First myths about Creation and World Order
Many Mesopotamian myths were created in 4th millennium. But written samples are not available before the Akkadian period when literature flowered with enhanced cuneiform. However later texts must also be used we must try to sort out the original myth
Ubaid, Ereshkigal, Animal Round, zodiac, Sumerian, Akkadian, Ginungagap, Enki, Wainamoinen, Eridu, Oannes, Abzu, World Order, Edda, Kalevala, Enuma Elish, Voluspa, Sin, Enlil, Ninlil, Virgin, Scorpio, Oxen, Leo, Inanna , DumuziCelestial World Order |Inanna steps down | Sumerian Law | Sumerian astronomy | Origin of numbers | Moon temple | Many Mothers | Follow in suite | Sumerian zodiac | Egyptian calendar | Egyptian night sky | Isis myth |Follow Her | Bronze Age | sitemap | home |
Figurines from 13,6 cm high from around 4500 BC
These are from the so-called Ubaid period in Ur 6000 to 4000 BC and before the Uruk-period in Sumer. I would guess that it has a snakehead that symbolises the idol of Underworld that symbolises the womb. It has its head at the gateway to Underworld under the asterism Cancer. The idols are perhaps Ereshkigal and Nergal/ Erra before the Inanna myth.
Early ritual society faced the problem how to created a parallel world of thinking and symbolism that is needed when other people are to join the same program of society. That is the problem of symbolising the "making love", "engender", "pregnancy", "motherhood", "nursing" and "giving birth". All ideas should also be used as animation for cultivation of life an domesticating nature.. They chose to make humanlike idols and let the human life cycle be model.
It is like magic once we create humanlike gods and make stories they nearly get physical existence. In Sumer they was like a mirror of living people naturally. Another feature was that these idols were in every place Upperworld, Human World and Underworld. For some of us this trisection sounds maybe odd. But we have practically the same division in worlds and many religions have still the abstracted god/ gods in the sky in fact. I have no god but the Sun up there is part of the triad with Water and Soil and I am in the poetic way offspring of Mother Earth and soil.
The basic invention around 4200 BC was the Animal Round (early zodiac) or better a program for growing corn and getting beer. The cities needed cultivators that raised food in bigger quantities than for just a family or a settlement. Making beer become the way of getting pure water all the year and that affected naturally the general health. Just to mention a couple of aspects on the revolution of farming. The heydays of Uruk 3600 - 3100 BC coincide with the megalith temples (passage graves) in North and West Europe.
Too often interpreters of Sumerian culture are locked to frames of our times. And they do not look around for the rest of the world. Or like Hebrews that think they invented the Sumerian culture or at least use the Hebrew culture as frames on times long before they become by themselves chosen tribe. Observe that the Sumerians were not Semites. They must realise they are just copyists.
I try to sort out and pretend the reality of those days and I follow the development toward more aggressive cultures that borrowed some bits from the Sumerians. I also realise that we have some Sumerian heritage hidden in our culture and we got it from directly in Sumerian times.
We are fortunate to have the so-called Sumerian Literature. In reality much of this was written after 2500 BC and we owe many thanks to the Akkadians especially. They recorded stories that were more than thousand years old at the time. However for us it is confusing since we get more than one version depending on that the city states wanted to be original and made their own version.
The simple core is to get food on table and that important ritual is to promote fertility. In time the culture got urbanised and people forgot their roots and added an immense amount of fantasies to the rituals. We have to remember that idols and gods and their stories are just fiction.
Enki in Abzu underground in Eridu
Our present knowledge is mixed Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian. To fetch the beginning the Sumerian and maybe Elamite myths are to be extracted. ABZU = abyss is used for other aspect too. A) The Abzu as Enki's shrine / temple in Eridu. B) The Abzu as a subterranean structure. C) The Abzu as a mythical place where the life influencing powers reside and where their results, as well as the means to influence their effects, originate. D) The Abzu described as incomprehensible, unfathomable, secret. E) The Abzu as a place producing raw materials. F) It is like memory and knowledge.
In India they have the old myth about the deep garpha griha/ womb chamber symbolic of the powerful and dangerous chaos out of which our world is developed. The safe place is the mountain (earth) symbolised with the temple. We can compare the Nordic concept Ginungagap = bottomless gap between fog world and fire world. They needed something like a "knot" as the beginning of the thread. It is not much easier for us if we ask impossible questions. Where begins the universe? Is there another outside?
