A Deep Dive into Mesopotamian Mysteries: An Interview with Samuel David, Author of “Rod and Ring”

Introduction

Samuel David’s fascination with the ancient polytheistic beliefs, rituals, and symbolism of Mesopotamian spirituality is truly compelling. In this insightful interview, we delve into what inspired the author of “Rod and Ring: An Initiation into a Mesopotamian Mystery Tradition” to immerse himself in the study of one of the earliest known civilizations. From personal experiences and academic research to a profound connection with this enduring tradition, discover how Samuel’s groundbreaking book was shaped by his exploration into the mysteries of Mesopotamia.


Interview

Introduction to Samuel David and his book “Rod and Ring: An Initiation into a Mesopotamian Mystery Tradition”

PAA: Samuel, what initially sparked your interest in Mesopotamian polytheism, and how has your personal journey influenced the writing of your book?

My interest in Mesopotamian polytheism developed over time from childhood with my first illustrated Bible – “The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes”, and later, the Epic of Gilgamesh which was included in a book of fairy tales and myths given to me by my grandmother, as well as Halley’s Bible Handbook. The awe I
felt in reading those texts at a young age is something I hope to maintain as my spiritual journey and
written explorations continue during the passing years.

PAA: Could you share a pivotal moment or experience that inspired you to embark on the path of writing “Rod and Ring,” and what message do you hope readers will take away from it?

A great deal of material found in “Rod & Ring” was being composed starting in 2016 as contributions to
the spiritual community that I found within the Temple of Sumer, the Temple of Inanna, my local pagan
group (which sadly disbanded at the start of the COVID epidemic), and events such as Pagan Spirit
Gathering, Paganicon, Ishtarfest, and The Scottish Pagan Federation’s “Visions of Magick” conference. It
was largely due to outpouring support I had from others that compelled me to compile much of my work
for eventual publication.

PAA: As a writer, researcher, and educator in the field of Mesopotamian spirituality, what advice would you give to individuals who are new to this tradition and eager to learn more about it?

Sadly, there’s a great deal of information in the esoteric section of many bookstores that disregard the
rich history, culture, religion, and magical traditions of the various Mesopotamian peoples in favor of
alternate history and dubious theories concerning extraterrestrials. I urge those interested in this rich,
complex spiritual current to not be afraid of the research section of their local library or bookstore – you’ll
be surprised at the rich selection hiding under your nose.

Book Content and Approach

PAA: What inspired you to take a practical approach rather than an overly scholarly or artistic one in writing “Rod and Ring”?

Aside from notable titles such as Simon’s Necronomicon – so long as one excludes all the Lovecraftian
elements or the presentation of Marduk’s fifty names as individual spirits, there exists little in the way of
practical material that remains true to the spiritual and magical legacy of the Mesopotamian peoples.
Much of the extant material is either a derivative of The Necronomicon or heavily relies upon western
ceremonial lodge magic. The latter of which can be somewhat disappointing. A rich corpus of cosmological traditions, practices, and rituals that are complete unto themselves with their own formulae and modes of operation already exist in the historical record.

With regards to scholarly elements, I was unable to acquire permission from academic publishers after
reaching out to several institutions with requests to include direct translations of historical texts. In fact,
one publisher simply returned my letter with no response.

PAA: Can you elaborate on how readers can actively engage with the content of your book in their spiritual practice?

Throughout the course of the book are a series of sequential rituals and evocations as well as formularies
and instructions on creating ritual garments which serve to immerse the ritualist into a living mythopoetic
epic if you will. I also provided a means in which one may determine their initiatory theophoric name.
Elements drawn from the myths of Inanna such as her acquisition of the ME and her descent, as well as
Gilgamesh’s quest for meaning are woven together along with rituals dedicated to a total of twenty-four
gods. These rituals are composed in such a way that an individual or a group such as a coven or temple
may approach the material as part of an initiatory process either alone or together. The reader may also
utilize incantations from the book to secure working ritual spaces, establish protocols to magically protect
their home, and ritually purify themselves or others.

PAA: How do you envision your book contributing to the broader understanding of ancient Mesopotamian religions?

