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 The gods of SUMER 
Between 3000 BC and 2000 BC

 

 

The Bible did not only borrow the history of the creation of the world, of the deluge, and the tower of Babel from the Mesopotamians, but it also adopted the substance and certain fundamentals, even if some stories have been altered over time. Also the names of the main characters are not the same, in these two countries that are very different from each other.

We have already noted two very similar phenomena, which occurred in Egypt, (between 3000BC and 2750BC, the period of Imhotep), and at the same time in Mesopotamia, (especially in the fertile region between the two life-giving rivers : the Tigris and the Euphrates). These phenomena were in both cases a complete reformation of their religion, art, writing, the sciences; and the introduction of cults to kindlier, more just gods.

We must go back in time to study the gods that the Mesopotamians honored in the first period: 3,000BC to 2,000BC :

 

1.  "AN" the chief Sumerian god symbolized by a star

 

The name "AN" changed to "ANU" 1500 years later with the Babylonians. The name means, "Sky" and he was sovereign over the entire UNIVERSE.

Directly allied to royalty Christ also spoke of a kingdom in the SKY. AN presided over the assembly of the gods or the beings who had gained immortality. There were 2 temples consecrated to him: one at URUK and the other at LAGASH. Even though he was the chief god for very long time, his son Enlil gradually replaced him around the year 2,500BC, but the cult of AN continued to be practiced.

At this period, AN was often represented by a bull whose roar was like thunder. AN was the invisible force which made thee seeds germinate and the wheat to grow the cereals which were the main food sources of the people.

He was the benevolent god of water, (the source of life), of vegetation, and of all nature, which obeyed him. He became the supreme god over family and civil affairs and the guardian of the moral order.

 

2. ENLIL : the WELL-LOVED son of AN

 

ENLIL was the god of the air (his name means Lord of the wind.) In a wider sense, he was also the spirit god, the Lord of the atmosphere which allows men, atmosphere which allows men, animals and plants to breathe, grow and live.

ENLIL quickly became the chief god who had both great energy and strength. As god of justice, he could both punish and reward. Enforcer of all celestial decisions he was the intermediary and mediator between his father AN and the human beings on earth.

In Sumer, ENLIL was considered to be the god who gave the earthly kings the power to govern their subjects. His temple was at Nippur, at the center of Sumer. This was a sacred town and a great place of pilgrimage. It was here that the kings were dedicated.

In one legend, Enlil seduced the goddess of cereals, NINLIL when she was bathing naked in the canal near Nippur. She became pregnant. The gods condemned the couple to descent into hell. But, from their union was born the little god NANNA, who became the god of the moon and the chief god of the city of UR.

This very eastern way of explaining the night sky was used by the Sumerians, and then the Babylonians, to symbolize the struggle between good and evil, darkness and light, which appears and disappears. We find similar ideas in ancient Egypt, where Re, the god of light, had a place of prime importance both in their need for sunlight and in their lives generally.

In the same way ENLIL was the beneficent god, the king of the sky and the earth, the source of all abundance and prosperity who had compassion for human beings, warming them and nurturing them with his light.

ENLIL was the king before whom all the other gods prostrated themselves; his commands were regarded as sacred.

He was the lord of destiny whose eyes watched over the country and whose light could see into the hearts of all the people.

ENLIL inspired fear and reverence in the city; would not tolerate the impious, the wicked, the oppressors, the arrogant and those who violated his word and his pacts.

He who would not let the perverse and wicked escape from his net.

Without him, the fish in the sea would not lay eggs.
Without him, the birds of the sky would not build their nests,
Without him the clouds would not give rain,
the trees would give no fruit,
and the fields no flowers.

This magnificent language was found in the land of Iraq and is similar to that found in the Valley of the Nile, even though the names of the gods have changed. There remains the awareness of a great invisible, omnipresent force of a spiritual nature!

 

3. ENKI - the god of water : " The Source of all life "

 

This was the god of intelligence and of destiny (he had an arc built to save one family from the flood.) He was present on earth in a temple in the city of Eridu. He was the brother of Enlil. Sometimes he was represented as a sly, evil and a deceitful god. He directed the flow of the great rivers and irrigation canals to which he guided water from the great inland lakes.

Enki also reminds one of the myths of the life-giving floods of the Nile Valley, which germinated the seeds, bringing the harvest and ensuring food for the people for the next year.

