'Enki and Ninhursag' is perhaps the most difficult myth for us to understand, because it stands as the opposite of its Paradise counterpart found in the Old Testament Bible. Indeed, ' the literature created by the Sumerians left its deep imprint on the Hebrews, and one of the thrilling aspects of reconstructing and translating Sumerian belles-lettres consists in tracing resemblances and parallels between Sumerian and Biblical motifs. To be sure, Sumerians could not have inflluenced the Hebrews directly, for they had ceased to exist long before the Hebrew people came into existence. But there is little doubt that the Sumerians deeply influenced the Canaanites, who preceded the Hebrews in the land later known as Palestine' (Kramer, 1981:142). Some comparisons with the Bible paradise story: 1) the idea of a divine paradise, the garden of gods, is of Sumerian origin, and it was Dilmun, the land of immortals situated in southwestern Persia. It is the same Dilmun that, later, the Babylonians, the Semitic people who conquered the Sumerians, located their home of the immortals. There is a good indication that the Biblical paradise, which is described as a garden planted eastward in Eden, from whose waters flow the four world rivers including the Tigris and the Euphrates, may have been originally identical with Dilmun; 2) the watering of Dilmun by Enki and the Sun god Utu with fresh water brought up from the earth is suggestive of the Biblical ' But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground' (Genesis 2:6); 3) the brith of goddesses without pain or travail illuminates the background of the curse against Eve that it shall be her lot to conceive and bear children in sorrow; 4) Enki's greed to eat the eight sacred plants which gave birth to the Vegetal World resonates the eating of the Forbidden Fruit by Adam and Eve, and 6) most remarkably, this myth provides na explanation for one of the most puzzling motifs in the Biblical paradise story - the famous passage describing the fashioning of Eve, the mother of all living, from the rib of Adam. Why a rib instead of another organ to fashion the woman whose name Eve means according to the Bible, 'she who makes live'? If we look at the Sumerian myth, we see that when Enki gets ill, cursed by Ninhursag, one of his body parts that start dying is the rib. The Sumerian word for rib is 'ti' . To heal each o Enki's dying body parts, Ninhursag gives birth to eight goddesses. The goddess created for the healing of Enki's rib is called 'Nin-ti', 'the lady of the rib'. But the Sumerian word 'ti' also means 'to make live'. The name 'Nin-ti' may therefore mean 'the lady who makes live' as well as 'the lady of the rib'. Thus, a very ancient literary pun was carried over and perpetuated in the Bible, but without its original meaning, because the Hebrew word for 'rib' and that for 'who makes live' have nothing in common. Moreover, it is Ninhursag who gives her life essence to heal Enki, who is then reborn from her (Kramer, 1981:143-144).
After Time had come into being and the holy seasons for growth and rest were finally known, holy Dilmun, the pure clean and bright land of the living, the garden of the Great Gods and Earthly paradise, located eastward in Eden, was the place where Ninhursag-Ki, the Earth Mother, Most Exalted Lady and Supreme Queen, could be found. There she lived for a season during the Wheel of the Year, when the Earth lay deep in slumber and rest before the onset of Spring, in the land that knew neither sickness nor death or old age, where the raven uttered no cry, where lions and wolves killed not, and unknown were the sorrows of a widow or the wailing of the sick. And it was in Dilmun, at that time that Enki, the wise god of Magic and the Sweet Waters, the Patron of Crafts and Skills, met, fell in love and lied with the Lady of the Stony Earth, Ninhursag-Ki.
The Earth Mother's kiss did change the carefree and sexy Sweet Waters Lord: Ninhursag had wholly captivated him through the most profound of all bonds, the thread of enchantment, passion and daring called Love. So profound the feeling was that the God of all Sweet Waters, Magic and Crafts proposed to Ninhursag, with the enthusiasm of a young lover's heart.