I sincerely hope that my work speaks to those who are looking for something that more prominent
esoteric and alternative spiritual movements aren’t providing them. Cuneiform is one of the earliest forms
of the written language and the various Mesopotamian peoples’ dedication to documenting everything
imaginable, including religious, cultic, and ritual texts is a testament to their timeless legacy. Speaking
candidly, I know that I am not alone when I say that contemporary spiritual or esoteric practices derived
from western lodge magic or contemporary interpretations of European paganism or even Wicca don’t
speak to everyone.

Ancient Mesopotamian Religions and Influences

PAA: Could you share more about your journey from your Christian upbringing to exploring ancient Mesopotamian religions?

I often joke that the Bible was my “gateway drug” into paganism, polytheism, and the esoteric altogether.
I was raised in a Pentecostal household and attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the
greater part of my life. For those unfamiliar with these sects or traditions of Christianity, aside from the
mystical elements like speaking in tongues among other gifts of the Holy Spirit, there is a great deal of
emphasis placed upon the various figures of the Old Testament. In the narratives found throughout the
texts, there are countless examples of conflicts between the early Jews and their contemporaries. There
are several passages that struck me and compelled me to ask uncomfortable questions about accounts of
the ancestors of the Jews living beyond the Euphrates in the city of Ur who worshipped other gods (Joshua 24:2-3); the worship of the Queen of Heaven and the prosperity the people enjoyed when she was publicly worshipped (Jeremiah 44); the references to the worship of the god Tammuz (re: Dumuzid) and the epiphanies of various gods as astral bodies (Ezekiel 8:14-16); the accounts of Daniel living in Babylon as one of the divination experts in the court of the king in Babylon. Another part of my journey includes the mild obsession from an early age with the debunked and quite outlandish theories of individuals such as Alexander Hislop, who asserted that Babylon has maintained its occult hold on the modern world under
the guise of Catholicism. This material was so intriguing to me that I often spent a great deal of time
reading prophetic texts from both the Old and New Testament to better understand the great power of
“Mystery Babylon”. I find this quite humorous now because there were several individuals throughout my
life that insisted that “the Lord was calling Samuel to ministry through the power of his word”.

PAA: What specific aspects of Mesopotamian mythology and deities resonate with you the most, and why?

Within my own private praxis, I have a room dedicated as a temple with separate shrines for my personal
pantheon comprised of Inanna/Ishtar and her spouse Dumuzid/Tammuz; the solar god of justice,
Utu/Shamash; the storm god, Ishkur/Adad; the lunar god, Nanna/Sin and his spouse, Ningal; the god
Marduk. Except for Marduk, these deities form a holy family and I perceive that they oversee the
agricultural wellbeing of the region of the American Midwest in which I live. I have also developed a
relatively minor devotional praxis involving the chthonic deities Ereshkigal and Nergal, and the titanic
forces that are embodied in the apotropaic demon-god, Pazuzu, and the terrifying ogre named Humbaba.
The most poignant aspect of Mesopotamian mythology concerns the plight of humanity explored in the
mythical Epic of Gilgamesh as well as the countless narratives concerning the prevailing power of order
over entropy and chaos. The lack of anthropocentricism in Mesopotamian cosmology as well as the
philosophy concerning life and death are of particular interest to me. While there is an emphasis on
hospitality, honorable words, and honorable deeds, there is no ideology concerning some eternal reward
or an apocalyptic end of the world. Humans were seen as a part of the same “ecosystem” in which animals, divine spirits, and immortal gods inhabit and death is the great equalizer.

PAA: How do you navigate and reconcile the differences between various Mesopotamian cultures in our book?