An old legend tells that one day his wife the goddess NINHURSAG, an earthly goddess, noticed that Enki was pursuing his own daughters. With the help of UTU, the great god of justice, she arranged for him to eat 8 seeds, which came out of his stomach giving birth to 8 young daughters to replace the ones he had deflowered. Enki became the god EA in the Assyrian Babylonian period.

 

4. NINHURSAG or NINMAH : The "Mother-goddess" with many faces

 

As we have already seen, NINHURSAG could present herself in different forms. She was called NINLIL when she was the wife of ENLIL, and NINKI when she became the goddess of birth, (and she was shown (like the Egyptian ISIS) breast feeding her child.)

As the goddess of fertility, she was the mother who gave matter its form and decided the outcome of each birth. As NINMAH, she became a lady of great majesty and the mother of all living creatures.

Considered to be the protector of nature and wild animals, she loved freedom, wondering along wild wilderness paths and into the oases of the deserts. On earth, she lived on the island of Dilmun, which legend says is where one can find earthly paradise...

It was there that she was united with ENLIL and gave birth to a son called NINHURTA. This child is represented as a bird whose wings spread out in the sky would announce the coming of a storm, (with the germination of a harvest.) On growing up he became sometimes a bird of prey, (like Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, whom the Egyptians gave the form of a falcon) and sometimes a charioteer, with the head of a lion, when he attacked the enemy. Thus the Sumerians considered him to be their god of war.

My husband; the beautiful granary, the sacred stall,

The house which decides the fate of all countries,

Where the people and all living beings are given guidance,

I, Inanna, will preserve them for you,

I will watch over your "House of life", this radiant place of miracles for all countries,

This house of abundance and long life; I, Inanna, will preserve it for you.

At last, the aggressiveness of Ninhurta provoked an uprising of the entire natural world, (even the stones set out on the trail of war !) Certain of them were on the side of Ninhurta, while others fought him and were defeated. To reward those that had remained faithful, NINHURTA changed the small simple stones into precious stones of all colors, while the others remained in their original state.

Do stones have a hidden life? Can they express feelings? One day, Jesus of Nazareth entered into Jerusalem while the crowd acclaimed Him and His disciples shouted loudly:

 

 

5. The story of DUMUZI and the goddess INANNA

  

INANNA, according to legends, was considered to be either the daughter of the god AN, or of his son ENLIL, the god of the air. Every large city in Sumer consecrated at least two temples to her worship.

The shepherd DUMUZI, also born in a cave, is the Sumerian equivalent of TAMMUZ, the future Babylonian god of the harvest and vegetation. Born of a virgin, he was also the god of beer brewers.

In the same way INANNA, the wife of DUMUZI, is considered as goddess of love and fertility. She was the first goddess-woman and was included in the supreme hierarchy of Sumerian gods (at 4th place, immediately after the triad : AN, ENLIL and ENKI). She was later assimilated as the goddess ISHTAR of the Babylonians.

An old legend tells that at the time of a terrestrial incarnation of this great goddess, she had married the shepherd Dumuzi. As she became bored, INANNA descended, wearing most of her beautiful jewels, to the kingdom of the dead, where her sister, the terrifying ERESHKIGAL reigned. She passed the seven doors which guarded the country of no-return, removing each piece of jewelry at each door, and even her royal clothes to pay for her right of passage.

She was thus completely naked as she presented herself before the throne of her sister, surrounded by the seven judges of the dead. Without hesitation, she killed her sister, took her titles and her throne. But the seven judges of the dead condemned her to death by hanging her body on a hook to decompose.

After three days and three nights, the handmaid of Inanna, NINSHUBUR, went to plead in tears to ENLIL, who declared that hell was not within his jurisdiction. Not discouraged, Ninshubur asked for an audience with ENKIL, as he could not bear the idea of his sister ending her life in that way. He therefore created two sexless beings, who could not be prevented from entering into the barren country, and they brought them back herbs, and the water of eternal life, the only things that could enable one to be born again.

Returning to the world of the dead, the two creatures had the right to resuscitate Inanna, provided that a substitute was found for her! Coming back to the country of the living, accompanied by a small escort of demons, (called the Gallas), Inanna went to URUK, where she was surprised to find her husband DUMUZI feasting happily instead of mourning her death! Inanna was extremely indignant, and ordered him to be her substitute in hell! Immediately, the Gallas carried away him to the kingdom of no return.

