Adapa: An Adaptation

Early myths and religious texts contextualize the mortality of humanity.

This theme is quite common in religious traditions of the indigenous people of North America. In Greek myth, we find that it is the opening of Pandora’s box that releases death into the world — an event orchestrated by Zeus after his quarrel with Prometheus. 

The biblical account of Adam and Eve found in the Book of Genesis is perhaps the most well-known narrative in the western world all thanks to the forbidden fruit of Eden and the sibilant voice of a certain serpent. 

The Mesopotamian people have a myth of their own…

The mythological narrative of Adapa adapted for this site is based on the translation of the original cuneiform tablet. The story is known as “Adapa and the South Wind” and originates from fragmented tablets from the Library of Ashurbanipal circa 600 BCE and older texts from Tell el-Amarna (south of the modern Egyptian city, al-Minya) circa 1300 BCE.

I have taken notable liberties with the myth’s narrative in the prose that follows. The original myth does not mention Adapa’s family or go into detail about his interactions with the gods other than greeting them at the gate and a brief explanation of his actions. 

Within the context of myth, these parts of the narrative could be considered apocryphal. 

Adapa, over time, became a figure of great prominence and was invoked during exorcism rites. The exorcist would also conflate themselves with him by speaking the proclamation, “I am Adapa!”.

In an attempt to reconcile Sumerian and Akkadian sources, I have purposefully used both Sumerian and Akkadian names when referring to the deities depicted in the story — especially Enki. The Akkadians referred to him as Ea (pronounced “Yah”). Some Akkadian texts however, also refer to Ea by his Sumerian name. Another name used to refer to Enki is Nudimmud. 

This story is but a part of a greater story “I, Adapa”, which may be found in Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s anthology entitled “Circe’s Cauldron: Pagan Poems and Tales of Magic and Witchcraft”. 

Copyright 2020 by the author and publisher. 

“In the beginning there was Adapa: chief among men in Eridu;

In the beginning there was Adapa: his word was like the divine utterance of An, the highest of Heaven;

In the beginning there was Adapa: Nudimmud, who is Enki and Ea, gave him a vast and all-knowing mind…”

The boatman punted his vessel across the surface of the sea, pausing occasionally to look at the great city behind him. 

The wind was still and save for the call of a lone gull, there was no other sound as he secured his oar, lowered his sail, and gathered up his net. He preferred fishing to replenish the temple’s food stores  in the cool evening air with his son. They could fish in peace after the other fisherman had returned to shore with full nets and tales of the great fish that still eluded capture despite their prayers and offerings to the gods of the deep. 

His heavy net took on a life of its own in his hands and with a flick of his wrist, it appeared to cast itself onto the surface of the water before sinking into the sea. He spoke aloud, addressing the water and the fish beneath its surface, and as he continued speaking, his cadence began to sound like song. His son stood silently with his hands clasped to his chest while his father sang:

“By the divine word of Heaven:

Rise up, O fish!

By the divine word of Heaven, I call you;

Rise up, O fish from the depths!

By the divine word of Heaven, I command you;

Rise up, O fish, fill these nets blessed by the gods of Heaven!

Rise up, O fish, fill these nets blessed by the gods of the earth and under the earth!

Rise up, O fish, fill these nets blessed by the gods of the life-giving sea!”

He tugged the line of his net occasionally and then whispered over handfuls of bread crumbs and barley seeds before he threw them into the water. The still surface slowly began to churn as numerous fish rose up to consume the crumbs and seeds. Within a few moments, the net was filled with the choicest of fish of various sizes and colors. A few who didn’t get caught up in the net quickly swam away from the net after eating their fill of the food thrown into the water. 

He and his son began to haul the heavy net onto the boat and as they did, the unmistakable sound of rumbling thunder could be heard from the south. 

His son shouted aloud and pointed to a looming thunderhead. 