Ninhursag looked around the land, her stony body, and remembered the taste of the wondrous moisture of the Sweet Waters God within herself. She wondered whether the land should not feel the same loving touch without. She said then to Enki:
' I heard your heart speak, Enki dearest. But if I feel your wondrous moisture within me, I look at the earth of Dilmun, also my body, and feel it is the longing, the thirst for the gifts that you, dear heart, for sure can bring. Thus I ask you: what is a land, what is a city that has no river quay? A city that has no ponds of sweet water?'
Taken by surprise, Enki realised that indeed he had given his whole essence to the beloved, but forgotten to look after her Earthly Body, the land. He then rose to the challenge of providing water for the land with aplomb. He told then Ninhursag:
' For Dilmun, the land of my lady's heart, I will create long waterways, rivers and canals, whereby water will flow to quench the thirst of all beings and bring abundance to all that lives.'
Enki then summoned Utu, the Sun God and Light of the Day. Together, they brought a mist from the depths of the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. Then Enki and Utu created waterways to surround the land with a never-ending source of fertile Sweet Waters, and Enki also devised basins and cisterns to store the waters for further needs. From these fertile sweet waters flow the four Great Rivers of the Ancient World, including the Tigris and the Euphrates. Thus, from that moment on, Dilmun was blessed by Enki with everlasting agricultural and trade superiority, for through its waterways and quays, fruits and grains were sold and exchanged by the people of Dilmun and beyond.
Ninhursag rejoiced in Enki's mighty prowess and said to him:
' Beloved, the powerful touch of your sweet waters, the essence of Mother Nammu that lies deep within you, transformed the land, my stony body. I feel the power of life throbbing within to be revealed without my very depths as I give joyously birth and sustenance to the marshes and reed-beds, that from now on will shelter fish, plant, beasts and all that breathes. Thus I call myself Nintur, the lady who gives birth, the Womb of the Damp Lands by the riverbanks.'
' Ninhursag, dearest Nintur, beloved, how can anyone quite compare to you? I cannot resist your wild, sweet ways, so lie with me one more time and fill my body, heart, soul and mind with endless delights! For me you will forever be my fierce Damgalnunna, my Great Spouse, passionate and very much loved!'
Ninhursag laughed and welcomed the eagerness of the Sweet Waters Lord. Nine days later, without the slightest labour or pain, the Great Mother Goddess gave birth to a lovely girl without the slightest travail or pain. The girl was called Ninsar, Lady Verdure, the Mistress of Vegetation, the green carpet of grass, leaves and flower beds that cover the surface of the earth.
Enki was overjoyed with the birth of his and Ninhursag's child:
' How perfect, how lovely is our Ninsar! I love already the woman in the girl-child, the young Anunnaki goddess and Mistress of Velvet Meadows and Green Fields. The ties that bind me to Ninsar are strong and tempered by an even greater love, for in her face I see also Ninhursag's, the one and only to my wandering heart.'
The Great Lady, holding Ninsar in her arms, kissed Enki in the mouth, and said:
' Soon my time to leave Dilmun will come, but to this holy land I will sure return at the beginning of the earth's rest in the Middleworld. I need to leave soon, for without my loving touch Spring cannot come back, the winds to dismiss Winter won't blow, all there is won't sing or mate until I to them return. But before I go away, I endow Ninsar with the power to grow in record time, and in holy Dilmun I'll leave my youngster daughter safe and sound from any illness, hatred or harm.'
As the Great Lady had declared, nine days later Ninsar was fully grown, charming and graceful, a sight to behold. Ninhursag then left for the Middleworld. Enki knew he would miss his beloved terribly, but while she was busy in the Middlearth giving her Essence for the land to grow happy and gay, equally as busy as Ninhursag was Enki in holy Dilmun. It was the sacred duty of the Sweet Waters Lord to oversee the rise and fall of all fertilising waters that flowed from Dilmun to feed the rivers, lakes and ponds of the Middleworld to make the land ready to receive the Spring seeds. Thus, as much as he missed Ninhursag, Enki knew he could not leave Dilmun before all waterways were filled to ensure that the people would have plenty of water to grow their crops. Enki's essence, the fertilising power of the sweet waters, should reach every piece of land in the Middleworld that had been worked and ploughed.
