains them all. His most visible manifestation from the Earth's perspective is the north ecliptic pole winded by the constellation Draco (the Dragon, symbol of primordial protean undeterminacy and therefore infinite potentiality).
An, Enlil and Enki constitute a threefold conception of the supreme God, in which Enlil and Enki are two aspects of An, the absolute in its quiescent state of "transcendental obscurity"; they are, respectively, the "transcendent" and "immanent" aspects of An. An is therefore "transcendental" in the sense (acquired by this term in German idealism) of both transcendent and immanent, is "transcendently active as the energy begetting any immanent being", manifesting as the dynamism of Enlil and Enki. In Assyrian iterations of the theology, according to the scholar Simo Parpola, it is Ashur (𒀭𒀸𒋩) or Anshar (𒀭𒊹), meaning "Whole Heaven", "God as Many", "Flowing One" or "One Flash"), to be the transcendent supreme, while An is the first stage of manifestation in the flesh; according to the Enuma Elish, Ashur "reflects itself" as An in matter.
While Enlil is identified as the north celestial pole (that is to say the culmen of the Earth's axis of rotation, and the culmen of the sky from the Earth's perspective, which moves in circle through the constellations around the north ecliptic pole), associated to the seven stars of the Great Chariot, and as the lil itself, thus the logos and pneuma of the universe enlivening all things, Enki is the supreme power manifest in the Earth, in earthly beings, and in mankind as well through the struggle to emulate Heaven by learning its craft, and therefore represents the incarnation of the supreme God in matter (the concrete action of the north pole[s] in shaping matter), and in mankind's ancestors, founders of blood kinships, of lineages of power-craft. Enki is associated with semen (and the phallus), the life-giving male power.
The three aspects of Heaven are also identified with three concentric rings of the vault of the sky around the centre of the ecliptic pole, and with the star-gods (constellations) moving within these rings, drawing the scheme of time (the calendar). The three aspects of Heaven, and their three skies, are also associated to a colour symbolism. The inner sky of An as Enlil is conceived as red, white and black, representing the threefoldness withheld in potence in the transcendent supreme God. These three colours are together known as luludanitu and represent the threefoldness of God withheld in potence. The middle sky is lapislazuli-blue, the colour of Inanna, and the outer sky of An as Enki is jasper-green.
The divine word that orders chaos
In Zuist theology, the supreme God of Heaven is also the power of the performative word (𒌓 utu, which is also the name of the sun in Sumerian). The word-power of An, Anutu (also rendered "Anship"), is the "foundation of the cosmos, around which the hierarchy of all divine powers unfolds". It is the creative word which begets things and events, not necessarily ex nihilo, but in an ordering process which configures reality, making order out of still undeterminacy (Abzu/Nammu 𒀊𒍪/𒇉, the "Abyss" of the primordial "Matrix" or "Noise", called Tiamat 𒀭𒋾𒊩𒆳 or Tamtum 𒀭𒌓𒌈 in the Akkadian tradition).
The word-power of An, reflecting its twofold face (Enlil–Enki), may also take the form of a destructive power or a preservative power, reabsorbing or maintaining creation, respectively the Enlilutu ("Enlilship", the word-power of Enlil) and the Enkiutu or Eautu ("Enkiship" or "Eaship"). The word-power of Enki is particularly associated with magic/witchcraft and technique in tangible reality, that is to say the power to alter the forces at play in an already given configuration of reality.
The seven Anunnaki
Anunnaki literally means "offspring of Heaven–Earth", and in Sumerian religion it was a general term comprising all the gods. A later, Babylonian term for the gods was Igigi. In the Babylonian sources the two categories are often distinguished, with the former being the netherworld (earthly) gods and the latter the upperworld (heavenly) gods, or viceversa. The most important amongst the Anunnaki are the seven gods of the stars nearest to the earth: Marduk 𒀭𒀫𒌓 ("Sun Calf"; Jupiter, the white deity of air and authority, lieutenant of Enlil), Ninurta 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒅁 ("Barley Lord"; Saturn, the black deity of war and hunting), Nergal 𒀭𒄊𒀕𒃲 ("Underworld Lord"; Mars, the red deity of woe and dearth), Inanna 𒀭𒈹 ("Lady of Heaven"; Venus, the blue deity of love and war), Nabu 𒀭𒀝 ("Announcer" or "Glowing"; Mercury, the orange deity of wisdom and writing), Nanna 𒀭𒋀𒆠 (the Moon, the green deity of fertility and fruitfulness) and Utu 𒀭𒌓 (the Sun, the yellow deity of justice). Another important god contemplated by the Zuists is Dumuzi (shepherd god of death and resurrection, astrally identified as Aries).
