A favorite Shaman by Susan Seddon-Boulet
Adapa is one of the Seven Sages who brought civilisation, arts and crafts to Sumer after the flood. His story is preserved in a Mesopotamian myth bearing his name, in tablets found at Amarna and Nineveh (Middle and Late Babylonian periods). The two versions differ in some minor points, but the storyline is basically the same.
We learn from the myth that Adapa is instructed in the ways of heaven by Enki/Ea, the Lord of the Sweet Waters, Magick, Arts, Crafts and Wisdom, in the myth called the "broad eared one" (signifying wisdom - the inner hearing that, if listened to, transforms and gives new meaning and light to everything there was, is and will be). Stephanie Dalley, the Assyriologist and mythographer who translated this myth, remarks that "Adapa was also known as Uan, which is the name given as Oannes by Berossus to the first sage; the name Uan also forms a pun on the Sumero-Akkadian word for a craftsman... as the first sage, Adapa-Oannes introduced the correct rites of religious observance to mankind, and was the priest of Ea in his temple in Eridu.
Let´s examine the text on Oannes by Berosus in full and then get back to the myth, because it is in the myth that we have the real tradition. Nevertheless, it is important to examine Berosus´s description first to proceed to set our records within a more faithful Mesopotamian context:
"At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldaea, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field. In the first year there appeared, from that part of the Erythraean sea which borders upon Babylonia, an animal destitute of reason [sic], by name Oannes, whose whole body (according to the account of Apollodorus) was that of a fish, that under the fish's head he had another head, with feet also below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish's tail. His voice too, and language, was articulated and human, and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.
"This Being was accustomed to pass the day among men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in everything which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions. And when the sun had set, this Being Oannes, retired again into the sea, and passed the night in the deep; for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Oannes."
- Berossus, from Ancient Fragments (Isaac Preston Cory)
It is clear from the start to the discerning eye of the dedicated Mesopotamian scholar and mystic that Berosus´s description should be examined in the light of the genuine tradition, which is in the myth we will analyse in detail below. For now, take into account that Berosus may have taken some liberties of his own when retelling of Oannes/Adapa to others. In what follows, I will include some of my insights on Berosus´ account. Remember that Berosus´ access to the tablets of Amarna and Ninneveh was an impossibility. Berosus thus tell us that Oannes looks and dresses fish-like, and this is not a surprise for a mystic who lives by himself most probably by the riverbanks of South Mesopotamia. We also learn that Oannes spent his days with the local communities teaching them insights into letters, sciences, and arts of every kind. He also taught others to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained the principles of geometrical knowledge. This sage made people distinguish the seeds of the earth, how to collect its fruits, and in short, he instructed the people everything which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. Think with me now: naturally, when one has such a busy day, there is hardly time to eat properly, and this may be the real truth about Oannes not eating when in company of men! Obviously, at the end of the day Oannes also returned to his dwelling by the waters, and depending on where he was, Oannes swam to his place, therefore "being considered anphibious". Thus, Oannes´ description by Madame Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled is much more appropriate to the Mesopotamian tradition: "Oannes is the emblem of priestly, esoteric wisdom; he comes out from the sea, because the 'great deep', the water, typifies the secret doctrine."
Back to the myth: Adapa is said to be the (spiritual) son of Ea, and by Him is trained in the ways of heaven and earth to disclose the designs of the land. Adapa is considered a sage, a protecting spirit among mankind, highly regarded by the community, once no one rejected his word. This is another important point to raise which is overlooked by those who analyse this myth. His people considered Adapa extra-wise, one with the Great Gods, of pure hands, a priest, so Adapa´s otherness was not strange to his own. As a priest, Adapa served the Gods and the people. Service in the temple of Eridu included the preparation of food and water offered to the Gods everyday.
