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Enki (Sumerian: dEN.KI(G)𒂗𒆠) was a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Hittites and Hurrians. He was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, and lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally "ear") and creation (Nudimmud: nu, likeness, dim mud, make bear). He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus)[1]. His sacred number name was "40".[2]

The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is "Lord of the Earth": the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to "lord"; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means "earth"; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning "mound". The name Ea is allegedly Hurrian in origin while others [3][4] claim that it is possibly of Semitic origin and may be a derivation from the West-Semitic root *hyy meaning "life" in this case used for "spring", "running water." In Sumerian E-A means "the house of water", and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the God at Eridu.

AttributesEdit

The main temple to Enki is called E-abzu, meaning "abzu temple" (also E-en-gur-a, meaning "house of the subterranean waters""), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu. He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, very similar to the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine.

Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the "begetter of the gods", is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods so sets out to destroy them. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu "casting him into a deep sleep", thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home "in the depths of the Abzu." Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.[5]

Early royal inscriptions from the third millennium BCE mention "the reeds of Enki". Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried. This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology. In another even older tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having "given birth to the great gods," was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki. [6] Benito states "With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian "a" which also means "semen". In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his 'water'"[7]. This may be a reference to Enki's hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth) (see below).

His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus.

Myths of EnkiEdit

Enki and NinhursagEdit

Enki was not perfect, as god of water he had a penchant for beer and as god of semen he had a string of incestuous affairs. In the epic Enki and Ninhursag, he and his consort Ninhursag had a daughter Ninsar. When Ninhursag left him he came upon Ninsar (Lady Greenery) and then had intercourse with her. Ninhursa then gave birth to Ninkurra (Lady Fruitfulness or Lady Pasture).

A second time, he had intercourse with Ninkurra, who gave birth to Uttu (weaver or spider).

A third time Enki succumbs to temptation, and attempts seduction of Uttu. Upset about Enki's reputation, Uttu consults Ninhursag, who, upset at the promiscuous nature of her spouse, advises Uttu to avoid the riverbanks. In another version of this myth Ninhursag takes Enki's semen from Uttu's womb and plants it in the earth where seven plants rapidly germinate. With his two-faced servant and steward Isimud, Enki finds the plants and immediately starts consuming their fruit. Consuming his own semen he falls pregnant (ill with swellings) in his jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his throat, his limbs and his rib. The gods are at a loss to know what to do, as Enki lacks a womb with which to give birth, until Ninhursag's sacred fox fetches the goddess.

Ninhursag relents and takes Enki's Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body. The last one, Ninti (Lady Rib), is also a pun on Lady Life, a title of Ninhursag herself. The story symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess.

Ninti, is given the title of the mother of all living, and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba. This is also the title given to Eve, the Hebrew Khavvah (חוה), the Aramaic Hawwah, who was supposedly made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth.

Confuser of languagesEdit

In the Sumerian epic entitled Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, in a speech of Enmerkar, an incantation is pronounced that has a mythical introduction. Kramer's translation is as follows[8]:

Once upon a time there was no snake, there was no scorpion,

There was no hyena, there was no lion,
There was no wild dog, no wolf,
There was no fear, no terror,
Man had no rival.

In those days, the lands of Subur (and) Hamazi,
Harmony-tongued Sumer, the great land of the decrees of princeship,
Uri, the land having all that is appropriate,
The land Martu, resting in security,
The whole universe, the people in unison
To Enlil in one tongue [spoke].

(Then) Enki, the lord of abundance (whose) commands are trustworthy,
The lord of wisdom, who understands the land,
The leader of the gods,
Endowed with wisdom, the lord of Eridu
Changed the speech in their mouths, [brought] contention into it,
Into the speech of man that (until then) had been one.

