Babylonian Myth

The Epic of Creation and the War of the Gods are Babylonian epics, The Myth of Creation, the establishment of the divine hierarchy is part of the New Year Festival known as the Enuma Elish.

The first gods were Apsu, the god of fresh water and his wife Tiamat, the goddess of fresh water as the primeval mother. Two  obscure gods of the deep were called Lahmu and Lahamu. They then gave birth to Anshar and Kishar. They were the parents of Anu, the sky. Anu was the father of Ea the goddess of wisdom. After Ea there came the birth of the unruly multitude of gods.

Apsu, against the wishes of Tiamat tried to destroy them all. Ea drugged Apsu as well as his dwarfish counsellor Mummu. Ea then killed Apsu and imprisoned Mummu. Tiamat then takes the god Kingu as her consort. Ea then marries Damkina and they produce the storm god Marduk. The gods ask Tiamat to destroy Marduk. Tiamat then forms an army with Kingu at its head to wage war on the principal gods who support Marduk. Ea and Anu are routed and Anshar sends Marduk to fight Tiamat. This is thus the young storm god against the ancient goddess.

Marduk then destroys Tiamat. He then imprisons her monster army in the depths of the earth. He then splits Tiamat in two and creates a half firmament and half earth. Marduk then determined the spheres of the chief gods. Thus Anu is the area of the firmament and Enlil is the area between earth and firmament, and Ea is the waters beneath the earth. Marduk made a puppet, or man, out of the bones of and blood of Kingu. Kingu was killed for the purpose. In gratitude the gods built the city of Babylon with a shrine to Marduk.

The War of the Gods, or Enuma Elish, is one of the oldest creation myths. See Greek cosmogony for parallels – Uranus the primal father is destroyed by his descendant Cronos. The later storm god Zeus defeats monsters who were sponsored by Ge the primal mother. Zeus imprisoned them in the earth.

The Babylonian New Year = Mesopotamian conception of the cosmos. Jacobsen [refs in Frankfort]. Thus = a conflict between 2 principles of activity and inactivity. [See Chinese Ying and Yang].

Mesopotamian principle = mythical, concrete. Chinese principle = abstract, philosophical. Egypt = Mesopotamia. Mesopotamian is more barbaric than the Egyptian. Aggressive and brutal with insecurity and internal antagonisms with an abrupt rise of the ruling class. Also – violence used ins power maintainence.

Conflict of opposites is evident in the Babylonian New Year Festival. Celebrated at Nisan (the month coinciding with the vernal equinox). Opening days are of lamentation with priestly rites of expiation. People mourned the imprisonment of Marduk in the mountain [is dead and buried]. The mountain is a ziggurat.

The evening of the 4th day – priests chant Enuma Elish (Hymn of Creation). On 5th day the king enters chapel of Marduk and is divested of his regalia. Then reinvestment. The populace continue lamentation. The Goddess went forth from the city and is believed to have descended to the underworld. On 6th day barges from the principle cities arrive in Babylon. Each brings a statue of the city patron god. Mock battles in streets. On the 7th day Marduk is freed by his son Nabu the God of Nippur.

On the 8th dat statues arranged in order or precedence. In part of the temple (Ubshu-Ukkina) is the meeting place of the gods. Gods appoint Marduk champion. Followed by a ritual duel between Marduk and Tiamat. The king represents Marduk. On the 9th day the kings, priests and statues process to the Festival Hall outside the city. It is proclaimed Marduk killed all enemies. On the 10th day there is a victory banquet and the procession returns to the city. At night the god is reunited in marriage to the goddess. On the 11th day there is a second assembly of the gods (statues). These fix the dates for the coming year. Next morning – ploughing, sowing. The city returns to normal life. The New Year had begun. [The contents of the Enuma Elish see Thomson, vol 2].

Evolution of the festival = primitive communism – young men and women (of two moieties) met in spring for a celebration. Collective sexual union (reproduction of human community) and revival of fertile powers of nature. And = rite of initiation (participants died and reborn). Initiation = annual summer. Puberty in both sexes. Rite of human death and rebirth traced to death and rebirth of vegetation. Human life = in unison with nature. Both = same pulse.

Marduk kills Tiamat – counterpart in Baal’s killing of Yam (dragon of the sea) in Poem of Baal (Canaanite).

Ea = Babylonian god of water and wisdom. Developed from the Sumerian Enki. One of the most important in the pantheon. Established functions of earth and sea. Disposed of stone monster Kumarbi. Saved Ishtar from the Underworld and saved man from the deluge (warned Utnapishtim). Tiamat = primeval sea seen as a dragon goddess. Wife of Apsu (Abzu). Mother of all gods.

Lahmu = god. Lahamu = goddess. Son and daughter of Apsu and Tiamat. Parents of Anshar (a sky god) and Kishar (an earth goddess). Anshar = father of Anu (god of heaven) by his sister Kishar. Anu = deposed and emasculated by Kumarbi. Replaced on his throne by his son Ea (god of water and wisdom). Ea became more important in Babylonian pantheon than Anu.

Kingu = demi-god. General and consort of Tiamat. Damkina is the wife of Marduk (?), wife of Ea (?), and mother of Marduk (?). Marduk is a warrior god. Son of Ea and killer of Tiamat. Marduk’s supremacy in the pantheon of Assyria and Babylonia + local Baal of Babylon.

Baal is an epithet for a number of ancient Semitic gods = Semitic word for lord or possessor. Usually to a god as a lord of a city or place. Applied as title to many local gods. Originally a fertility demon. Individualised thus – Bel (Babylon), Baal (Canaan), a storm god in the Canaanite Poem of Baal.

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