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How Akitu or Assyrian New Year was celebrated during ancient times

Modern Assyrian in ancient Assyrian royal costumes Source: AANF.jpg

The Akitu Festival was celebrated in 12 consecutive days during the Assyrian-Babylonian empires period with different rituals and activities in each one of those days

The modern Syriac people have been celebrating the Akitu or Assyrian-Babylonian new year for decades, in their homeland and around the world. There are tens or even hundreds of articles and documents telling the story of Akitu. We summarised it for you in this article and audio podcast. 

Ancient Assyrians-Babylonians celebrated the Akitu festival on 12 consecutive days. Here is what was happening each day.

Day One: On this day, Assyrians dedicate their time on this day to pray to the Gods, after that they will start preparing for the second day's festivities.

Day Two: Before sunrise, the high priest would take a bath in the Euphrates river, when he comes out, he would put on a white dress to symbolise purity. Then he enters the temple to pray to the Gods to bless him and bless the nation. Then other priests would enter the temple and start praying.

Day Three: Before sunset, priests would be praying, then the people would join the prayers. Then the king would bring the statue of Nabu son of Marduk and takes it inside the temple to be worshipped.

Day Four: The High priests start telling stories about the creation. The general public would be singing and dancing. This day is a day of memorial and celebration.

Day five: General public would gather on the edge of the river to cook and eat and celebrate while waiting for the arrival of the king.

On his arrival, the king would be escorted to the temple by the High Priest. There, the king will take off his throne, his imperial gown and kneel in front of the Gods and tell them that he has no sin or ill-feeling against them, his people and his kingdom. this is a symbol of humbleness.

Then the priests accept the king's confession and put his Royal attire back on, and reintroduce him to the public and the celebration starts again.

Day Six: The priests bring all God's statues from all the cities and bring them inside the temple.

Day seven: On this day, God Marduk would disappear, nobody would know his whereabouts. This means he went to fight with Goddess Tiamat. Now he is imprisoned in the mountains of the universe, then God Nabu with other Gods will go into a mission to rescue him. 

Day Eight: On this day, the king would hold the hand of God Marduk and introduce him to other gods. Then all those Gods would give their power to Marduk, and he becomes the Supreme God.

Day Nine: Day nine would see a huge procession. The king will be in front and Gods would be in procession floats, covered with gold and precious blue stones. In the first float, there will be four priests to assist God Marduk. The second float would be the royal carriage drawn by three horses, followed by other floats.

Day Ten: Marduk starts celebrating his victory along with the Gods of Heaven and earth. At the end of the feast and celebration, Marduk would return to the capital city to start the Holy marriage ceremony.

This marriage is necessary to ensure the fertility of the land.

Day Eleven: On this day, the Gods would perform a ritual of Determination of Destiny of humanity for the coming year.

Day Twelve: Final day of the festival

The Gods would return to the temple while people continue to celebrate. 

 

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