An Ancient Mercury Retrograde

Astrology 4000 years ago was just as popular as it is now, actually more so. But when you had Mercury Retro delivery fuq-ups or dreadful service you had to etch the complaint into stone – imagine.

The tablet above is from a Babylonian gentleman named Nanni to a copper merchant called Ea-Nasir – he’s essentially saying that Ea-Nasir has his money but that the copper ingots he’s sourced are crap and that Ea-Nasir was rude to his servant, who was handling the transaction.

It’s considered to be the oldest complaint letter in existence:

“…Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.”

Found in the ruins of Ur, a major city-state in what was Mesopotamia but is now Iraq, it is actually just one of many complaint ‘stones’ to this particular copper-dealer. I’d also like to add that according to these records, “tithe to the goddess Ningal” was an acceptable tax deduction – we should bring this sort of thing back asap.

One of Ur’s chief deities was “Sin” – their Moon God. He had a beard made from lapiz lazuli and rode on a winged bull. Bulls were everywhere then – in some astrological theories that era was the Age of Taurus.

His partner was the Sun Goddess, Ningal – Great Lady – and Ishtar/Inanna (represented by the planet we now call Venus) was one of their children. Ur had sanctuaries, astrologers, poets, cosmologically designed gardens, spies, shrines, terrace housing, carefully crafted waterways, cats and priestesses.

Ur means “city of light” and it is the city where we found the world’s oldest known astrological text:  Enuma Anu Enlil.  Their version of Mercury was called Nabu, the God of Water, Wisdom + Writing. No doubt somewhere in these still yet to be totally translated writings is a reference to Mercury/Nabu Retrograde.

And well, Mercury Retrograde and/or bad help happen in any century but imagine dealing with it when the complaint had to be etched into rock and delivered. Every time I see evidence of magic and ancient cities with priestesses or reverence for cats, I think of how anti-fragile a certain style of being is.

This complaint letter could have been written yesterday. Thoughts?

Image: British Musuem

61 thoughts on “An Ancient Mercury Retrograde”

  1. Above the word witch was mentioned which reminded me of Lana Del Ray and her coven, cronies and as many friends as she could muster to plan a ritual for Friday States time were gathering outside Trump Tower to put a hexxy-spell on his Trumpness.

    It WAS rumoured that witches gathered on the White Cliffs of Dover to repel the German Invasion.
    They were repelled eventually, so it ain’t me laughing at Lana 🙂

  2. I think when we started writing things, which started with economic naggings like this, is when we stopped being magical. I also think that is a really strange thing for a Mercury-ruled type such as myself to write.

    I saw an exhibit from the Royal Tombs of Ur years ago and I bought the exhibit book. They had the best jewelry back then…gold, orange, blue…nothing compares to it now.

    1. I agree with you re the writing and magic – i think it changed us profoundly and robbed us of other more visceral abilities. Plenty of books on that now, lol …oh irony. But then i think we exchanged magic for slavery the minute we started settling down & owning land.

      1. YES! Even crazier, I remember it. I remember how we tried to resist taxes – at least some of us – and all currency is really a kind of tax and a location. Seems silly to write a book about it although I think about doing that pretty often. I am curious to know who wrote about it although I don’t think I could stand to read it. 🙂

  3. Maybe there was a stone-scribe who the locals went to , instead of DIY messages. the scribe would specialise in complaints. Was probably a scorpio moon, lol.

  4. What a great post! I love this blog for bringing me into the current zeitgeist – but my Kataka stellium drags me back into the past both in book and trance state. I crave more of these beautiful illustrations of ancient life perhaps because my NN in Saggi/Jup in the 9th/MC loves to culture vulture too.

    Graham Hancock whose Magicians of the Gods I am reading convincingly theorises the early Egyptians were the survivors of a great civilisation lost to the great flood (described in nearly every culture) caused by asteroid strike 12, 800 years ago.
    The caves in Turkey along with Gobekli Tepe with multiple levels being another survivor location.
    (There was black ash rain afterwards for two years according to some)

    Finding especially now it is feeling more pertinent than ever that catastrophic events and earth changes are part of our history. The humdrum messages like the above are so very piercing in a way that sometimes epic myths are not. It happened to them, it can happen to us – what does that look like?

    Perhaps having Nabu conjunct Inanna and Ninurta (Saturn) gives me a feeling of belonging to the past!!

