Enki and the Creation of Humankind

Enki (Ea), along with An and Enlil, form the triad of gods at the heart of Mesopotamian mythology. He is often said to be the son of An, and the half-brother of Enlil. With the goddess Damkina, he is father of the great Babylonian god Marduk. Ea voluntarily hands over control of humanity to his super-impressive son, which act is said to reflect the passing of the “supremacy once enjoyed by [the city of] Eridu to Babylon as a religious and political center.”

The meaning of the name Enki is not clear; it may mean Lord of Earth or Lord of the Mound or Lord of that Which Is Below or even cunning. The later Akkadians and Babylonians called him Ea, Sumerian for House of Water, the name of his temple.

Enki is said to have created the first Sumerian city, Eridu, called in an ancient text “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the gods’] delight,” one of five antedeluvian Sumerian cities. According to the Sumerian King List:

When kingship from heaven was lowered, the kingship was in Eridu.

Although Eridu (said to mean on the seashore or home of going afar) was located near the mouth of the Euphrates River at the Persian Gulf, that was in 5400 BCE. Nowadays, due to silt accumulation, the city’s remains are inland (at Tell Abu Shahrain, in Iraq). Many scholars think that Eridu is the original Babel, of Tower of Babel fame [and a Mesopotamian story lends support].

Enki is Eridu’s tutelary deity. His temple, and home, called E-A (House of Water) or E-abzu (House of the Watery Deep), is a ziggurat in the midst of marshes, said to be raised upon a mound, or even located underwater. According to ancient texts translated by L.W. King in The Seven Tablets of Creation:

O thou River, who didst create all things,
When the great gods dug thee out,
They set prosperity upon thy banks,
Within thee Ea, the king of the Deep, created his dwelling.

Enki’s focus is more on “sweet” or fresh water than salt water. He is Lord of the Abzu, or Apsu in Akkadian, (meaning Deep Ocean or Water Far), the subterranean fresh-water sea from which all lakes, springs, rivers, and so forth are said to arise, imbued with cosmic forces.

The house Enki has built for himself is a marvel. The Sumerian story, Enki’s Journey to Nibru has a description:

In those remote days, when the fates were determined; in a year when An brought about abundance, and people broke through the earth like green plants—then the lord of the abzu, King Enki, Enki, the lord who determines the fates, built up his temple entirely from silver and lapis lazuli. Its silver and lapis lazuli were the shining daylight. Into the shrine of the abzu he brought joy.

An artfully made bright crenellation rising out from the abzu was erected for Lord Nudimmud [Enki as Lord of Creation, literally Lord of Make Bear Likeness]. He built the temple from precious metal, decorated it with lapis lazuli, and covered it abundantly with gold. In Eridug [Eridu], he built the house on the bank. Its brickwork makes utterances and gives advice. Its eaves roar like a bull; the temple of Enki bellows. During the night the temple praises its lord and offers its best for him.

Before Lord Enki, Isimud the minister praises the temple; he goes to the temple and speaks to it. He goes to the brick building and addresses it: “Temple, built from precious metal and lapis lazuli; whose foundation pegs are driven into the abzu; which has been cared for by the prince in the abzu! Like the Tigris and the Euphrates, it is mighty and awe-inspiring [?]. Joy has been brought into Enki’s abzu.”

“Your lock has no rival. Your bolt is a fearsome lion. Your roof beams are the bull of heaven, an artfully made bright headgear. Your reed-mats are like lapis lazuli, decorating the roof-beams. Your vault is a bull [or wild bull] raising its horns. Your door is a lion who [seizes a man] [or is awe-inspiring]. Your stairway is a lion coming down on a man.”

“Abzu, pure place which fulfils its purpose! E-engura [House of the Subterranean Waters]! Your lord has directed his steps towards you. Enki, lord of the abzu, has embellished your foundation pegs with cornelian. He has adorned you with …… and [?] lapis lazuli. The temple of Enki is provisioned with holy wax [?]; it is a bull obedient to its master, roaring by itself and giving advice at the same time. E-engura, which Enki has surrounded with a holy reed fence! In your midst a lofty throne is erected, your door-jamb is the holy locking bar of heaven.”

As it has been built, as it has been built; as Enki has raised Eridug up, it is an artfully built mountain which floats on the water. His shrine [?] spreads [?] out into the reedbeds; birds brood [at night] in its green orchards laden with fruit. The suhur carp play among the honey-herbs, and the ectub carp dart among the small gizi reeds. When Enki rises, the fish rise before him like waves. He has the abzu stand as a marvel, as he brings joy into the engur [abzu].

