The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation

What follows is part one of my adaptation of one of the most notable Mesopotamian myth — that of the Babylonian creation epic known as the Enûma Eliš, or “When on high”. This text has been adapted by myself and was originally intended for major publication. Due to its length however, the decision was made to publish it here.

As with all mythological texts, there are other matters at play.

The text served as a political and ecclesiastical means of asserting the rule of the Babylonian god, Marduk and signifies the defining moment of his rise to power. Thus legitimizing his dominion over all of them, including Enlil, the undisputed head of the Mesopotamian pantheon as a whole.

For the sake of simplicity, accented letters have been replaced by those letters which would otherwise determine their sound (e.g., “š” being replaced with “sh”).

Here begins Tablet I, part one.

In the beginning, in the days before time, when the height of heaven and the foundation of the earth knew no name, there was darkness. 

Within the darkness, there existed the great demiurges: Tiamat and the Apsu, the saltwater and the freshwater. A third was found with them: Mummu, who appeared as the shapeless mist that lingered above their waters, silent unto himself but ever vigilant — a watcher in the darkness. Alone in the primordial expanse Tiamat and Apsu slept, without dreaming. They were sluggish and had no purposeful desire, knowing nothing of time or necessity which compels mortal beings to move and act. They existed together, both separate, yet whole, in the days when heaven and earth had no being. 

Together, they existed before light was spoken into existence. 

Together, they existed before the firmament of heaven was separated from the breadth of the sea. 

Together, they existed before the foundation of the earth was called forth from the deep. 

Together, they existed before the sun would rise in the east; before the moon would wax and wane; before the planetary spheres knew their orbit, or the stars knew how to form themselves into shapes. 

Together, they existed before the first fish could swim and the first bird could fly. 

Together, they existed before every mortal creature upon the earth could draw breath.

Together, they existed and in their languor, knew nothing of toil or labor. 

Yet in their languor, something seemed to stir and move within them. Tiamat, rolled like a slow wave and Apsu rose up to meet her. Together, they mingled their waters: Tiamat and her saltwater, Apsu and his freshwater. And then there was stillness as they sighed and slipped into a dreamless sleep.

Soon three would become five.

Within Tiamat’s sleeping form, two lights began to shine — before light was called by name. They stirred and stretched and yawned. They breathed within their mother and like two great eels, they swam slowly within the life-giving sea that was Tiamat’s form. 

They were the twins, Lahmu and Lahamu, the first children of the great cosmic womb and the cosmic progenitor. 

They were powerful in their own right, rising up as silt is stirred from beneath the water, they each appeared as great serpents, then took the shape of a man and a woman. 

In the silence before time they stood in the darkness, upon the still waters of Tiamat. 

In that darkness; in that time before time, they contemplated their own form and dreamed of creating others like them. 

Like Tiamat and Apsu before them, Lahmu and Lahamu coiled about each other – first as serpents, then as man and woman. Rising above the primordial deep, they took on the likeness of brilliant stars and formed constellations as they pursued one another. They, like their parents before them, would bring others into existence: Anshar, the expanse of heaven, and his twin, Kishar, the expanse of the earth. 

Within Anshar and Kishar stirred the urge to create again and from their union came Anu, the heavenly one, who rivaled his own father and his father before him in strength.

From Anu, came Nudimmud who is Ea, his father’s equal in every way. Ea, who is Enki, possessed a keen mind that rivaled that of Anshar and cunning that surpassed that of his brothers, among them, Enlil.

Together, they existed before light was spoken into existence. 

Together, they existed before the firmament of heaven was separated from the breadth of the sea. 

Together, they existed before the foundation of the earth was called forth from the deep. 

Together, they  existed before the sun would rise in the east; before the moon would wax and wane; before the planetary spheres knew their orbit, or the stars knew how to form themselves into shapes. 

Together, they existed before the first fish could swim and the first bird could fly. 

Together, they existed before every mortal creature upon the earth could draw breath.

Together, they existed and in their languor, knew nothing of toil or labor. 

Soon their languor was overcome by restlessness, for the same desire to create filled them all. With that desire came noise and revelry in the divine abode they had made for themselves in the days before time. The sound of their voices grew in fervor and pitch and disturbed the sleep of their primordial parents.

4 thoughts on “The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation

  1. Pingback: The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation | West of Eridu, East of Kur

  2. Pingback: The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation | West of Eridu, East of Kur

  3. Pingback: The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation | West of Eridu, East of Kur

  4. Pingback: The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation | West of Eridu, East of Kur

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s