    1. I think i’ve mentioned this on another thread, but in Stephen Oppenheimer’s book *East of Eden*, he investigates comparative mythology and used genetic, anthropological, linguistic and archaeological evidence to show that nearly every Middle Eastern and European myth motif, including the Great Flood, can be found on the islands of eastern Indonesia and the southwest Pacific – suggesting that the cradle of civilization – was not in the Middle East, as is normally believed, but was in a drowned continent off South East Asia – or Sunderland. Wasn’t there something in the news just recently on how there is actually a sunken continent in the South Pacific of which New Zealand is what is left above water? Perhaps these early Egyptians that were survivors came from one of these sunken Pacfic & Atlantic ocean continents?

      As for the “humdrum messages” and ..”It happened to them, it can happen to us – what does that look like?” Well, have a read of “The Winds of Change” by Eugene Linden (environmental journalist/researcher) if you’re interested in how persistently climate change has affected civilisations throughout history. He gives a very poignant description of what did happen in a large city near Ur from documented evidence left behind & what the archeologists pieced together:
      “One day, when workers were constructing a wall in part of the acropolis, work simply stopped. Half-dressed blocks were abandoned; other materials were left scattered about. Workmen had dropped what they were doing and left in a hurry.”
      This really hit me – just because of the ordinary tasks that ordinary people were doing – and then it was over – a sophisticated civilisation gone – wiped out by climate change. Same thing was happening in various places across the globe at the same time.

      1. Original hill- tribe groups in the Southern Philippines have creation myths which reference ‘the Great Flood’, and how survivors floated in giant bamboo vessels…

      2. Heya V, been missing you gorgeous!
        How are things?
        And here:
        There is apparently sound dating for 26,000 bc. and pyramid in Indonesia according GH.

        My feeling is that these people were all over the world, there are pyramids and megaliths in so many places and they were undoubtedly excellent maritime people given no one understands how to lift near 1500 tonne megaliths today.

        Skarab I will def read this guy’s work! Thanks for the mention, really interesting. Yes, also to frozen mammoths with fresh summer dandelions in their tummy. How does that occur without some extreme event? And like Tunguska asteroids do not always leave a cavity.

      3. Hello Sphinx 🙂
        I Have been lurking, but not posting because have two new teaching positions atmo and therefore So much admin/compliance/IT upgrade/ shiz to get my head around that there is like a blood vessel at the back of my head that throbs at night..
        It’s very nice to come here to tune into the higher octaves just by reading.

        Am so pleased that you are having your new home at last! May it always be full of fragrant smells, crystals and abundant gardens xxx

    2. If you mean your Merc/ Venus/ and Saturn conjunct in Kataka then yes – that would do it!

      Where is you asteroid Ishtar?

      Mine is conjunct Jupe in 1st h. But trans Ishtar is sitting ON my Lilith right now & opp my Jupe-Ishtar. I feel possessed!

      Today had a very lilith feel to it. Had a very animated convo at the veggie stand today with a harangued shop assistant who started to cry on me & tell me about her creep chauvinist boss – i had this insane urge to leap over the counter and throttle the bastard who was at that time busy salivating over some young tourists – but then 4 women joined in our conversation saying that women shouldn’t have to put up with such shit. The upshot was that one of them actually offered her a job in her shop if she stood up to him and quit. So fab.

      1. Cool femme sisterhood consciousness, love it!

        Oh my Goddess! I never checked my Ishtar asteroid.
        Like you it is conjunct my Jupiter (and Ceres/Juno) in my Piscean 9th!

        That’s my power spot!
        It is in my grand water trine to Cancerian stellium and my Moon in Scorpio. 🙂

        Nice transit, if you are going to be possessed let it be by benevolent goddess types I say.

  5. I’m at a brewery named for enki Sumerian god of flowing waters lol. Sumerians invented beer according to the tap person. Enki looks v Neptunian

  6. Since this is a post on Ur, scribes & Mercury, I’ve tried to post a couple of links (unsuccessfully – & awaiting moderation(?)) about the first known author in the history of mankind. Yes, there was other literature at the time but it was all anonymous and none as sophisticated.

    SHE was called Enheduanna (2285 – 2250 BC) & was a princess, poet & high priestess in the temple of Sin the Moon god at Ur.