The Sumerians knew the most about ecology and that water is carrier of life. They abstracted the circulation from the ocean water that by thermodynamics is transported over land and in the end became underground or open river. AB =father/ old man ZU = wisdom so we could see it also as well of wisdom and life. In Nordic myth there is the special Well of Mimer.
The first humanlike idol and creator Enki is EN = the First and KI = earth = the first on earth and his title is often Lugal = LU = man GAL = big. To get what I think is original feeling I avoid words like 'king' and 'lord' and use BIG MAN also in the meaning of "old wise man". Compare that with the Finnish old wise Wainamoinen that is the culture hero.
Sometimes we get the impression that Enki came from the sea another version sounds like origin in the marches like we know from our days. Together with the Mother Goddesses they are creators of practical things. In practise that mean they first defined things and gave them name in the world of Mankind. That means they were the elder people and the story begins in the town Eridu.
This amulet was found at Eridu's underground temple. This shows three moons of the early Animal Round with Gemini and Cancer symbols so the fish-being must be Orion - Oxen. The late heir is Dagon from the Levant
Sometimes Enki is described as a fish. That description is also given about Oannes and other fish-beings with other names depending on version of the story. In Eridu they found an underground temple with lot of fish scales after celebration of Enki or Oannes maybe. The legend tells he brought culture to the Sumerians The Orient was a manifold of culture and we have got fragments from them all and from a long time so it is often hard to find the logic thread
This maybe more than 1000 years later. Here we get the impression that "Oannes" is secretary of Enki maybe.
Here we must remember that Enki and all so-called gods are just abstract beings that animate certain aspects of the universe and life. Many of them have an incarnation in the starry sky. On seals they are usually denoted by a star symbol. No big deal if we call Enki fish and like Oannes he happens to be animation of the humanlike creation. Or better he "creates" what mankind needs. Man sees only what he needs and every other thing is like Evil or a hindrance. In other poems we learn that mankind were "tools/ legs of the gods" and that is a perfect description even today.
They have found amulets in the shape of a black hole. That symbolises surely Abzu but also the entrance to Underworld. Other fragments let us understand that the inlet is under asterism Cancer and that the serpent guards the entrance. Maybe this is partly the idea of the megalith moon temple that also could be the symbolic Abzu.
When mankind started agriculture there was a need for knowledge about the underground. After that numerous animations were made and there is no end for the imagination of man when it is underground out of sight for man. Still the Sumerians were good analyser and get the knowledge to threat the soil right. The drama was mostly for the citizens and boys and girls that should be lured to the fields. Ritual processions become the mean and the poems were recited.
The texts about Enki are formulated like after he settled in Eridu and created his world. But there is a poem from the time he stepped up or out of Abzu and started Creation
"The Big Man of heaven and earth, the Big Stream, father Enki, engendered by a bull, begotten by a wild bull, cherished by Enlil the Great Mountain, beloved by holy An. The first Big Man planted a me tree in the Abzu, rising over all lands; great dragon who stands in Eridu. Its shadow covers heaven and earth like a grove of vines extending over the Land"
en mah di an ki nir gal ni-te-na
a-a en-ki gud-dam a ri-a am gal-e tud-da
mi dug-ga kur gal en-lil-le ki ag an kug-ga
lugal me abzu-a du-a kur-kur-ta il2-la
uumgal mah eridug-ga gub-ba
gissu-bi an ki-a dul-la
tir getin-na kalam-ma la-a
There is a layer of hymns that must have been composed in 4th millennium BC or earlier. This is a Sumerian version of the creation hymns and maybe we should call it World Order. Enki, the first on land and god of water created practical things. Observe the poem use LU-GAL = MAN BIG and not a word for god. On later seals we see him stepping on the original hill with the heavenly waters in a bow over him
much later Ionic philosopher stated "everything is water" and I must almost agree since 70 % of me is water. Enki plants the first tree that became Tree of Life as model for all other trees. In Sumerian philosophy the "first-time-act" is the important that is copied by later generations.
We learn from other poems that the Anzu bird build its nest in the tree. In the trunk the spirit of darkness Lilith in the shape of an owl got a hole. At the root the serpent got a place and goats could eat the leaves.