Together they fastened the rope of the net to the port of the boat and hoisted the sail hoping to move quickly to shore. The wind filled their sail and propelled them forward over choppy waves. The mast began to shift under the force of the wind and groaned before it cracked. The thunder grew louder and lightning could be seen in the distance. The boat rocked to and fro. The great cloud moved over them as another gust of wind toppled the mast. The sail whipped back and forth, flapping in the wind like a broken wing. Wave after wave beat against the boat. His son turned to see a larger wave rising up behind them that launched their boat forward and plunged it underwater. In the ensuing panic father and son reached for each other’s hands but it was too late. The net broke free and caught the young man in its embrace. He kicked and thrust his arms but couldn’t escape. Once, twice, three times, his arms broke the surface but each time, the net dragged him deeper. His father swam to where he last saw his son’s arm breach the waves but try as he may, he knew his son was lost to him. 

He grasped the overturned boat and cried his son’s name aloud as he beat his fists against the wood and reeds and pitch that formed the now broken vessel. 

He turned his eyes to Heaven and cried out:

“I call upon Heaven as my witness! I call upon the sea as my witness! I call upon the spirit of my son as my witness! 

Woe to you, O South Wind! Woe to your form and might! Woe to the wings that carry you to and fro upon the earth and sea! 

I curse you, wind! I curse your might! And I curse your wings! I call you fettered! I call you bound! I call you broken! 

Hear me and know: I, Adapa, speak these words! I, Adapa, utter this secret spell! I, Adapa, issue this decree! 

May the words that I speak be propitious!”

Thunder boomed loudly overhead and the clouds flashed with lightning that spread out across the sky. The wind ceased and the sea grew still. There was no sound and as he looked to shore he watched the clouds dissipate over the city. 

The South Wind hadn’t blown from the sea since the death of his son. 

His limp body was recovered by the local fishermen and ceremoniously carried to his father’s house. 

Adapa didn’t want the elaborate funeral recommended by the priests of the temple. He wanted his son buried within the walls of the household courtyard. 

The wailing procession ended at the gate of his home. 

Dressed in linen garments and placed into a reed basket, he was buried near the foundation of the house with his grandfather, his great grandfather and grandmother, his mother and his sister — both who died during childbirth. His brothers and sister placed his grave goods in his arms: sealed jugs with water, beer, wine, bread, dates, and fish to keep him from thirst and hunger on his journey to the Underworld. Among the food, they placed jewelry and precious stones as offerings for the Lady of the Great Earth. 

Adapa stood silently with a local priest who poured out libations to the gods of the Underworld and prayed for the departed’s safety as he passed through the seven gates.  He prayed for his spirit to be brave as he stood before the throne of the Lady of the Great Earth where his ancestors would gather to meet him.

Without the wind, the cool sea air could not blow over the land of Eridu and the regions beyond; the crops struggled to stand tall in the dry soil; the people groaned in the heat both day and night. 

In the heights of Heaven beyond human sight, An sat upon his throne. He spoke aloud and called his vizier before him.

“Ilabrat, the South Wind has ceased to blow upon the face of the earth and the people’s cries of anguish have reached my ears.”

“Yes, An,” Ilabrat replied. “The wings of the South Wind have been bound and broken by Adapa. He lies sick with despair and fears that he will never fly again. This Adapa, the one who wounded him, is not counted among the gods, but his word is as divine as your own. Everything he utters comes to pass; everything he knows he has learned as one of the Sons of Ea.

“Nudimmud,” An said aloud as he bit his lip and struck his thigh. “Very well. Send word to my son that this man, Adapa, is to stand before me and give an account for his deeds.” 

Ilabrat bowed low and walked to the edge of the garden which surrounded the halls of Heaven. Far below him, past galaxies, asteroids, moons, and planets he could see the earth and its deep sea. He leapt from the edge and flew through the void of space. Within a matter of moments, he stood before the gates of the Apsû, wherein dwelt Nudimmud, who is Enki and Ea. 

