❶ THE TRINITY OF HEAVEN
An or Dingir1 𒀭 (Akkadian: Anu or Anum, or Ilu,2 West Semitic: El), literally meaning “Heaven” or “Sky”, is the supreme God of the universe, the supreme Being, the utmost power3 and “prime mover” of creation, and therefore the utmost ancestor of all beings.4 It is “the one who contains the entire universe”.5 He is the father of all star-gods and contains them all. His most visible manifestation from the Earth’s perspective is the north ecliptic pole winded by the constellation Draco (the Dragon, symbol of primordial protean undeterminacy and therefore infinite potentiality).6
Together with Enlil 𒀭𒂗𒆤 (“Wind Lord”; also Nunamnir,7 in Akkadian also simply Bel, “Lord”8) and Enki 𒀭𒂗𒆠 (“Squared Earth Lord”; Akkadian: Ea), An forms a trinity, a threefold conception of the supreme God. In this trinity, An in itself represents the supreme in its state of “transcendental obscurity”,9 while Enlil is its “transcendent” aspect, and Enki is its “immanent” aspect.10 In our theology, “transcendental” may mean, in the wake of the meanings that this term has acquired through German idealism, something that is both transcendent and immanent, that is transcendently active as the energy begetting any immanent being. In this sense, An manifests as the dynamism of Enlil and Enki. They are An’s twofold face.
According to the eminent scholar Simo Parpola, at least in Assyrian theology it is rather Ashur 𒀭𒀸𒋩 or Anshar 𒀭𒊹 (which may mean “Whole Heaven”, “God as Many”, “Flowing One” or “One Flash”) to be the wholly transcendent God, while Anu is the first stage of its process of manifestation in the flesh.11 According to the theology of the Enuma Elish, Ashur, the infinite Heaven, “reflects” itself as Anu in the material universe.12
As the transcendently active aspect of An, Enlil is identified with the north celestial pole, that is to say the culmen of the Earth’s axis of rotation, and the culmen of the sky from the Earth’s perspective, which moves in circle through the constellations around the north ecliptic pole. As the transcendently active aspect of An, Enlil is also identified as pure breath or spirit, lil13 𒆤 being the Sumerian concept for the pneuma, the substance of all things, especially in its shifting and moving state prior to coalesce into any shape.14 Lil, and thus Enlil, is also comparable to the Greek concept (later adopted by the Christians) of the logos, the “word” and “order” (also discussed in the next chapter as utu).15
Enki is the supreme power manifest in the Earth, in earthly beings, and in mankind as well through the struggle to emulate Heaven by learning its craft. He rises out of the Abzu–Nammu 𒀊𒍪/𒇉 (the primordial “Abysmal Matrix”, his mother,16 discussed in the next chapter), mastering its waters to establish the civil world,17 the “squared” Earth (𒆠 Ki). He therefore represents the incarnation of the supreme God in matter (the concrete action of the north pole[s] in shaping matter), and in mankind’s ancestors, founders of blood kinships, of lineages of power-craft. He is associated with semen (and the phallus), the life-giving male power coming from the “channelled” waters of the Abzu.18
In Zuist theology, therefore, Earth is necessary for the manifestation of Heaven. The idea of “cosmos”, of ordered world, is indeed expressed by the compound Anki 𒀭𒆠, “Heaven–Earth”.19 This is also highlighted in mythologising, by the fact that An’s vehicle (of manifestation) is Damkianna, the “Lady of Earth and Heaven”, another name of Ninhursag 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒉺𒂅 (the “Lady of Mountains and Valleys”), who is identified as the constellation closest to the north pole, the Little Dipper (or Small Chariot, or Little Bear), in Sumerian called MULMar.gid.da.an.na, the “Chariot of Heaven”.20
The three aspects of Heaven are also identified with three concentric rings of the physically visible sky from the Earth’s perspective, and with the star-gods (constellations) moving within these rings, drawing the scheme of time (the calendar).21 The three aspects of Heaven, and their three skies, are also associated to a colour symbolism. The inner sky of An as Enlil is conceived as red, white and black,22 representing the threefoldness withheld in potence in the transcendent supreme God. These three colours are together known as luludanitu. The middle sky is lapislazuli-blue, the colour of Inanna, and the outer sky of An as Enki is jasper-green.23
① The inner or northern sky, nearer to the north pole, is the “Path of Enlil”, with Enlil himself identified as MULApin (“STARPlough”, that is Triangulum in modern astronomy, whence the god’s association with the invention of agricultural tools24) and his female consort Ninlil 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒆤 (“Wind Lady”; in Akkadian also simply Belit, “Lady”25) as MULMar.gid.da (“STARChariot”, that is the Big Chariot or Big Dipper in the Great Bear);26