In a description of the late Dorothy Murdock, the seven Anunnaki "represent the seven nether spheres, [are the] guardians of the seven gates through which the sun [i.e. word] of God passes into the netherworld", perfusing light and order into the netherworld's darkness. The star-gods are also poetically described as the "heavenly writing", the writing of An. In other words, they influence, energetically shape, the life of beings on Earth. They are stages in the "tree of life", the process of God's manifestation in the flesh, structuring all beings, as reconstructed by Simo Parpola based on Assyrian sources. The seven planets are also the near-Earth reflection of the seven stars of the Chariot constellations which spin around the north celestial pole, regarded as the active power of the utmost God of Heaven (Enlil). The seven-day week, with each day associated with a star-god, is a heritage going back to Mesopotamian religion. Utu is the "judge of the Anunnaki", while Marduk is the "commander of the Anunnaki", while their "king" is Enlil. Nanna, also called Enzu or Zuen (𒂗𒍪; literally "Lord of Wisdom") is of particular importance, being the symbol of the pleroma (the sum of the powers of all the gods, thus of An).
Ethics and practice
The me: divine laws
The universe is created by the gods through the word, utu (𒌓), and developed through the measures, manners or morals (me 𒈨). The divine word (utu), that has performative power, is power to create. By the words of the founders and earliest leaders of Zuism, the "act of creation ... was accomplished through utterance of the divine word". The deity "had merely to make plans and pronounce the name of the thing to be created". The measures (me) are "universal and unchangeable rules and laws that all beings are obliged to obey", which "keep the cosmos in continuous and harmonious operation and ... avoid confusion and conflict".
Entities and behavioural phenomena are generated and kept in harmony among themselves by these internal laws, plans laid down by gods. Yet, within this structure, mankind enjoys a degree of detachment from its own internal laws, and therefore a degree of free will, a gift which is necessary for mankind's spiritual ability to co-work with the gods in creation by emulating Heaven. The gods favour those who act in conformity with the laws of morality, which means upkeeping goodness and truth, righteousness and straightforwardness, justice and freedom, mercy and kindness. Disgrace falls upon those who act evilly and falsely, unjustly and oppressively, sinfully and perversely, cruelly and pitilessly.
Scriptural recitation and institutional relationship with the gods
Belief and practice of Zuism is based on Sumerian poems, which Zuists recite in their worship services in honour of the gods. Regular gatherings are held for such scripture recitation in honour of the gods, as well as for prayers, which are either personal or for the welfare of others. Believers conduct their daily life according to the me, which in human society are translated as ethical codes modeled after the laws of the universe, and govern every aspect of morality from individual to social economy.
Zuism is a "social religion", meaning that men and gods are considered symbiotic parts of the same complex whole. Gods govern the fate of men, and relationship with them may not be forsaken. Chiefs and priests are responsible for upkeeping the relationship with the gods through daily, monthly and yearly ordinances held at temples. Priests are called en or ensi, and the highest among them is the lugal (𒈗, "great man").
The lugal is of supreme importance in the terrestrial hierarchy of the Zuist Church. He is a religio-political figure, a sacerdotal king who represents the link connecting the three realms of Heaven (An), Earth (Ki) and humanity. He is the reflection of Heaven on Earth, specifically embodying Heaven's third aspect, Enki, representing human craft and productivity in alliance with the creation of the gods; representing humanity co-creating with the gods a celestially-centred kingdom where all the spirits are at peace and from where all evil demons are cast away. The lugal is like the "personal god" (also referable to as tutelary spirit, genius, numen or demon) of an individual and the father of a family. Like the personal god generating and organising the individual (joining the ishtaru, which is the individual's female aspect, or matter, or "personal goddess"), and the father generating and organising a family in conjunction with the mother, his wife, so the lugal is the father of the city and its population.
