BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.

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Author Interview: Ed Vanderjagt



[Today, we sit down for an interview with author, artist, and game developer, Ed Vanderjagt. A Sumerian polytheist, Vanderjagt has published -- and is currently at work on -- both fiction and nonfiction centered around the Sumerian pantheon. He is also developing an oracle deck based on Sumerian cosmology, which will be available shortly.] 


BookMusings: How did you come to Sumerian polytheism?


Ed Vanderjagt: Believe it or not, I was raised Sumerian. My father had an odd obsession with finding the origins of Christianity and Judaism. When you look back far enough, you generally end up in Sumer. 


BookMusings: If you could correct one common misconception about Sumer and Sumerian polytheism, what would that be?


Ed Vanderjagt: Being at the dawn of civilization, some people think that Sumerian religion is all about living in mud huts and being primitive. Being at the dawn of civilization meant that the Sumerians knew how precious civilization is. The gods have an interest in civilization and technology. Ours is a very forward-looking religion. 


BookMusings: Inanna tends to get a lot of attention, and not just from Sumerian polytheists. Which other Deities do you feel should become more well known? Are there any to whom you are particularly devoted?


Ed Vanderjagt: Perhaps half of modern Sumerians are followers of Inanna. Personally, I am a follower of Enki, but he is rather well known, as well. I also am fond of Ereshkigal. Again though, Ereshkigal gets plenty of attention. One goddess I feel deserves a lot more attention than she gets is Ninhursag. Considering that she is one of the most powerful goddesses in the entire pantheon, it always seems odd that she is generally ignored by pagans. Inanna is a great goddess, but people unfamiliar with Sumer call upon her as a goddess of childbirth, of the garden, and as a mother. Inanna is none of these things, but Ninhursag is all of these and more. 


BookMusings: You are currently developing a cartomantic oracle system based on Sumerian mythology. First, why cards instead of —say —wooden staves or stones?


Ed Vanderjagt: I absolutely think that people should give other systems a try, but I picked cards because they are something that pagans already use. I wanted the system to be intuitive for people already familiar with divination by card. Cards also provide images that many Sumerians need in their practice. 


BookMusings: How did you design the artwork for the cards? Did you do the artwork yourself? Create collages using public domain images?


Ed Vanderjagt: I drew all of the art myself, but I based the style and iconography on existing artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia. I have been studying Sumerian iconography for many years and had intended simply to write a book in which I provided information on the gods and the spirits that serve them. It was simply going to be a convenient way for modern Sumerians to access images of the gods they worshiped. I had also wanted to do a Sumerian tarot, but every time I tried the symbolism was so far off that I couldn’t get very far. Only by combining the two projects could I move forward. The final design should be familiar to anyone who has seen ancient Mesopotamian art. 


BookMusings: How did you decide which images and Deities to associate with which meanings? And how are the cards laid out?


Ed Vanderjagt: That’s easy. I simply drew all the gods, spirits, and concepts that I could get enough information on to draw. This meant that I needed to pull from texts, cylinder seals, and art from across Mesopotamia. Once I had the images I looked at the concepts associated with each. This gives each card a meaning and weight that reflects ancient Sumer. 


The main layout I use is a twelve-card layout in the form of a ziggurat that has some similarity to Tarot layouts where it wouldn’t interfere with the Mesopotamian symbolism. The main difference with this layout is that it has an orator. In ancient times when someone asked a question of the divine they had an idea of which god or spirit was answering. 


I put a little more information about the Ziggurat spread in a video on my YouTube channel


BookMusings: When will the oracle deck be available, and where will people be able to find it?


Ed Vanderjagt: I’m going to put it out in three stages. The first one is double-sided and has the associations on the back of each card. This will be available in a couple of weeks. The second one will be available in mid-August. It will have uniform backgrounds and a little white book with information on each card like people generally expect from a deck. Finally, I will have a more sizable book with detailed information on the cards that can be used with either version of the deck. This book

is nice to have, but not essential to use the deck. 


The book will be available through Amazon and other similar online book retailers, and if I can manage it I will put the cards on Amazon, as well. I am publishing the cards through and I will provide a link on the following sites as soon as it becomes available: 


BookMusings: What resources (books, sites, journals, et cetera) do you recommend to those who are interested in Sumerian polytheism?


Ed Vanderjagt: Generally speaking, there aren’t a lot of resources directed at a pagan audience. Temple of Sumer Publications is writing a number of books to help with this, and there are the above links to look at. On Facebook there are quite a number of active Sumerian communities that can easily be found. As for books, I recommend the following for anyone looking into Sumerian Paganism. 


Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia by Black and Green (ISBN 0292707940)

Descent of Inanna: Annotated and Illustrated by Edward VanDerJagt (ISBN 1515142396)

Dingir: Adventures of the Gods (Original Run): Monochrome by Edward VanDerJagt (ISBN 1548712949)

Three Kings of Warka by Fran Hazelton (ISBN 0955433029)

Stories from Ancient Iraq by Fran Hazelton (ISBN 0955433010)


BookMusings: What other projects are you working on?


Ed Vanderjagt: I am working on quite a few projects with the help of the Temple of Sumer Publications team. Here are a few: 


Fiction under the name Dan Jager: “Rook and Den” (a story about werewolves, raven shape changers, and djinn); “Wanderlust” (a story of world walkers inspired in part by the works of Roger Zelazny); The Kings of Uruk trilogy (a novelization of several heroic Sumerian myths). 


Nonfiction under my own name: Finding Aratta (I did so much historical research on the lost city of Aratta for the above trilogy that it will fill a book); The Annotated Gilgamesh (like my book on Inanna, this is written in conversational English with annotations to help the reader get the wider picture); Treatise on the Sumerian Underworld (an easy to digest book on the complex landscape of the Sumerian afterlife). 


BookMusings: Which fairs, conventions, celebrations, or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?


Ed Vanderjagt: I’ll be vending at Iowa Lammas fest near the end of this month (July), but other than that I don’t have any plans just now. If you or anyone else knows of an event that would be interested in having a Sumerian storyteller and artist, let me know. 

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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