Enki and the DelugeEdit

According to Sumerian mythology, Enki also assisted humanity to survive the Deluge designed to kill them. In the Legend of Atrahasis, Enlil, the king of the gods, sets out to eliminate humanity, the noise of whose mating is offensive to his ears. He successively sends drought, famine and plague to eliminate humanity, but Enki thwarts his half-brother's plans by teaching Atrahasis about irrigation, granaries and medicine. Humans again proliferate a fourth time. Enraged, Enlil convenes a Council of Deities and gets them to promise not to tell humankind that he plans their total annihilation. Enki does not tell Atrahasis, but instead tells the walls of Atrahasis' (a.k.a. Utnapishtim or Ziusudra) reed hut of Enlil's plan, thus covertly rescuing Atrahasis by either instructing him to build some kind of a boat for his family, or by bringing him into the heavens in a magic boat. After the seven day Deluge, the flood hero frees a swallow, a raven and a dove in an effort to find if the flood waters have receded. On the boat landing, a sacrifice is organised to the gods. Enlil is angry his will has been thwarted yet again, and Enki is named as the culprit. As the god of what we would call ecology, Enki explains that Enlil is unfair to punish the guiltless Atrahasis for the sins of his fellows, and secures a promise that the gods will not eliminate humankind if they practice birth control and live within the means of the natural world. The threat is made, however, that if humans do not honor their side of the covenant the gods will be free to wreak havoc once again. This is apparently the oldest of the surviving Middle Eastern Deluge myths.

Enki and InannaEdit

In his connections with Inanna, Enki shows other aspects of his ll non-Patriarchal nature. The myth Enki and Inanna[9][10] tells the story of the young goddess of the É-anna temple of Uruk, who visits the senior god of Eridu, and is entertained by him in a feast. The seductive god plies her with beer, and the young goddess maintains her virtue, whilst Enki proceeds to get drunk. In generosity he gives her all the gifts of his Me, the gifts of civilized life. Next morning, with a hangover, he asks his servant Isimud for his Me, only to be informed that he has given them to Inanna. Upset at his actions, he sends Galla demons to recover them. Inanna escapes her pursuers and arrives safely back at the quay at Uruk. Enki realises that he has been tricked in his hubris and accepts a peace treaty forever with Uruk.

Politically, this myth would seem to indicate events of an early period when political authority passed from Enki's city of Eridu to Inanna's city of Uruk.

In the myth of Inanna's descent,[10] Inanna, in order to console her grieving sister Ereshkigal, who is mourning the death of her husband Gugalana (gu, bull, gal, big, ana, sky/heaven), slain by Gilgamesh and Enkidu, sets out to visit her sister. She tells her servant Ninshubur (Lady Evening), a reference to Inanna's role as the evening star, that if she does not return in three days, to get help from her father Anu, Enlil, king of the gods, or Enki. When she does not return, Ninshubur approaches Anu only to be told that he understands that his daughter is strong and can take care of herself. Enlil tells Ninshubur he is much too busy running the cosmos. Enki immediately expresses concern and dispatches his Galla demons, Galaturra or Kurgarra, sexless beings created from the dirt from beneath the god's finger-nails, to recover the young goddess. These beings may be the origin of the Greco-Roman Galli, androgynous beings of the third sex, similar to the American Indian berdache, who played an important part in early religious ritual.[11]

In the story Inanna and Shukaletuda,[12] Shukaletuda, the gardener, set by Enki to care for the date palm he had created, finds Inanna sleeping under the palm tree and rapes the goddess in her sleep. Awaking, she discovers that she has been violated and seeks to punish the miscreant. Shukaletuda seeks protection from Enki, whom Bottero[13] believes to be his father. In classic Enkian fashion, the father advises Shukaletuda to hide in the city where Inanna will not be able to find him. Enki, as the protector of whomever comes to seek his help, and as the empowerer of Inanna, here challenges the young impetuous goddess to control her anger so as to be better able to function as a great judge.

Eventually, after cooling her anger, she too seeks the help of Enki, as spokesperson of the "assembly of the gods", the Igigi and the Anunnaki. After she presents her case, Enki sees that justice needs to be done and promises help, delivering knowledge of where the miscreant is hiding.

PortrayalEdit

Copia de Enki

Enki

Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water emanating from his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the 'Life Essence', which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.

In character Enki is not a jester or trickster god, he is never a cheat, and although fooled, he is not a fool. Enki uses his magic for the good of others when called upon to help either a deity or a human. Enki is always true to his own essence as a masculine nurturer. He is fundamentally a trouble-shooter god, and avoids or disarms those who bring conflict and death to the world. He is the mediator whose compassion and sense of humour breaks and disarms the wrath of his stern half-brother, Enlil, king of the gods. He is the Challenger who tests the limits of Inanna in the myth Enki and Inanna and the Me and then concedes graciously his defeat by the young goddess of Love and War, by strengthening the bonds between Eridu and her city of Uruk. So he becomes the Empowerer of Inanna.

