Dumuzi (Dumuzid/Tammuz) was called “The Shepherd God” among the ancient Sumerians. The young god courted the goddess Inanna (they are shown together in the image at left).
Later, after Inanna’s famous descent into the underworld, Dumuzi frees her by replacing her.
However, each year he is resurrected for six months, demonstrating that the underworld can be conquered. The day of his resurrection is the Winter Solstice (Nardoqan) each year. Then he dies again at the Summer Solstice beginning the process again.
He was viewed as the God of shepherds and vegetation. Thus, evergreen trees (the tree of life) were often displayed to honor him on his December 21 birth/rebirth celebration. Why evergreens? Because they do not die in winter and represent the conquering of death by life.
Similar celebrations, based upon this one, eventually spread throughout the ancient near east, the Mediterranean, and Europe. Accumulating traditions associated with the night of the death and rebirth of the Sun.
Among these was the Yule log. In later Sumerian culture, this log represented the Sun god Nimrod. From the logs embers came the evergreen tree representing his rebirth as his son, Tammuz. Gifts were left under the evergreen tree in celebration.
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