Annulment of debt and wealth redistribution
According to the Zuist Church, Sumer had the earliest tax system in the history of civilisation for which archeological attestations exist. Sumerians were aware of the threat posed to economies by the accumulation of debt, and for this reason debt was regularly annulled. This practice was called amagi (𒂼𒄄) or amargi (𒂼𒅈𒄄), literally "return to the mother", which became a figure of speech for "freedom", implying the restoration of persons and properties to their original status, with the cancellation of debts and obligations. The Zuist Church aims to restore it for today, starting with the redistribution among members of the wealth received through the tax on religious membership which governments—including that of Iceland—impose on their citizens.
Zuism intends to establish a new social structure, a sort of "theocratic socialism", with temples (𒂍 é) functioning as economic powerhouses, banks, centres of business and industry, and redistributors of wealth, just as they were in ancient Mesopotamia. The bala ("exchange") was the taxation system by which the temples collected goods and surplus and conveyed them into welfare and development projects. In ancient Mesopotamia "land was considered property of the gods and not of individuals or families, so that this spurred non-rivalrous collaboration for cultivation and settlement".
The members of the Zuist Church of Iceland may choose whether to devolve their paid taxes to charity. In 2017, the Zuist Church devolved funds to a number of social welfare organisations: 1.1 million Icelandic crowns were donated to the Circle Children's Hospital (Barnaspítala Hringsins), 1 million to the Women's Shelter (Kvennaathvarfsins), and 300 thousand Icelandic crowns to the emergency fund of the UNICEF. With the help of its members, according to the leader Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson, the Zuist Church may become "a long-term sponsor of such organisations".
Temple and burial ground
On 16 January 2018, the Zuist Church of Iceland applied for the allocation of a plot of land in Reykjavík for the burial of its members. On 29 May of the same year, the Zuists of Iceland presented the project and applied for the allocation of land for building a temple in the capital, which will be called the Ekur of Enlil (literally "Mount-Court of Enlil" or "Temple-Mount of Enlil"). It will function as the headquarters of the Zuist Church and as the main site for religious rituals, including baptisms and weddings. The temple will be on three levels, a ground floor and a first floor dedicated to community activities, and a shrine to the deity on the second floor. The Zuist Church opened a "fund for the ziggurat" (Zigguratsjóð) to which members will choose whether to devolve their taxes.
Before the establishment of the Zuist Church in Iceland, there were already some Zuist or Sumerian-Mesopotamian Neopagan groups, mostly small and informal, many of which still exist. The Sumerian-Mesopotamian contemporary new religious movement, indeed, dates back at least to the 1980s. According to the Zuist Church of Iceland, its history may be further traced back well before the 2010s to a "mother church" of Icelandic believers who dwelt in Delaware, United States.
Zuism became a government-recognised religion in Iceland in 2013, when Icelandic law was amended to allow further non-Christian religions to be registered with the state. The incorporated organisation, the Zuist Church (Zuism Trúfélag, more precisely translated as "Zuism Faith Fellowship"), has since established communities in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. The Zuist Church was founded years before, in 2010, by Ólafur Helgi Þorgrímsson, who left it at an early stage of development. The current head priest of the Zuist Church of Iceland is Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson, who took on the office in September 2014.
In late 2015 the Board of Directors of the Zuist Church of Iceland was hijacked by people who were originally unrelated to the movement. Under the new leader Ísak Andri Ólafsson, Zuism became a medium for a protest against the major government-supported churches and against the levying of a tax on all taxpayers, payable to their religion if they had registered one; after the protest started over 3,000 members joined in a short period of time at the end of 2015. Iceland requires taxpayers to identify with one of the religions recognised by the state, or with a non-recognised religion or no religion; a tax (of about US$80, £50 in 2015) is paid to the relevant religion, if recognised, but will run directly to the government if a religion is not stated. Zuism, unlike other religions, promises to refund the money it receives from the tax.
Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson and the new board led by Ísak Andri Ólafsson started a judicial dispute over the leadership of the organisation. Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson was ultimately reinstated as the leader of the movement, and, by October 2017, after two years of frozen activity, the case was closed allowing the church to dispose of its charges and refund its members.
Congregation of Zuism in Norway
The "Congregation of Zuism in Norway", headquartered in Nittedal, was founded in 2016 as an independent Norwegian Zuist organisation. As of 2017 it was waiting to be registered as a recognised religion by the Norwegian government.
