A favorite personal view of Enlil

 By Lishtar 


In early Mesopotamia, by far the two most important gods who figure in almost all myths as leading characters are Enlil and Enki. Enlil is Lord Air/Wind, the firstborn of Anu, the Skyfather, and Ki, the Earth Mother, and under His command it is the Word that all teaches and has the potential to Create everything. Enlil is therefore Inspiration and the Inspirer, the first Breath of the Universe. Enki, on the other hand, is the god of the sweet underground waters (the apsu), patron of all crafts, magick and wisdom, embodying the primeval idea of Form that can take countless shapes yet remaining the same in essence. Enki is thus fundamentally the Shaper of All, Master of all Knowing to be Manifested without. His father is also Anu, the Skyfather, and His mother is Nammu, the primeval salt waters that gave origin to everything there is. This essay will focus on the bond between these two divine brothers, how they relate to each other, their interaction with the and especially in Mesopotamian mythology, and proceed to affirm that both gods represent the basis of Sumerian legacy for Mesopotamia. Together, Enlil and Enki form an enduring, woundrous partnership of the Divine Masculine in Mesopotamia, another model of wholeness unparalleled in world myth and religion.  



We start by examining our sources for Enlil´s and Enki´s origins. Basically, in the myth of Creation, Eridu Model, which comes from South Mesopotamia and therefore of more ancient origin, Enlil is the first of the young gods to be born, and his impetuous growth caused the separation of the Great Above (Sky) and the Depths Below, the reason why Enlil took over his young shoulders the responsibility to watch over his mother Ki. Enki, on the other hand, and Ereshkigal, Enki´s twin sister and future Great Goddess of the Underworld, are engendered right after Ki is separated from Anu by Enlil, when the tears of the Skylord met the bittersweetness of the waters of Mother Nammu, the Primeval Sea. So according to the Eridu Model, Enlil is slightly older than Enki, but the bond between the two brothers seems to have been forged in the very first days of all creation in Sumer.

Clearly, we can see that while Enlil is sworn to protect the Living Earth, the inner work within this very land that brings fruition and enables all sorts of growth is Enki´s first task, as the Lord of the Fertile Sweet Waters of the Deep. Esoterically, Enki´s coming into the world brings consistence and meaning to Enlil´s designs, because if Enlil is the Inspiration and Breath of the Universe, Enki as the Master Shaper of All gives form and substance to Creation, transforming ideas (Enlil´s attribute) into deeds in the world. Therefore, Enlil and Enki are both Complements to each other, Divine Brothers who represent the outer and inner realisation of power in the land.

How does this metaphor might have been translated in a living reality for our soul ancestors?

Perhaps we can find clues for this mystery by contemplating first that the term Mesopotamia means literally "land between the rivers": a land which is the domain of Enlil to protect and care for, and which is at the same time fertilised and irrigated by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and its tributaries, the sweet waters that are Enki´s domain. Because if Enlil personifies humankind´s discovery of agriculture, once it was Enlil who gave to humanity the plow, the pickaxe and the hoe, Enki personifies the discovery of irrigation, the organised use of the rivers´ fertile waters and thus the organisation of the South Mesopotamian worldview, once it should be kept in mind that irrigation was and still is the pre-condition for successful agriculture. This way the sweet waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates, which are said to have sprung from Enki´s loins, are intrinsically united to the land, watched over with much care by Enlil.

Indeed, archaeological records show that after 8,000 Before Common Era the Near East or the Fertile Crescent became more attractive for human settlements. Irrigation, on the other hand, has been attested in the region since 6,000 Before Common Era, and it consisted of a system of dikes, dams and canals, where the the precipitation in the mountainous region in the north was used in the south. It is interesting to note that climatic conditions (relative cold and dry periods) around the fourth and third millennia (4,000-3,000 BCE) coincide with the expansion of cities in Mesopotamia and of the first Egyptian dynasty. Nevertheless, while Egypt developped into a territorial state, or a large area that is brought under unified political control and governed through a hierarchy of administrative centres at national, provincial and local levels, partaking the same capital, Mesopotamian development was by the formation of city-states, each controlling a relatively small rural area around itself. Each city-state had one or more patron gods or goddesses and was organized around the temples and temple precincts of those patron deities