Enki is usually shown dressed in a carp skin; excavations at shrines to him in Eridu reveal piles of carp bones, apparently the leavings of feasts and offerings. He is associated with the fish gods Oannes and Dagon; they may be him, or versions or aspects of him. Like Oannes and Dagon, Enki teaches people the skills they need to live highly civilized lives.

But first, before man is even a gleam in Enki’s eye, he works hard, supervising a crew of gods to get the Earth into shape for the gods’ purposes:

The great prince put down the foundations, and laid the bricks. Enki placed in charge of all this him whose foundations once laid do not sag, whose good houses once built do not collapse [?], whose vaults reach up into the heart of the heavens like a rainbow—Mucdama, Enlil’s master builder.

He raised a holy crown over the upland plain. He fastened a lapis-lazuli beard to the high plain, and made it wear a lapis-lazuli headdress. He made this good place perfect with greenery in abundance. He multiplied the animals of the high plain to an appropriate degree, he multiplied the ibex and wild goats of the pastures, and made them copulate. Enki placed in charge of them the hero who is the crown of the high plain, who is the king of the countryside, the great lion of the high plain, the muscular, the hefty, the burly strength of Enlil—Cakkan, the king of the hills.

He built the sheepfolds, carried out their cleaning, made the cow-pens, bestowed on them the best fat and cream, and brought luxury to the gods’ dining places. He made the plain, created for greenery, achieve prosperity. Enki placed in charge of all this the king, the good provider of E-ana [Inanna’s temple, the House of Heaven], the friend of An, the beloved son-in-law of the youth Suen, the holy spouse of Inana the mistress, the lady of the great powers who allows sexual intercourse in the open squares of Kulaba—Dumuzid-ucumgal-ana, the friend of An.

He filled the E-kur [mountain house], the house of Enlil, with possessions. Enlil was delighted with Enki and Nibru [the city of Nippur] was glad. He demarcated borders and fixed boundaries. For the Anuna [Anunnaki] gods, Enki situated dwellings in cities and disposed agricultural land into fields. [ETCSLtranslation : t.1.1.3 Enki and the world order]

Enki is a troubleshooter, a good-humored mediator, and a compassionate friend to humankind. He is said to be one of man’s creators. As the story Enki and Ninmah starts, trouble is brewing among the gods:

[T]he senior gods oversaw the work, while the minor gods were bearing the toil. The gods were digging the canals and piling up the silt in Harali. The gods, crushing the clay, began complaining about this life.

At that time, the one of great wisdom, the creator of all the senior gods, Enki lay on his bed, not waking up from his sleep, in the deep engur, in the subterranean water, the place the inside of which no other god knows.

The primeval mother, Namma, wakes Enki up and tells him he needs to create a worker to relieve the minor gods. First, he tries delegating:

And after Enki, the fashioner of designs by himself, had pondered the matter, he said to his mother Namma: “My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the abzu; the birth-goddesses [?] will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant; and let Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana, Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug, …… and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother, after you have decreed his fate, let Ninmah impose on him the work of carrying baskets.”

Enki and Ninmah drank beer, their hearts became elated, and then Ninmah said to Enki: “Man’s body can be either good or bad and whether I make a fate good or bad depends on my will.”

Enki answered Ninmah: “I will counterbalance whatever fate — good or bad — you happen to decide.” Ninmah took clay from the top of the abzu in her hand and she fashioned from it first a man who could not bend his outstretched weak hands. Enki looked at the man who cannot bend his outstretched weak hands, and decreed his fate: he appointed him as a servant of the king.

The drunken Ninmah continues making creatures with problems: a man who can’t close his eyes, [some say he can’t stop blinking], one with two broken feet, one with paralyzed feet, one who can’t hold back his urine [some say semen], and so on, six creatures in all. Enki finds a job for each one—a way to earn their bread.

Then Enki takes a turn at making a worker:

Enki devised a shape with head, …… and mouth in its middle, and said to Ninmah: “Pour ejaculated semen into a woman’s womb, and the woman will give birth to the semen of her womb.” Ninmah stood by for the newborn ……. and the woman brought forth …… in the midst ……., this was Umul: its head was afflicted, its place of …… was afflicted, its eyes were afflicted, its neck was afflicted. It could hardly breathe, its ribs were shaky, its lungs were afflicted, its heart was afflicted, its bowels were afflicted. With its hand and its lolling head it could not not put bread into its mouth; its spine and head were dislocated. The weak hips and the shaky feet could not carry [?] it on the field—Enki fashioned it in this way.