While the respective spiritual expressions or magical traditions may vary from on period or culture to the
next, I focus upon the similarities or parallels and historical examples of syncretism that exist. Thankfully,
a blueprint already exists thanks to the efforts of the Akkadians who sought to harmonize their own
culture with that of the Sumerians to soothe racial tensions after they conquered and colonized the
Sumerian population. This began under the reign of Sargon of Akkad, who installed his daughter,
Enheduanna, as the high priestess of the city of Ur. She is credited as the first known author in written
history and composed dozens of liturgical texts dedicated to the gods as well as various temples
throughout ancient Iraq. Other people groups such as the Babylonians and Kassites, for example, would
take this even further by elevating aspects of Sumerian culture, including the use of Sumerian cuneiform
to compose numerous myths, liturgical texts, and exhaustive comparative and lexical catalogs of gods.
Topic: Significance of the Rod and Ring Symbol

PAA: In your book, you discuss the rod and ring symbol as representing divine authority and order
in Mesopotamian civilization. How do these symbols manifest in historical texts and artifacts, and what role do they play in contemporary spiritual practices?


These symbols manifest in historical texts such as the Enuma Elish, or Babylonian creation epic, and the
Descent of Inanna as tools of divine office. They are also found in historical reliefs which depict deities
presenting these to a king. The most famous example is found on the Stele of Hammurabi, where the solar
god, Shamash, extends these items in one hand in an act of benediction.
It is my personal interpretation that the motif of the rod and ring may serve as an adequate image to
symbolize the Mesopotamian spiritual current – much in the way that movements such as Asatru utilize
Mjolnir or Kemetic groups utilize the ankh.

PAA: Can you elaborate on the ritual significance of the rod and ring symbol, particularly in the context of Mesopotamian ceremonies or religious rites? How do practitioners today incorporate these symbols into their worship or rituals?

Aside from their presentation symbols of divine authority over cosmic order and civilization, these items
are understood to be the equivalent of a ruler and a coiled measuring line which were used in times of
peace when kings measured and established the foundations of temples to not only commemorate their
achievements but also serve as a public declaration of their service to the god or godsthat they venerated.
Personally, I utilize these items in my own praxis to serve as tangible reminders of my responsibility to my
temple and the gods whom I serve both publicly and privately. To me, they are symbols of my role as a
steward of the temple and a leader in my community.

PAA: As someone deeply immersed in Mesopotamian polytheism, how do you interpret the symbolic meaning of the rod and ring in relation to broader themes of cosmic order, divine sovereignty, and human destiny?

I interpret these items beyond their historical meaning as symbols that represent the connection between
the realm of the gods and mortals; the astral, terrestrial, and chthonic realms in the form of the rod. The
cycle of the seasons and the human lifecycle are represented by the ring.

Personal Experiences and Rituals

PAA: Could you share more about your personal experiences during rituals, such as the instances of synchronicity you mentioned?

There are so many experiences I could talk about! One of the most poignant experiences involved a ritual
recitation of a text I wrote which recounted the events of the Babylonian creation epic and the battle
between Marduk and Tiamat. This ritual was conducted with both my local pagan group and with several
participants at Paganicon. During the ritual, when Marduk is invoked, there were some incredible
epiphanies. During the ritual with my pagan group, which took place outside, a sudden wind picked up.
There was no inclement weather in the forecast. The ritual space was surrounded by lit torches and the
altar had an iron cauldron with a steady flame. The fire guttered and was snuffed out while the wind grew
steadier and cloud cover formed overhead. The ritual came to an end with the symbolic slaying of Tiamat
which involved me striking the ground with an axe. In that moment, the wind stopped. When this ritual
was observed at Paganicon, during the same moment of triumph over chaos resulted in the fire alarm
going off at the same time throughout the entire hotel. There was no threat of fire and it the cause of the
alarm could not be determined.
During another ritual – again, there was no inclement weather in the forecast, an item was being
consecrated to the service of the god Ishkur/Adad. During the ritual, my pagan group gathered with
several instruments that were used in succession to evoke the sound of a gentle rain, then a steady
downpour, and finally, thunder and lightning. The god was then invoked by name, offerings were
presented, and he was petitioned for his providence. A heavy storm started the following day and lasted
for approximately three days and nights. During that time, the county was inundated with rain which
caused localized flooding. This was taken as a sign that the god, his emanation, or attending spirits heard
us. To this day, the item that was consecrated to his service has been used with the utmost care.

PAA: How has your involvement with a local pagan group influenced your understanding and practice?