What sort of historical information can we gather from the interaction of Enlil and Enki, or the birth of successful agriculture and urbanisation in Sumer? Firstly, that civilization emerged in Mesopotamia because the soil provided a surplus of food. With this surplus, people could settle down to village life. These new settlements evolved and towns and cities began to make their appearance, a process known as urbanization. Surplus of food had as consequence an increase in the population, and this required a well-defined division of labor, organization, cooperation and kingship. Most cities evolved from smaller farming villages and with the practice of irrigation, which was necessary for villages distant from the Tigris and Euphrates, a stable food supply was produced. This, in turn, allowed increases in the number of people who inhabited each settlement. South Mesopotamia or Sumer evolved to become a series of city-estates

The foundation for the assumptions introduced above can be found in the following primary sources straight from our soul ancestors:

1) in hyms to Enlil, where it is said that He establishes Himself as the greatest of the young gods by giving to humanity the agricultural implements such as the plow, the pickax and the hoe, which will enable humankind to work the land;

2) in the myth The Eridu Genesis (fragments translated written about 1,600 BCE) which tells us mythopoetically about the times before the flood, the creation of humankind, the domestication of animals, leading to the foundation of antediluvian cities, the coming of kingship to earth from the heavens in South Mesopotamia and the first rulers, as well as the Deluge;

3) passages such as the one in the myth The Creation of the Pickax by Enlil, where it is clearly stated that "the pickax and the basket build cities".

4) the concept of order and harmony is syntesized in the figure of Enki and stated clearly in the myth Enki and the World Order. This is a myth preserved on Old Babylonian tablets, and is divided into four sections. The first section praises and the Anunnaki to Him and tells us how Enki, by Anu´s and Enlil´s designs (respectively the Skyfather and Lord Air/Wind), is hailed as the divine architect of the gods to establish the land´s organisation. The second part includes a boat travel through all of Sumer and her neighboring cities, which are blessed by Enki, in a vision of unity for the whole land. Then, having filled the Tigris and the Euphrates with overflowing water, Enki appoints several offices to the gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia. Finally, the last and longest section concerns Inanna´s request for more power. The young goddess complains that She had not received an office and the suitable mes. Although the text is very fragmented, Enki makes a long speech and syas that She already has considerable amounts of mes. I have yet to study this myth in more depth, but my understanding of it is along the lines that is the light that keeps the passion for all there is going, giving to everything sustenance and meaning. This might be very well the reason why Inanna did not need any more mes: Hers was the one that kept everyone´s soul inflamed with the desire to do their best for Sumer. For the purpose of this essay, Enki and the World Order may very well be described as a post-creation myth from the actual exercise of power as a concerted efforth to foster growth, integration and co-operation in Mesopotamia as a whole, led by the Master of all Forms, who thus empowers the gods and goddesses of the land to work together for the joy of Sumer.

Therefore, it is very possible to assume that historically kingship did descend from the heavens to Eridu, Enki´s city and oldest settlement in Mesopotamia, where the domestication of animals took place with the blessings of Nintur, under the religious leadership of the Adapas, or the sage priests of the land, "who brought the arts of civilisation to humankind". The Adapas can be seen as higher versions of the myriad of shamans described by Mircea Eliade, the brilliant historian of religions, because different from the village shaman, who was equally admired as feared by their own, the Adapas were highly regarded by their communities, were not alienated from their people and exercised real leadership in the local temple, which, in turn, was at the center of the community. Remember: the temple was the house of the local god/dess, who dwelt with their own in harmony. Reflecting this harmony, the god/dess partake of all aspects of human life, so S/He was fed, clothed, took part in rituals and rites of passage many times by means of Their Likeness, or Statues and icons. I don´t see anything wrong or primitive in this. If one sees matter as ensouled with the Divine, any matter, how could it be otherwise? In terms of placing these facts along a history line, we are thus referring to the times until the rise of secular or until the beginning of Early Dynastic period (2,900 BCE).