It was at the end of a day he had spent totally absorbed by the mighty task of controlling the water flow to the Middleworld that Enki saw Ninsar walking on her own along the marshlands. Indeed, a lovely goddess she had become, and Enki's eyes fell on the Maiden's, the Sweet Waters Lord felt a longing he could not yet define. He only knew that after Ninhursag's departure, no other maiden had touched his heart the way this one did. Indeed, she who walked on her own along the marshlands was the closest version to Ninhursag his eyes had the luck to find. Enki did not lose time and immediately started wooing the young lady, encouraging her to love him wildly by the riverside.
Curious and eager as Ninsar was to experience the power of love in her body, mind, soul, and heart, she, the young goddess of Green Fields and Luscious Meadows, yielded to the Sweet Waters Lord, and together they made wild love.
But when morning came, Enki looked into Ninsar's eyes and found her a loving, but pale portrait of Ninhursag.
' What is in her that was so alluring last night, but now in the broad day light seems to have lost substance? Lovely as she is, she is not the one I surely miss,' thought Enki. '
Despite the doubts he felt deep inside, Enki stayed with Ninsar for a while, because he knew his seed could be her womb. So he stayed with her until the ninth day, when Ninsar gave birth to Ninkurra, another girl-child, the future goddess of Mountain Pastures.
As before, Enki rejoiced at Ninkurra's loveliness, at her cheerful smile and sweet face. Again, Enki saw in Ninkurra twice the mark of his beloved Ninhursag.
Sadly, Ninsar realised that although she had been passionately loved by Enki for a time, there was a longing in his eyes, his body, soul and mind she could not satisfy.
' Bonded to him I for a time was,' thought Ninsar,' but he does not want me for myself, this I can tell. Mine is not the mind, body, soul and heart that holds his for a minute that means eternity, so I'll let him go, now and forever. I need to be loved for who and what I am, and not to be a mere replacement for whom I know not he loves.'
Thus, when Enki left her and young Ninkurra, Ninsar grieved deeply, but found hope, meaning and sustenance in drawing from her all-one-ness, her inner and outer resources to heal and grow with the experience. She also kept a watchful eye on Ninkurra, who, like herself, grew in record time. Lovely, resourceful Ninkurra demonstrated enormous energy by climbing the highest heights, up to the mountain tops, but also keeping her essence tied to the ground. This way Ninkurra, the Goddess of Mountain Pastures grew safe from all hatred or harm.
Another nine days passed by, and as Ninkurra played at a mountain top, curiosity led her to explore a well that surfaced out of the blue to water the greens and wild flower beds she had just made grow. To her sheer surprise and delight, the well took the shape of a handsome god, who introduced himself to her as Enki the Sweet Waters Lord.
Again, Enki looked at Ninkurra's young and cheerful face, and desired to dive into the maiden's embrace, for she reminded him twice of Ninhursag, the one and only to Enki's wandering heart. The maiden at the mountain top though had attracted the Sweet Waters' Lord. Had he again fallen in love?
Ninkurra, who had lived a life so sheltered at the mountain heights, was fully bewitched by the easy charm of the older, more experienced god. Thus she joyously yielded to him and love they made for nine days and nine nights. But Enki soon realised that as lovely as Ninkurra was, she could not be compared to Ninhursag.
As before, the Sweet Waters Lord left Ninsar after nine days, when Ninkurra gave birth to another lovely girl-child called Uttu, the Spider, the Weaver of Patterns and Life Desires.
But Ninhursag, having kissed the earth to awaken for Spring to come, had returned to holy Dilmun. The Great Lady who saw and wisely judged all life forms, frowned at the sadness reflected in Ninsar's and Ninkurra's eyes, and frowned at Enki's unbridled lust. Ninhursag knew how charming Enki could be, but no matter what, young Uttu the Weaver should be advised to avoid the riverbanks, or the places where Enki and herself could be found alone or unchaperoned:
' Daughter Uttu, beware of the marshes and the riverbanks, where Enki, the Sweet Waters god, reigns as Sovereign. There he will see you, there he will desire you and want to make of you his own, only to leave you all alone later on!' was Ninhursag's stern advice to Uttu.