From the Nordic poems in the Edda we read:
"Yggdrasil is an ask. The biggest and best of all trees. The bough spread out over the entire world and rises against heaven. There is an eagle on a bough and between his eyes is a hawk. The squirrel Ratatosk run up and down and four deer are eating in the boughs. There is a goat Heidrun eating the leaves and the stag Eiktyrnir eat on the same tree "
The Finish Kalevala Rune II WAINAMOINEN'S SOWING we read:
THEN arose old Wainamoinen,
With his feet upon the island,
On the island washed by ocean,
stepped on land without trees
But soon the old wise man got trouble since the oak grew too big too much shadow and too many acorns maybe. So they got a copper axe and hew down the tree. But once they got much wood they used it for many good things. However in the end:
"Wherefore, ancient Wainamoinen,
Hast thou left the slender birch-tree,
Left the birch-tree only standing?"
Wainamoinen thus made answer:
"Therefore is the birch left standing,
That the birds may liest within it,
That the eagle there may rest him,
There may sing the sacred cuckoo."
There are later creation hymns and some starts from scratch as in Babylonian Enuma Elish from 2nd millennium BC
When there was no heaven,
no earth, no height, no depth, no name,
when Apsu was alone,
the sweet water, the first begetter;
And Nordic Voluspa
Of old was the age | when Ymir lived;
Sea nor cool waves | nor sand there were;
Earth had not been, | nor heaven above,
But a yawning gap, | and grass nowhere.
In Kalevala the first rune starts with the endless ocean. Other creation hymns tell about "in the beginning was chaos" and soon the humanoid giants create order. Enuma Elish continues with the Inanna myth of sowing/ stepping down. They recited the hymn at the Akitu Festival in spring. In Voluspa we see just fragments of the same story. I could mention more similar motifs and for instance the Cow Audhumla compared with Egyptian Nut.
The first Time Order was maybe the "moon wheel" that counted moons or forthnights. Now calculation was needed since they followed the time and moon. Now we can ask if it is just coincidence that we see the similar motifs in distant timespace. If we only had the poems there would be plenty of space for the sceptic. But when we look at the Great Rise of Human Consciousness during the Uruk period 3600 to 3100 BC we can see it as clear indications of influence from Elam and Sumer to Scandinavian and European megalith culture at that early time . See Moon Temple at Gavrinis and Nordic Vi
We have some speechless evidence in the idea of megalith monuments from 4th millennium. I have only found one comb that could be import from Susa Elam. But an important import is surely the North European number system that is Elamite. We have the roots of sexagisemal, 2 x 6 and 6 x 20 and similar is found only in Elam around 3000 BC. SeeEarly numbers
The visible evidence is besides the megaliths some rock-carvings with the Inanna myth from Uruk town of Inanna. That myth became like first-time-act and myth for the Old World. Once we get sensitive and really see/ understand the metaphors there is not big difference between Babylonian and Christian myths. The Sumerian myths and World Order were more ecological and perfect and a bit more kind and positive in attitude. Remember it is the original and later cultures are just copying the best they can
Birth of the moon Sin
The myth about Enlil and Ninlil and the son new moon and seed Sin is maybe the first agricultural myth. Here a cut fromInanna myth
"In the town of Nippur lived its young man Enlil and its young girl Ninlil with her mother Nun-barshegunu. The mother cannot give birth and she decided to marry her daughter in order to get food on the table. She advises her daughter:
In the pure wave, young woman
Have a bath in the pure water.
Ninlil, walk along the river Nunbirdu
The clear-eyed, the ruler with bright eyes
The big mountain father Enlil,
The clear-eyed shall see you.
The herd ... who decides the fortunes
The clear-eyed shall see you.
Shall without delay embrace you and kiss you.
Ninlil obeys as a good daughter:
In the pure wave is the bathing woman
In the pure water.
Ninlil walks along the river of Nunbirdu.
The clear-eyed, the ruler with bright eyes.
The big mountain, father Enlil,
The clear-eyed see her.
The ruler talks to her about love
- she will not.
Enlil talks to her about love
- she will not.
"My vagina is too small,
It knows nothing about making love.
My lips are too small,
They know nothing about kisses.
The girl was shy and should not be too eager ... bucks are many and the buck in Enlil was awake so Ninlil was seduced. But they do not allow that among gods. The council of gods condemns Enlil to the underworld. They do not allow rape.