In the course of time, local agriculture and the growth of citi-estates expanded to intensive use of the soil and irrigated agriculture, which demanded the co-ordination of efforts, especially the co-ordination of irrigation networks. In terms of timeline, we reach then the beginning of the Early Dynastic period (ca. 2,900 Before Common Era), which marks the rise of secular kingship and the new location for the seat of religious power in the land, from Eridu to Nippur, the city of Enlil. This is why also in a vision of unity kings had to come to Nippur, to the Ekur, or Enlil´s temple, to be acknowledged as sovereigns in Mesopotama. It is important to point out that the assembly of the Anunnaki also met in the courtyard of the Ekur, presided by Enlil, and in the presence of all the Igigi and the Anunnaki, the Great Gods of Mesopotamia.

Having Nippur as the religious capital also meant that a certain unity was preserved despite the rivalry prevailing among city-estates. Nippur was ideally located in central Babylonia (modern Nuffar), and was occupied for more than 3,000 years. Although it was not the seat of a ruling dynasty, for most of the first and the third millennium Before Common Era, Nippur commanded a high political status. The city was also a famous intellectual center, and many tablets of Sumerian times come from Nippur´s libraries.

Coincidence or not, with the rise of Marduk in Babylon and Ashur in Assyria, the balance of inner and outer power, Enki and Enlil, that seemed to be the inner and outer manifestation of the soul in Sumer, seems to lose its strength. The vision of unity They represented. Thorkild Jacobsen in "The Treasures of Darkness" (Yale University Press, New Haven, London) presents these conclusions we have just drawn from the analysis of myths the following way:

It should nevertheless be stated that temple priest/ess/hoods retained considerable wealth and power thoughout Mesopotamian history, and that unfortunately the institution of kingship did not end rivalries and conflicts among the city-estates. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the coming of the invading hordes of upcoming empires led to the destruction of the glory that was Mesopotamia in antiquity.



A favorite Learned Shaman by Susan Seddon-Boulet

Fundamentally, the bond between Enki and Enlil is deep and unbroken because Enlil stands for the Outer Manifestation of Power, the impetus to establish a common vision based on the Leadership of the One who Dares and Motivates, whereas Enki is the Inner Manifestation of Power, the One who Knows, gives Meaning, all Binds and Finds Solutions to all impossibilites based on sheer practical and/or mystical wizzardry.

How many times this bond will repeat itself in world myth and religion? Impossible to say, but the order will be altered, with Enki as the Magician or Inner Teacher/Higher Self leading the Rightful Sovereign (Enlil) to power by teaching him to direct his will and work for the land and the people by doing ensouled deeds. The names will be different, but to every Enki/Merlin there will be an Enlil/Arthur, mentor and Wise One guiding the king on the make to the full realisation of his potential. However, the balance that we find in the bond between Enlil and Enki that is built in the complementarity of forces is not there longer in these stories. Indeed, if we take the Grail cycle as a parameter, the moment Arthur comes to power, Merlin, the Wise Soul of the land, retreats to the background, and the search for the Holy Chalice breaks the Round Table by making all knights leave the realm in the Quest instead becoming themselves the pillars of the Round Table and the kingdom. Left alone to rule without Merlin, Arthur fails in his task.

Marion Zimmer Bradley´s "The Mists of Avalon" did an enormous healing to the Grail Cycle, but the fact still remains that both Merlin and Arthur are rather incomplete images of male wholeness. Both Merlin and Arthur start relating well to the feminine (with the blessings of Avalor respresented by the Lady of the Lake in special), but as the cycle unfolds and Christianisation takes hold both Merlin and Arthur lose contact with the feminine and the Goddess, chaos returning to the realm. Fundamentally, Merlin and Arthur first fail to live their duties one as priest/advisor and the other as monarch of the land. Second, and frequently overlooked by many, is the fact that both neglect the feminine, thus the demonisation of Morgan Le Fay, Arthur´s impossibility to make Guinevere happy and conceive, Merlin´s final imprisonment in the Crystal Tower by Nimue, while Arthur loses everything: the land, Excalibur and Guinevere, as well as the son he craved for but was unable to acknowledge as the True Heir of the Ways of Everlasting Avalon, Mordred. Although we are talking about Enlil and Enki, there is a happy Mesopotamian counterpart for Arthur´s longing for an heir in the Mesopotamian Etana. But we know that Etana healed himself and could in the end have a son of his own, his myth becoming another Mesopotamian adventure in self-transcendence with a happy ending.

