Myths: Enki Ninhursag and the creation of Man

Enki and Ninma

1 The organization of the gods had been complex long before the creation of man. They lived and worked in heaven, earth, and below. Some gods had already taken up the duty of decreeing fate. The gods were getting married and having children. The Anunna gods were among those being born at this time.

2 At this time it was the gods and not man who were responsible for sacrifices and offerings that were given to the other gods in order to provide for the luxuries that graced their dining halls. The senior gods such as An and Enlil oversaw the work. The lower gods did all of the strenuous toil.

3 It was the gods whose job it was to crush clay who first began to complain about their lot in life. It was they who were in charge of preparing the clay that the gods needed in order to construct statues of worship and servitude.

4 Enki, the god of wisdom, was laying in his bed sleeping in the deep subterranean waters of Engur. This was a place where no other god could go. He was woken by the turmoil that he heard from outside his place of sanctuary.

5 “He is the cause of this anguish,” came an accusing voice from outside. The voice was loud, but Enki was sleeping and did not hear.

6 Apsu heard these words and, as the primeval essence of the very realm in which Enki was sleeping, took their tears to her son. She was able to manifest in Enki’s place as a primal force, something no ordinary goddess could do.

7 “Are you really asleep my son,” she asked, “or are you merely pretending. The gods, those under your care, are smashing their tools. Wake up and create a substitute so that they might be freed from their toil.”

8 His mothers words had succeeded in waking the great lord Enki from his sleep. He went from his bedroom and went to Alankug, his study. Once in his study he pondered the problem with annoyance. For his mother’s proposal to work he would need to create several goddesses of childbirth out of clay. He came up with the designs with care to detail at every step, and when he was finished he examined every nuance of his creations.

9 “Mother, the creature that you thought up will actually come to be. I have reasoned out its true name. He will be able to do the work we need him to do.”

10 His mother was pleased that there was a solution to their problems. She had every confidence in the wisdom and cleverness of her son. The plan was complete and now it only needed to be carried out.

11 “I will need you to take clay kneaded by you from the top of the Apsu. Take my wife Ninhursag as your assistant. Form the birth goddesses carefully according to my design and have Ninimma, Shuzi-ana the lady that pours the breath and true name in, Ninmada the lady who holds her child close to her, Ninbarag the lady of the birth platform, Ninmug, and Ninguna stand by each statue as they give birth. After you have decreed his fate, let my wife Ninhursag impose on him the work of the gods.”

12 His mother and wife did exactly what they were instructed to do. When they were finished they consecrated the new creation and decreed it’s fate. The creation was instructed to do the work of the gods and everything went according to plan.

13 In celebration, Enki set out a feast for his mother and his wife the goddess of mothers. They ate delicate reeds and bread. An, Enlil, and Enki roasted holy goat kids. At this feast the senior gods showered him with praise and comparing him to the divine me.

14 Enki and Ninhursag drank beer together and talked among themselves. The form of man was on their mind as they sat in celebration of their accomplishment. They also discussed their various rolls in determining the fate of mankind.

15 “The body of man can be good or bad depending on what I want to come to pass,” asserted Enki.

16 “Whatever you decide, good or bad, will be counterbalanced by my decision remember,” replied Ninhursag. To prove her point she took clay from the top of the Apsu and formed it into six different flawed individuals. The first was a man who could not bend his hands.

17 Enki accepted the challenge and decreed the fate of him and those who would be born like this in the future. He examined the man and gave him some bread. “This one will be the personal servant of the king.”

18 The next flawed individual that she crafted reflected the light on his skin and shied from the brightness. Enki looked in wonder at the craftsmanship of this new man that his wife had crafted.

19 He made note of the aversion to light. He looked over the individual with his eyes wide open. His eyes and skin were pale. This meant that he could not work as a farmer or a herder, and he could not help with irrigation.

20 “This one will be given over to be trained as a musician.” decreed Enki, overcoming the form made by his wife. “He will be chosen to stand before the great and wealthy lord who is like a dragon over an abundant land.”

21 Not one to be outdone Ninhursag crafted an instance of a fourth human. This one had feet that couldn’t be used as they were broken and paralyzed. The feet could not be fixed, and he could not perform in the court.

22 “His hands are not broken. This one will come to work with silver.” Enki drank his beer and continued to demonstrate his cleverness. “Had you chosen to make him a fool I would have had him come to be the adviser of a king.”

23 The next person created could not control his bladder. This person was hardly difficult for Enki, he simply spoke an incantation and washed away the difficulty in this mans fate. His destiny was to be cured.

24 Fifth to be crafted was a woman who was unable to have the pains of giving birth. Enki examined this woman with the same open eyes that he had examined the others with. He determined that she was most fit to serve in a house of prostitution.

25 The last person that Ninhursag created was neither a woman nor a man. After examining him Enki took the individual and gave him the divine name of Nibru and identified him as a eunuch. As eunuchs were valued royal attendants, Enki decreed that he would come to stand before the king of the land. As with the others, he gave this one bread.

26 Frustrated Ninhursag threw the clay down onto the ground. Enki had demonstrated his wisdom and his cleverness to his wife. He had been able to decree a fate for each of the flawed individuals. He had been able to fix or work around any flaw in creation.

27 “I have fixed all of those you have given me and then given each of them food for the day. Now I will craft one for you to see if you can fix the newborn.” Enki picked the clay up from under the place where they were drinking. He then carefully crafted a mother with the flawed individual inside.

28 “Once semen has been poured into the woman a child will be brought forth.”

29 Ninhursag did as she was instructed and after a time one whose name was Umul came forth. This newborn had a sickness over its entire body. Its eyes, neck, and bowels were stricken with this illness. The child’s ribs were fragile, and it could hardly breathe due to the illness in its lungs.

31 The child didn’t have the strength to place bread into their mouth. The head hung to the side due to a dislocation in the spine in the neck. The hips were broken to the point where there was no hope of the child ever walking into the field.

32 “I have decreed a fate for each of those who you gave to me, now you must decree a fate for the one I have given to you.”

33 Ninhursag looked to Umul and attempted to ask him a question, but the child couldn’t speak. She attempted to give him bread, but he was unable to take it. The child could not even sit up.

34 “The one you have given for me to decree the fate of is neither alive or dead. He is unable to sustain himself.” Ninhursag gave this man no fate at all.

35 “I have decreed the fate for each of the six challenges that you have given me, surely you can decree the fate of this one.”

36 “No, I am unable to see a fate for Umul.” Looking at the creature in her lap that was neither live nor dead, Ninhursag grew angry and began swearing at her husband. She lost in a battle of wits with the most clever of the gods and lamented her utter defeat in their little game.

37 “I can’t deny anything that you have said about me.” Enki accepted the insults as his due, but he had some compassion for his wife who he had beaten in this game. “Take Umul off of your lap. I will take his imperfections away and he will serve to build my house. Let all know that you are a wise woman, let the Enkum and Ninkum tell everyone this.”