Enki sat upon his dais in the halls beneath the sea and listened as Ilabrat told him of An’s request. His face remained unchanged and his voice did not betray him despite the distress he felt in his heart. He stood from his chair and walked the length of his hall in silence with Ilabrat at his side. 

“I shall go to Adapa. I shall instruct him in the ways of Heaven and see that he stands before my father to give an account of his deeds. Tell my father that Adapa will stand before him in three days.”

Ilabrat nodded his head in agreement and vanished from Enki’s domain. 

Enki turned to his mother, Namma, who heard everything. 

“I shall go to Adapa and instruct him to appear before my father’s throne. See to it that my throne does not remain empty in my absence. Isimud will attend to you while I am away.”

Namma nodded and left his presence. She made her way to his dais and sat upon the throne of the Apsu. 

Enki rose up from the deep in the form of a great fish and as he breached the surface took on his holy form again. As he walked upon the surface of the water to the shore, his form decreased in size until he was the height of a tall man. His radiant appearance dimmed and as he moved upon the sand, the gulls overhead grew silent. The fishermen upon the shore turned to see him. Some gave him no thought while others gazed upon him in awe and held their clasped hands to their chest. Enki continued in his way, from the sand of the shore to the dense road of impacted clay and the broad streets of baked bricks. He had no need to ask for directions, he knew the way to the home of his priest.

The door to Adapa’s home was closed and from within, Enki could hear the sound of weeping. He touched the door and then knocked softly. A young woman answered the door, her solemn face was smeared with ash. Her red-rimmed eyes stared at him and when his gaze met his, she was awestruck and stepped back into the courtyard. She held the door open wide and stepped back, bracing herself against the wall. Enki raised his hand in greeting but did not speak to her. The young woman placed her clasped hands to her chest and then hid her open mouth with her shaking hands. 

“You are Adapa’s daughter? I have come for your father,” Enki said. His voice rang in her ears, followed by the rush of blood from her swiftly beating heart. Her hand pointed to the far corner of the courtyard where Adapa crouched, shrouded in sackcloth. 

Ash smeared Adapa’s face also and lines were formed by tears from his red eyes. His beard and hair were covered in dust. He rocked slowly while hoarsely singing words of a hymn. As he sang, he felt his skin slowly prickle — his hair began to stand on end and a shiver lingered at the nape of his neck before traveling down his spine. His breath quickened, knowing that he was not alone. The presence of a god filled his darkened home. 

He turned and uttered a cry of despair. Though Enki’s radiance was diminished, it washed over his face like sunlight captured in a rolling wave. 

“O my Lord! O god of my fathers,” Adapa cried out as he fell before Enki and touched his feet. “My house is as the House of Dust and my son has gone down into its depths. This is no place for a god.”

Adapa’s surviving sons rushed to the edge of the courtyard to join their sister. They stood in silence and watched as their father spoke directly to the god like a man would speak to a friend. They too were filled with the fear that their own father was accustomed to though they themselves would never master it. Until now they had only ever seen their father administer public rites upon the great plaza of Enki’s temple and on the holiest of days when his great idol was brought before the people. His physical form and likeness made his idols seem crude in comparison. 

“I understand your grief, Adapa. Your son was a novitiate in my house — he too was counted among my own sons,” Enki said softly. He placed his hand upon Adapa’s shoulder. “I would overturn the Order of Heaven and Earth if I could and restore him to you but I am now forbidden to do so — even for those who serve me in my house on earth.”

Adapa remained silent, save for a long shuddering sigh. 

“I have come on greater business, as per my father’s decree. Send your children away so that we may speak plainly.”

Adapa turned to his sons and daughter and nodded. They bowed low and walked backwards, away from Enki’s presence while looking to each other for reassurance with bewildered eyes. 

