Myths: Enki Ninhursag and Damkina

Enki and Ninhursag

1 There was a time in the land of Dilmun, when all was untouched by man. There was no old age, there was no death nor disease, for all was yet pure. There Enki laid down with Ninsikila his spouse, She who was the queen of the pure place, of its vacant city.

2 Yet Ninsikila was not content. Dilmuns city was not yet fruitful, it did not yet possess fresh waters and so she complained to Enki, “This city has no river quay, no fields, glebe nor furrow. What good does it do us?”

3 In that place there was no singing, there was no wailing, no old man nor woman, no grain nor malt nor any activity. But Enki knew well what needed to be done and formed plans to develop the land. What was needed was fresh waters to enrich the dry soil.

4 He replied to her “When Utu the sun god rises into heaven, at that time fresh waters will run from the festival grounds of Nanna’s temple, it shall travel underground from Sumer. And from the mouth of the water running underground, the water will flow to us, your city will flow with fresh waters. May the water rise into the great basins, and may your city drink aplenty from them.”

5 That was not all he had in store for his spouse and her city however. He knew Dilmun’s position in the lower sea was perfectly suited to host trade ships from Sumer, as well, from many foreign lands. He continued, “May pools of salt water become pools of fresh water and because of its great quay, may Dilmun become a wealthy establishment for the land and for Sumer.”

6 He then decreed that Meluhha, the Indus valley, should send Dilmun its precious carnelian and abba wood. Magan, Oman, should send its strong copper and stone. Elam should send its choice wools. Finally he decreed that the Sumerian city of Ur should send its sesame, its fine raiment and clothing.

7 Upon the word of Enki, it came to be. When Utu steped into heaven that day, waters traveled underground from Sumer and filled the basins for Enki’s spouse. At that moment, on that day, and under that sun, it happened exactly as Enki intended.

8 Dilmun would have its river quay, its irrigated fields with glebes and furrows that produced abundant grain. It would have well crafted homes, it would produce dates and timber. In time, ships would come and Dilmun would become the trade center of the lower sea. Enki had fixed its prosperity for his wife and for all Dilmunites.

9 The wise one turned his attention to ensuring that life and sustenance would seize upon his gifts. In the marsh, Enki looked towards Ninhursag the country’s mother, and he knew what needed to be done.

10 He moved towards her digging his phallus into the dikes and into the reed beds, sending forth fresh waters, but she would not receive him that easily. “No man take me in the marsh!” she exclaimed resisting his determined advance.

11 Enki the lord of fresh water did indeed desire this great goddess who alone accounted for the fertile earth, and whose union with him would spell abundant life. He cried out, invoking her great nature.

12 “By the life’s breath of heaven, I adjure you! Lie down with me in the marsh, it would be joyous!” He lay down with her then, and she conceived though his seed was originally destined for his other spouse Damgalnuna.

13 Ninhursaga’s pregnancy was that of a goddess, her first month was as a day to us, and by the end of her second month it was as two days. On the ninth day she gave birth, the delivery was flawless and Ninnisig was born. Her name was associated with greenery.

14 When Ninnisig had grown, she went out to the riverbank. Enki could see up there form the marsh, he saw how attractive she had grown. He said to his minister Isimud, “Is this nice young woman not to be kissed? She is beautiful, and so she should be kissed.” His minister could only agree, and when Enki stepped into his boat, Isimud sailed the boat upstream to Ninnisig.

15 As soon as Enki steped out of the boat he kissed her he lay down with her and she conceived. On the ninth day, like her mother, she gave birth and Ninkura was born. Her name was associated with cultivation.

16 In turn Ninkura would stand on the river bank when she had grown, Isimud would take Enki to her, he would lie with her and on the ninth day She would give birth to Ninimma whose name spoke of thirst.

17 Finally, upon Enki�s coupling as well with this young woman at the riverbank, she conceived and on the ninth day bore Uttu, the exalted lady. Uttu the plant goddess, would grow to represent the fertility inherent in the line that sprang from Enki and Ninhursaga.

18 When one day Uttu stood on the riverbank, Ninhursaga came to her bearing advice, “Listen carefully, I have some important advice for you. Enki can see you here from his place in the marsh, he will set his eye’s upon you. Do not let him take you without a proper courtship, without gifts, as he did your mother.”

19 Uttu followed the advice of the one that had given birth to her great grandmother. She returned to her house, and Enki, who had his eye on her, followed. As he knocked on the door, she knew what he wanted and called out, “Bring me cucumbers and apples, bring me grapes in their clusters. Then you may enter, and you may take hold of my halter.”

20 On this, Enki was agreeable. For the plant goddess, he again sent forth fresh water, he filled the uncultivated land, the dykes and the canals. *expand

21 The gardener who upon Enki’s action saw his garden grow lush and plentiful, went to the god of fresh waters and embraced him. He made an offering to Enki, and gave him cucumbers and apples, and grapes in their clusters. The wise one had made the land bountiful for all manner of crop; he could now return his attention to Uttu.

