The myths of Lilith and Eva
Posted by Fredsvenn on September 6, 2015
Although, a few isolated pockets in Assyria/Upper Mesopotamia aside, it largely died out by approximately 400 CE, Mesopotamian religion has still had an influence on the modern world, predominantly because many biblical stories that are today found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandaeism were possibly originally based upon earlier Mesopotamian myths, in particular that of the creation myth, the Garden of Eden, the flood myth, the Tower of Babel and figures such as Nimrod and Lilith, who seems to have been based on the Assyrian demoness Lilitu.
Creatures resembling Lilith are first mentioned in the Mesopotamian mythology, however they do not take the shape of the characters from subsequent Jewish legends yet. Lilith is a Hebrew name for a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be in part derived from a historically far earlier class of female demons (līlīṯu) in Mesopotamian religion, found in cuneiform texts of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, and Babylonia.
Goddess of the night, Adam’s first wife who according to Jewish beliefs was created together with him, she, however, rebelled against his need to dominate and fled from Eden. The meaning of her name varies from Night Creature, Night Monster, Demon, Screech Owl, Lady Air, Wind or Spirit. In Jewish folklore, from Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards, Lilith becomes Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time (Rosh Hashanah) and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs.
Adam wanted Lilith to have sex with him but when it turned out that she was expected to lie below him, she refused firmly. She could not accept such a position because she was created from the same clay as Adam therefore she was equal to a man, not subjected to him. Enfuriated she spoke the Ineffable Name and flew to the Red Sea.
Adam complained to his Creator and Yahwe sent three angels, Sanvi, Sansanvi and Semangelaf, to Lilith to convince her to return. But this made Lilith even more enraged so she refused to come back and began relationship with Samael, an angel rebelled against Yahwe. Angels warned her that if she would not return to Adam, she would have to bear one hundred little demons every day but they would all die. Despite this threat Lilith did not surrender and did not return to Eden.
This is why Yahwe created an obedient and subordinate Eve from Adam’s rib and Lilith, out of revenge that her own children die, captures the newly born descendants of Adam. Other legends say that Lilith incarnated as a vengeful serpent who convinced Eve to pluck the apple. It is also said that having been expelled from the Paradise Adam separated from his second wife and lived as a hermit, at that time Lilith returned to him as a demon in his dreams.
The legend was greatly developed during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar, and Jewish mysticism. For example, in the 13th century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she coupled with the archangel Samael.
While researching the Epic of Gilgamesh Samuel Noah Kramer (1932, published 1938) studied the text of the Twelfth Tablet which was not originally included in the poem, but is a later Assyrian Akkadian translation of the latter part of the Sumerian poem of Gilgamesh and the Netherworld dated c.600 BC. He translated ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith.
The ki-sikil-lil-la-ke is associated with a serpent and a zu bird (Sumerian: AN.ZUD, AN.ZUD, AN.IM.DUGUD.MUŠEN; cuneiform: an.zud.mušen), also known as Imdugud, is a lesser divinity or monster in several Mesopotamian religions. He was conceived by the pure waters of the Apsu and the wide Earth, or as son of Siris. Anzû was seen as a massive bird who can breathe fire and water, although Anzû is alternately seen as a lion-headed eagle (like a reverse griffin).
In Gilgamesh and the Netherworld, a huluppu tree grows in Inanna’s garden in Uruk, whose wood she plans to use to build a new throne. After ten years of growth, she comes to harvest it and finds a serpent living at its base, a Zu bird raising young in its crown, and that a ki-sikil-lil-la-ke made a house in its trunk.
According to the tablet, Gilgamesh, asked by Inanna, has smitten the serpent, made the Zu bird fly away to the mountains with its young while ki-sikil-lil-la-ke fearfully destroy her house and fly to the forest. Identification of ki-sikil-lil-la-ke as Lilith is stated in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (1999). According to a new source from Late Antiquity, Lilith appears in a Mandaic magic story where she is considered to represent the branches of a tree with other demonic figures that form other parts of the tree, though this may also include multiple “Liliths”.
There is not enough evidence to identify Lilith with ki-sikil-lil-la-ke. The only thing that can be determined with high probability is the analysis of the tree spirit’s name: ki-sikil means ‘sacred place’, lil is ‘spirit’ and il-la-ke can be either ‘water spirit’ or an owl.
Assyriologists have recognized that Sumerian ki-sikil-tur and ki-sikil, Akkadian batultu and ardatu, are age-grades, covering the period between the onset of puberty and marriage. Both Finkelstein and Landsberger considered the batultu to be the younger of the two, ki- sikil- tur, the barely nubile to young adolescent, whereas ardatu would be an older adolescent girl.
In actual Akkadian usage, ardatu is confined to literary texts, whereas batultu, attested only after the Old Babylonian period, is the word that would be used for adolescent girls in royal enumerations of booty, and in personnel lists and legal texts.
