6. The Nabataean Tammuz and the Mandaean Baba (“Father”)


These transformations could be the key to what Ibn Wa´hshijah has preserved about a Nabataean Tammuz. He translates into Arabic from a book on “Nabataean Agriculture”:

In this there is a long report on Tammuz who was the first to teach a king to honour the 7 planets and the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The king had him killed, but after each execution he came back to life. After that the king had him executed 3 times, one after the other and in a very cruel manner, but after each execution he would come back to life until the third and last, after which he finally stayed dead[1].

This information about the Nabataean Tammuz is very important because, in spite of its shortness, it contains the very kernel of the myth about the god of vegetation. He can not die, but after each cruel execution he comes back to life in a new form, cf the English folksong about Jack Barleycorn, who is cut down by his ankle (I death), cast to the ground, bound and threshed with clubs (II death), and finally grinded between millstones (III death), and yet he lives in the fermented drink. Also Osiris is killed two times, and yet he comes back to life in his son Horus (to take revenge).

Also the Mandaean writings have preserved many traces of old folk religion:

“Sheep (Ram) is the chief of all creations ... For they call it ‘Ram’ and all mothers at their pregnancy call it ‘my impregnator’ because all things proceed from it ... Ewe and Ram (tata u baba) ... there is nothing like unto these two ancient and powerful primeval beginnings” The ram is the symbol of the life-giving juice: “…the lamb is of water, and water of life is the soul implanted in it, derived from it”.[2]

[1] Chwolson, Die Ssabier, II, p.606

[2] E.S.Drower, The Thousand and Twelve Questions, 1960, pp.175f.