The Enûma Eliš: An Adaptation

What follows is part two 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”.

Part one of this adaptation may be found here.

Here begins Tablet I, part two.

Their progenitors could not quell their sound, nor could they still them to rest.

The voices of the gods angered Apsu and though she too was distressed, no word escaped Tiamat’s lips.

Apsu called his vizier from among the gods; Apsu spoke the name Mummu and Mummu came forth: Come, let us go to she who has birthed all that trouble me!

Apsu spoke before Tiamat who rolled like a silent wave. She turned her ear to him but was distressed by his words: I long for sleep and cannot find it! The voices of those you have carried in your saltwater womb disturb me. You cannot silence them, so I will rise up and smite them all. I will leave none alive, save for you and my vizier.

Tiamat coiled like a great serpent and roared as a raging sea: How can we destroy those who came from us – those who were sired by you in my womb? Let us speak with them with the authority we possess as the father and mother who brought them forth.

Mummu, who reviled the younger gods from the beginning, spoke: Destroy them; remove their names forever from the holy dwelling and let us three return to our slumber.

Apsu hid these words in his heart and smiled over the cunning that Mummu possessed. Tiamat grew silent and as they left her presence, she recoiled beneath her waves. 

The words of Mummu were carried to the holy dwelling of the gods and filled them with fear; they were overcome by silent dread. Ea, who is Enki, perceived this threat and using all of his own cunning spoke his holy word, his secret spell, and sent it forth upon the waters where it reached the ears of Apsu, binding him in deep sleep from which he would not wake.

Mummu saw this and grew silent. He watched in horror as Ea bound Apsu with his word and slayed him. He watched in horror as he took up Apsu’s crown and placed hit upon his own head. He watched in horror as Ea took Apsu’s divine light and made it his own. Mustering all of his might, he then tore Apsu asunder. 

Ea turned then and cast his spell upon the terrified Mummu, the betrayer, and bound him also, putting a ring in his nose. From Apsu’s discarded form, Ea crafted his own holy abode and called his wife, Damkina to his side. From Apsu’s discarded form, he established his home and within it, his holy chambers.

Within the deep, within the holy abode of Ea and Damkina, in Apsu, the champion of the Holy Ones was born. 

In Apsu, the holy son of Ea was born.

In Apsu, the child of the cunning one and the holy mother, was born.

He excelled in everything and grew in power and in him no imperfection was found by those who looked upon him. 

He was full of might, possessed from the beginning when he drew his first divine breath among the gods.

He filled the hearts of the gods with joy. His grandfather, Anu, rejoiced in his perfection and his might. 

He was clothed in splendor and majesty; he was clothed with the aura of ten gods. He was perfect in body and mind. 

He possessed four ears that could hear the secret words of the gods. He possessed four eyes that pierced body and spirit; that discerned the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Fifty more auras were given to him, each more awesome than the one before it. Anu, his grandfather devised and fashioned four winds that he bestowed as gifts upon the son of Ea: O son of my heart, let loose these winds as your playthings.

Dust was formed and the four winds became a hurricane, stirring mighty waves in the deep which jostled the coiled serpentine form of Tiamat. In her heart, she knew that her children would grow to outnumber her; that her children would grow to overpower her. She could no longer rest beneath her waves and as the time before time passed, she was fraught with woe for she now knew the secret fear that possessed her slain consort. Those who served her and sang songs to comfort her were also unable to rest. They too, had gazed upon the light of Marduk and knew that no power they alone possessed would diminish Marduk’s own.

They gathered about Tiamat and danced upon her waves as they sang their spell: When our father Apsu fell, you were far from him! O mother, where did you go? And now four winds howl and bellow! O mother, where did you go? No life can be found in him and his brother is bound by his side! O mother, where did you go? Now your eyes are full of tears! O mother, where did you go? Who will comfort us in our affliction? O mother, where did you go?

One spoke above the rest: Let us gather and put an end to this din. Let us rise up, each mightier than the last, and avenge our father who was with you from the beginning! Let us now avenge our brother who now is bound below. Let us go now and smite them!

The gods assembled within Tiamat’s presence to contrive every way imaginable of bringing an end to those who dwelt among them. They elected from themselves, the strongest among them who would strike fear in the hearts of their kindred. 

Tiamat spoke: let all who gaze upon my children know only terror. Let all who gaze upon them know only fear. Let all who gaze upon them find themselves feeble in the face of their coming doom.

With these words, Tiamat, the glistening one, fashioned within herself eleven creatures who knew no father.

She gave birth to the venomous serpent.

She gave birth to the great dragon. 

She gave birth to the exalted serpent.

She gave birth to the furious snake. 

She gave birth to the hairy one.

She gave birth to the great beast. 

She gave birth to the mad lion.

She gave birth to the scorpion-man.

She gave birth to the violent storm.

She gave birth to the fish-man. 

She gave birth to the bull-man.

She chose the foremost from among the gods — the one whose voice was louder than that of his brothers, Qingu, whose might would rival that of the champion of the gods. He was consecrated in the assembly of the gods and upon his chest, Tiamat placed the Tablet of Destiny that bore the secret spell of divine order. She decreed him her consort and lent her power to him. She set a throne before him, and entrusted him with the power of divine rule by giving him the rod and ring.

Before him and the assembly of the gods, she spoke her words as an unalterable spell: Who is like unto you, O exalted one among the gods? To you I have given power and majesty, the gods shall look to you as my consort and their leader. Your word is as a divine utterance; that which issues from your mouth shall be a holy decree.

Imbued with the power of divine rule and the holy word, Qingu addressed the gods assembled before him and the glistening Tiamat. He rose from his throne and spoke: may the words you speak be propitious. I shall go forth and subdue the four-faced god.

I shall bring all who oppose you to heel.

3 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

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