    She was charged with the task (by her father Sargon, King of the Akkadians) of reconciling the gods of the Akkadians with the gods of the Sumerians so that the important city of Ur would acquiesce to Sargon’s rule.
    Not only did she succeed in that difficult task – but in so doing she is credited with creating the paradigms of poetry, psalms & prayers used throughout the ancient world & greatly influencing the style of the Hebrew Bible and the Homeric Hymns.

    She is known for her hymns to Inanna (Venus) and for the 42 poems she wrote reflecting personal frustrations & hopes, religious devotion, her response to war & feelings about the world she lived in.
    These musings also represent the first existing account of an individual’s consciousness of her inner life.
    Pretty far-out really. Wish we could see her chart.

  7. While we’re in UR and talking Mercury – planet of scribes – it’s no coincidence that Enheduanna – a princess, poet and high priestess of Nanna, in the city of UR, is the first known author of all literature.

    Apparently her sophisticated style and psychological nuance were miles ahead of any of the writing of the times. The hymns she wrote to Inanna constitute the earliest written portrayal of an ancient goddess. In their celebration of Enheduanna’s relationship with Inanna, they also represent the first existing account of an individual’s consciousness of her inner life.

    The first link is to do with her life and gives a great look at the the life and times in UR. The second is to do with her writing – which is fab.

    1. Oh thank you!!! Will be poring over this.
      Can’t believe I haven’t found her yet, awesome.

      Am reading Hancock’s latest book Magicians of the Gods and just adoring this post and all things ancient and amazing.
      My Mercury in Cancer LOVES this study! Where is yr Mercury again?

      1. You’re welcome!
        Yes, this lady is awesome.
        I adore ancient history too – Cancer Sun in 9th House with Gem cusp?

        To answer your question: my Mercury is in Leo and is atm being trined exact by Venus. And trans Merc is squaring my 8 h Lilith – hence my all consuming curiosity with female scribes atm (also looking up Murasaki Shikibu – considered to be the author of the first modern novel in 1000-1002 AD.) WHY didn’t we learn about these women at school or uni???!!!

      2. because they didn’t “change the course of history” (By starting wars and killing lots of ppl) 🙂
        i kno that was a rhetorical question and we know this but I just wanted to feel the satisfaction of writing that lol.

        it would be a cool history-teaching module for a renegade history teacher to learn their students something useful… balanced reporting of genders in history 🙂

        the best history is the history that openly plots the path of greed, or fervent ambition, and weakness, or high ideals of humanity… the chain-of-events stuff and childish pyramid drawing of junior high school history put me off … esp these days with GoT
        I studied geography instead where we could learn how deserts form, and what a cyclone actually is, and what makes a rainforest… the formation of river deltas… what is famine… <3 <3 sorry o/t now

      3. Hey, i’m satisfied that you gained satisfaction from answering my rhetorical question. The more it gets asked and answered the better.

        my 2 favourite subjects at school were history & geography despite having the WORST geography teacher EVER. Had him for 3 years. What he did was write all the lesson up on the blackboard & while we copied it down which would take over half an hour, he would go outside and suck on a few fags. Then he’d come back in & read out loud what he had written up on the blackboard for the rest of the lesson. Et voila – geography lesson over. 🙂

  8. Funny! Nice to know that some things just don’t change. Talk about a slow burn though.

    I like this idea of going back to older technologies. Have been thinking of getting the Nokia 3310 that’s bring re-released. I like the idea of having a phone that’s just a phone and my old 3310 was virtually indestructible. Don’t think I’m quite ready for stone tablets yet.

    1. yep although my phone is handy my addictive personality and its design to actually be addictive is … bad. have been toying with dumb-phone option for sometime now.