Ninlil, the pregnant followed him. But Enlil did not like it, because their coming son they would condemn Sin also to stay in the underworld. So he planned to lure the three guards of the underworld by a tricky plan. The first had the key to the underworld. The second controlled the river of the underworld and third was the ferryman. Together they were "the three lock of earth". The plan of Enlil was to get into their guise. Then he made Ninlil pregnant with these guards. It was a pledge of love so that their son Sin might rise against the sky.
Ninlil talks to the guard (Enlil under cover)
"Enlil is truly your ruler,
but I am your mistress.
Let then my hand touch your cheek.
The seed of your ruler,
the outshining superior seed is in my womb.
The seed of Sin, the superior seed is in my womb.
Let then the seed of my ruler rise towards the sky.
Let my seed proceed downwards to earth.
Let my seed instead of that of my ruler
proceed downwards to earth."
As she prepared for the life in Uruk, she also read about two brothers who brought the seed from the mountains. An idea was born that now she should be the manager of growing.
In her thoughts she changed the name of Sin to kunisu the corn in her mind. She selected the role of making love for herself. They thought her twin sister to be the pregnant and bearer of the unborn.
The birth of Sin was a first time act and Inanna split it in stages. It was typical for the Sumerian mind. That is why we see the odd act on seals where the Virgin is giving the seed to her twin sister vulva to vulva.
Inanna with foot on Leo, i.e. "New Moon in Leo"
The seal shows when Moon in Leo at midsummer and belongs as idea to the same "first-time" as the symbolism that began in the Uruk period 3600 - 3100 BC. For the spring firstly the time should be right by experience that the Sun warmth heath the soil to 4 degrees Celsius before water get the seed to start growing and sprout break the shell. At that time and at that climate the suitable time was spring equinox. Observe that in Scandinavia the average temperature was 2 degrees Celsius higher then. So we get "When New Moon Inanna is in Scorpio" in the lines 29 - 45
"Having drunk cleansing water from the Ulaya river, Inanna stamped on the Scorpion (asterism) and cut off its tail. Like a lion it bellowed in an angry roar but its cries died down.
she threw it
and made it secure. Having heard its
poured forth the
, the clay of creation,
and laid it
2 lines missing the great lady of heaven delivered those words to An.
Having heard those words, An slapped his thighs in , his voice filled with sighs of grief: "What has my child done? She has become greater than me! What has Inanna done? She has become greater than me! From now on, the normal length of daylight becomes shorter, and daylight converts to night-time. From today, when the day's watch is three units long, daylight is equal to night-time." And now, when day began, it was indeed so."
The Scorpio gives us the time for the "first-time-event" around 3100 BC when they in many places started to use Scorpio and Oxen as time markers for half years. And Leo was important for midsummer and beginning of the new fertility year. Unfortunately many words are missing but we get at least the connection to the Animal Round and spring equinox. The highest god / Might An does not like that Inanna is stronger than him. That is the wonder of growth!
Secondly the seed have to get water and fertiliser to grow further. The helping gods become worried should Inanna = seed come up again? They were her father full moon Nanna, Enki the great creator and heavenly water god with Ninshubur as messenger. see also essayInanna steps down. The story goes shortened here:
Inanna steps down and rises
The poem "Inanna steps down" have 412 lines in cuneiform and we should add
that she rises again since she is the New Moon daughter of the moon Nanna. She also symbolises the growing seed instead of the earlier myth with Sin as the new moon and seed.
After this came a new version and her consort Dumuzi and his sister Ghestin-ana took the roles of the roots. In the original myth with Enlil raping Ninlil there was only three steps to Underworld like the farming instructions of braking the surface, going
through the soil, to the wet ground.
Inanna stepped seven steps being stripped from her worldly shape and dress. The happenings underground is naturally fantasies and a speculation about what happens when seed grows or not. Some of the details are right conclusions but hard to see without being the cultivator. As precaution she sends her messenger to her father Nanna if something would went wrong:
209 - 289 Father Nanna did not help her in this matter, so the messenger went to Eridu. In Eridu, when she had entered the house of Enki, she lamented before Enki: "Father Enki, don't let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. . Don't let young lady Inanna be killed in the underworld." Father Enki answered Ninubur: "What has my daughter done? She has me worried. What has Inanna done? She has me worried. What has the mistress of all the lands done? She has me worried. What has the hierodule of An done?