For a time young Uttu did follow the Great Lady's advice and kept her distance from Enki's lusty sight. But one day Enki's desire won the young goddess' heart, when he brought to her delicacies from the garden of delights: apples, cucumbers and grapes, all this and more Enki offered to the young goddess. Then Uttu, full of joy, opened herself to welcome Enki, the crafty god, and he embraced her with heartfelt glee, lying in her lap content and happy. Loving strokes, kisses and hugs they shared, until Enki's seed found its way to Uttu's young and yet untried womb.
Later, still lying on Enki's powerful arms, doubt entered Uttu's mind, body and heart:
' Tonight you loved me so dearly, tonight I was your spouse, the one and only, your dearest, ' she thought . ' But will you love me in the morning, o lustiest of all gods? Will you stay in my arms and never let me go? And will you love for more than a holy night, and share with me happy and hard times?'
But when morning came and Uttu looked into Enki's eyes, she knew she still was not the one to hold captive the Sweet Waters Lord. With a tender kiss Enki took his leave, but did not say when he was going to come back, or ever returned to stay. Uttu swallowed stubborn tears, but decided no to surrender to loss and sorrow, and more.
' I vow not to be bonded to Enki from this moment on,' she promised herself with a deep-rooted resolve. ' If he does not want me for myself, for what we can together be, I will not carry any of his seeds within or without my very being!'
Uttu immediately turned then to Ninhursag for help. The Great Mother goddess, beloved by all, would know what to do, would ensure the best course of action.
' Wipe out Enki's seed of your body, and bury within the depths of the Earth the promise of life you shared with him, ' said the Great Lady and Womb of Creation. ' Let the Earth receive and transform yours and Enki's seed. And after you do this all, take your time so that your body, heart, mind and soul may heal. And I, who have known love, pain, sorrow and immense joy, give you, daughter, a very special blessing: may the wisdom of experience brought by such pain enter your being again and may you learn to ask as much as you give from your future lovers for as long as you live. Reciprocation is the key for everlasting relationships!'
Where Ninhursag buried Enki's seed, nine days later eight plants, luscious and strong, started to grow. Ninhursag laughed and declared happily to each of them:
' Out of the depths of the earth, out of my stony womb, eight plants came out to bring more blessings to the world! Eight they are, and from now on each of them will be both fathers and mothers, the very first Seed, of a new group of beings, whom I'll call Plants, creatures of green and colour, that will nourish, heal and grow in the glory of Dilmun and the Middleworld.' .
After a time, Enki returned, happy and carefree, as it was his custom to be. He was not alone, but in the company of the two-faced god Isimud, Enki's vizier and friend. Both took long walks around the riverbanks, enjoyed the pleasures of the marshlands. Both saw the luscious plants.
' What sorts of beings are those, Isimud, my faithful servant and friend? What is in them so new and yet so old that fills my heart with desire and my mind with deep-rooted curiosity? I want to taste them, to know their hearts, I want to know their insides. What, pray, is this plant?' asked Enki Isimud, pointing at the closest one.
' My king, this is a tree plant,' Isimud answered, and sworn as he was to serve the Sweet Waters Lord, Isimud then proceeded to cut down a piece of the tree-plant and passed it on to Enki, who immediately ate it with greed.
The taste of the tree-plant fuelled even more Enki's desire to know the nature of the other seven plants left.. He asked Isimud about the nature of the seven plants, their essence and content. Isimud replied to all his mater's questions, cutting down a sample of each and passing them on to Enki, who devoured them immediately with glee. This way Enki got to know the hearts of the Plants World.
Seeing that once again Enki had shown no respect or restraint, taking over to make his own not only young maiden goddesses, but also the Plants World angered Ninhursag beyond any measure.
