Nuska/Nusku (god)

A god of fire and light, and minister of Enlil.

Functions

Kudurru of Gula-Eresh, showing a lamp (centre) as a symbol of Nusku (BM 102485). © The British Museum. View large image on the British Museum's website.

Amulet for protection against the evil baby snatching demon Lamaštu; Neo-Assyrian Period, 934-612 BCE. A patient's bedroom is depicted on the amulet, featuring a lamp within it that symbolizes the god Nusku. He guards the room during the night, when evil was thought more likely to attack. (The face at the top of the amulet is the demon Pazuzu, who also plays a protective role.) (AO 22205). © Musée du Louvre. View large image on the Musée du Louvre's website.

Nusku (Sumerian Nuska) is minister to the god Enlil, although he also appears as Enlil's son in some variant traditions. Nusku is associated with fire and light and played a role in protecting against evil. He was invoked as a protective guardian during the night, where he protected sleeping people, brought them good dreams and prevented nightmares (Foster 2005: 717-20).

Divine genealogy and syncretisms

Although Nusku is mostly known as the minister of Enlil, he sometimes appears as Enlil's son, or as the son of other deities. A variant Sumerian tradition describes Nusku as a son of Enul and Ninul, who are also ancestors of Enlil. In the Neo-Babylonian city of Harran (now in northern Syria), Nusku was the son of the moon god, Sin. Seleucid period ritual texts describe him as the minister or son of the god Anu (e.g., SpTU 2, 12 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/gkab/cams/P348617/], r i 32). Nusku is sometimes described as the father of the fire god Gibil (Black and Green 1998: 145).

Cult place(s)

Records of Old Babylonian food offerings to deities indicate that Nusku had a temple or chapel in the city of Nippur [~/images/Nippur.jpg] (Sigrist 1984).

Time periods attested

Nusku is first attested in personal names from the Early Dynastic IIIa period (c.2600 BCE) (Streck 1998-2001). His role as Enlil's minister is described in two second millenium pieces of Sumerian literature. In Enlil in the Ekur (ETCSL 4.05.1) Nusku learns Enlil's intentions for the human world and then carries out his master's divine instructions. A Sumerian praise poem of king Išme-Dagan of the kingdom of Isin (1953-1935 BCE) describes Nusku handing the king a royal sceptre, symbolically giving Enlil's divine sanction to Išme-Dagan's kingship (ETCSL 2.5.4.01)

Nusku is attested in first-millenium texts from the Neo-Assyrian, Achaemenid and Seleucid periods. He was invoked as a fire god in the course of a torchlit nocturnal offering ceremony for the deities Anu and Antu, according to a Seleucid period text from the city of Uruk. The text describes how the cult statues of deities, including Nusku, followed a flaming torch into Anu's shrine, and then emerged again to parade around the temple amid brushwood fires (TCL 0, 41 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/gkab/cams/P363713/], r 2). Nusku was called upon to act as a night-light and a protector during the first-millennium incantation series against evil sorcery Maqlû TT , particularly in the nocturnal incantations (Abusch 2002: 126).

Iconography

Nusku's symbol has been identified as a lamp from inscriptions appearing on boundary stones (kudurrus TT ) [Image 1]. The lamp appears in art from the Kassite to Neo-Babylonian periods. Another symbol of Nusku is the rooster (Hageneuer 2007).

A lamp representing Nusku appears on a Neo-Assyrian protective amulet designed to guard against the evil baby-killing demon Lamaštu, who visited women during childbirth [Image 2]. The lamp is pictured in the patient's bedroom, symbolizing Nusku guarding the room during the night - when evil was thought more likely to attack (Wiggerman 2000).

Name and Spellings

Nusku's name is perhaps to be read Nuska (dnuska) (Black and Green 1998: 145). Lambert (2002) details several spellings of Nusku's name, which he translates as "lord of the sceptre".

Written forms:
Sumerian: dnuska
Emesal TT : dumun-mu-du-ru, dumun-mu-duru5, dumun-mu-u2-duru5
Akkadian: dNUSKA
Normalized forms:
Sumerian: Nuska; Akkadian: Nusku

Nuska in online corpora

Nusku in Online Corpora

References and Further Reading

Ruth Horry

Ruth Horry, 'Nuska/Nusku (god)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/nuska/]

 
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