“In your anger over the loss of your son, you have cursed the South Wind. Your words were made manifest and now he lies grieving over his broken wings. The Divine Order has been overturned. An has commanded that you stand before him and account for your deeds. I will instruct you on how to ascend to Heaven and what to say as you pass through its gates but I cannot guarantee what will come to pass. I know you are grieving but you must set your mind on other things. Your journey will be swift but we must prepare you before it is too late. I have given my father my word that you will stand before him in three days and the first day is almost at its end.”

“What must I do to prepare?” Adapa said as he steadied himself and stood before Enki who despite his diminished radiance and power, was still taller than the tallest man. 

“Do not bathe yourself. Do not oil your beard. Do not wear fragrant oil in your hair. Do not wear your priestly garments. Remain clad in sackcloth and ashes — may the dust be a circlet upon your brow. Go as one in mourning — but not as one mourning his beloved son’s death. Instead let your tears be tears of grief for the gods who have left the land for a time. Grieve instead for my son, Dumuzid, and for his comrade, Ningishzida both of whom stand before the gates of Heaven. 

When they say “why do you grieve, Adapa?” you will tell them, “I grieve for the beloved gods who have disappeared from the earth”, do not let your face betray you when you gaze upon them. When they hear your words and see your humility, they will send a favorable word to the halls of An and bring you before him. 

They will extend the hospitality of Heaven to you and offer you food and drink. Do not be fooled, for the food of the gods is not the food of men! If you consume the food and the libations of the gods brought before you, you will take death itself into your body and will immediately descend into the House of Dust to be judged before the throne of Ereshkigal.

Now, put your house into order. I do not know how long my father will keep you in his halls. 

Give instructions to your sons to go to the priests of my temple — to tell them you must depart. Do not tell  them what business draws you away but if pressed, say you are bound by an oath to the gods and swear by my name. 

Give your daughter charge over the household shrine, to offer up prayers to your personal god and goddess in your stead. 

When your sons return, leave your home and come to the edge of the sea. Speak to no one on your journey. I will meet you by the time Utu drives his chariot to the gates of the western horizon. Once you have joined me I will show you the way to my father’s hall.

I will go now and leave you to your children and to your rest.”

With those words, Enki vanished like mist.

Enki stood in the waters of the gulf, gulls sang above him spiraling down and up from the lazy waves. 

“You have come early, Adapa,” he said as he walked forward to the shore. With each step, his radiance diminished and he grew shorter in stature. Adapa was silent as he walked forward upon the sand. He was still draped in sackcloth, dust and ash clung to his skin. He had observed every instruction given to him, his sons had returned from the temple having said everything instructed to say, his daughter offered up prayers before the household shrine.

“I cannot go with you — I must return to my halls beneath the deep sea. I will however, give you this.” Enki held a small woven wreath made of reeds. “Wear this, it will bind you to me and to the earth, ensuring that you will return when my father eventually dismisses you from his halls. I trust you have remembered all I have said.”

Adapa nodded solemnly as he slid his hand through the ring and drew it up to his bicep. 

“Now, prepare yourself. You will see what few living men have seen. I will speak the Command of Heaven and it shall fall down upon you like a wave. You will be drawn up into that wave like a fish caught in the talons of an eagle. Let that wave, let that eagle, carry you up into the heights of Heaven to the lapis gates of my father’s halls.”

Enki stepped away and walked deeper into the sea. He turned to face Adapa and raised his voice, speaking in a language that Adapa did not know. His voice echoed upon the water and the hills beyond the shore as he spoke the command of Heaven. It was a whisper and a song and a roar all at once. Adapa looked up as all at once it seemed that the firmament of Heaven had fallen upon him. His body was seized by a great force that drew him up. He felt the rush of wind all around him. In moments he was hurled beyond the atmosphere, beyond the moon, distant planets and stars and was cast at the foot of the stairs before the gates of Heaven. 

The radiance of the halls beyond the gates of Heaven was beyond compare. It’s light dwarfed that of the sun and even the moon. The reed ring upon his arm had become a gold band. He drew his garment down over it to keep it from being seen. His eyes adjusted to the brightness — no doubt thanks to the magic he sensed woven into that once ordinary bundle of reeds. 

