Back to Home Page or Contents or Asian Mythology or Article Index
Tiamat, Mesopotamian (Babylonian-Akkadian), was a Babylonian sea-dragon, presumably originating from the Sumerian monster Labbu begot and killed by Enlil. The Enuma Elish describes the events in the universe prior to the creation of a new world order by Marduk. Initially there were the mingled waters of Abzu, the abyss of sweet water, Tiamat, the salt-water ocean, and Mammu, the mists hovering over their surfaces. Abzu and Tiamat were the parents of the first gods, Lahmu and Lahamu; their children were Ansar and Kisar, and grandchildren Enu and Ea. All the commotion made by the young deities greatly annoyed Abzu and Tiamat, who upon the advice of Mammu, decided to destroy them. When Ea learned of their plot, he used his magical powers to thwart it, and perhaps even killed Abzu. The final deliverance, however, was achieved through the son of Ea, Marduk.
According to legend before this deliverance occurred a cosmic war evolved. Timat was sadden by Abzu's death, and greatly angered. The news reached the other gods that she was making fearsome war preparations which at first dismayed them. Along with her second husband Kingu, and an army of dragon and serpent forms, Tiamat, mother of the gods, aimed at universal destruction. Chaos gripped the world. In an attempt to counteract Tiamat's terrible threat, Anser proposed that Marduk be appointed divine champion and armed with 'matchless weapons' for the terrible battle. This was agreed upon as well as Marduk's insistence that he be acknowledged first among the gods. With bow and trident, club and net, and an amoury of winds he rode his chariot into the fray. When Tiamat opened her jaws to swallow him Marduk launched a mighty wind right into her mouth, so she could not close it, shot an arrow into her stomach and slew her. He took her followers captive, and fastened upon his own breast the tablets of destiny-the wedding gift of Tiamat to Kingu. Then he sliced her carcass in two halves; out of one he made heaven, from the other he formed earth. On the earth, he formed humankind from the blood of Kingu before returning to his temple in Babylon.
In another version of this legend Tiamat is depicted as a primordial, creation sea-goddess being the power of the ocean waters who begets eleven monsters. She becomes enraged by the death of her first husband now called Apsu, the underground sweet water, is killed by Enki who cooperated with the gods under the leadership of Marduk. In this version Tiamat is reported to have created an exact replica of Apsu, the Esarra. The cosmic battle also is waged and Marduk defeats Tiamat. He then splits her in two, one half becomes the vault of heaven; her eyes become the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates with mountains rising over her head.
Others imagined Tiamat as possibly being a composite creature, part animal, part serpent, part bird, revolting in appearance, and dreadful in anger. She was evil: a she-dragon. They claimed she lost all attributes of a mother goddess. This West African myth of the dragon is at odds with the creation order, found in its fullest in the conflict between Marduk and Tiamat.
Some think Tiamat is a prototype of Satan. In this instance one might speculate that those thinking this might be over influenced by a Christian background. This comment emerges because of another ending of this myth: This is a paradoxical creation myth, even though the chaos-monster was slain and dismembered she remained the body of the universe and was manifest through her children, the gods and goddesses from whom Bel-Marduk received homage. Within this ending there occurs a transformation of evil to good; Tiamat is not entirely stripped of her good attributes, but rather they come out in her children. Perhaps this is why by some Marduk is considered a lord of magic.
In an evolutionary view of Tiamat those who favor the archetypal Satanic view of this primordial deity may be more correct. Initially her furor began with the murder of Apsu and grew fueled by the desire for revenge. Since she was a creator sea-dragon her surviving attributes would be inherited by her children and their children. Even though the deities paid homage to Marduk after he defeated her in their cosmic battle, the future generations might not give him and his successors such homage. The survival instinct of their paternal grandmother resides within them. Coupled with this is the belief that the blood of her second Kingu was used in creating humanity. Therefore her survival characteristics also survive in humanity and will naturally keep reappearing. This has been seen in Lilith and her children including Kali and Hecate. Such children through succubi and incubi copulated with mankind, generating those of 'true' free will and self-determination and self-control; those dancing to their own music, rebels. A.G.H.
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology,
New York, G. P. Putman's Sons, 1980. pp. 51-52
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, pp. 260-261
and witchcraft Great
and present Beliefs People
and sects Rituals
and texts Shamanism