InfluenceEdit

Enki and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, like Adapa, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his temple E-apsu, "house of the watery deep", points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters (see Oannes). Of his cult at Eridu, which goes back to the oldest period of Mesopotamian history, nothing definite is known except that his temple was also associated with Ninhursag's temple which was called Esaggila, "the lofty head house" (E, house, sag, head, ila, high; or Akkadian goddess Ila), a name shared with Marduk's temple in Babylon, pointing to a staged tower or ziggurat (as with the temple of Enlil at Nippur, which was known as Ekur (kur, hill)), and that incantations, involving ceremonial rites in which water as a sacred element played a prominent part, formed a feature of his worship. This seems also implicated in the epic of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage of Enki and Ninhursag, which seems an etiological myth of the fertilisation of the dry ground by the coming of irrigation water (from Sumerian a, ab, water or semen). The early inscriptions of Urukagina in fact go so far as to suggest that the divine pair, Enki and Ninki, were the progenators of seven pairs of gods, including Enki as god of Eridu, Enlil of Nippur, and Su'en (or Sin) of Ur, and were themselves the children of An (sky, heaven) and Ki (earth)[14]. The pool of the Abzu at the front of his temple, was adopted also at the temple to Nanna (Akkadian Sin) the Moon, at Ur, and spread throughout the Middle East. It remains as the sacred pool at Mosques.

Whether Eridu at one time also played an important political role in Sumerian affairs is not certain, though not improbable. At all events the prominence of "Ea" led, as in the case of Nippur, to the survival of Eridu as a sacred city, long after it had ceased to have any significance as a political center. Myths in which Ea figures prominently have been found in Assurbanipal's library, and in the Hattusas archive in Hittite Anatolia. As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumer, being equated with El (at Ugarit) and possibly Yah (at Ebla) in the Canaanite 'ilhm pantheon, he is also found in Hurrian and Hittite mythology, as a god of contracts, and is particularly favourable to humankind. Amongst the Western Semites it is thought that Ea was equated to the term *hyy (life)[14], referring to Enki's waters as life giving. Enki/Ea is essentially a god of civilization, wisdom, and culture. He was also the creator and protector of man, and of the world in general. Traces of this view appear in the Marduk epic celebrating the achievements of this god and the close connection between the Ea cult at Eridu and that of Marduk. The correlation between the two rise from two other important connections: (1) that the name of Marduk's sanctuary at Babylon bears the same name, Esaggila, as that of a temple in Eridu, and (2) that Marduk is generally termed the son of Ea, who derives his powers from the voluntary abdication of the father in favour of his son. Accordingly, the incantations originally composed for the Ea cult were re-edited by the priests of Babylon and adapted to the worship of Marduk, and, similarly, the hymns to Marduk betray traces of the transfer of attributes to Marduk which originally belonged to Ea.

It is, however, as the third figure in the triad (the two other members of which were Anu and Enlil) that Ea acquires his permanent place in the pantheon. To him was assigned the control of the watery element, and in this capacity he becomes the shar apsi; i.e. king of the Apsu or "the deep". The Apsu was figured as the abyss of water beneath the earth, and since the gathering place of the dead, known as Aralu, was situated near the confines of the Apsu, he was also designated as En-Ki; i.e. "lord of that which is below", in contrast to Anu, who was the lord of the "above" or the heavens. The cult of Ea extended throughout Babylonia and Assyria. We find temples and shrines erected in his honour, e.g. at Nippur, Girsu, Ur, Babylon, Sippar, and Nineveh, and the numerous epithets given to him, as well as the various forms under which the god appears, alike bear witness to the popularity which he enjoyed from the earliest to the latest period of Babylonian-Assyrian history. The consort of Ea, known as Ninhursag, Ki, Uriash Damkina, "lady of that which is below", or Damgalnunna, "big lady of the waters", originally was fully equal with Ea but in more patriarchal Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian times plays a part merely in association with her lord. Generally, however, Enki seems to be a reflection of pre-patriarchal times, in which relations between the sexes were characterised by a situation of greater gender equality. In his character, he prefers persuasion to conflict, which he seeks to avoid if possible.