His unsettling journey left him weak and disoriented. He looked down at his feet and to the starry abyss of space. The glass floor beneath his feet was compact like stone and with each step, he seemed to grow stronger.

The gates before him were massive, each appearing to have been carved from lapis and quartz with glittering veins of gold. To the left and to the right stood equally massive lamassu, both of which looked down upon him with heavy-lidded eyes. Their full lips slowly parted as they looked down upon him, perplexed that a human would be standing before them. The beings pawed the ground beneath them with their glossy hooves and shook their beards while they unfurled their wings. One of them spoke with a bellowing voice in the same unknown language that Enki himself spoke moments before on the shore of the great sea. 

Two radiant beings appeared before the gates: Dumuzidd and Ningishzida. Both, resembling men with bronze skin, short beards, keenly observant eyes, and generous smiles. They too exchanged perplexed looks amongst themselves. Adapa remembered what Enki had told him and lowered his shoulders. He thought of his son, cut down in his promising youth like those gods that miraculously stood before him. He thought of the promise, now unfulfilled, that his own son would stand before the gates of Enki’s temple in Eridu and administer the sacred rites long after Adapa had passed through the gates that led to the House of Dust. He stifled a sob and hid his face behind his hands. 

Dumuzid stepped forward, smelling of fertile fields and of ripe dates, of flagons of beer and wine. His dark hair appeared to be tousled by the wind. Ningishzida too carried these fragrant smells about him, his own hair resembling tiny black serpents with yellow eyes. 

“Who are you, man — and why are you here dressed like one in mourning?” Dumuzidd said, looking down upon Adapa’s grave face. 

“I, Adapa, weep for the sons taken in their prime; the beloved ones of the gods who are missing from the earth,” Adapa replied. He had no reason for pretense as he shed genuine tears.

“Who are these gods? Do we know them?” Ningishzida said, his soft voice was almost a whisper. 

“I mourn for the loss of Dumuzid and for Ningishzida like I would for my own son.”

The gods looked upon Adapa and tried to stifle their laughter. Dumuzid clasped a great hand upon Adapa’s shoulder and ushered him to the gate that Ningishzida held open. 

“Come,” he said. “We will take you to An, perhaps he can help you in your time of mourning.” This time, they did not stifle their laughter as the gates closed behind them. The lamassu resumed their positions and their vigilant gaze turned to the distant stars.

Adapa remained focused and calm as he was brought before the throne of An. He bowed lower than Dumuzidd and Ningishzida and remained on the floor while the gods stood up again. 

“Great father,” Dumuzid offered. “This man, Adapa, seems to have lost his way.” 

An waved a dismissing hand.

“Go,” he said, with his great, booming voice. “I will attend to him.”

Dumuzidd and Ningishzida bowed and left An’s presence. 

An fixed his gaze upon Adapa who stood slowly, his own gaze fixed upon An’s feet.

“I know why you are here, Adapa. We may put aside pretenses. You have done what few humans could do. The divine Mandate of Heaven is the order of the universe. To subvert that order will soon have dire consequences. Even a butterfly can affect great change. You, above all, should know these things.” Adapa had by now turned his gaze up to meet An’s own. The radiance of Heaven dimmed while An spoke, as though he had taken it all into his very being. Adapa knew that An’s anger was made manifest though he remained regal and composed. “You are here to give an account of your deeds before the Heavenly Host. But for now, I will send you with my vizier, Ilabrat. He will make sure you are presentable before them.”

Adapa was led to a dimly lit hall. In the center of the long hall was a glowing rectangular pool of water lined in gold and lapis. Attendants stood on both sides of the warm water bearing thick towels and clean garments. They bade Adapa to remove his sackcloth and step into the bath and wash himself. They gave him soapwort and a sea sponge to scrub the dust and ash from his body and a comb to run through his hair. They puzzled over the arm band he wore which to them appeared as a braided wreath of reeds. Adapa insisted upon wearing it while he bathed, taking care not to let it slip from his arm. When he had finished bathing, he stepped up out of the pool. An attendant stepped forward to dry his skin while another combed fragrant oil through his hair. 