② The outer or southern sky, farther from the north pole, is the “Path of Enki”, with Enki himself identified as MULIku (“STARField”, that is the Square of Pegasus);27
③ The middle sky, in-between the two paths of Enlil and Enki, is the “Path of An” itself, with its starting point in MULDili.bat (which may mean “STARForbearing”28, but scholarly sources also suggest “STARDaisy”29), which is Venus–Inanna (or better spelled Ninana, the form without the initial N being an Akkadian alteration of the Sumerian name) of the seven planetary gods (discussed later in our essay).30
It is worthwhile to heed, given the recent resurgence in Iceland and Europe (and among European-ilk people in America) of Germanic Heathenism, that Germanic theology (and the Indo-European tradition in general), has an equivalent vision of the triune supreme God, conceptualised as Odin (the “Force”, “Spirit”, or “Sight”) in its transcendental aspect, Thor (the “Thunder”) in its ordering activity, and Ing-Frey (the “Lord of Begetting”) in its generativity as the male spermatic power. Furthermore, as already explained, An (and its two faces, especially Enlil) is identified as the north ecliptic and (as Enlil) celestial pole, the heart of the skies and source of all gods and beings, like Varuna and Indra in Vedic Sanskrit culture, and the Chinese supreme God (口 Dīng, 帝 Dì or 天 Tiān), amongst other theological traditions.31
❷ THE WORD OF HEAVEN
In Zuist theology, the supreme God of Heaven is also the power of the performative word (utu 𒌓, which is also the name of the Sun in Sumerian). The word-power of An, Anutu (also rendered “Anship”), is the “foundation of the cosmos, around which the hierarchy of all divine powers unfolds”. It is the creative word which begets things and events, not necessarily ex nihilo, but in an ordering process which configures reality,32 making order out of still undeterminacy (Abzu–Nammu, the “Abyss” of the primordial “Matrix” or “Noise”,33 called Tiamat 𒀭𒋾𒊩𒆳 or Tamtum 𒀭𒌓𒌈 in the Akkadian tradition).
The word-power of An, reflecting its twofold face, may also take the form of a destructive power or a preservative power, reabsorbing or maintaining creation, respectively the Enlilutu (“Enlilship”, the word-power of Enlil) and the Enkiutu or Eautu (“Enkiship” or “Eaship”). The word-power of Enki is particularly associated with magic/witchcraft and technique in tangible reality, that is to say the power to alter the forces at play in an already given configuration of reality.34
It is worthwhile to stress that Enlil is not conceived as a malevolent force, but as the necessary destructivity which prepares the way for a new beginning, the force to make plans for it, as well as a punisher of evil-doers.35 Enki is instead the resourceful, skilful, hardy and wise force which puts into practice the ideas of Enlil.36
❸ THE SEVEN PLANETARY DEITIES
The term Anunnaki literally means the “offspring of Heaven–Earth”, and in Sumerian religion it was a general term comprising all the gods.37 A later, Babylonian term for the gods was Igigi. In the Babylonian sources the two categories are often distinguished, with the former being the netherworld (earthly) gods and the latter the upperworld (heavenly) gods, or viceversa.38
The most important amongst the Anunnaki are the seven gods of the stars nearest to the earth: Marduk 𒀭𒀫𒌓 (“Sun Calf”; Jupiter, the white deity of air and authority, lieutenant of Enlil), Ninurta 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒅁 (“Barley Lord”; Saturn, the black deity of war and hunting), Nergal 𒀭𒄊𒀕𒃲 (“Underworld Lord”; Mars, the red deity of woe and dearth), Inanna 𒀭𒈹 (“Lady of Heaven”; Venus, the blue deity of love and war), Nabu 𒀭𒀝 (“Announcer” or “Glowing”; Mercury, the orange deity of wisdom and writing), Nanna 𒀭𒋀𒆠 (the Moon, the green deity of fertility and fruitfulness) and Utu 𒀭𒌓 (the Sun, the yellow deity of justice).39 In a sheen description, the seven Anunnaki “represent the seven nether spheres, [are the] guardians of the seven gates through which the sun [i.e. word] of God passes into the netherworld”,40 perfusing light and order into the netherworld’s darkness. The star-gods are also poetically described as the “heavenly writing”, the writing of An.41 In other words, they influence, energetically shape, the life of beings on Earth. They are stages in the “tree of life”, the process of God’s manifestation in the flesh, structuring all beings, as reconstructed by Parpola based on Assyrian sources.42 The seven planets are also the near-Earth reflection of the seven stars of the Chariot constellations which spin around the north celestial pole, regarded as the active power of the utmost God of Heaven in the traditions of Eurasia. The seven-day week, with each day associated with a star-god, is a heritage going back to Mesopotamian religion.