Ea and West Semitic deitiesEdit

In 1964, a team of Italian archaeologists under the direction of Paolo Matthiae of the University of Rome La Sapienza performed a series of excavations of material from the third-millennium BCE city of Ebla. Much of the written material found in these digs was later translated by Dr. Giovanni Pettinato. Among other conclusions, he found a tendency among the inhabitants of Ebla to replace the name of El, king of the gods of the Canaanite Pantheon (found in names such as Mikael), with Ia (two syllables as in Mikiah).citation needed

Jean Bottero[15] and many others[16] have suggested that Ia in this case is a West Semitic (Canaanite) way of saying Ea, Enki's Akkadian name. Ia (two syllables) is declined with the Semitic ending as Iahu and may have developed into the later form of Yahweh. Ia has also been confused with the Ugaritic Yamm (sea), (also called Judge Nahar, or Judge River) whose earlier name in at least one ancient source was Yaw, or Ya'a. Although both Ea and Yamm were water gods, Ea was the creator and representative of the sweet beneficent waters from below the earth, and as "Enki" was responsible for fertilising the earth itself.

Yamm, however, in addition to being the deity of salt waters, and of storms that sank ships, flooded cities—that is, had a more violent character than Ea, who generally avoided conflict. Indeed, ancient Ur during its hey day as a port city along the ancient coastline of the Persian Gulf (now far inland), maintained its most holy shrine to the life-giving essence of fresh water as against the life-threatening qualities of the salty seas. Thus Ea, the lord of the sweet waters, antagonist to his half brother, the storm god Enlil, who can be identified with the West Semitic storm god Ba'al Hadad, the King of heaven and creator of heaven and earth in West Semitic mythology. Yamm, although important to the maritime Canaanites, was comparatively a minor figure when compared to Ba'al Hadad, who in the West Semitic myths is always his foe.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. Origins of the ancient constellations: I. The Mesopotamian traditions by J.H. Rogers
  2. Reallexikon der Assyriologie III, Götterzahlen. p. 500.
  3. Huffmon, Herbert B. (1965), "Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts: A Structural and Lexical Study". (Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins Press)
  4. Noah Kramer, Samuel and John Maier, (1989), "Myths of Enki, the Crafty God" (New York and Oxford. Oxford University Press)
  5. Leick, Gwendolyn (2001), "Mesopotamia: the invention of the city" (Penguin) p.20
  6. Daley, S (1989), "Myths of Mesopotamia" (Oxford, NY), p.50
  7. Benito, C.A. (1969) "Enki and Ninmah" and "Enki and the World Order" (dissertation, Uni of Philadelphia)
  8. Another translation describes 'Hamazi, the many-tongued' and instead calls on Enki to change the languages of mankind into one.
  9. "Inanna: Lady of Love and War, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Morning and Evening Star", consulted 25 Aug 2007 [1]
  10. 10.0 10.1 Wolkstein, Diana and Noah Kramer, Samuel "Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth"
  11. De Shong Meador, Betty, (2006)"Inanna: Lady of the Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna" (Texas Press)
  12. Lishtar "The Avenging Maiden and the Predator Gardener: a study of Inanna and Shukaletuda" [2]
  13. Bottéro, Jean (1992) "Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning and the Gods" (University of Chicago Press)
  14. 14.0 14.1 http://www.utlib.ee/ekollekt/diss/mag/2006/b18272897/espakpeeter.pdf
  15. Bottero, Jean. "Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia" (University of Chicago Press, 2004) ISBN 0-226-06718-1
  16. Boboula, Ida. "The Great Stag: A Sumerian Deity and Its Affiliations", Fifty-Third General Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (1951) in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Jul. 1952) 171–178, All pertinent information is available online.

ReferencesEdit

  • Jacobsen, Thorkild (1976) "Treasures of Darkness; A History of Mesopotamian Religion", (Yale University Press, London, New Heaven) ISBN 0-300-02291-3
  • Bottero, Jean (2004) "Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia" (University Of Chicago Press) ISBN 0-226-06718-1
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah (1998) "Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C." (University of Pennsylvania Press; Revised edition) ISBN 0-8122-1047-6
  • Kramer, S.N. and Maier, J.R. (1989) "Myths of Enki, the Crafty God" (Oxford)
  • Galter, H.D. (1981) "Der Gott Ea/Enki in der akkadischen Überlieferung" (Graz)
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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