To alleviate his fate somewhat, Inanna allowed Geshtinanna, sister of Dumuzi, and goddess of wine, to take his place every six months. Inanna, the Queen of the sky, became a symbol of the resurrection, (comparable to the legend of the Egyptian goddess ISIS, who revived Osiris, her husband, after he had been murdered and cut to pieces by his wicked brother Seth; she was even impregnated by the soul of her dead spouse, giving birth to a son named HORUS.)

We note that this idea of resurrection had made its appearance already in the countries of the Middle East: 5 to 8 centuries before the period of Abraham.

 

6. The GREAT LADY of UR

 

One can see the religious devotion in the Chaldean cult by the hommage given to INANNA : the Great UNIVERSAL MOTHER, also called more commonly :

" The Great LADY of Ur and the SOVEREIGN of ALL COUNTRIES..."

who had under her protection no less than SIX temples, surrounded by courts and protecting other temples:

 

No one knows precisely when the cult of the Great Mother goddess was introduced into human history, (often partnered with the concept of virgin birth).This archaic matriarchal cult was bound to a certain type of communal society, where marriage did not exist.

There is a striking coincidence in the fact that in pre-Colombian times, some Indian tribes of Mexico celebrated the feast day of their celestial queen on the... 8th day of September !

Although our two worlds did not communicate then, the church of Rome chose the same date to celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary. There is also evidence of a feast on September 8 of the Julian calendar and the period around 2000 BC, where the most brilliant star of the Virgin named SPICA penetrated the radius of the sun (rising heliac), and left the orbit on August 15!... (in the heliac setting)

Is it just chance one that the sign of the Leo (the lion) precedes that of Virgo (the virgin)? Also, the inhabitants of Asia Minor represent their divine Queen Cybèle with a lion at her feet. Or that the sign of Gemini comes nine months after that of the Virgin (Virgo)--does she become a mother?

From ancient times, Sumerians honored THE MOTHER of gods, animals, men and plants! In Babylonian times, the Sumerian goddess Inanna became Ishtar : the supreme mother and the queen of crops.

The most brilliant star of the constellation of the Virgo in the Zodiac was called Spica, "the ear of wheat"; however, generally the goddess Ishtar was also usually represented as a young woman carrying in her hand an ear of wheat!

The idea of the queen of the sky giving birth to a god, goes right back to the origins of human civilization, and one finds in several religions a virgin who brings into the world a divine infant, and she carries or nurses him on her knee.

In Alexander's the Great's time, they also celebrated the birth of a little "eon", born of a virgin the day of the winter solstice (21st of December). Whilst the goddess Eos, that personified the dawn, opened all great doors of the sky each morning for the chariot of her brother Helios : the sun...

For the Arabs the sign of the Virgin represented the nurturing mother of all humans. This seems strange, as this inscription dating from Roman times was found near El Margeb engraved on a stone in punic lettering:

" Saintly Queen of the sky, favor us! "

The cults of Mary, of Isis in Egypt, of Ashtarte of Phoenicia, of Lakshmi in India, of Cybele in Anatolia, of Tanit in Carthage, or of the Tetlo-Inau by the Atzecs ... all have common aspects, as they remind us that we were all (and still remain) fragile children who need a mother's care, a wish to be liked, protected and comforted.

The conviction that there is in the sky a mother who watches over us, and in particuliar for the suffering and for those in situations without hope, is a wonderful gift that removes human fears and makes those that are lost in a dark night of the soul to be given a spark of hope...

In the final analysis, who can affirm that there are not any miracles in all religions when prayers are fervant and sincere ?

This is how the Sumerians expressed themselves 4 000 years ago to their Great Queen protector :

" Oh, stars of the heavens, numerous are the oppressed, the humble and the powerless, who constantly follow you each day. I turn toward you, I call to you, because you know to make a gesture of goodness."

 

7. The strange pyramid of the royal cemetery of UR

 

This was a step pyramid, as were the first pyramids in the Valley of the NILE and in Mexico...

This necropolis was not a temple of worship to any god, but a pyramid for the conservation of bodies, built there more than 4 600 years ago! That is to say between 2650BC and 2600BC, according to the identification of two kings of Ur : Meskaladung and Akalamdung by Sir Leonard Wolley in 1921. These dates are just after the time of the great Egyptian Minister : Imhotep.