Time and again, prepare yourself for change when the case is Mesopotamia. How so in the case of Enlil and Enki, the Mesopotamian wholer counterparts to Arthur and Merlin?

Firstly, while we know that Enlil rules over the land, that from Nippur He legitimizes secular power for all kings Mesopotamia, we also know that Enki personifies the Living Spiritual Force of Civilisation who stands by Enlil and the whole of Sumer, a Bright and Alert Torch always ready to to help when there is a need. This way one brother sustains the other, and to the question "Who comes first?" the answer is "Both, although seniority is always given to Enlil".

This is the reason why allmighty Enlil always has to concede surrender to Enki´s insights and deeds, even when these deeds go frontally against Enlil´s first intentions. However, there is no sense of Enlil being the loser, humiliated or degraded by Enki. The impression we get is of balance, commonsense and hope: there is always a way, light and hope beyond the hardest trials because there is Magick and Magick is Enki´s realm of influence. Equally important is to add that no god or goddess had absolute power in Mesopotamia: the Assembly of the Great Gods held the ultimate power, and once condemned their main executor, Enlil, when He forced himself upon Ninlil and was condemned to the Underworld for having incurred at a major crime.

Secondly, both EnIil and Enki interact and serve the feminine well and are severely punished when they do not give the goddesses the treatment they demand. There is always redemption for both too when they misbehave, in general started by the goddesses Enlil and Enki interact with, respectively Ninlil and Ninhursag in special. We have the impression that although the Divine Masculine rules, the Holy Feminine watches over and does not hesitate to move to the forefront to demand justice, balance restored and retribution from their mighty male counterparts and the universe as a whole (see, for example, here in Gateways, Enki and Ninhursag and Ninlil´s Descent). Indeed, of all pantheons of classic antiquity, it is in Mesopotamia and Sumerian mythology in special that we find a much more passionate and wholer view of Sex and gender relations.

Thirdly, although Enlil´s presence tends to decrease in importance as Marduk (Babylon) and Ashur (Assyria) come to the forefront, Enki´s presence continues strong in the figure of his firstborn and champion of Babylon, Marduk, and even in Assyrian times, because kingship is also called there the Discipline of the Adapa. From royal inscriptions, it is clear to see that there is an unbroken tradition of royal power as a projection of spirituality and ensouled deeds in Mesopotamia, the king being the image of wholeness to be emulated by all.

Compare now with the pattern for divine and human brothers in myth and fairy tales and you will find out a totally different picture. One is either the vain villain, the younger one the simpleton but superior, who gets the kingdom and the princess at the end. For those who insist on parallels with Egypt, it is enough to say that Seth is the traitor and Osiris the victim. Now, Enlil is never the victim, but the one who has to review his positions when confronted by Enki. On the other hand, Enki is not openly the winner... despite the fact that by wit and empathy Enki beats us all!

Personally, I have come to experience the deep bond between Enlil and Enki as the manifestations of secular/outer power and religious/mystical inner power in the land. Both are the two faces of the same coin, intrinsically linked and bound to each other. They also represent a vision of harmony that kept the legacy of Sumer intact in Mesopotamia, as put so well in the myth to Enlil, "the baskets build the cities", which were organized in the beginning by the sage shamans, or the Adapas. Therefore, to the outer power of Enlil to command, initiate, affect or stop actions, as well as to safeguard them, corresponds in equal measure Enki´s understanding of the mechanics of Form whereby such acts, influences and outcomes should take better effects, be assessed and improved upon. Moreover, Enki´s gifts of magick, sexyness and wit bring connectedness and joy which are sadly lacking in other religious traditions worldwide. Two gods who also served the feminine under the names of Ninhursag-Ki, Ninlil, Inanna/Ishtar in special, with such graciousness and flair also unmatched in world religion. Thus, we are so very lucky to have as central images male wholeness the joyous figures of Enlil and Enki, World Soul of Sumer that still captivates our own.


Back To Enduring Partnerships'

Back To The 'Gods'-Section