Enki insists that the creature he made should have a livelihood, just as he gave “bread” to the creatures Ninmah made, and seems to suggest that Umul should build Enki’s house. Enki is well pleased with the way things turn out, saying to Ninmah:

Remove Umul from your lap…. let my penis be praised, may your wisdom be confirmed….

There are too many subsequent pieces missing from the tablet to tell whether this creature, Umul, is the final model called man. According to Sumerian mythology, Adapa was the first man, the counterpart of the biblical Adam, and he sounds nothing like this first creature made by Enki. Adapa is one of the seven antedeluvian sages, wise and accomplished and too loyal to his creator, Enki, for Adapa’s own good, or the good of humankind.

In the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, Enki (Ea) is present at the creation of man, making suggestions, but it is his son Marduk (to whom Enki is said to have voluntarily passed his power) who does the creating.

After a divine council meeting discusses the igigi problem, Marduk gets ready to create man, acting on the council’s wishes:

On hearing the words of the gods, the heart of Marduk moved him to carry out the works of a craftsman. He opened his mouth, he spake to Ea that which he had planned in his heart, he gave counsel [saying]:

“I will solidify blood, I will form bone. I will set up man, ‘Man’ [shall be] his name. I will create the man ‘Man.’ The service of the gods shall be established, and I will set them [the gods] free….”

Enki/Ea suggests that one god should “suffer destruction that men may be fashioned.” Since a god named Kingu had recently tried to take over as leader of the gods, being defeated only after a huge battle [see Tablet of Destinies], the divine council has no trouble in deciding which of the gods should suffer destruction.

“Let him who created the strife be given [as sacrifice], I will cause the axe in the act of sinking to do away his sin.”

They bound him in fetters [they brought] him before Ea, they inflicted punishment on him, they let his blood, From his blood he [Ea] fashioned mankind for the service of the gods, and he set the gods free. After Ea had fashioned man he … laid service upon him. [For] that work, which pleased him not, man was chosen….

The Epic of Atrahasis (a hero king) tells the story of the creation of man somewhat differently:

When the gods, like man, bore the work, carried the labor-basket—the labor-basket of the great gods—the work was heavy, much was the distress.
The seven great Anunnaki caused the Igigi to bear the work.

Forty more years they bore the labor night and day. They wearied, complained, grumbled in the workpits. “Let us confront the throne-bearer that he may remove from us our heavy labor….”

They set fire to their implements, to their spades [they set] fire, their labor-baskets into the flames they threw. They held them [as torches]; they went to the gate of the shrine of hero Enlil. It was night; at mid-watch the house was surrounded; the god did not know. It was night; at mid-watch the Ekur was surrounded; Enlil did not know.

When Enlil wakes up to find his house surrounded by irate minor gods, the Divine Council is called together to address the problem. Enki has a suggestion:

“While [Nintu the birth-goddess] is present, let the birth-goddess create the offspring, let man bear the labor-basket of the gods.”

They called the goddess and asked [her], the midwife of the gods, wise Mami: “you are the birthgoddess, creatress of man. Create lullu-man, let him bear the yoke. Let him bear the yoke, the work of Enlil; let man carry the labor-basket of the gods.”

Nintu opened her mouth and said to the great gods, ‘It is not properly mine to do these things. He is the one who purifies all; let him give me the clay, and I will do (it).”

Enki opened his mouth and said to the great gods: “At the new moon, the seventh day, and the full moon, I will set up a purifying bath. Let them slaughter one god. Let the gods be purified by immersion. With his flesh and blood let Nintu mix the clay. God and man—let them be inseparably mixed in the clay; till the end of time let us hear the ‘drum.’ Let there be spirit from the god’s flesh; let her proclaim ‘alive’ as its sign; for the sake of never-forgetting, let there be spirit.” In the assembly, “Aye,” answered the great gods, the administrators of destiny.

At the new moon, the seventh day, and the full moon, he set up a purifying bath. We-ila, who had rationality, they slaughtered in their assembly. With his flesh and blood Nintu mixed the clay. Till the end [of days they heard the drum]. From the flesh of the god there was spirit. She proclaimed “alive” as its sign. For the sake of not-forgetting there was a spirit.

After she had mixed the clay, she called the Anunnaki, the great gods. The Igigi, the great gods, cast their spittle on the clay. Mami opened her mouth and said to the great gods, “You commanded me a task—I have completed it. You slaughtered a god together with his rationality. I have removed your heavy labor, have placed your labor-basket on man. You raised a cry for mankind; I have loosened your yoke, have [established] freedom.”

