Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Sumerian Triad of Heaven

Posted by Fredsvenn on April 21, 2019

Engraving depicting four antropomorphic deities and two animals

List of Mesopotamian deities


Dingir (usually transliterated DIĜIR) is a Sumerian word for “god.” Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for religious names and related concepts, in which case it is not pronounced and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna.

The cuneiform sign by itself was originally an ideogram for the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”); its use was then extended to a logogram for the word diĝir (“god” or goddess) and the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon An, and a phonogram for the syllable /an/.

Akkadian took over all these uses and added to them a logographic reading for the native ilum and from that a syllabic reading of /il/. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again only an.

The concept of “divinity” in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for “sky”, and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of “divinity” is thus with “bright” or “shining” hierophanies in the sky.

Anu is identified with the north ecliptic pole centered in the constellation Draco and, along with his sons Enlil and Enki (Ellil and Ea in Akkadian) he formed the highest divine triad personifying the three bands of constellations of the vault of the sky.

Together they constituted a triune conception of the divine, in which Anu represented a transcendental obscurity, Enlil the transcendent and Enki the immanent aspect of the divine.

Though Anu was the supreme God, he was rarely worshipped, and, by the time that written records began, the most important cult was devoted to his son Enlil. The Sumerians believed that, until Enlil was born, heaven and earth were inseparable. Then, Enlil cleaved heaven and earth in two and carried away the earth while his father An carried away the sky.

In astral theology, the three—Anu, Enlil and Enki—also personified the three bands of the sky, and the contained constellations, spinning around the ecliptic, respectively the middle, northern and southern sky.

These three deities together were the embodiment of all the fixed stars in the night sky. An was identified with all the stars of the equatorial sky, Enlil with those of the northern sky, and Enki with those of the southern sky.


Anu or An is the divine personification of the sky, supreme God, and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion. He was the personification of the sky, the utmost power, the supreme God, the one who contains the entire universe. His name meant the One on High.

Anu was believed to be source of all legitimate power; he was the one who bestowed the right to rule upon gods and kings alike. Anu was the supreme source of authority among the gods, and among men, upon whom he conferred kingship. As heaven’s grand patriarch, he dispensed justice and controlled the laws known as the meh that governed the universe.

Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers. His primary role in the Sumerian pantheon was as an ancestor figure; the most powerful and important deities in the Sumerian pantheon were believed to be the offspring of Anu and his consort Ki.

These deities were known as the Anunnaki, which means “offspring of Anu”. Although it is sometimes unclear which deities were considered members of the Anunnaki, the group probably included the seven gods who decree: Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna.

By the time of the earliest written records, Anu was rarely worshipped, and veneration was instead devoted to his son Enlil, but, throughout Mesopotamian history, the highest deity in the pantheon was always said to possess the anûtu, meaning “Heavenly power”.

His primary cult center was the Eanna temple in the city of Uruk, whose name means “House of Heaven”, but, by the Akkadian Period (c. 2334 – 2154 BC), his authority in Uruk had largely been ceded to the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven.

Although the temple was originally dedicated to Anu it was later transformed into the primary cult center of Inanna. After its dedication to Inanna, the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess.

The Amorite god Amurru was sometimes equated with Anu. He is a western Semitic god originally sometimes called Ilu Amurru (DMAR.TU). He was the patron god of the Mesopotamian city of Ninab, whose exact location is unknown.

Later, during the Seleucid Empire (213 BC — 63 BC), Anu was identified with Enmešara and Dumuzid (Tamuz). Enmesarra, or Enmešarra, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld god of the law.

Described as a Sun god, protector of flocks and vegetation, and therefore he has been equated with Nergal. On the other hand, he has been described as an ancestor of Enlil, and it has been claimed that Enlil slew him.

In ancient Hittite religion, Anu is a former ruler of the gods, who was overthrown by his son Kumarbi, who bit off his father’s genitals and gave birth to the storm god Teshub, who overthrew Kumarbi, avenged Anu’s mutilation, and became the new king of the gods. This story was the later basis for the castration of Ouranos in Hesiod’s Theogony.

The ecliptic

The ecliptic is the mean plane of the apparent path in the Earth’s sky that the Sun follows over the course of one year; it is the basis of the ecliptic coordinate system. This plane of reference is coplanar with Earth’s orbit around the Sun (and hence the Sun’s apparent path around Earth).

The ecliptic is not normally noticeable from Earth’s surface because the planet’s rotation carries the observer through the daily cycles of sunrise and sunset, which obscure the Sun’s apparent motion against the background of stars during the year. Most of the major bodies of the Solar System orbit the Sun in nearly the same plane. This is likely due to the way in which the Solar System formed from a protoplanetary disk.

Because the orbit of the Moon is inclined only about 5.145° to the ecliptic and the Sun is always very near the ecliptic, eclipses always occur on or near it. Because of the inclination of the Moon’s orbit, eclipses do not occur at every conjunction and opposition of the Sun and Moon, but only when the Moon is near an ascending or descending node at the same time it is at conjunction or opposition. The ecliptic is so named because the ancients noted that eclipses only occurred when the Moon crossed it.

