Back to Home Page or Contents or Asian Mythology or Article Index
Enki, lord of the soul, Mesopotamian (Sumerian) [Iraq], is a creator god, god of wisdom, and god of sweet water. His time of worship extended from about 3500 BC to 1750 BC. As a god of water Enki was a major Sumerian deity. He was the son of An and Nammuand considered a late comer to the pantheon. His consort is Damkina and his sanctuary at Eridu is E-engurra. Usually, he is represented as a figure in typical horned headdress and tiered shirt with two streams of water (Tigris and Euphrates) springing from his shoulders or from a vase and including leaping fish. He may also hold the eagle-like Imdugud (thunder) bird, thus signifying clouds rising from the waters. His foot may rest on an ibex. His offspring include Asalluha, Nin-sar (by Ninhursaga), Nin-imma (by Ninkurra), and Uttu (by Ninmah).
The character of Enki is complex and at times Machiavellian. He is in charge of the functioning of everyday life; in creation mythology, he organized the earth and established law and order. Also, he is seen in heroic light, as being one of the three principle deities engaged in the primordial battle of good and evil, the latter personified in Kur, the dragon. In the Sumerian creation epic, Enki set out in a boat to avenge the abduction by Kur of the goddess Ereskigal. Kur fought back with huge stones.
Enki also is described as instigating the cosmic battle between Marduk and Tiamat Because of Enki's murder of Apsu Tiamat warred with Marduk who defeated her, cutting her in two to form the heaven and earth.
Enki is perceived as filling the Tigris and Euphrates with sacred sweet water. Also, he assigned duties related to the well-being of the natural world to various minor deities. Additionally he was the god of artists and craftsmen.
In one legend Enki generated plants from his own seamen and kept them in his body until he became ill. Then Ninhursaga placed him in her vagina and gave birth to his progeny. Inanna, Ninhursaga, and Enlil are variously described, and at times are adversaries. A.G.H.
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 76