The Seven Who Decree Fate

The seven who decree fate were the ruling council of the gods. They would take advice from the high gods and the lower gods, but they did all of the actual ruling and made all of the decisions on how fate would play out.

Their strength was derived from the tablet of destiny crafted by Enki. Upon this tablet was inscribed the order of the universe. The laws that governed every aspect of civilization and the law to which the gods themselves submitted. Each of the seven presumably had a copy of this tablet.

The ruling council had rulership over all of the aspects of civilization and progressively more power over the years as civilization marched slowly across the land and developed within the lands. This rulership had some democratic elements, but without the internal strife, and without the even balance of votes.

They each had a hand in determining destiny, but that hand could be uneven. Each of the gods could put a portion of their vote into any given decision. The ruler of the council would have a vote that could be stronger than the others, but was not guaranteed to be.

When a decision was made it was binding. Even those who did not agree before the vote would all stand behind the decision. This is the strength of the Order of the Universe. It allowed the gods to turn their attention towards the problems that faced the lands that they ruled both from within and from without.

Though the seven seemed all powerful and all knowing, there were a few things that they were forbidden to have power over. No god could have control of destiny and also have control over the land of the dead. When Enki went down to the underworld to save Ereshkigal at the dawn of time he gave the ruler ship of the realm to Ereshkigal rather than attempting to keep it for himself. When Inanna attempted to take the throne of Kur from Ereshkigal she was slain for it.

1) Anu or An: He is the primal father of the father of the gods. He is the embodiment of the upper heavens. He was there at the spiritual creation of the universe out of the primordial deep. Together with the goddess Ki he engendered the Anki or the Sumerian conception of the universe.

An and Ki bore Enlil the father of the gods and the head of the pantheon. An and Apsu, the manifestation of the primordial deep itself, bore the god Enki. It is Enki who would craft the foundation of the empire of gods that his half brother would rule.

It is thought that he was once the head of the pantheon in the earliest days of Sumer. For most of available Sumerian mythology he was not the head of the pantheon. That honor was given to his first born son Enlil, the lord of the winds.

As a god he is the manifestation of the realm of heaven. His name An was also the name for heaven. That is to say he is the lord of heaven as well as being heaven itself. His consort was the goddess Ki or Ninki at one point, but after the birth of Enlil they were separated.

There are connections between him and the Judeo-Christian god Eloheim. In Akkadian, the language Abraham most likely spoke, El was both the name for An and for his son Enlil. El translates roughly to the word lord. As it is unlikely that Elohim refers to the same god in every situation, there is a good chance that the title referred to An on several occasions.

2) Enlil: This is the god of wind, storms, fortune, and princeliness. He might not be the one who did the crafting of the original Order of the Universe, but he is the one who commissioned that there be an order of the universe. Essentially this means that he is the god who caused the entire pantheon to crystallize into a functional whole.

He is the first born son of An and Ki and had a hand in separating the heavens from the earth. His myths blur together with the older myths of An since both were the head of the pantheon at one time and both are translated as El in Akkadian. In character though they are quite different. An was never a particularly active member of the pantheon, while Enlil took an active role in ruling the pantheon.

Enlil is considered to be the father of the gods though Enki could just as easily claim that title. Both gods had quite a number of children, though three of Enlil’s descendants are among the seven who decree fate.

His name means “lord of the wind” or “lord of the spirits”. As such it is only natural that he is the head of the gods. He is the manifestation of the realm between the heaven and the earth. Enlil was the god of princeliness and the god who one calls to get good fortune.

The god Ninurta is the closest to Enlil in character, but while Ninurta is wild and adventurous, Enlil is generally regal and subdued. Enlil is often called Ninurta’s father. Since Ninhursag is likely Ninurta’s mother it is possible that Ninhursag was for a time the consort of Enlil.

The goddess Ninlil was destined to be Enlil’s consort, but he had intercourse before his bride to be was ready. He was condemned for this rape by the entire pantheon. She did not hold this act against him for all time as you might expect. She even acted to save him from death and had bore many of the gods in the process.

3) Enki: This is the god of wisdom, magic, cleverness, fertility, and invention, but he is primarily the god of fresh waters. All of these other aspects are simply extensions of his affinity to fresh water. He even made his home in the primordial deep that extends beyond the universe.