The exact instants of equinoxes and solstices are the times when the apparent ecliptic longitude (including the effects of aberration and nutation) of the Sun is 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270°. Because of perturbations of Earth’s orbit and anomalies of the calendar, the dates of these are not fixed.

The poles of Earth’s orbit are referred to as the ecliptic poles. The ecliptic is the plane on which Earth orbits the Sun. The ecliptic poles are the two points where the ecliptic axis, the imaginary line perpendicular to the ecliptic, intersects the celestial sphere. The north orbital poles of the Solar System planets all lie within Draco.

The north and south celestial poles are the two imaginary points in the sky where the Earth’s axis of rotation, indefinitely extended, intersects the celestial sphere. The north and south celestial poles appear permanently directly overhead to an observer at the Earth’s North Pole and South Pole, respectively. As the Earth spins on its axis, the two celestial poles remain fixed in the sky, and all other points appear to rotate around them, completing one circuit per day (strictly, per sidereal day).

The celestial poles do not remain permanently fixed against the background of the stars. Because of a phenomenon known as the procession of the equinoxes, the poles trace out circles on the celestial sphere, with a period of about 25,700 years.

An astrological age is a time period in astrological theology which astrologers claim parallels major changes in the development of Earth’s inhabitants, particularly relating to culture, society, and politics.

There are twelve astrological ages corresponding to the twelve zodiacal signs in western astrology. Advocates believe that when one cycle of the twelve astrological ages is completed, another cycle of twelve ages begins. The length of one cycle of twelve ages is 25,860 years.

The most popular method of sub-dividing astrological ages is to divide each age equally into twelve sub-periods with the first sub-period Aries, followed by Taurus, Gemini, and so on, until the last sub-division, Pisces.


Enki was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field. The Babylonian constellation IKU (field) had four stars of which three were later part of the Greek constellation Hippos (Pegasus), a constellation in the northern sky, named after the winged horse Pegasus in Greek mythology.

His name means “Lord of the Earth” and his symbols are the fish and the goat, both representations of fertility. Capricorn is the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Capricornus, the horned goat. In astrology, Capricorn is considered an earth sign, negative sign, and one of the four cardinal signs. Capricorn is said to be ruled by the planet Saturn.

It spans the 270–300th degree of the zodiac, corresponding to celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area from about December 22 to January 19 the following year, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits the constellation of Capricorn from approximately January 16 to February 16.

In Vedic Astrology Capricorn was associated with the Crocodile but modern astrologers consider Capricorn as Sea goat. Its symbol is based on the Sumerians’ primordial god of wisdom and waters, Enki, with the head and upper body of a goat and the lower body and tail of a fish.

Later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology, Enki was the god of intelligence (gestú, literally “ear”), creation, crafts; magic; water, seawater and lakewater (a, aba, ab). Enki and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his temple E-apsu, “house of the watery deep”, points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters.

Pisces (Ancient Greek: Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans 330° to 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area between February 19 and March 20. In Sidereal astrology, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 12 to April 18. In classical interpretations, the symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea.

Aquarius is a constellation of the zodiac, situated between Capricornus and Pisces. Its name is Latin for “water-carrier” or “cup-carrier”, and its symbol is a representation of water. Aquarius is one of the oldest of the recognized constellations along the zodiac. It is found in a region often called the Sea due to its profusion of constellations with watery associations such as Cetus the whale, Pisces the fish, and Eridanus the river.

Aquarius was also associated with the destructive floods that the Babylonians regularly experienced, and thus was negatively connoted. In Ancient Egypt astronomy, Aquarius was associated with the annual flood of the Nile; the banks were said to flood when Aquarius put his jar into the river, beginning spring.

In the Greek tradition, the constellation came to be represented simply as a single vase from which a stream poured down to Piscis Austrinus. The name in the Hindu zodiac is likewise kumbha “water-pitcher”.

In Greek mythology, Aquarius is sometimes associated with Deucalion, the son of Prometheus who built a ship with his wife Pyrrha to survive an imminent flood. They sailed for nine days before washing ashore on Mount Parnassus. Aquarius is also sometimes identified with beautiful Ganymede, a youth in Greek mythology and the son of Trojan king Tros, who was taken to Mount Olympus by Zeus to act as cup-carrier to the gods.

It contained the winter solstice in the Early Bronze Age. In Old Babylonian astronomy, Enki, who is commonly depicted holding an overflowing vase, was the ruler of the southernmost quarter of the Sun’s path, the “Way of Ea”, corresponding to the period of 45 days on either side of winter solstice. The Babylonian star-figure appears on entitlement stones and cylinder seals from the second millennium.

Aquarius is identified as GU.LA “The Great One” in the Babylonian star catalogues and represents the goddess Nintinugga, a Babylonian goddess of healing, the consort of Ninurta. Her epithets are “great healer of the land” and “great healer of the black-headed ones”, a “herb grower”, “the lady who makes the broken up whole again”, and “creates life in the land”, making her a vegetation/fertility goddess endowed with regenerative power.

