Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Enuma Elish - The Babylonian Creation Story :: Enuma Elish
Enuma Elish - The Babylonian Creation Story Like the Greek Theogony, the creation of the world in the Enuma elish begins with the universe in a formless state, from which emerge two primary gods, male and female: When the skies above were not yet named Nor earth below pronounced by name, Apsu, the first one, their begetter, And maker Tiamat, who bore them all, Had mixed their waters together, But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds; When yet no gods were manifest, Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed, Then gods were born within them. (Dalley 233) Apsu, the male "begetter," is the sweet waters, while Tiamat, the female "maker," is the bitter, salt waters. Sweet and salt water mingle together at the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, site of the origins of Mesopotamian civilization. Some translators see the word "maker" in line 4 not as an adjective describing Tiamat but as another god, named Mummu, who emerges at the same time. As you might expect, Mummu means "maker," "form," "mold," or "matrix." Besides being Apsu's vizier, Mummu is the mold or the undifferentiated substance from which things are made. Like Eros at the beginning of the Theogony, this Mummu-power is necessary to get the job of birth-creation going. Stephanie Dalley notes that "the bit-mummu was the term for a workshop that produced statues of deities" (274). N. K. Sandars, however, sees mummu as potential, or entropy (27). In this early period, nothing is named yet because nothing has appeared or been created yet. Notice that pasture-land must be form ed--wrested from the desert by the hard work of digging and irrigation. The reed-beds mentioned in line 6 are handier than one might think: in southern Iraq today, the marsh dwellers live and work in floating houses and boats made from the reeds in the reed-beds. The "destinies" mentioned in line 8 are somewhat like the Sumerian me--cultural patterns and ways of living. After the waters of Apsu and Tiamat mix, the gods Lahmu and Lahamu ("slime, mud") emerge. And from this pair come Anshar ("whole sky") and Kishar ("whole earth"), meaning perhaps "the horizon, the circular rim of heaven and the corresponding circular rim of earth" (Jacobsen 168). Anshar and Kishar give birth to Anu, the sky god, who in turn begets what one translation calls "his likeness" (Heidel 18) Ea, the trickster god of the flowing waters, who is familiar to us as Enki.