' Enough is enough!' exclaimed the Great Mother, Mistress and Supreme Queen of the Earth, outraged and furious at Enki's disdain for all beings, human or plants. ' Enki, you've gone too far by taking over the hearts' essence of not only young goddesses, but also by taking into yourself eight primeval samples of the Plants World. It is good to feel desire and experience the need to be one with the beloved. But there is a profound responsibility implicit in falling in love and captivating someone's mind, body, heart and soul. You, Enki, came out of the blue into many maidens' lives, set yourself up like a squatter within their hearts only to leave them afterwards, never to return. But even then you were not satisfied in your lust to know and experience everything, so you turned to the newly created Plants World. You, Enki, tasted each one of the eight sacred plants, devouring them next with greed. You never asked, but always took without giving anything back, a sign of acknowledgement, a simple caress. To how many did you bring a little death to their spirit, to their hopes about a future with you? For all this, you deserve a mighty lesson, for it is high time that you, Enki, learn in sorrow what you did not learn in happiness: I will never look at you with a life-giving eye from this moment on. May the suffering you inflicted return to you threefold!'
With these words, Great Ninhursag disappeared, leaving Enki clearly divided between the joy of seeing the one and only to his heart and the growing concern for her parting words.
Because indeed Enki's health began to fail. A strange illness this was: eight organs of his body fell progressively ill. Indeed, they started to die in Enki's living body. The Anunnaki, the Great Gods, were disconsolate with Enki's suffering. Father An, the Skylord, Enlil, Lord Air and Enki's beloved older brother, all healer gods and goddesses of the land tried everything they could to no avail. Only Ninhursag could not be found anywhere, while Enki's health deteriorated little by little day after day.
It soon came a time when Enlil left Enki's side to sit on the dust, so immerse he was in despair and worry for the health of his younger and favourite brother. The Air Lord grieved for Enki. A world without the Lord of the Sweet Waters, Magic and Crafts, how sad it would be! Enlil simply could not conceive life without Enki's cunning, humour and sheer energy.
It was then that a fox, a sacred wild beast to Ninhursag who was passing by, came to console Lord Air:
' I've seen the suffering of the Sweet Waters Lord, I've witnessed the lament of the greatest of the Anunnaki for Enki, their beloved brother. Only Ninhursag can heal him, only the Mistress of All Creation can make him whole again. I'll do my best to go and find the Greatest Lady of Earth, holy Ninhursag I am sworn to worship and serve till the end of my days. I will find the Great Goddess and bring her here to accomplish the healing of the sick god.'
The fox disappeared, but kept her promise, for Ninhursag relented and came running to Enki's aid. She went straight to the chamber where Enki laid in agony, and, with a wave of her mighty hand, Ninhursag dismissed healers, nurses and well-wishers. Their work was done. Ninhursag's had just begun.
With immense tenderness, the Mistress of All Creation made herself comfortable by on the bed, carefully placing Enki's head on her vagina. She then leaned forward and wrapped herself, arms, legs, breasts around the body of the Sweet Waters Lord. Enki was this way lovingly embraced by the Great Lady, kept safe and protected by her warmth, and arms that felt strong yet very sweet. Like a nurturing womb, the Great Lady wrapped herself around the Sweet Waters god.
Ninhursag whispered softly in Enki's ear:
' Dearest, what hurts you?'
' O beloved, my whole body hurts me.,' Enki managed to answer with visible effort.
Ninhursag rocked gently back and forth with much care the sick god:
' I know your body hurts, dear heart, but soon you will be made whole again. Because I'll receive in my Womb of Abundance, the nest of creation, the seeds that you so greedily ate and that made you so ill. I'll take them all into my body so that they can bring healing, not harm to all beings. Let the Work begin!'
Enki felt he could not move a fingertip. At the same time, warmth started spreading all over his body, bringing new vitality, life force with it. Enki heard Ninhursag's voice resonate all over his being:
' The first seed you ate and made you ill, I take its power into my myself and transform it into a newly born god, a younger brother and son to you, dearest. I therefore have given birth to the god Abu to set your body free.'