A third attendant stepped forward with clean garments. Adapa was dressed in robes befitting a prince and was given a gold circlet to wear on his head and beautiful sandals for his once bare feet. He was then ushered down a corridor the three attendants walked to his left, his right, and before him. 

Adapa heard voices far ahead and the sound of laughter and music. His silent attendants led him into a banquet hall lit with tiny balls of light like shining stars. The table was full of foods he could barely describe. When he stepped through the door, the gods grew silent and the musicians stopped playing their music. 

An clapped his hands together and extended them, welcoming Adapa into their presence. 

“Ah, our guest has joined us at last,” he said. The other gods murmured amongst themselves. Adapa spied Dumuzid and Ningishzida among them. Both cocked their heads and smiled quizzically when their gaze met his. “Come forward, Adapa. Take your place beside me.” The gods continued to speak amongst themselves about the mortal in their presence. An turned to Dumuzidd and Ningishzida. “My sons tell me they are mourned by those upon the earth in their absence. Here they are,” An chuckled. “As you can see, they are alive and well.”

“Great father,” Dumuzid said. “We know why Adapa has come. We know it is Enki who has revealed the secrets of Heaven and earth to him. We know it is Enki who has shown him the way to the gates of Heaven. Adapa possesses the knowledge of a god, let his life be like that of a god’s.”

“May it be as you have said, Dumuzidd,” An replied. “Let Adapa be brought to our table and eat the food and drink the water of the gods.”

Adapa was ushered to An’s side by one of his attendants and was seated in a cushioned chair of gold. 

“In the meantime, Adapa, tell me what the South Wind has done to be dealt such a blow that broke his wings?”

Adapa felt his throat constrict and his face flushed. He thought of his son, the overturned boat, the funerary rites. He sighed softly and turned to meet An’s gaze. He told him everything — of the need to replenish the store of fish for the temple; the sudden wind and coming storm; the waves that capsized his boat; the death of his son.

As he spoke, one of Adapa’s attendants brought a platter of food before him with a jug of clean water. A third attendant followed close behind with a jug of beer and another of wine. All were placed before him. Adapa thanked him for their hospitality and continued speaking to An, telling him of all that had happened. 

“What you say is true,” An replied. “You must set right what you have done. Say the word so that the South Wind may be made whole and take flight again to blow upon the earth.” 

Adapa nodded and uttered the words to break his spell. His command echoed through the great dining hall. The gods sat astonished at the power that the voice of the mortal among them commanded. Some appeared to be dismayed while others laughed at a glimpse of the probable future in which men would become like gods. 

An and those closest to him, including Dumuzid and Ningishzida, noticed that Adapa had not eaten the food brought before him or drank the water, wine, and beer. 

“Tell us,” Ningishzida said. “Why do you refuse our hospitality? Are you not hungry or thirsty after your journey to Heaven? Have you taken some vow to fast? Is the food of earth better than the food of the gods?” 

“No, my lord,” Adapa replied as he eyed the food hungrily. “It is true as you say. Enki, my god, has instructed me on the ways of Heaven and earth. He has given me the wisdom and understanding of a god. He has also instructed me not to eat the food of Heaven or drink the water of Heaven. In doing so, I will take death into myself for the food of gods is not the food of men. I will honor his word.”

The gods laughed aloud and then grew silent when An raised his hands. Dumuzidd leaned back into his chair and folded his arms. Ningishzida offered to speak but An spoke instead.