They heard this speech of hers; they ran around and kissed her feet. “Formerly we called you ‘Mami.’ Now, may ‘Mistress of all the gods’ be your name. They entered the house of destiny, Prince La and wise Mami. With the birth goddesses assembled, he trod the clay in her presence. She recited the incantation again and again. Ea, seated before her, prompted her. When she finished her incantation, she nipped off fourteen pieces of clay. Seven pieces to the right, seven to the left, she placed. Between them she placed the brick.

[Missing lines here are known, from other versions, to describe how fourteen birth goddesses shaped the clay, making seven males and seven females, arranged in pairs.]

The birth goddesses were assembled; Nintu was seated. She counted the months. At the destined [moment], they called the tenth month. The tenth month came. The end of the period opened the womb.

Her face was beaming, joyful. Her head covered, she performed the midwifery. She girded her loins; she made the blessing. She patterned the flour and laid down the brick.

“I have created, my hands have done it….”

Twelve hundred years later, man has vastly increased in population, and the gods can’t get any sleep for all the noise. They decide to wipe out humans with a plague, but this only decreases the population temporarily, so 1200 years later the gods send a drought to try to keep the population down. Twelve hundred years later, they have to send a famine. Twelve hundred years after that, they decide to send the deluge to wipe everybody out. But Enki finds a way to warn one man, Utnapishtim, the “Sumerian Noah”. (But that’s another story.)

Enki knows the secrets of immortality and can raise the dead. The caduceus (from the Greek meaning herald’s staff) is his symbol, [as it is later for Mercury, Hermes, and Osiris]—two snakes entwined around a rod (which some think represents the two strands of DNA and/or [chakrahs/kundalini yoga]), often surmounted by another potent symbol, the winged globe [Sitchin, p. 240, says it is a Niburu symbol]. The caduceus is said to raise the dead and can be compared to Moses’s bronze serpent, which was built on orders from Yahweh so as to cure the snakebitten Israelites who looked at it.

61-80. Enki, the king of the Abzu, rejoicing in great splendour, justly praises himself: “My father, the king of heaven and earth, made me famous in heaven and earth. My elder brother, the king of all the lands, gathered up all the divine powers and placed them in my hand. I brought the arts and crafts from the E-kur, the house of Enlil, to my Abzu in Eridug. I am the good semen, begotten by a wild bull, I am the first born of An. I am a great storm rising over the great earth, I am the great lord of the Land. I am the principal among all rulers, the father of all the foreign lands. I am the big brother of the gods, I bring prosperity to perfection. I am the seal-keeper of heaven and earth. I am the wisdom and understanding of all the foreign lands. With An the king, on An’s dais, I oversee justice. With Enlil, looking out over the lands, I decree good destinies. He has placed in my hands the decreeing of fates in the place where the sun rises. I am cherished by Nintur. I am named with a good name by Ninḫursaĝa. I am the leader of the Anuna gods. I was born as the firstborn son of holy An.”

After the lord had proclaimed his greatness, after the great prince had eulogised himself, the Anuna gods stood there in prayer and supplication:

“Praise be to Enki, the much-praised lord who controls all the arts and crafts, who takes decisions!”

In a state of high delight Enki, the king of the Abzu, rejoicing in great splendour, again justly praises himself: “I am the lord, I am one whose word is reliable, I am one who excels in everything.”

“At my command, sheepfolds have been built, cow-pens have been fenced off. When I approach heaven, a rain of abundance rains from heaven. When I approach earth, there is a high carp-flood. When I approach the green meadows, at my word stockpiles and stacks are accumulated. I have built my house, a shrine, in a pure place, and named it with a good name. I have built my Abzu, a shrine, in ……, and decreed a good fate for it. The shade of my house extends over the …… pool. By my house the suḫur carp dart among the honey plants, and the eštub carp wave their tails among the small gizi reeds. The small birds chirp in their nests.”

“The lords pay heed …… to me. I am Enki! They stand before me, praising me…. In my Abzu, sacred songs and incantations resound for me. My barge ‘Crown’, the ‘Stag of the Abzu’, transports me there most delightfully. It glides swiftly for me through the great marshes to wherever I have decided, it is obedient to me. The stroke-callers make the oars pull in perfect unison. They sing for me pleasant songs, creating a cheerful mood on the river. Niĝir-sig, the captain of my barge, holds the golden sceptre for me. I am Enki! He is in command of my boat ‘Stag of the Abzu’. I am the lord! I will travel! I am Enki! I will go forth into my Land! I, the lord who determines the fates….”