Symbols used by Zuists include the cuneiform grapheme zu (𒍪 in the logo of the Zuist Church) and the more important cuneiform grapheme An or Dingir (𒀭). The grapheme for An or Dingir represents the "Gate of God" (𒆍𒀭𒊏 Ka.dingir.ra in Sumerian, Babilu in Akkadian), that is the organisation of the sky centred around the ecliptic north celestial pole, the calendar, the operating heart of space-time, of the supreme God of the universe. In the wake of the Assyriologist Pietro Mander, Zuist researchers explain that the grapheme An or Dingir, which means "Heaven" but also generic "divinity", also has the meaning of "spike", "cluster", "petiole" and is also frequently interpreted as meaning "star", "asterism", though these, mul in Sumerian, are more precisely represented by doubling (𒀭𒀭) or tripling the An grapheme. On a philosophical level, its most appropriate rendition is "centre of irradiation" and "navel of the world" (a concept treated by Mircea Eliade), which emanates the web of the world (personified by the goddess Uttu, "Spider", the last daughter of Enki), which connects all things; it is the sacred centre shared by all entities. It is well represented by the Sumerian figurative meanings of the spike composed of many spikelets, the bunch of grapes, and the petiole from which the fruit (metaphor of the world) hangs.
Zuism and other religions and thought systems
Views on Christianity and Sitchinianism
According to independent Zuist researchers, Christianity (viewed as corrupted and dying in its modern forms) is a "false religion, or non-religion", as it "fails to relink Heaven, Earth and humanity"—the word "religion" is derived from the common root of the Latin verbs religere (careful "re-reading" or "re-collecting" right practices) and religare ("re-linking"), according, respectively, to the etymologies provided by Lucretius' De Rerum Natura and Lactantius' Divinae Institutiones.
The Zuist vision of God is presented as a thisworldly one, in which God is "the starry sky and its cycles". The God as conceived by Christianity in instead presented as a "non-existing, otherworldly abstract thing". At the same time, Christianity is characerised as "a religion for the slaves, deliberately created to breed and domesticate masses of slaves" by postponing "its plan of universal equality to an otherworldly future", which "results in a rejection of the present world, of thisworldly potentialities, and thus in an alienation of individual intelligences from the present world, and in the fall of the latter into anomy".
Christianity is also considered to have appropriated the pan-Eurasian concept of the trinity, distorting it by abstracting God, and trying "to fix, to stiffen, the creative operation of the universe (the logos, the second and third persons of God in traditional Eurasian theology; Enlil and Enki in Sumerian theology) in a definitive way, as one single spatiotemporal person (Jesus)". With the abstraction of God, "Heaven", no longer identified as God itself or God's manifestation, was transcendentalised and projected as an otherworldly future realm.
Zuists also rejects Sitchinianism, defined as another "abstract, nonsense science fiction", a misinterpretation of ancient knowledge which is a "sadly a popular thought paradigm among contemporary masses" and "just the latest spawn of the Christian abstraction of God and objectification of the logos".
Views on atheism
Zuist Church's literature presents Zuism as a scientific religion, based upon the order of Heaven, An, which is not a transcendent human-like God but "the universal cosmos and the nature of things". This makes Zuism different from the religions of transcendental theism, and makes it able capable of welcoming theological positions such as pantheism, panentheism and even atheism. Zuism therefore "proposes itself as a reconciliation of the dichotomy between scientific atheism and religious theism, consequently emerging as well as a new type of social organisation capable of reconciling religious and secularist positions in the field of politics".
- The name Zuism has become the most common descriptor for the modern movement of Sumerian-Mesopotamian religion, being the name under which the religion has been recognised by the Icelandic government since 2013. Other descriptors have been used, by minor informal groups which existed before the recognition under Icelandic law. These synonyms include Sumerian-Mesopotamian Neopaganism or Sumerian-Mesopotamian Reconstructionism, Babylonian Neopaganism or Babylonian Reconstructionism, and Kaldanism ("way of the Chaldeans").
- Sumerian An: Akkadian Anu or Anum, or Ilu; West Semitic El, which has the same roots of the modern Arabic Allah.
- In Sumerian also called Nunamnir; in Akkadian also simply Bel, "Lord".
- Ea in Akkadian.
- Abzu 𒀊𒍪 literally means "Before Knowledge" or "Watery Knowledge", "Dissolved Knowledge", and was also named Engur 𒇉. Nammu, also better rendered as Mummu, is the primordial "Mother", is written with the same grapheme as that for Engur, and is the personified Abzu. Mummu has also been rendered as "Matrix", "Chaos", "Noise", "Confusion", "Scream" amongst other translations. It is the primordial, unshaped potentiality.
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