by Lishtar, August 26th 1999
For Tava and Vinny
The Epic of Gilgamesh, the longest and greatest literary composition of Mesopotamia and the first great work of literature in world history, narrates a quest for fame and immortality lived by a dimly historical figure, Gilgamesh, the king of the city of Uruk. We say dimly historical figure because although Gigalmesh´s name appears in the Sumerian Kings List, indicating thus that there was an actual king bearing his name, in the epic he also interacts with gods, goddesses and mythical beings. For the purposes of this article, we will focus our attention on the friendship of Gilgamesh, the king, who can be very well described as the cvilized and arrogant city dweller, and Enkidu, the wild, natural man who is at ease in the open fields and deepest forests. As we will see, it is the bond between the two men and the early death of Enkidu that impels Gigalmesh to pursue a quest for immortality, to transform himself into a wholer being.
But who are the two men and how are they related? Why is their bond so strong and magickal? And what can we learn about them that can bring more wholeness to our understanding of Male Divinity in special?
The Epic says that Gilgamesh is the son of Lugalbanda, the priest-king famed for his deeds and piety, and Ninsun, a goddess. Thus, Gilgamesh is of divine birth, who grows up to be spoilt, for his was the all-oneness of the strong and fair of visage and body, which can so easily turn into arrogance. There was none that he, Gilgamesh, could not best in physical prowess and dare. Thus, in their houses, the young and old of Uruk complained about the misbehaviour of their young ruler, muttering, not openly, of course, that he was arrogant, noisy, selfish, yet the all-powerful king they could do nothing against of.
Thus, in the Heights Above, the Great Gods heard the lament of the people, and Ninhursag-Ki, also known as Aruru, decides to create someone to be Gilgamesh´s a second self, "so that rushing winds meet rushing winds", to fight and grow in understanding and friendship.
The Great Mother Goddess took then pinch of clay, mixed it with water adding to it the stuff heavens are made of. This way She created Enkidu, a star fallen from heaven into the wilderness, fully grown, a sight to behold. Very much like Gilgamesh he was, yet totally unclouded by arrogance and pride, born with the strength of Ninurta, tough of body and hair waved like corn filaments, he was innocent in the ways of humankind, but wise in the ways of the wild.
From the start, it is therefore clear the deep invisible bond between the two men, much before they meet, fight and grow to love each other. Both are Opposites that Complement each other, one a sophisticated arrogant citybred, the other a wild, spontaneous and carefree man of the woods and plains. Who initiates whom in this story, it is also difficult to say. Because it is Gilgamesh that sends a priestess to teach Enkidu the power of civilisation, whereas by meeting Enkidu Gilgamesh feels for the first time the need to share and grow, it is through their friendship that Gilgamesh becomes less self-absorbed and most certainly, less lonely. Because Gilgamesh was lonely, but did not know the extent of longing of his soul for a friend, until the moment he meets Enkidu and loses him afterwards in the Epic.
The first meeting between Enkidu and Gilgamesh will set up a pattern for other great literary meetings of soul siblings. Our heroes meet first as contenders, fight hard, but instead of a kill at the end of the combat, the winner, Gilgamesh, takes the loser, Enkidu, as a friend for life. There is a deep meaning in the way they face each other as challengers before the fight, and then surrender their weapons, emotional, physical and mental to embrace each other in friendship. The same pattern will be repeated by Arthur and Lancelot in the Grail Cycle or Robin Hood and Little John. It is as if they all needed to test the true value of the opponent before accepting him as complement.
The fact thus remain that so transformative was the effect of Enkidu´s entry in Gilgamesh´s life that when Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh realises his full humanity and decides to transcend it by going on a quest to search for immortality. This is the rough outline of the first tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and in what follows we will try to apprehend a bit of the mystery embedded in the relationship of these two buddies of world literature.
To fully understand the bond between Gilgamesh and Enkidu it is important to introduce the concept of Inner Siblings, the image of wholeness of ourselves we have within and sometimes find without in the people of the same sex and age group of ours. The Inner Sibling in Flesh is the Best Friend and Confidant, the Soul Sister/Brother who may not be necessarily blood related, but s/he feels as such. A brother or sister may sometimes be the soul sibling, especially in case of twins or siblings which age group is very close. This first assumption is introduced from the start in the Epic, because the text says clearly that both are meant to be one of a kind.