His name, En-ki means “lord of the earth”, as that was meant to show that he was lord of the things below the wind and heaven. His name also relates to the fact that his consort Ninhursag was the lady of the foothills, and couples are often given similar names.

His father was An the god of heaven, and his mother was Apsu the goddess of the deep. This makes him a half brother to Enlil, the lord of the gods. His children were an entirely separate lineage of gods to those of Enlil. Enki ruled over the Igigi gods while Enlil ruled over the Anuna gods.

In the earliest times Enki defeated Kur and became En-Kur lord of the underworld. As an underworld god Enki placed Ereshkigal in charge of the underworld and had power over life and death.

In myth Enki is primarily in the position of the clever one that other gods go to in order to solve their problems. He is not a trickster god and he does his best to promote the system that he had a hand in creating.

In addition to Ninhursag, Enki also had a second wife, Damkina, who lived with him in the home he made in the deep. Damkina is not generally mentioned in the myths directly, but she is noteworthy as the mother of Marduk and Asalluhi.

4) Ninhursag: When one looks for a mother goddess in the Sumerian pantheon one should look to Ninhursag, the goddess of the foothills. She is the goddess of the cultivation of the earth, and is also the Sumerian mother goddess. You would expect this to make her popular with modern neo pagans, but this is not the case. She has been forgotten for the most part as a mother goddess, ironically in favor of goddesses of war and also a demoness of demons of crib death.

Ninhursag is a nature goddess, but this doesn’t exactly make her a goddess of the wilderness. Civilization was a central focus of the Sumerian gods. Cultivation and gardening is a major part of what makes a people civilized.

She is perhaps most notable as Enki’s most influential consort. Enki was wed to her and also to Damkina who lived with him in his home in the Apsu. Ninhursag is also is the mother of Ninurta the storm god of the farmers and several of the other gods and goddesses in the pantheon.

In myth she is seen most prominent in two myths in connection with Enki. In the first myth Enki has children with her and then with the next subsequent generations of goddesses. Ninhursag discovers this infidelity and grows angry cursing her husband. She later forgives Enki and removes her curse.

In another myth Enki and Ninhursag have created humans and they are coming up with jobs for flawed humans. Enki finds jobs for all of the flawed humans that Ninhursag can come up with, but Ninhursag cannot do the same for the flawed human Enki comes up with. In this myth the creation of humanity might be better explained as the civilizing of humanity, a constant process. Enki is the primary inspiration with Ninhursag as the chief among several goddesses of childbirth.

5) Nanna: The first thing that we should note about the moon god is that he is not a woman. This is often really hard for people to understand who expect all gods in a similar position to be exactly the same.

Nanna was called Sin in Akkadian, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the modern conception of sin as a transgression against a god or gods. In Sumerian he was also called Nannar, Suen, and Nanna-Suen. This reflected his being god of the many phases of the moon.

Nanna also serves the Order of the Universe in his role as god of the passage of time. The Sumerians kept track of the days in terms of the lunar months rather than the solar year. They did however correct for the solar year. It was not a particularly advanced system, but it is in many ways superior to the modern middle eastern purely lunar calendar which does not have the months of the year land in the same season from year to year since the Sumerian calendar was designed to be more in tune with the growing seasons.

In his iconography Nanna is envisioned as a god of the moon is a god who rides a boat across the sky. The stars were seen as his wandering cattle rather than as specific constellations. Remember that it would be the later Babylonians and Chaldeans who would come to chart the stars with any detail and develop astrology into something like what we might recognize today.

If there is a god of romance it is Nanna. He seduced his wife Ningal the lady of the reeds, wooing her with his charm rather than having his marriage arranged for him. The Sumerians saw the tide as Nanna caressing the reeds and by extension caressing his wife Ningal the goddess of the reeds. Nanna was also responsible for the more gentle necessary floods.

6) Utu: First a little genealogy so you know where Utu lies in the pantheon. Utu is generally considered to have been the twin brother of Inanna. He and Inanna are the children of Nanna and Ningal. Utu’s wife is Sherida. Utu is not known to have any divine children, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he had some. He is listed as the father of several kings, but this might simply mean that they were addressing him with honor, or that he was the spiritual third parent of those kings.