It is likely that there were other pyramids built to serve a similar function, but the sands of the desert and robbers of the tombs removed these treasures of great value. Some stones served as materials for construction of the immense projects at Assur, Niniveh, Babylon, Alexandria etc...

These first known kings of the earth were buried with all their personal wealth: jewelry, gold, money, furniture, dishes and works of art in the manner of the great Egyptian Pharaohs...

 

8. Inhabitants of Sumer and their gods

 

The people of Sumer were conscious of that the power of their country was small, but their spiritual power of prayer to the gods could alleviate their modest condition :
I turned myself toward you, oh my god,
I came into your presence,

I looked for you, oh my god,
I knelt at your feet; welcome my prayer...

Almost the same words as those in the Bible come from that far off age, and some sentences are almost identical! One could believe they had been written by the same author :

Be helpful, do good every day,
To the one that gave you pain, give back good in exchange !
Be just with the one that is evil.

Do not reject those that destiny reviles,
Do not slander anyone, and say only good words.

Even though the Sumerians usually lived to a happy old age, they did not fear the country of "no return", (of death), nor the meeting with the 7 judges that lived in the kingdom of darkness.

As in the first Egyptian dynasties, one also finds in these ancient Sumerian texts descriptions of the Kingdom of AN, of lost earthly paradise, and of the presence of invisible angels guarding over each individual who is good !

Sent by the gods these angels helped them choose the best solutions to trials that destiny brings, and especially to resist temptations that incite us to vice and selfishness!

Adds a Sumerien poet :

" A man's days are counted; so whatever he does, he only stirs the wind! "

What a contrast with the times of violence that were coming to devastate all of Mesopotamia!

 

9. Secondary gods and sacred places :

 

ANSHAR (the horizon) and KISHAR : a primitive god couple that emerged from the underground waters. Their union gave birth to AN, the creator of the sky and Earth.

DILMUN : The terrestrial paradise with a beautiful garden. In certain texts, this was on an island in the Gulf of Bahrein, and in others this paradise was situated between the Euphrates and the Tigris ! According to the legend: hunger, sickness and old age did not exist; this is often compared with the garden of Eden.

EKUR : This was the name of the Enlil temple at Nippur, where the assembly of the gods met.

GILGAMESH : The legendary king of URUK, who probably lived around 2700BC. Like Ulysses or Hercules, he was the actor in an fantastic adventure book, we find friendship born of victories against a monster, celestial bulls, the death of his friend ENKIDU, the search for the secret of immortality and fate, leaving him like all human beings, waiting for death in his palace of Uruk.

 


Gilgamesh - Palace of Dur-Sharrukin

 

MYLITTA : The Babylonian goddess of sexual pleasure. According to Herodotus, every woman in Babylon had to go once in her life to the temple of Ishtaret and offer herself to any man who asked her in the name of Mylitta.

NAMTAR or IRRA : the ancient god of curses, his name is synonymous with the idea of fate, especially when men are touched by epidemics of fatal diseases . ENLIL, who hated loud men and useless uproar, sent Namtar on to the earth, but he was surprised by all offerings that men gave him, and quietly left.

NANNA : the god of the moon, often represented by a young bull with powerful horns and a beautiful blue beard. The people and their kings very much feared eclipses, and increased their ritual prayers and offerings to calm the gods who were angered enough to make the sun disappear.

NERGAL : the Babylonian god of the war, the husband of Ereshkigal and god of death, Nergal was later identified with ASSUR, the god of the Assyrians, who was in perpetual conflict with his rival Marduk, the god of Babylonians.

NINSUN : A cow goddess of fertility, whose name means: "the lady of wild cows". She reminds us of the goddess Hathor. One associates her with the birth of the god DUMUZI, of the hero Gilgamesh, and as the motherof Gudea (the king of Lagash of in 2142BC).

NINTUR : Her name means "The one that gives form, the Goddess-mother". She was the model of all other goddesses, it was her that brought everyone into the world. But only Enlil could give her permission to let a little child.

SHAMASH : The sun God, associated with justice. He had two servants: Kittu (the truth), and Mesharu (integrity). He was represented usually as a king seated on his throne. In Babylonian times, his symbol was the solar disc, with a four-pointed star inside.

 


Shamash - the god of the Sun, seated on his throne - on the tablet of Sippar - XIe century BC.

 

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