“I will admire its green cedars. Let the lands of Meluḫa, Magan and Dilmun look upon me, upon Enki. Let the Dilmun boats be loaded (?) with timber. Let the Magan boats be loaded sky-high. Let the magilum boats of Meluḫa transport gold and silver and bring them to Nibru for Enlil, king of all the lands.”

Enki sometimes takes the form of monsters:

The head is the head of a serpent,
From his nostrils mucus trickles,
His mouth is beslavered with water;
The ears are like those of a basilisk,
His horns are twisted into three curls,
He wears a veil in his head band,
The body is a suh-fish full of stars,
The base of his feet are claws,
The sole of his foot has no heel,
His name is Sassu-wunnu,
A sea monster, a form of Ea.[fn 79]

Enki’s Symbol, the Caduceus.
Sumerian cylinder seal imprints thought to show Enki.

Sumerian knowledge bringer: Ea; from Project Gutenberg’s Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by Donald A. Mackenzie:

A distinctive and characteristic Sumerian god was Ea, who was supreme at the ancient sea-deserted port of Eridu. He is identified with the Oannes of Berosus,[31] who referred to the deity as “a creature endowed with reason, with a body like that of a fish, with feet below like those of a man, with a fish’s tail”. This description recalls the familiar figures of Egyptian gods and priests attired in the skins of the sacred animals from whom their powers were derived, and the fairy lore about swan maids and men, and the seals and other animals who could divest themselves of their “skin coverings” and appear in human shape. Originally Ea may have been a sacred fish. The Indian creative gods Brahma and Vishnu had fish forms. In Sanskrit literature Manu, the eponymous “first man”, is instructed by the fish to build a ship in which to save himself when the world would be purged by the rising waters. Ea befriended in similar manner the Babylonian Noah, called Pir-napishtim, advising him to build a vessel so as to be prepared for the approaching Deluge. Indeed the Indian legend appears to throw light on the original Sumerian conception of Ea. It relates that when the fish was small and in danger of being swallowed by other fish in a stream it appealed to Manu for protection. The sage at once lifted up the fish and placed it in a jar of water. It gradually increased in bulk, and he transferred it next to a tank and then to the river Ganges. In time the fish complained to Manu that the river was too small for it, so he carried it to the sea. For these services the god in fish form instructed Manu regarding the approaching flood, and afterwards piloted his ship through the weltering waters until it rested on a mountain top.[32]”

As “Shar Apsi”, Ea was the “King of the Watery Deep”. The reference, however, according to Jastrow, “is not to the salt ocean, but the sweet waters flowing under the earth which feed the streams, and through streams and canals irrigate the fields”.

Ea was their instructor. Berosus states that, as Oannes, he lived in the Persian Gulf, and every day came ashore to instruct the inhabitants of Eridu how to make canals, to grow crops, to work metals, to make pottery and bricks, and to build temples; he was the artisan god–Nun-ura, “god of the potter”; Kuski-banda, “god of goldsmiths”, &c.–the divine patron of the arts and crafts. “Ea knoweth everything”, chanted the hymn maker. He taught the people how to form and use alphabetic signs and instructed them in mathematics: he gave them their code of laws. Like the Egyptian artisan god Ptah, and the linking deity Khnumu, Ea was the “potter or moulder of gods and man”. Ptah moulded the first man on his potter’s wheel: he also moulded the sun and moon; he shaped the universe and hammered out the copper sky. Ea built the world “as an architect builds a house”.

Ea, whose name is also rendered Aa, was identified with Ya, Ya’u, or Au, the Jah of the Hebrews. “In Ya-Daganu, ‘Jah is Dagon'”, writes Professor Pinches, “we have the elements reversed, showing a wish to identify Jah with Dagon, rather than Dagon with Jah; whilst another interesting name, Au-Aa, shows an identification of Jah with Aa, two names which have every appearance of being etymologically connected.” Jah’s name “is one of the words for ‘god’ in the Assyro-Babylonian language”.[38]

Ea was “Enki”, “lord of the world”, or “lord of what is beneath”; Amma-ana-ki, “lord of heaven and earth”; Sa-kalama, “ruler of the land”, as well as Engur, “god of the abyss”, Naqbu, “the deep”, and Lugal-ida, “king of the river”. As rain fell from “the waters above the firmament”, the god of waters was also a sky and earth god.

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