      1. Yes! I find it so hard to disconnect. Do I really need to know what the smallest marsupial is at 11 at night? Should I start replying yo work emails while still in bed

  9. Ha!
    That’s hilarious.
    And there I was stewing about how rapey growth hacking feels yesterday and replying to twitter bot messages “thanking me for connecting- signed bot” that I have a vacuum cleaner and we’re pretty close so I’m not open to another relationship with a machine right now but thanks.”
    And getting irate about being badgered into leaving five star reviews on Amazon. Isn’t it enough I bought your product?
    Those reviews are meant to happen spontaneously because the customer feels delighted with a product or service, not because they were harangued into in it. One guy actually wrote to me three times using my name and his first name with URGENT I NEED YOUR HELP as the subject line.
    Hell has a special place for people like Reino- or is that heaven?
    Depends on South Park. I think they’re the only accurate future prediction peeps, maybe the Simpsons too but the answers most definitely lie in comedy and stoic philosophy which paradoxically make a brilliant combination in these strange days. What else?
    Hmm, my flat has never been cleaner.
    I took a walk yesterday and realised I’d not left the house all week.
    Been writing from early morning till late into the wee hours. Some of what I write is even showing potential. I mean it will after it’s been edited about a million times. Bizarrely but I’m sure everyone who has ever read more than two sentences of mine (for when have I written less than 200?) will be relieved to learn is that I’ve finally grasped the beauty of brevity.
    I didn’t say Mistressed, that much should be be obvious but embracing limitations particularly a word count lower than I feel I can use to express my ideas apart from demonstrating a strong work ethic and genuine respect for the reader, has the effect of making almost any piece better.
    I’ve never been one for cutting or rewriting or even re reading my writing so it has never been work but rather a swamp of sloppy verbosity mistaking verisimilitude for truth and kinesis for conflict.
    So it’s not surprising my life has always been infested with “potential” or that I appeared to have “talent” and yet had nothing to prove it so.
    First drafts are supposed to be just that.
    I’ve discovered that in fact I’m not nearly as good at being a writer as I am at kidding my I could be a writer and thinking about thinking or writing about writing. Editing, proofreading and rewriting, well I had arrogantly and so erroneously assumed this was something I just wasn’t good at doing and so didn’t have to bother with but oh wow, I was never more wrong about anything.
    It’s rather like cleaning in that I’d simply never practiced and felt the simple joy well up inside me as I survey a gleaming, spartan floor. The joy of emptiness and the thereputic benefits of scrubbing, on hands and knees or even planking with four cloths, one under each hand and foot is my favourite position 🙂 it’s also my preferred method of exercise and procrastination when I have a deadline.
    I’m not good – okay I’m a complete failure right now when it comes to the task of working to deadlines. I also seldom even understand the brief so not only are my submissions late, full of typos, badly punctuated and wincingly woody, they also demonstrate a wilful commitment towards my first impulse or wildly inaccurate assessment of what the assignment is. I have always used the “stream of unconsciousness and hit publish” method and not even known or cared to know about other styles of writing.
    To write is human but to edit, divine.
    Stephen King you fuquin rockstar 🙂
    Perhaps if I had to carve every word I wrote in stone as the writer above did I might achieve similar gravity with my words.
    Also, it might help to actually read a little or even a lot more everyday.
    I gave my flatscreen to some security guards outside my block along with other stuff I’d barely even used and now they look at me with a mixture of pity and affection, even concern- which is exactly although not consciously the very emotional I wanted to evoke from this burly band of stalwarts.
    I particularly enjoy chatting with the night shift crew. They are my people. They understand- or at least they seem to.
    Mugwort under my pillow too

    1. <3!

      Re writing & editing: I'm jealous of your fab verbosity & free flow. Saturn in my 3rd house of communication really puts the brakes on my fluidity, as it demands that everything has to be precise and accurate – which kind of takes out the joy of free-flow. Trans Pluto now in the 3rd too strips things back even more. Maybe i should just haiku my through.

      1. Ha, well I’m thrilled to be the object an anyone’s envy right now for any reason whatsoever!
        I’ll take that, gladly.
        Thank you

      1. I suspect that is the cherished hope of Sagittarians everywhere 🙂
        But I’m a Virgo so I couldn’t say for sure 🙂

      2. oh that’s right I keep forgetting sorry 🙂 well you vibe sadge. and then there is La Grande Dame Pegasus

      3. Present and accounted for PI.x
        Invicta is free flow of consciousness writing and she writes how i imagine she speaks.Oui Inivicta?
        You are gorgeous and DOING it. Give yourself some accolades Champ.x

    2. Heard and understood. When i was there…a place where i wished i could edit…it stopped me from writing. So i lost ideas,which is what we do…download from source.

      Im writing by hand,not quite carving in stone though it felt like it, when i was relearning how to do it but the piles of paper… huuuuge. And my penmanship is epic now. If i have a stroke tgeyll find all the gemius instead of four blog entries it took 10 days each to format and spell check.