The Great Lady continued her mighty healing ritual, asking Enki for the names of the organs that had been affected. :
' Dearest, what hurts you?'
' My jaw hurts me.'
' To the god Nintulla I have given birth for you to set your jaw free. Where else do you hurt, dearest?'
' My tooth hurts me.'
' To the goddess Ninsutu I have given birth for you to set your tooth free. Where do you still feel much pain, dearest? What hurts you?'
' My mouth hurts me.'
Ninhursag kissed Enki in the mouth.
' To the goddess Ninkasi I have given birth for you to set your mouth free. What hurts you still, dear?'
' My throat hurts me.'
' To the goddess Azimua I have given birth for you to set your throat free. What hurts you still, dear?''
' My limbs hurt me'.
' To the god Enshag I have given birth for you to set your limbs free. What hurts you most, dearest?
' My rib hurts me.'
' To the goddess Ninti, the Lady of the Rib and the One who makes Live, I have given birth for you to set your rib free.'
As soon as Ninhursag uttered the last sentence, Enki felt no pain or ache, revitalised and stronger than ever. Indeed, as if he himself had been reborn in the close embrace of Ninhursag. Gone was the pain, the fever, the shivers.
' I am alive,' he said very simply, his voice full of wonder, ' and yet it feels so different from the moment I came out of the sea of mother Nammu or when I met Ereshkigal in the Underworld.'
He moved into Ninhursag's arms, for he wanted to see her face too. The Great Lady had closed her eyes, but there was a smile on her lips. She rested against the pillows of Enki's bed, still holding him in a loose embrace.
Now it was his turn to act with immense tenderness, as he shifted positions to make her rest on his chest.
' You healed me by sending your soul into my body, ' he said, deeply moved by the Gift of Life he had been given, and more. ' This is why you are so wearied. And the reason why I feel so much more part of yourself as a consequence. How could I have been so stupid not to understand you or myself until now? It was you I longed for, your embrace, your touch. But beforehand I wanted you for me only, and desired all maidens, because I knew not of the extent of my longing for you and only you. How impossibly absurd and stupid of me to think that I should find your image in every maiden I came across just to leave them when I realised they were not you! '
They kissed passionately.
' I would never bind you to me against your True Will, beloved,' said simply Ninhursag. ' And because you understood this great mystery, because you and I are indeed two of a kind, let all worlds know what I now declare: from this very moment on let it be known that I, Ninhursag, the Earth Mother, Wisest beyond all Beings in the Ways of Nature, built a house for my beloved and myself on a Rock, steadfast and solid....'
' Let me finish this for you... for us, dearest,' interrupted Enki Ninhursag with a kiss,' I, Enki, the Lord of Sweet Waters, say that from this strong and solid rock that means Life, Love and Fruition for me the Waters of Life will flow forever in all worlds we dare to fare'.
They kissed and hugged passionately, sealing their shared Fate forever, for as long as they wanted to be together.
' For you I stayed here in Dilmun, the place of delights, where we are safe from hate or harm', continued Enki. ' Now I know that you made me ill to make me see that the bond that I feel for you is stronger than friendship or love. I know now that even if we cannot be together all the time, we will never be apart. But tell me, dearest, did you really need to be so radical and cast on me the eye of death?'
Indeed, Enki had come back to his normal enquiring self. Ninhursag could burst of joy, and her laughter was pure delight and mischief:
' This, Enki, you will never find out!'
Enki chuckled, half disappointed, half amused. Life with Ninhursag would never be boring, this he knew for sure. She would certainly drive him nuts with her assertiveness, wits, passionate ways and guts many other times in the future. But she was and would be forever in his future, he loved her and wanted her like no other. Ninhursag was his Soul-Companion, his Rock of Strength, the Inspirational Divine Feminine that brightened up his life. And if he could not have the last word with her, at least Enki knew very well how to silence Ninhursag in the sweetest and wildest way for very long moments. With perfect skill and determination he started to kiss her holy body. All over.