Utu–Sun is the “judge of the Anunnaki”, while Marduk–Jupiter is the “commander of the Anunnaki”. The “king” (i.e. begetter) of them all is Enlil, the transcendently active face of An.44 The eldest amongst them is, however, Nanna–Moon, better spelled Nannar and in Sumerian also called Enzu or Zuen 𒂗𒍪 (“Lord of Wisdom”), pronounced as Suen and later Sin in Akkadian. Regarded as gentle and reliable,45 Enzu is, in some Akkadian esoteric literature, the symbol of the pleroma (the sum of the powers of all the gods),46 thus of An,47 and is the third stage in the Assyrian “tree of life”.48 The crescent of Enzu, for these reasons, often surmounted Mesopotamian temples’ cusps.49
Inanna–Venus (goddess of love and war) and Nabu–Mercury (god of healing, literacy and communication, as it moves swiftly through the sky) are conceived as both male and female, though the former is predominantly female and the latter is predominantly male. They are female as the morning star in the east and male as the evening star in the west.50 Ninurta–Saturn, moving slowly through the sky, is the god of stability, but also war and hunt, called MULGenna (“STARLaw and Justice”) as an astral body and as a representative of the Sun during the night.51 Nergal–Mars is the god of plague, war, death and of the underworld. Identified as Gibil, the fire god, he also the patron of craft and smithing. Nergal even has a connection with the constellations Square and Plough, and therefore with the supreme trinity.52
❹ MARDUK SLAYS TIAMAT
Like Enlil, Marduk is associated to the north celestial pole.53 Thus, Marduk as Jupiter may be considered as a representative of the supreme north pole among the stars closest to the Earth. A frequently-used Sumerian term for Jupiter intended as an astral body, amongst the many epithets denoting its positions in the sky and qualities, is MULNe.bi.ru, Nibiru, or Neberu, especially when in culmination and when associated to the north pole. Another frequent name, from Akkadian times, is MULSul.pa.e, literally “STARLord of the Bright Dawn”, denoting Jupiter in the east.54
Marduk is an important figure, since in the Enuma Elish he is the slayer of Tiamat, the Akkadian name of Abzu–Nammu, the primordial unlimited matrix, symbolised by the sea.55 Marduk, being of the same ilk of An, is endowed with the power of the performative word, the Anutu, in its three possibilities: Creative, destructive and preservative.56 Tiamat has the infinite potential to generate monstrous beings, that is to say beings without limit, order and measure, and without ancestry, whom she unleashes against the ordered world. Her word-power is cacophony, senseless noise, while the power of Marduk is that of the intelligent word which governs matter making ingenious and useful things out of it.57
Marduk slays Tiamat, who threatens to destroy all gods and all boundaries dissolving again the ordered world into chaos. Marduk represents the order of the world, which may be dissolved but always re-founded. After having killed Tiamat, he uses the substance of her body to re-mould Heaven (the stars and their cyclical movements) and Earth (the rivers, seas and lands) within a web, this last being a symbol of the laws and the finitude of the re-established cosmos.58
❺ THE MEASURES AND MANKIND