She has me worried." Enki removed some dirt from the tip of his fingernail and created the Kur-gara. He removed some dirt from the tip of his other fingernail and created the Gala-tura. To the Kur-gara he gave the life-giving plant (fertiliser). To the gala-tura he gave the life-giving water. One of you sprinkles the life-giving plant over Inanna, the seed. And the other the life-giving water. Go and direct your steps to the underworld. Flit past the door like flies. Slip through the door pivots like phantoms.
The mother who gave birth, Erekigal , the womb of Earth, on account of her children, is lying there. Her holy shoulders are not covered by a linen cloth. Her breasts are not full like a agan vessel. Her nails are like a pickaxe upon her. The hair on her head is bunched up as if it were leeks." .
"They will offer you a riverful of water -- don't accept it. They will offer you a field with its grain -- don't accept it. But say to Ereshkigal: "Give us the corpse hanging on the hook." (She will answer:) "That is the corpse of your queen." Say to her: "Whether it is that of our king, whether it is that of our queen, give it to us." She will give you the corpse hanging on the hook. One of you sprinkle on it the life-giving plant and the other the life-giving water.
Thus let Inanna arise." .. Erekigal said to the Gala-tura and the Kur-gara: "Bring your queen , your has been seized." Inanna, because of Enki's instructions, was about to ascend from the underworld. But as Inanna was about to ascend from the underworld, the Anuna seized her: "Who has ever ascended from the underworld, has ascended unscathed from the underworld?
If Inanna is to ascend from the underworld, let her provide a substitute for herself." In logic and tradition man has to leave a pledge when he takes something. So Inanna decided that after her "first-time-act" her consort Dumuzi could do that in lines 354 393
She looked at him, it was the look of death. She spoke to him (?), it was the speech of anger. She shouted at him (?), it was the shout of heavy guilt: "How much longer? Take him away." Holy Inanna gave Dumuzi the shepherd into their hands. Those who had accompanied her, who had come for Dumuzi, know no food, know no drink, eat no flour offering, drink no libation.
They never enjoy the pleasures of the marital embrace, never have any sweet children to kiss. They snatch the son from a man's knee. They make the bride leave the house of her father-in-law. Dumuzi let out a wail and wept. The lad raised his hands to heaven, to Utu, the sun: "Utu, you are my brother-in-law. I am your relation by marriage. I brought butter to your mother's house. I brought milk to Ningal's house (wane moon).
Turn my hands into snake's hands and turn my feet into snake's feet, so I can escape my demons, let them not keep hold of me." Utu accepted his tears. Dumuzi's demons could not keep hold of him. Utu turned Dumuzi's hands into snake's hands. He turned his feet into snake's feet. Dumuzi escaped his demons. Like a Sagkal snake he . They seized . 2 lines fragmentary ... Holy Inanna her heart.
Holy Inanna wept bitterly for her husband. 4 lines fragmentary She tore at her hair like esparto grass, she ripped it out like esparto grass. "You wives who lie in your men's embrace, where is my precious husband? You children who lie in your men's embrace, where is my precious child? Where is my man? Where ? Where is my man? Where ?" .
I am wondering about his hands and feet turning to snakes. That means maybe becoming roots. As late as in Nordic symbolism on the golden bract we see a man with "rubber legs" in the Snake Pit and there is some amulet from Roman times showing Yahve with "snake legs" .
There are later poems about Dumuzi and his sister Ghestin-ana sharing the time in Underworld. Overall the long poem is about the disappearing moon as well as about sowing and resurrection. Inanna should maybe be defined as the fertile flow symbolised as water. Some images show her as the rain and thunder goddess.
We should remember that it rains only 200 mm in Sumer yearly so they were more or less "rainmakers". Maybe they, the couple had some barter transactions in order to help each other. She invented also shadowing trees. She found that lop of the branches could be harvested and used as food for goats. This could be safe for winter because growing was with great risks in the Sumerian landscape.
She made of course a new play and with her as the actress. The story was that she was sleeping under a tree. To the garden comes the young gardener. He takes the goddess with force ... he was sought three times. You are forbidden to rape. But she got the story together and her folks understood that shadowing trees are a necessity.
For original texts see