Now, this part of the myth illustrates some of the functions of the high priest in Mesopotamia, from the earliest times, since we know from myth and historical accounts that "kingship descended from the heavens, being first set up in Eridu", the city dedicated to Enki/Ea, where the earliest remains of a temple made of reeds is attested by Archaeology. Some of these functions included food and drink preparation for the gods, and to a real Mesopotamian in mind, body, heart and soul such practice should not raise eyebrows, as well as the cult of statues, despite the fact that these practices were highly ill-understood, debated and condemned by post-Mesopotamians. I ask you to dismiss post-Mesopotamians´ views with a shrug, and dive into the metaphor of our true ways. Why so?
Simply because by the bond of heaven and earth Mesopotamians believed in grounding the wisdom of the stars in all aspects of daily life under whatever means at hand. Food and drink offerings as well as cult statues are brillant metaphors to illustrate that the Spirit is a Living Force that is and should be not only grounded by also sustained by everyday practice. It also shows that the Spirit lived with the community in His/Her holy house, the temple. A hymn to Nanna, the Moon God, says that " among the creatures in whom is breath of life, [the god Nanna] has settled down his holy abode". Thorkild Jacobsen affirms in his seminal work "The Treasures of Darkness" (Yale University Press, London, New Haven, 1976) in page 16 states:
"...thus the god - because the temple was his home - was not only near and approachable, he was involved with the fortunes of the community and committed to maintaining it," and
Henri Frankfort in the classic Kingship and the Gods (1948, 1978, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, page 304) also corroborates with real insight into the tradition:
"Power, however, means life, and life requires sustenance. Hence the statue [and the god, Lishtar´s Note] received regular offerings of food and drink ".
Back to the myth. One night when Adapa was out fishing for the temple, not being able to catch any, his boat was sunk by a storm caused by the South Wind. Angered because he had been forced to live with the fish (probably almost drowning and having to swim hard for his life) Adapa loses control. In rage, he threatens and manages to break the wing of the South Wind. To lose control is not befitting for a high priest, and the fact that Enki was at the sea at night gives us another clue to some of the mysteries embedded in this great myth. Good judgement is a gift bestowed upon the ruler by Utu/Shamash, the Sun God, who was absent at that specific moment from the skies. Thus, Adapa makes a display of unreasonable power and manages to break the wing of the South Wind, which stops blowing for a long time, as indicated by the expression "seven days" which means a full initiatory cycle including the seven planets. This angers Anu, the Skyfather, who demands the young priest be taken to His almighty presence for judgement.
Enki/Ea, Adapa´s personal god who knew the heart of his favorite priest, obviously concerned with Anu´s words, which should not be disobeyed, told Adapa to ascend and meet the Skyfather for judgement, but not before preparing himself for the journey. Preparations included to clothe himself with mourning garb, wear his hair unkempth, and when up in the Heavens approach the Gate of Anu, by which Dumuzi and Gizzida would sure be standing. When asked questions by the two gods, Adapa should reply to them that he was in mourning for the two gods´ absence from the Physical Planes, to conquer Dumuzi´s and Gizzida´s graces to defend him before Anu.
Here is another fundamental element to understand the depth of this myth which is overlooked by scholars. Both Dumuzi and Gizzida are gods that belong to the Mesopotamian tradition of the Eternal Return. Dumuzi/Tammuz goes to the Underworld and returns to the land and Inanna/Ishtar, being himself a living link with transcendent humanity, because he is the mortal Royal Shepherd made immortal by his love for the land and the goddess. Ningiszida or Gizzida, on the other hand, is a Sumerian god, whose name means "lord of the good tree", and quoted by Jacobsen (Treasures of Darkness) "as the power of the tree to draw sustenance from its roots", therefore he was also identified with Damu, the Divine Child of Mesopotamia. Ningishzida is called "the prince who stretches out his pure hand to heaven, with luxuriant and abundant hair (flowing down his)back", In the Neo-Sumerian period, Gudea introduced Him into the Lagash pantheon as his personal god, whom he loved "above all others". Gizzida was also worshipped in Shruppak, Ur, Umma, Larsa, Nippur and Uruk. The character of these two gods who should aid Adapa when confronted by Anu shows clearly Ea/Enki´s main intention from the start: Adapa should ascend and apologise to Anu, the Skyfather, and with the intercession of Dumuzi and Gizzida, who returned every year to the Physical Planes, conquer his return back to the physical plane.