Mankind’s role in creation is to cultivate the manifestation of the gods.59 Entities and behavioural phenomena are generated and kept in harmony among themselves by internal laws which in Sumerian are called me 𒈨, “measures”, “manners” and “morals”. They are the plans laid down by the gods.60 Yet, within this structure, mankind enjoys a degree of detachment from its own internal laws, and therefore a degree of free will, a gift which is necessary for mankind’s spiritual ability to co-work with the gods in creation by emulating Heaven. The gods favour those who act in conformity with the laws of morality, which means upkeeping goodness and truth, righteousness and straightforwardness, justice and freedom, mercy and kindness. Disgrace falls upon those who act evilly and falsely, unjustly and oppressively, sinfully and perversely, cruelly and pitilessly.61
The eagle represents the bright aspect of the human soul, capable of ascension to Heaven by following the gods, whereas the snake represents the dark force of descension towards the Earth. The eagle’s wings are a symbol of spiritual heightening, and its eyes a symbol of spiritual sight (wisdom), as it is traditionally considered the only animal able to gaze directly at the Sun (God), training its youth to do likewise and rejecting those who fail.62
The divine laws, when practised, become habitual and are transmitted genealogically. Progenitors who grasped these laws and established them in kinships and cultural lineages are worthy of veneration. In this way the divine reveals itself in mankind, so that “the centre itself [i.e. the supreme God] forever remains absolutely central to the human world but simultaneously infinitely transforming in the particular, to be reborn in each generation, in each human birth”.63 It is, therefore, a vision which may be described as a synthesis of principled structuralism and behaviourism.
Uligang Ansbrandt, April 2018
CC BY-SA 3.0, except for DjSadhu’s image on top
1. Gabrieli (2017), p. 99.
2. Didier (2009), Vol. I, p. 84.
3. James (1963), p. 23 ff.
4. Black & Green (1992), p. 30.
5. Parpola (1993), p. 180, n. 77.
6. Vv.Aa. (1951), pp. 300–301.
7. Didier (2009), Vol. I, p. 116.
9. James (1963), p. 140.
10. Saggs (1987), p. 191.
11. Parpola (1993), passim, and pp. 206–207 for the etymology.
12. Ibid., p. 191, n. 113.
13. Kramer (1956), p. 47.
14. The lil is analogous to the Chinese concept of 氣 qì and 理 lǐ.
15. Murdock (2014), passim; Mander (2011), p. 6: Enlil is appropriately translatable as the “Lord of the Logos”. Mander defines Enlil as the Logos itself, the Universal Intellect and the Anima Mundi which descends from it, the God of all the Gods.
16. Black & Green (1992), p. 134.
17. Ibid., p. 75.
18. Horry (2016), passim.
19. Kramer (1956), pp. 46–47. Anki is equivalent to the Chinese concept of 天地 Tiāndì (“Heaven–Earth”), it itself meaning the “cosmos”, Heaven’s manifestation.
20. Rogers (1998), p. 18.
21. Didier (2009), Vol. I, p. 95.
22. Ataç (2018), p. 78.
23. Ibid., p. 78; Wright (2002), pp. 34–35.
24. Kramer (1956), p. 52.
26. Rogers (1998), p. 18.
27. Ibid., p. 21.
28. “Enduring Star” is the accepted meaning of the Semitic name of Inanna, that is Ishtar (Hellenised: Astarte).
29. Kasak & Veede (2001), p. 23.
30. Rogers (1998), p. 17.
31. Didier (2009), passim, but for the direct comparison see Vol. III, pp. 265–266; Vol. II, p. 228.
32. Gabrieli (2017), p. 128.
33. Abzu 𒀊𒍪 literally means “Before Knowledge” or “Watery Knowledge”, “Dissolved Knowledge”, and was also named Engur 𒇉. Nammu, also better rendered as Mummu, is the primordial “Mother”, is written with the same grapheme as that for Engur, and is the personified Abzu. See Black & Green (1992), p. 134. Mummu has also been rendered as “Matrix”, “Chaos”, “Noise”, “Confusion”, “Scream” amongst other translations. It is the primordial, unshaped potentiality. See Gabrieli (2017), p. 88 ff. It is analogous to the Chinese concept of 混沌 Hùndùn.