22 *(examine Sumerian text he made his face green?) He first made his face attractive, and took a staff in his hand. He came to her house and knocked at the door demanding “Open up, Open up” to which she answered “Who are you?”.

23 But Enki was feeling clever and answered “I am a gardener. Open up, and I will give you cucumbers, apples, and grapes in their clusters, for your “Yes”. Joyfully, Uttu opened her house, and after he had given her the produce, Enki poured her beer.

24 Uttu waved her hands at him, and Enki did not hesitate. He clasped her to the bosom, he aroused her, and they had intercourse. He poured his seed and she conceived.

But before long, Uttu became distraught. “My thighs feel strange” She cried out, “My body, my heart. Something is wrong.”

25 Ninhursag heard her distress and she came at once. She removed Enki’s seed from her descendants thighs, and with it she caused eight plants to grow. She grew the ‘tree’ plant, the ‘honey plant’, the ‘vegetable’ plant, the alfalfa grass, the ‘atutu’ plant, the ‘astaltal’ plant,the ‘amharu’ plant, and one more besides.

26 Enki had returned to the marsh and again he was peering up there, he was able to see the plants and he spoke to his minister Isimud, “I have not determined the destiny of these plants. What is this one? What is that one?”

27 Isimud answered: “My master, the ‘tree’ plant.” Isimud cut the plant and gave it to his master who ate it. “My master the ‘honey’ plant’ again Enki ate it. In like manner he ate the ‘vegetable’, ‘alfalfa’, ‘atutu’, ‘astaltal’ and ‘amharu’ plants and one more besides. Together these represented the eight basic plant groups. Enki determined the destiny of these plants, he had each of them know it in their hearts, he defined their role.

28 When Ninhursag saw this she was enraged. She had created the plants yet Enki had undertaken to determine their fates! She cursed the name Enki, “Until his dying day, I will never look upon him with my life-giving eye.”

29 Enki’s life was endangered, his health afflicted, and the gods were distraught at the falling out of Enki and his partner. They sat in the dust in despair. Ninhursag had withdrawn and none of the gods knew how to approach her.

30 It was then that the fox went to Enlil who lead the gods, who commissioned Enki’s actions, and spoke to him: “If I am able to bring Ninhursag to you what will be my reward?” Enlil was greatly pleased and responded that the fox would win renown and be greatly honored.

31 The fox prepared himself, placing kohl under his eyes. When he saw Ninhursag he went to her and spoke cunning words to her. Ninhursag agreed to return and she made her way to the temple where the gods quickly removed her clothing and ushered the weakened Enki to her.

32 There were eight parts of Enki that hurt him and to these Ninhursag now looked with life giving eye. She sat him by her vagina and addressed him, “My kinsman, what part of you hurts you?” ” Ugu-dili, the top of my head, hurts me” She took the affliction into her womb and gave birth to Abu out of it.

33 “Siki, the locks of my hair, hurt me.” She gave birth to Ninsikila out of it. “My giri, nose, hurts me” She gave birth to Ningiritud out of it. “My mouth hurts me.” She gave birth to Ninkasi out of it. “Zi, my throat hurts me.” She gave birth to Na-zi out of it.

34 “My arm hurts me” She gave birth to Azimua out of it. “My ribs, ti, hurt me” She gave birth to Ninti out of it. “My sides, zag, hurt me” She gave birth to Enzag out of it. Thus was Enki healed, and 4 sons and 4 daughters were born to them. Each of their names related to the part they were born out of.

35 Ninhursag wasted no time in declaring their destinies this time: “For the little ones to whom I have given birth may rewards not be lacking. Abu shall become king of the grasses, Ninsikila shall become lord of Magan, Ningiritud shall marry Ninazu, Ninkasi will be the goddess of beer. Na-zi shall marry Nindara, Azimua shall marry Ningishzida, Ninti shall become lady of the month, and Ensag shall become lord of Dilmun.”

Ninma, Ninhursag, Damgalnunna, Damkina aren’t they all the same goddess?

That’s a tricky question. Ninma and Ninhursag are generally accepted to be the same, and Damgalnunna and Damkina are generally accepted to be the same, but is Ninhursag the same as Damkina? This myth would seem to indicate that they are not, but by itself that isn’t completely conclusive. What seems more compelling is a text in one of the lamentations. Damkina and Ninhursag are both considered distinctly from one another in the text indicating that they were in fact considered to be different goddesses in ancient times.

How do their characters differ? Not a lot is said about Damkina in myth. She lives in the Apsu realm with her husband and her name indicates that she is a good wife. Any adventures or special authority she may have might be focused entirely upon that other realm. In a way she is like the Nimgir demons that reside in the underworld. We don’t know much about them because they reside elsewhere and are consumed with matters of that elsewhere place.

Ninhursag on the other hand we know a great deal about. She is one of the seven who decree fate, and her power rivals Enki’s. In this myth we see her power eclipse Enki’s, but in another myth it is Enki’s cleverness that puts him ahead. Both are great and powerful gods and should not be defined by each other.