A male deity of the town of Gišbanda, which lies upstream from Ur. Ningišzida is connected with vegetation and the underworld.
Ningišzida, like his father Ninazu, is a chthonic deity associated with vegetation, growth and decay, snakes and demons. Ningišzida's name, and those of his courtiers (see below) reflect this connection, while descriptions of him include: "Lord of pastures and fields" and "like fresh grass" (Wiggerman 1998-2001b). The 'tree' of his name has been suggested to be the vine, and in Ur III texts Ningišzida is associated with the é-ĝeštin, the "wine-house" (Sallaberger 1993: 125, 368), elsewhere with the beer-god Siriš, and beer-goddess Nin-kasi. Furthermore, he is the "lord of the innkeepers" (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 370).
Associated with his role in agriculture, Ningišzida is said to travel to the underworld at the time of the death of vegetation (in Mesopotamia - mid-summer to mid-winter). This journey is recorded in both Sumerian and Akkadian myths (Ningišzida's Journey to the Netherworld, ETCSL 1.7.3 and Lambert 1990: 293). In the Adapa legend, Ningišzida, under the name Gišzida, is one of the two deities who are said to have disappeared from the land (Foster 2005: 525-30).
Ningišzida's chthonic nature is reflected in his title (giš)gu-za-lá-kur-ra, "the chair-bearer of the netherworld", and together with Pedu, the chief netherworld gate-keeper, he stands at the entrance to the underworld. In Ur III and Old Babylonian (early second millennium BCE) periods Ningišzida appears in rituals associated with royal laments (e.g., The Death of Ur-Namma, ETCSL 18.104.22.168: 118). In Neo Assyrian times (early 1st millennium BCE) he is associated with the punishment, pestilence and disease, and occasionally called "Lord of the netherworld" (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 371). Ningišzida appears in incantations, but only in connection to vegetation, or as a netherworld deity, or (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 369).
Ningišzida, like his father, is associated with dragons, the mušhuššu and balm. He is also referred to as a snake, e.g. muš-mah (A balbale to Ningišzida, ETCSL 4.19.1: 2), and as such he is associated the Hydra constellation in the astrological compendium MUL-Apin. Also like his father, Ningišzida is titiled warrior, and he is the military governor of Ur (Frayne 1990: 196). In the god list An = Anum he is dgúd-me-lám "warrior of splendor", and his symbol is the sickle sword (pāštu) (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 370-1).
The conception of Ningišzida as a reliable god is obvious from his name. He is involved with law in the underworld and on earth (Wiggermann 1998-2001: 371). The element "Ningišzida is judge" appears in the personal names of the Neo-Babylonian period (mid 1st millennium BCE) (Figulla and Gadd 1949: 38).
Ningišzida is the son of Ninazu and his wife, Ningirida. In Gudea Cylinder B (ETCSL 2.1.7: 1342), Ningišzida is described as the "progeny of An", supposing a sequence An - Enlil - Ninazu - Ningišzida. The god list An = Anum lists two sisters: dama-TÙR-ma and dla-bar-TÙR-ma. In most Old Babylonian and later attestations, the wife of Ningišzida is Ninazimua, "The lady who lets the good juice grow" (Enki and Ninhursaga, ETCSL 1.1.1: 278), while at Lagaš, his wife is Geštinanna (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 369).
As mentioned above, his home was the town Gišbanda (itself an epithet of Ningišzida), which was located upstream from Ur, near to Ki'abrig. Ningišzida's temple in this town was called kur-a-še-er-ra-ka, "mountain of lament". When his cult was discontinued it was possibly moved to Ur (see above), where he had a shrine in the temple of Nanna and his own temple, the "House of Justice" (é-níg-gi-na) (Frayne 1990: 196). Other centres of worship of Ningišzida include Ešnunna (modern Tell Asmar, northeast of Baghdad), his father's cult centre; Lagaš, where he was Gudea's personal god, and who built Ningišzida a new temple, with dedicated statues. Other cults may have existed at Isin, Larsa, Babylon and Uruk (Wiggermann 1998-2001b).
Ningišzida makes his first appearance in the Fara god list from the Early Dynastic III period (2600-2350 BCE), and is recorded through the first millennium, e.g. in late Neo-Babylonian personal names (see above). Venerated at Girsu at the time of Gudea and into the Ur III period, Ningišzida received offerings at Puzriš-Dagan (the administrative hub of the Ur III period located near Nippur) and during this period there was a festival of Ningišzida in the third month of the year (Sallaberger 1993: 281 ff.). At the end of the Ur III period his cult at the town of Gišbanda was discontinued, and possibly moved to Ur (Frayne 1990: 196). There is only limited evidence, however, for Ningišzida during the Old Babylonian period, and there are very few attestations as a theophoric element in personal names of the third and second millennia (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 373).
Iconography of Ningišzida with snakes is attested on Ur III cylinder seals (Fischer 1997: 175 n.14, 135 n.219), and with mušhuššu dragons growing out of his shoulders, e.g., on Gudea's seal (van Buren 1934: 72 Fig. 1).
The deity's name is usually understood to mean "Lord of the true/reliable/right tree" (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 368). His name is usually spelled dnin-giš-zi-da, but the /da/ is occasionally omitted. Syllabic spellings suggest a pronunciation of Niggissida or Nikkissida. The Emesal name is Umun-muzzida. Other associated epithets include dgiš-bàn-da, "Little Tree" (Wiggermann 1998-2001b: 368-73).
Adam Stone, 'Ningišzida (god)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/ningizida/]