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Pine Cones in Ancient Mesopotamia

With the holiday season coming up and those bags of cinnamon-scented pine cones hitting store shelves soon, I think it would make a great topic of conversation at your next holiday party to explore the significance of pine cones in Mesopotamian mythology and art.

Pine cones are symbolic in that they are where the life cycle of a pine tree begins, and conversely, where new life begins.

Many reliefs excavated at Mesopotamian sites depict gods or super beings holding a bucket in one hand and a pine cone in the other. It is clear that the pine cone was dipped into the bucket and used to sprinkle a substance, sometimes blood, as in this depiction of Tammuz, a winged Babylonian deity associated with regeneration:


Pine cones are representative of continuing life, and Tammuz represents regeneration.

The pine cone and bucket depiction was not reserved to deities. Super beings, genii, which are like gargoyles in that they ward off evil spirits with people as well as buildings are also depicted holding pine cones in Mesopotamian art. This Blessing Genius stood guard at the gate of the city of Khorsabad, providing protection and blessings to those who walked through the city’s gates:

The pine cone is used by the genii to sprinkle water on passersby, to bless them.

For further information on pine cones and their significance, here are the amazing links we used to prepare this piece:

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