The Sumerian terms are restricted entirely to literary texts; the only case where a girl seems to progress from ki-sikil-tur to ki-sikil is in Enlil and Ninlil, where Ninlil first appears as ki-sikil-tur alongside Enlil as guruš-tur, but subsequently is called ki-sikil.
Sacred prostitution was common in the Ancient Near East as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare. Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna.
According to one of the Sumerian texts, Lilitu is Inanna’s handmaiden, a beautiful prostitute whom the goddess sends to the streets so that she seduce men there. Naditu is the designation of a legal position for women in Babylonian society and for Sumerian temple slaves. The latter were primarily involved in business activities and were allowed to own property.
Nadītu were mainly particular women not living in the patriarchal family relations that Babylonian society regarded as normal. Nadītu lived in monastic buildings, but in general did own their home within these complexes, and were independent. They could engage in contracts, borrow money and perform other business transactions normally denied to women; records show that they were very active. Usually these women were part of the elite, often from royal families.
There were a lot of writers among the nadītu. According to the epic of Gilgamesh, writing is attributed to a goddess. In the temple of Inanna in Erech the earliest writing tablets are found, dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Many nadītu lived there as priestess. Along the rivers Tigris and Euphrates many temples are still found in worship of Inanna and where these nadītu resided in active service.
The 5000 year old temple in Uruk (biblical Erech), the temple of E-anna (“house of heaven”), is the largest of these, being regularly rebuilt and expanded. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).
A sculpture of a woman’s head and the well-known Warka Vase (now in the museum of Baghdad) have been discovered there, showing reliefs of archaic Mother goddess culture: images of sacred properties and forests, men harvesting produce and goats indicating the symbols of social order of that time.
Enlil (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Storm”) is the god of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance). It was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets.
Enlil is associated with the ancient holy city of Nippur, sometimes referred to as the cult city of Enlil. His temple was named Ekur, “House of the Mountain.” Such was the sanctity acquired by this edifice that Babylonian and Assyrian rulers, down to the latest days, vied with one another to embellish and restore Enlil’s seat of worship. Eventually, the name Ekur became the designation of a temple in general.
As Enlil was the only god who could reach An, the god of heaven, he held sway over the other gods who were assigned tasks by his agent and would travel to Nippur to draw in his power. He is thus seen as the model for kingship. Enlil was assimilated to the north “Pole of the Ecliptic”. His sacred number name was 50.
Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil. After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.
Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.
She lived in Dilmun with her family. Raped and ravaged by her husband Enlil, who impregnated her with water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.
Enlil impregnated her disguised as the gatekeeper, where upon she gave birth to their son Nergal, god of death. In a similar manner she conceived the underworld god Ninazu when Enlil impregnated her disguised as the man of the river of the nether world, a man-devouring river. Later Enlil disguised himself as the man of the boat, impregnating her with a fourth deity Enbilulu, god of rivers and canals. All of these act as substitutes for Nanna/Suen to ascend.
Enki (Sumerian: EN.KI(G)) is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians.
A large number of myths about Enki have been collected from many sites, stretching from Southern Iraq to the Levantine coast. He figures in the earliest extant cuneiform inscriptions throughout the region and was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times.
The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.
Enki was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for “40,” occasionally referred to as his “sacred number.” The planet Mercury was associated with him.
Enki is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp. Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu, the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. His main temple to Enki is called E-abzu, meaning “abzu temple” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu.
Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water flowing into his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the ‘Life Essence’, which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.
In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman, she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.
The cosmogenic myth common in Sumer was that of the hieros gamos, a sacred marriage where divine principles in the form of dualistic opposites came together as male and female to give birth to the cosmos. In the epic Enki and Ninhursag, Enki, as lord of Ab or fresh water (also the Sumerian word for semen), is living with his wife in the paradise of Dilmun, where the gods where living. Dilmun had no water and Enki heard the cries of its Goddess, Ninsikil, meaning used for (un-married) “adolescent girl”, and orders the sun-God Utu to bring fresh water from the Earth for Dilmun.
The subsequent tale, with similarities to the Biblical story of the forbidden fruit, repeats the story of how fresh water brings life to a barren land. Enki, the Water-Lord then “caused to flow the ‘water of the heart” and having fertilised his consort Ninhursag, also known as Ki or Earth, after “Nine days being her nine months, the months of ‘womanhood’… like good butter, Nintu, the mother of the land, …like good butter, gave birth to Ninsar, (Lady Greenery)”.
When Ninhursag left him, as Water-Lord he came upon Ninsar (Lady Greenery). Not knowing her to be his daughter, and because she reminds him of his absent consort, Enki then seduces and has intercourse with her. Ninsar then gave birth to Ninkurra (Lady Fruitfulness or Lady Pasture), and leaves Enki alone again. A second time, Enki, in his loneliness finds and seduces Ninkurra, and from the union Ninkurra gave birth to Uttu (weaver or spider, the weaver of the web of life).
