Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sumerian Creation Myth

Ø      This myth starts with a vast ocean. There’s something about water that suggests eternity, so Sumerians believed it must have always existed, before land, skies, stars, or the sun. There were two gods of water, Abzu, of fresh water, and his wife Tiamat, goddess of the wild salt water seas. By combining their waters, they created the first life.

Ø      They had a son named Kingu, whom they loved dearly. But, they treated their next children, Lahmu and Lahamu, like servants, standing watch at the gate of their temple, which I suppose was underwater?

Ø      Lahmu and Lahamu fell in love and had children. It may sound strange, but Sumerians thought of their gods as forces of nature, not as a human family. Besides, they didn’t have any other options, they were all that existed in the world.

Ø      These two gave birth to Anshar, god of the heavenly pole, and Kishar, goddess of the earthly pole. Their births created the heavens and the earth. Note this was never planned for nor appreciated by Abzu or Tiamat. They were quite content with the oceans.

Ø      Anshar and Kishar also fell in love, as spiritual opposites who balanced one another, so they had children of their own, Anu and Ki. Now, this is confusing because sometimes these parents and kids were different gods, and sometimes they were the same. Anshar was Anu, and Kishar was Ki. They had a limited vocabulary back then, with some words having double meanings.

Ø      Anyway, skipping that, Anu was god of the heavens, and Ki was goddess of the earth. They also fell in love, big surprise, and gave birth to the Anunnaki, the senior gods of Sumeria, led by their firstborn Enlil, god of air and wind. Anu also created the stars to be his soldiers.

Ø      Anu and Ki had a falling out, for some reason. It may have had to do with the birth of Enlil, causing the creation of air, which separated earth and the heavens for the first time. Who knows? But, Anu fell in love with another goddess named Nammu (we don’t know much of her origins, but she was kind). They had two children, Ningikurga  and Enki, god of knowledge.

Ø      Now, here’s where the story gets interesting. Enlil created a new line of lesser gods called Igigi, similar to angels, to work the land, and keep the world in order. They rebelled, much like Lucifer, and the chaos they started awoke Abzu. He figured he’d just kill all the gods and goddesses of this story, and go back to sleep. But, Enki somehow lulled Abzu back to sleep and then trapped him in Kur, the land of the dead. Enki then took his powers of water to become god of fertility.

Ø      That stopped Abzu, but his wife Tiamat was enraged. She created a host of monsters to kill the gods. Now, who killed Tiamat? It depends on which tablet you translate. It may have been Enlil, or Babylonian Marduk, or Assyrian Asshur, or Nergal. Whichever hero did it, they killed Tiamat, and used her body to maintain order in the universe. Her ribs hold up the sky. Her tail is now the Milky Way, and her crying eyes were used as sources for the Tigris and Euphrates river.

Ø      This saved the gods from death, but there was still the question of who would replace the Igigi? Here’s where we have to thank Enki. He got the idea of making the first humans out of clay. There was just one problem. They needed blood. Here the gods all got together and decided to kill Kingu, the last remaining threat to their existence, using his blood. Enki didn’t like it, but in the end he agreed and we were born! That’s why we have to work. We were chosen by the gods to take care of the world for them.

Ø      Now, just like Abzu didn’t approve being awoken, Enlil hated how noisy people were, so he came up with ways to kill us – drought, famine, and plagues. Each time, Enki would save us, and each time Enlil got angrier. Finally, he tried to wipe us out with a flood. Enki told the Sumerian king Atraharsis to build an ark for his family, and fill it with every kind of animal. He did this and saved his family just as the flood started. After a week, they found dry ground and start over again. Enlil was furious, but Enki got him to agree with new laws limiting population growth. I assume this story was used to justify the killing of children to control a city’s population, which was common practice in those days.

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