“You have denied the food of Heaven and the water of Heaven: the food and water of life. To deny them is to deny immortality. You have honored your god’s word, but in doing so have played into his very hands. You have stayed long enough, Adapa. The day on earth is almost at its end. If you were to stay here when the chariot of Utu passes through the gates of the west, you will die. Heaven is no place for mortal flesh and blood. I must send you on your way. When my son greets you on the shore of the sea, tell him that I request his presence in my halls. We have much to discuss, him and I. Now, Dumuzid and Ningishzida will lead you to the outer gates of Heaven and prepare you for your descent.”

The gods nodded, stood before An and bowed low at the waist. They slowly turned and left the banquet hall to stand just outside of its door. 

An looked down at Adapa and smiled. 

“I would return your garments to you, but it appears they may have been misplaced by the servants of my house. No matter, the robes you wear suit you. I do not know what mourning is to a human, but if it is as painful as it is to a god, know that it will end soon. Your son was in the service of his god when he died, be comforted in that knowledge. And know that my daughter far below in the Great Earth has a place at her table for youths and babes who enter her halls.”

Adapa nodded and slid from the large chair upon which he sat. He bowed low before An and touched his feet. 

Dumuzidd and Ningishzida met him at the door and slowly walked down the corridor, a hand on each of Adapa’s shoulders. Nothing but silence passed between them until at last came to the massive gates that stood between the halls of Heaven and the starry expanse of the universe. 

“You have spoken well for yourself, Adapa,” said Dumuzid. “No mortal has sat in the company of the Host of Heaven. Perhaps none ever will — but that is not for me to know. This I do know: it is appointed for man to have one life, one death, and one burial before he must descend into the House of Dust.”

“Even there,” Ningishzida said. “Some hope may be found. I, and my brother here, have descended below and have dwelt in the kingdom of our sister. We have sat at her table, have stood at her gate, and have served as her throne-bearer. Perhaps the same honor may be afforded to you.”

“For now, little brother, return to Earth,” Dumuzidd said. He turned and spoke to the great lamassu beside him in the unknown language he had spoken before. The mighty beast shook its beard and spread its wings. A single feather, shining like a jewel in the sun fell to the crystal clear floor. Dumuzid knelt to retrieve it and walked towards Adapa. “You know the way to Heaven, we will teach you the way to Earth. We know of Enki’s ring that you wear which binds you to him. That alone will not return you safely should you plummet through the spheres that separate Heaven from Earth. Take this feather and hold it close to you.”

“Keep all that you have seen hidden in your heart,” Ningishzida said softly. “We will see you again, in the House of Dust. You will be given a seat of honor at the Great Lady’s table. If you choose to share your vision of Heaven, then do so wisely and to those who fear the gods and revere them as you do. Now, you must go. Return to your home far below, Adapa.”

Dumuzid struck the glass floor with his foot and spoke the command that echoed across the cosmos like a ringing bell. 

Adapa turned to his escorts as he stepped to the bottom stair before the gates of Heaven. He clasped his hands before his chest and bowed low. He held the gleaming feather and fell back gracefully. His heavenly robes flowed about him. He passed the spheres and stars and at once saw the beautiful blue Earth before him. His ascent to Heaven was jarring; his descent to Earth was a waking dream. 

He crouched upon the shore of the sea just as the chariot of Utu passed through the gates of the western horizon, leaving streaks of red and orange in the sky behind it. 

Enki turned to look at him, his man-sized height still greater than Adapa’s own. He walked forward upon the surface of the sea and placed a firm hand upon Adapa’s shoulder. 

“You have seen my father, face to face, and live,” he said softly. “I am pleased.”

Adapa smiled weakly and slid the ring of reeds from his arm and placed it in the folds of his robe as he did with the holy feather of the lamassu that Enki did not see. 

“Yes, I live,” he replied. “I must be off to my family, my lord, as you must be off to your own. Your father has bid you to come to his halls in Heaven as I have done for you have much to discuss.”

Thus ends the tale of the great sage who having witnessed the glory of Heaven returned to the Earth. 

Thus ends the tale of Adapa, he whose name is known to history — perhaps the greatest form of immortality a wise man will ever know.

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