A third time Enki succumbs to temptation, and attempts seduction of Uttu. Upset about Enki’s reputation, Uttu consults Ninhursag, who, upset at the promiscuous wayward nature of her spouse, advises Uttu to avoid the riverbanks, the places likely to be affected by flooding, the home of Enki.
In another version of this myth Ninhursag takes Enki’s semen from Uttu’s womb and plants it in the earth where eight plants rapidly germinate. Enki, in the swampland, eats it. And so, despite warnings, Enki consumes the other seven fruits. Enki had eaten forbidden flowers and was then cursed by Ninhursag. Consuming his own semen, he falls pregnant (ill with swellings) in his jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his hip, his throat, his limbs, his side and his rib. The gods are at a loss to know what to do, chagrinned they “sit in the dust”.
As Enki lacks a womb with which to give birth, he seems to be dying with swellings. The fox then asks Enlil King of the Gods, “If i bring Ninhursag before thee, what shall be my reward?” Ninhursag’s sacred fox then fetches the goddess. Persuaded by the other gods to heal him Ninhursag relents and takes Enki’s Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body; Abu for the Jaw, Nintul for the Hip, Ninsutu for the tooth, Ninkasi for the mouth, Dazimua for the side and Enshagag for the Limbs.
The last one, Ninti (Lady Rib), is also a pun on Lady Life, a title of Ninhursag herself. The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess.
Uttu in Sumerian mythology is the goddess of weaving and clothing. She is both the child of Enki and Ninkur, and she bears seven new child/trees from Enki, the eighth being the Ti (Tree of “Life”, associated with the “Rib”). When Enki then ate Uttu’s children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and disappears. Uttu in Sumerian means “the woven” and she was illustrated as a spider in a web. She is a goddess in the pantheon.
Ninti is the Sumerian goddess of life. She is also one of the eight goddesses of healing who was created by Ninhursag to heal Enki’s body. Her specific healing area was the rib. Some scholars suggest that this served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam’s rib in the Book of Genesis.
Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means “the mother of all living”, and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba. This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah (חוה), who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise.
Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long Akkadian poem on the theme of human beings’ futile quest for immortality. A number of earlier Sumerian stories about Gilgamesh, the quasi-historical hero of the epic, seem to have been used as sources, but the Akkadian work was composed about 2000 BC. It exists in several different rescissions, none of them complete.
Adapa, the first of the Mesopotamian seven sages, was a mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality a story first attested in the Kassite period of the late second millennium BC (14th century BC), in fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna, and from Assur, of the late second millennium BC.
Adapa broke the wings of Ninlil the South Wind, who had overturned his fishing boat, and was called to account before Anu. Ea, his patron god, warned him to apologize humbly for his actions, but not to partake of food or drink while he was in heaven, as it would be the food of death. Anu, impressed by Adapa’s sincerity, offered instead the food of immortality, but Adapa heeded Ea’s advice, refused, and thus missed the chance for immortality that would have been his.
Parallels are apparent with the story of Persephone visiting Hades, who was warned to take nothing from that kingdom. Parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining death.
Creation of man
The goddess Aruru, the goddess of creation, makes Enkidu of clay from the river. God made Adam from clay from the soil. Both were made to do the will of the god(s), nothing more. They were both made from the same material, in the same way, for the same basic purpose. However, there’s one huge difference. Adam was made by a god, while Enkidu was made by a goddess. So, in the 1500 years separating these two books, women went from being respected while working as prostitutes in the temple to being the first sinners ever.
In the Bible: “…Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold…”
The tree of the knowledge
One gets the notion from Genesis’s narrator that by “eating a fruit” one can “obtain knowledge.” This concept appears in Sumerian myths. Kramer has noted that Enki, the god of Wisdom, desires “to know” about several plants in his wife’s garden. Enki’s youngest son, Ningizzida, was Lord of the Tree of Truth, in Mesopotamia and had obtained the secret knowledge of creation.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is one of two trees in the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3, along with the tree of life. A cylinder seal, known as the temptation seal, from post-Akkadian periods in Mesopotamia (c. 23rd-22nd century BCE), has been linked to the Adam and Eve story.
Assyriologist George Smith (1840-1876) describes the seal as having two facing figures (male and female) seated on each side of a tree, holding out their hands to the fruit, while between their backs is a serpent, giving evidence that the fall of man account was known in early times of Babylonia.
The word “Adam”, as the proper name for the first man, can be misleading. It comes from ha-adam in Hebrew, which translates to “the man”—Hebrew has no capital letters. The word adam is extracted from adamah, meaning country, earth, ground, husband, earth, or land. This suggests the context in Genesis 3:19, when God says “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The name represents the material from which he was made. He wasn’t an actual person. Adapa means father/Water, apa/ada.