I am thankful for the challenges that the group brought, especially in terms of public speaking, addressing
an audience, and more importantly, commanding a ritual setting with concise instructions. I love devotional ritual, however, being part of a large group who have gathered for a singular purpose is a
beautiful experience. It has also compelled me to write and present material in a manner that doesn’t rely
upon academic terms and concepts. I present the material in a way that is approachable, even for those
who are unfamiliar with the subject matter.

PAA: What advice would you give to those interested in incorporating Mesopotamian rituals into their spiritual practice but unsure where to begin?

There’s an adage I’ve heard several times: “perfect is the enemy of good”. I encourage everyone who is
interested in incorporating these practices into their own praxis to experiment and find ways that make
the most sense to them. I also have a concise list that was put together by myself and other members of
my spiritual community that provide titles for relevant texts that can enrich one’s praxis. I also encourage
everyone to take time and be comfortable in silence. Gods and spirits don’t always speak with proverbial
booming voices. Sometimes their answer or presence is affirmed by synchronicity, innocuous epiphanies,
or even the words of a friend.

Artistic Presentation

PAA: What inspired the aesthetic design of the artisan edition, and how does it enhance the reader’s experience?

The cover of the artisan edition features an embossed reproduction of a cuneiform tablet, which records
part of a balag, a song of lament that accompanied a stringed instrument. The text is typical of the Seleucid period, where the words are written in Sumerian but with many lines accompanied by an Akkadian translation. Sumerian was the language spoken in southern Mesopotamia until around 2000 BCE, while Akkadian had probably ceased to be a spoken language by the time this tablet was written, having been replaced by Aramaic and Greek throughout much of the Near East. However, both Sumerian and Akkadian continued to be written in cuneiform until the early centuries of the Common Era by learned scribes. This tablet contains a lament by Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of fertility, over the destruction of her cities and shrines, and contrasts her present humiliation with her previous power. There are parallels with well-known myths dating from the late third and second millennia BCE — such as the Sumerian version of the myth of Inanna’s descent to the Underworld — demonstrating the very long-lived literary tradition maintained by the temple scribes of Mesopotamia. The reason why I chose this image as the inspiration of this book’s cover is because I am deeply moved by these laments and see my work — and the work of my peers who also venerate the gods of the Ancient Near East, as building blocks that are rebuilding and reestablishing what was lost to time.

PAA: Have you considered making artwork available as standalone pieces, and what factors would you consider?

The artist of Rod & Ring is Johnny Decker Miller and he has made his artwork available in the past. Perhaps when and if the book is re-released by Anathema in a paperback edition, prints of various images may be produced as well. In my own time, I produce my own artwork as expressions of devotion.

PAA: How do the visual elements contribute to appreciation and understanding among readers?

Several illustrations serve to instill a sense of the world as the ancient Mesopotamians perceived it as well
as the epiphanies of the gods. One illustration, for instance, is found on page 325 presents the astral,
terrestrial, and chthonic realms of the mortal and the divine. Above the “circle of the earth” is a massive
ziggurat surrounded by clouds. Below the “circle of the earth” is an inverted ziggurat surrounded by the
river that separates the living from the dead and far below it, the primordial cosmic sea. For those who
are curious and may find it humorous, yes, the Mesopotamian peoples were “flat-earthers” – just as
countless other cultures were in the ancient world.

Future Projects

PAA: Can you share anything else you are working on?

Aside from Rod & Ring, I have two other publications that are available. The first is “Lioness: the Song of
Inanna” which can be purchased through Miskatonic Books. The second is one that was released last year
which was a labor love devoted to the god, Dumuzid, titled “The Red Shepherd”. This text serves to present a contemporary cultic practice dedicated to this complex deity who is more than just the effete
husband of Inanna who was unfortunate enough to take her place in the Underworld at the close of her
descent myth.
I have two other projects in the works. The first concerns the Enuma Elish (or Babylonian creation epic)
and the second concerns the application of elements from the Epic of Gilgamesh within the framework of
a psychospiritual esoteric praxis.

PAA Where can people follow your work?

I’m available on Facebook, Instagram (@rodandring), Youtube
(@rodandring), and my website.

PAA: Thank you very much taking the time to answer our questions.


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