How does this bond develop? The bond with the Soul Sibling is fundamentally based on companionship and sharing in many levels, but not necessarily in the physical sexual sense. The level of reciprocal appreciation goes indeed beyond physical stereotypes to involve the inner complementarity of selves. A way of defining the Soul Sibling in flesh would be along the lines of that s/he is the one my Self knows best because s/he is so much like me, despite physical and intellectual attributes, and yet the feeling is so vibrant and sensual. Sensual because there is a lot of sharing: what one thinks, feels, aspirations, dreams, fantasies, fears and deep set hopes, the whys, neverthelesses and therefores of everyday life belong to this sphere, and this is what we basically share with our best friends. This second assumption is also clearly presented in the Epic, and Gilgamesh says literally that Enkidu was "the sword in my belt, the shield for my front" (Tablet VIII in Stephanie Dalley´s Myths from Mesopotamia, Epic of Gilgamesh, page 92), and upon Enkidu´s death, Gilgamesh´s sorrow is deep, poignant and moving.
The question that came to my mind while I was meditating on the Soul Sibling is why then not so much is said or written about the vital relationship we have with them? Best friends are a reality, a sacred bond that is respected, but somehow not fully acknowledged or encouraged as a fundamental experience in defining the Self, the essence of the personality in the world that also reflects the World Soul.
To fully appreciate this question means to dive into the depths of our full humanity and go beyond sexual preferences, something all fundamentalist faiths do not handle very well due to their own agendas about being and behaving. Best friends make us whole, they are the first initiators we have who teach us about the mirrors of wholeness of what we may become. This is why there is so much ambiguity about them, i.e. at the same time that the bond is revered and accepted, not very much is spoken of it. Another sign of our modern religious impoverishment, because Gilgamesh is passionate about Enkidu, although it is never said that the feeling is sexual, that they did make love to each other. I would say that the bond with the Soul Sibling exalts the sacredness of the evolving self-image we should get to know and foster in ourselves, which in time may grow to involve the image of the Personal God/dess of the same Sex we belong to. If this is so, we can clearly see why the exaltation of the best friend is a major problem for all father-oriented religions of our days. The best friend teaches us about the Personal God/dess we may choose later in life, our image Inner and Outer of the Holy Guardian Angel that represents the summit of our femininity or masculinity. I would like to stress the point that it is not implied in the text that Gilgamesh and Enkidu were lovers in the physical sense. They were though the best friends possible in all worlds, and this is a grace beyond measure.
What can we then learn about Enkidu and Gilgamesh, or the transformative gifts of the Soul Sibling? Fundamentally, Enkidu and Gilgamesh show us the grace which is to have a relationship with that other in the world who is most like ourselves the one of our same Sex and yet comes in another flesh, sometimes not even sharing the same physical, mental or emotional attributes. However, s/he is the other that is not strange, the one that by just being him/herself teaches us how we should grow and act to try and become closer to the image we have reflected deep within in our souls.
S/He is the first lover within that may not manifest sexually without because we normally meet him/her in the early days of our childhood or teen years, when sexuality is not that important, although we can meet her/him at a later age. With him or her we share a deeply intimate and interdependent bond that sustain us even when life circumstances change and we move on to another wheel or cycle in our lives which may not include him/her. And just perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of the Soul Sibling is that there is no asymetry in the relationship: s/he is the equal within, with whom differences are irrelevant, and whose otherness and achievements are object of our pride.
This is the real meaning of the bond between Enkidu and Gilgamesh, ideal self and bright shadow that stands by wherever we are.
Finally, how have I experienced the mystery of Gilgamesh and Enkidu in me? In real life, I have lived in many places, in three continents, to be more exact, always long enough to meet a best friend. These have been intense, vibrant relationships that do not involve sexual feelings, but shared experiences in multilayered levels. Who was/is the most important? None and all of them, because we all reached out for one another in different times. The beauty of this all, even when I or they had to move on as life required, is that in every face I found a piece of myself wholer, the image of feminine divinity that like a chaleidoscope reflects some of the values of Inanna/Ishtar, my personal Goddess, Companion, Wondrous Truth I have always known I would find.
Like Enkidu and Gilgamesh, under the names of Albanie, Amanda, Caroline R and W, Orietta, Heidi, Marcia,...etc.
Personal meaning of this article
This was a piece difficult to write because I was searching deep within the right words, and somehow I had to come to terms with the memories of so many best friends I left behind in my life. And the last words are for you, Vinny. There were too many tears for some, as you have shed for Tava, but in the end, tears are the measure of the joy that was. I don´t believe in splitting up so much love I spreaded around, for in every land, in every ground there my soul I left and found.
I never cease to get amazed at the beauty and depth of human soul. I am so grateful for the opportunity you gave me to write a tribute to the Soul Sibling. You were given a precious grace with Tava, but I also learnt once again that Tava, who loved you with his soul, would also like to give you a gentle push for you to engage in life to the fullest and find out for yourself new best friends to share great moments with. Starting Now preferably. Because:
"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, Today is a gift, This is why we call it Present"
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