She is identical with the goddess of Akkadian mythology, known as Bau or Baba though it would seem that the two were originally independent. Later as Gula and in medical incantations, Bēlet or Balāti, also as the Azugallatu the “great healer”,same as her son Damu. Other names borne by this goddess are Nin-Karrak, Nin Ezen, Ga-tum-dug and Nm-din-dug.

After the Great Flood, she helped “breathe life” back into mankind. The designation well emphasizes the chief trait of Bau-Gula which is that of healer. She is often spoken of as “the great physician,” and accordingly plays a specially prominent role in incantations and incantation rituals intended to relieve those suffering from disease.


Isimud (also Isinu; Usmû; Usumu (Akkadian)) is a minor god, the messenger of the god Enki, in Sumerian mythology. Isimud plays a similar role to Ninshubur, Inanna’s sukkal. Isimud also appears in the myth of Enki and Ninhursag, in which he acts as Enki’s messenger and emissary.

In ancient Sumerian artwork, Isimud is easily identifiable because he is always depicted with two faces facing in opposite directions in a way that is similar to the ancient Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.

It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus (Ianuarius), but according to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month. Juno was the protector and special counselor of the state. A daughter of Saturn, she is the wife of Jupiter and the mother of Mars, Vulcan, Bellona and Juventas.

She is closely associated with Janus, the god of passages and beginnings who after her is often named Iunonius. Janus owes the epithet Iunonius to his function as patron of all kalends, which are also associated with Juno. while Janus is Iunonius, Juno is Ianualis, as she presides over childbirth and the menstrual cycle, and opens doors.

The relationship of the female sovereign deity with the god of beginnings and passages is reflected mainly in their association with the kalendae of every month, which belong to both, and in the festival of the Tigillum Sororium of October 1. At the kalends of each month the rex sacrorum and the pontifex minor offered a sacrifice to Janus in the curia Calabra, while the regina offered a sow or a she lamb to Juno.

M. Renard advanced the view that Janus and not Juppiter was the original paredra or consort of Juno, on the grounds of their many common features, functions and appearance in myth or rites as is shown by their cross coupled epithets Janus Curiatius and Juno Sororia: Janus shares the epithet of Juno Curitis and Juno the epithet Janus Geminus, as sororius means paired, double.

Renard’s theory has been rejected by G. Capdeville as not being in accord with the level of sovereign gods in Dumézil’s trifunctional structure. The theology of Janus would show features typically belonging to the order of the gods of the beginning.

In Capdeville’s view it is only natural that a god of beginnings and a sovereign mother deity have common features, as all births can be seen as beginnings, Juno is invoked by deliverers, who by custom hold a key, symbol of Janus.

Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans is apparent in her attire. She is often shown armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Athena, who bore a goatskin, or a goatskin shield, called the ‘aegis’.

Uni was the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia. Uni was identified by the Etruscans as their equivalent of Juno in Roman mythology and Hera in Greek mythology.

She formed a triad with her husband Tinia and daughter Menrva, an Etruscan goddess of war, art, wisdom, and medicine who contributed much of her character to Roman Minerva, when that culture evolved.

Tinia (also Tin, Tinh, Tins or Tina) was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. He was the husband of Thalna or Uni and the father of Hercle, a version of the Greek Heracles, depicted as a muscular figure often carrying a club and wearing a lionskin.

According to Macrobius (who cited Nigidius Figulus and Cicero), Janus and Jana (Diana), a Roman goddess of the hunt, the Moon, and nature, associated with wild animals and woodland, are a pair of divinities, worshiped as the sun and moon.

Diana was known as the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, along with Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry. However, according to Cicero and Ennius, Trivia (an epithet of Diana) and Caelus were the parents of Janus, as well as of Saturn and Ops.

When worship of Apollo was first introduced to Rome, Diana became conflated with Apollo’s sister Artemis, and absorbed much of Artemis’ mythology early in Roman history, including a birth on the island of Delos to parents Jupiter and Latona, and a twin brother, Apollo, though she had an independent origin in Italy.

Though Diana was usually considered to be a virgin goddess like Artemis, later authors sometimes attributed consorts and children to her. Oak groves and deer were especially sacred to her. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities; Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god.


The path of Enlil’s celestial orbit was a continuous, symmetrical circle around the north celestial pole, but those of An and Enki were believed to intersect at various points. Enlil was associated with the constellation Boötes, a constellation in the northern sky, located between 0° and +60° declination, and 13 and 16 hours of right ascension on the celestial sphere.

The name comes from the Greek Boōtēs, meaning “herdsman” or “plowman” (literally, “ox-driver”; from bous “cow”).In ancient Babylon, the stars of Boötes were known as SHU.PA. They were apparently depicted as the god Enlil, who was the leader of the Babylonian pantheon and special patron of farmers.

Boötes may have been represented by the foreleg constellation in ancient Egypt. According to this interpretation, the constellation depicts the shape of an animal foreleg.


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