34. Ibid., p. 129. Also see Stephens (2013), Stone (2016) and Horry (2016).
35. Kramer (1956), pp. 52–53.
36. Ibid., pp. 55.
37. Murdock (2014), passim.
38. Gabrieli (2017), p. 119, n. 617; Bertman (2005), p. 119.
39. Kasak & Veede (2001), passim. For the colour associations see James & Van der Sluijs (2008), passim.
40. Murdock (2014), passim.
41. Kasak & Veede (2001), p. 14.
42. Parpola (1993), passim.
43. Didier (2009), Vol. I, p. 113.
44. Murdock (2014), passim.
45. Kasak & Veede (2001), pp. 17–18.
46. Parpola (1993), p. 185, n. 93.
47. Ibid., pp. 176, 184, nn. 66, 89.
48. Ibid., p. 179.
49. James & Van der Sluijs (2008), p. 69.
50. Kasak & Veede (2001), pp. 22, 24.
51. Ibid., p. 26.
52. Ibid., pp. 27–28.
53. Didier (2009), Vol. I, p. 118.
54. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 88; Kasak & Veede (2001), p. 21.
55. Gabrieli (2017), p. 89.
56. Ibid., p. 130.
57. Ibid., pp. 103, 159.
58. Ibid., p. 139.
59. Kramer (1956), p. 56.
60. Ibid., p. 50. The concept of me corresponds to the Chinese concept of 禮 lǐ.
61. Ibid., p. 56.
62. Parpola (1993), pp. 197–198, n. 143.
63. Didier (2009), Vol. III, p. 268. The author speaks of the humanisation of the divine in the Axial Age.
- Ataç, Mehmet-Ali (2018). Art and Immortality in the Ancient Near East. Cambridge University Press.
- Bertman, Stephen (2005). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. OUP USA.
- Black, Jeremy; Green, Anthony (1992). Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. The British Museum Press.
- Didier, John C. (2009). “In and Outside the Square: The Sky and the Power of Belief in Ancient China and the World, c. 4500 BC – AD 200”. Victor H. Mair ed. Sino-Platonic Papers, 192.
- Gabrieli, Silvia (2017). “Il potere performativo della Parola Divina nei miti di Creazione del Vicino Oriente Antico”. Padua Research.
- Horry, Ruth (2016). “Enki/Ea (god)”. Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses. Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus, UK Higher Education Academy.
- James, Edwin Oliver (1963). The Worship of the Sky-god: A Comparative Study in Semitic and Indo-European Religion. Athlone Press.
- James, Peter; Van der Sluijs, Marinus Anthony (2008). “Ziggurats, Colors, and Planets: Rawlinson Revisited”. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 60. pp. 57–79.
- Kasak, Enn; Veede Raul (2001). “Understanding Planets in Ancient Mesopotamia”. Folklore, 16. Folk Belief and Media Group of Estonian Literary Museum.
- Kramer, Samuel Noah (1956). “Sumerian Theology and Ethics”. Harvard Theological Review, 49 (1). pp. 45–62.
- Mander, Pietro (2011). “Religione, potere ed organizzazione sociale: Il paradigma dell’antica Mesopotamia sumerica ed assiro-babilonese”. Metabasis, VII (12).
- Murdock, Dorothy Milne (2014). “Who are the Anunnaki?”. Truth Be Known.
- Parpola, Simo (1993). “The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 52 (3). University of Chicago Press. pp. 161–208.
- Rogers, J. H. (1998). “Origins of the ancient constellations: I. The Mesopotamian traditions”. Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 108 (1).
- Saggs, H. W. F. (1987). Everyday Life in Babylonia & Assyria. Dorset Press.
- Stephens, Kathryn (2013). “An/Anu (god)”. Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses. Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus, UK Higher Education Academy.
- Stone, Adam (2016). “Enlil/Ellil (god)”. Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses. Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus, UK Higher Education Academy.
- Vv.Aa. (1951). University of California Publications in Semitic Philology, 11–12. University of California Press.
- Wright, J. Edward (2002). The Early History of Heaven. Oxford University Press.