Enki also warned Adapa that if he wanted to return to the physical world, he should not eat or drink in the Heights Above, but could accept a new garment and oil for annointing himself, in case these two were offered to him.
Adapa therefore did as he was told by Enki. He ascended dressed in mourning garb, conquered the favors of Dumuzi and Gizzida and stood before Anu for judgement. Adapa tells Anu that the South Wind had sank his boat while he was out fishing at night for the temple of Ea. In fury, Adapa had then cursed the the South Wind.
We reach another great moment of this primeval heavenly courtroom drama which is also overlooked by those who study this myth. Adapa only tells Anu his case, and his defense is done by Dumuzi and Gizzida, who "responded from beside him, spoke a word in his favor to Anu", whose heart then " was appeased and grew quiet."
But Anu was touched in a far deeper way. Indeed, he was so taken by surprise by Adapa´s integrity that the Skyfather decided to offer the gift Adapa did not want for himself, at least not at that moment. This gift was immortality in the Heights Above, which would prevent Adapa from returning to the Physical Plane. The whole purpose of his ascent was to apologise to An, the Skyfather, not to stay there! This was the meaning of Enki´s advice for Adapa to refuse food and drink if he wanted to return to Earth. There is no riddle, no tricks on Ea/Enki´s part towards Adapa, and the modern garment of the ancient Mesopotamian sage, Adapa, the High Priest of the Twin Rivers Rising coven and website, explained this passage of the myth with words I never cease to marvel at:
"To accept that Enki would not only trick Adapa, but lie to him by claiming he would be offered the bread and water of death, when he was to be offered the bread and water of Life seems implausible. We must therefor take Enki at his word, and assume that to eat the bread of immortal life is to eat the bread of death; to drink the water of eternal life is to drink the water of death. Indeed, Anu offers the bread and water of life to Adapa only after he discovers the wisdom granted him (and thus, to mankind) by Enki," (Adapa´s Treatise on Mesopotamian Religion, Life,Death and the Meaning of the Universe, the second essay in the series in Gateways and also in the Twin Rivers Rising website, my favorite in the Net).
It is important to point out that is allowed by Enki to accept a brand new garment from the Heights Above, as well as the oil to annoint himself. These are initiatory symbols of renewal, a true initiation into the Mysteries of the Heights.
Thus, Adapa returns to the physical plane, now in the graces of Anu, Dumuzi and Gizzida, to continue serving Ea/Enki and the community, a position Adapa never intended to give up ahead of time. Again, we have a brilliant example to contradict all those who consider Mesopotamian worldview as negative and life-denying in all worlds and spheres. The myth of Adapa shows that immortality is a gift of the spirit to be realized in the physical plane, according to the bond of Heaven and Earth. This is why Adapa trusted his personal god from the start: it had never been his intention to stay in the Heights Above. Immortality for our Soul Ancestors was very much a gift of the Spirit at service of Nature in all worlds. It should still be so, and I would just add that it is in partaking and participating in the Dance of Love and Life that we live our own humanity, like Adapa did so well, in another Mesopotamian first.
What are the gifts of this myth for us today? My experience of the inner meaning of this myth is that we should try and live our humanity to the fullest, to consciously attempt to become what we are meant to be. By doing this, in the light of the Tradition of our hearts we maybe able to transcend our limits, make a dream or two come true and thus reach out for Eternity. Starting up here and now. Adapa´s story is thus a wondrous metaphor that celebrates faith in life and the future, because in the end, the future is the child of the past, nurtured in the present by ensouled deeds in all worlds we thread upon.
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