Utu is the predominant Sun god in the Sumerian religion. This is interesting because his father is the god of the moon. This might be a little difficult to accept if you are used to having the sun god be the father of the moon god. Simply remind yourself that the Sumerian pantheon might have some similarity to other pantheons, but that it is a distinct pantheon.

Note that being the predominant sun god does not make him the only sun god. Remember that being god of the sun does not mean that the Sumerians thought that he physically was the sun.

The sun god was the god of prophecy. This is important because Utu was a friend to mankind. He attempted to show man something of the fate that the seven had decreed for them. This is in keeping with his tendency to take a direct role in the affairs of man.

The sun god was a legalistic god. He was the one who gave law down to mankind, and he meted out justice in the underworld. There are connections between him and the Aten from the reign of Ankhenaten as well as Mazda from Zoroastrianism. Don’t think of Utu as a strict dictator however. His job was not so much to see that man followed an arcane set of rules, but to make sure that man had rules so that they wouldn’t abuse one another. Part of his task was to make sure that demons did not break the rules and harm humans when they were not supposed to.

In furtherance of Utu’s role as the god of justice and fairness he was one of the four governors of the underworld. It is important to note that this did not put him in charge of the underworld as a ruler, but rather it allowed him to serve Ereshkigal in the underworld by maintaining her laws in her realm.

Utu’s primary iconography is that of the saw. In later times he became associated with the horse and the winged sun disk. This is interesting as it bares some similarity to the Greek sun god who would come to be worshiped later in the Mediterranean.

7) Inanna: She is both the most important goddess in ancient Mesopotamia, and also one of the least understood in modern times. She is presently popular as a mother goddess, but this is not a good depiction of her.

Inanna was a goddess who was tied to prostitution. In the Mesopotamian mind prostitution was linked with sterility. As such Inanna only has a single known child, the hero Shara, and even this is not a distinction that can be clearly made. Even if Inanna was the mother of a single god this does not make her a goddess of motherhood.

Many lists of gods simply say that she was the goddess of love and war, but even this is deceptive. Inanna was not so much a goddess of romantic love as she was a goddess of sexual love. Likewise she was not a goddess of tactical maneuvers, but more the goddess of the heat of battle itself.

Inanna was primarily the goddess of passion. She loved passionately, she hated passionately, and she was even known to throw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. Inanna was also an ambitious goddess. Much of what she did in the myths was designed to improve her position and the position of her worshipers.

Some see her as a goddess of the liberated female. As a goddess of woman’s rights. This is just as much an impressing of modern values on her as calling her a mother goddess. She is a goddess to seek out in times of crisis and times of passion. She will protect her followers, but she is not a goddess who is overly concerned with changing the lot of women in the world.

Inanna started out as a goddess of the date store house. This can be seen clearly by the two ring posts that are her primary icon. Her ambition led her to take the wealthy god Dumuzi as her consort, but she also had numerous other lovers and even betrayed her husband when he failed to show her the proper respect. She tricked Enki into giving her power over some aspects of the Order of the Universe, and this defined her as one of the seven who decree fate. She even tried to defy the Order itself and take command of the underworld, but this grab for power failed and ended quite badly for her.

It is this last act that she is most known for. Inanna had caused the death of her companion the bull of heaven after Gilgamesh spurned her sexual advances. She used the funeral as a pretext to go into the underworld. The Bull of heaven had been the husband of the ruler of the underworld and as one might expect there was tension.

She took the throne of the underworld, but not by force. Ereshkigal got up, and Inanna sat down. This act of breaking the rules of the gods caused her immediate execution. Inanna would later be resurrected and restored to her previous power, but only by an act of compassion for Ereshkigal’s loss on the part of creations of Enki the god of wisdom.

In modern times Inanna is associated with wild sexual liberation. In many goddesses this might be misplaced. For Inanna this is actually quite accurate. Inanna was the goddess associated with prostitution and all forms of sexuality from transsexuality to homosexuality and any other form of sexuality that the rest of the culture might be uncomfortable with.

Inanna is associated with the planet Venus. Venus shows up only in the early morning and the late evening. This is when prostitutes showed up in ancient Sumer. Also at this time one might also be able to see the planet Mercury. Mercury is called the bull of the sun and is associated with dancing and can only be seen on the horizon just before sun rise or just after sun set. This may indicate that this bull may in fact be the bull of heaven. That would make sense as the bull of heaven is also linked to Inanna.