      I want to tell 17 year old ellen to just get a fireproof file cabinet and stay offline, but cest la guerre. Theyll find my volumes hundreds of years from now and everyones digital lives will be trapped in tiny boxes that new earth humans find clutched in the hands of ancestral remains.

      Ride the zeitgeist into the late aquarian age invicta thats a deadline that doesnt ellicit neural burnout. Leave notes for the future, tell them.

  10. Ah! I love this. Esp the Fancy Fuq You!

    When my parents were getting married, my mom didn’t like her last name (which had been kept by her parents from the fake ID that helped my grandma survive the holocaust). My mom also, however, didn’t like my dad’s last name, so they (read: she!) invented a new family name. She chose Ur. They (she) transliterated it differently from Hebrew, later when they immigrated to N.A. (Canada having responded to the immigration request just a couple of weeks before Australia, actually!). It’s been a slight pain in the ass name where we all quickly learned to just go directly to spelling it for people, but, as my mom points out, at least it’s short and says that is one of the reasons she chose it. She also has impressed on to me and my siblings that she really hopes and thinks we should keep this name… Chutzpah! I think we’re all going to, but this post actually contains the attitude-changing description of Ur I’ve needed to to be able to catch up to the name-changing. Thank you, MM!

  11. Lol! I think I should start etching my grievances in stone…much more time consuming than firing off an sms…you gotta be really committed to that message to carve it in rock! Hmm and I bet so therapeutic, by the time you had hammered in every letter I think a great sense of peace would settle upon you.
    Although my new (handwritten) not a blog, a journal I guess, entitled D.I.V.O.R.C.E. also brings me a great sense of peace, and giggles. So yeah, therapy but nothing like some muscle smashing precision work…food for thought. A stone journal? Downsides- very heavy, non combustible. Upside- the messages would be very well thought out and eloquent and could be kinda like a new / old style of martial art journalling….

    1. Giggling like crazy at this stone-chiselling therapeuti-craft idea. And the stone journal!

      Except that a multi-conjunct Sag Rising like me with Merc opp Uranus would drop and shatter it, no doubt.

      Then i’d have to find another stone to carve out Fq That Stone Sh*

      1. hahah yeah it’s making me laugh too!
        There’d be a niche for it somewhere tho right?
        Perhaps for bringing out the taurean patience and endurance to really persevere with carving the fqn sh* outta that stone.
        Hmm..even the finding of the stones to carve would have a role in the therapeuti-craft….I can see a retreat in the making 😉

      2. Like Yoga Nidra but, well, kind of totally different. Instead of setting your intention of your deepest heartfelt desire, meditate first on that which is your most important heart felt release…curse words are fine but, you know, probably think haiku- you have to chisel every letter.
        So contemplate. Think on it. Refine it.
        Search the river bed for your stone.
        Chisel. Hammer. Chisel some more. Blow off the dust. Wine is allowed. Chisel.
        Message sent 🙂

      3. LOL! I’m so LOVING this for the ridiculous –
        but the last bit actually makes sense One could very well do that – then after you’ve carved the stone you could throw it back in the river and let the water do it’s magic thang. Like Tibetan prayer flags but of the water.

      4. “Fq that stone Sh”. LOL!!!

        Omg! That’s me!!!

        Moon in Saggo. *waves* AND moon square Uranus.

        I hate the idea of setting anything to stone with a mutable moon!! And mars in Virgo (nothing is ever perfect!)

        I went to a gallery opening tonight and I’m still annoyed with myself for saying something a bit inappropriate. Gahhhh *slaps forehead*
        Get sick of myself being so chatty.

  12. oh I LOVE this!
    It helps us to de-mythologise the past and to really bring home the fact that we experienced exactly the same problems, happinesses, admin gripes, delivery delays, food procuring, creep-dodging, chit-chatting, lives and loves that will do for as long as we are the human race

    1. Yeah me too! Love it. One of the great pleasures of reading novels set in Ancient Egypt by Egyptologist Christian Jacq, are the real recipes for food & unctions that he uses throughout – plus all the labour laws & justice system of the time. You just realise that they had the same mundane issues we have now. I keep thinking that nothing has changed – just the fashion.

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