“The Sumerians believed that the first thing that existed was the primordial sea (associated with the goddess Nammu), from which emerged heaven (An) and earth (Ki), united as though they were a large mountain in the midst of the sea. An and Ki produced within or between them Enlil, (Air), and as the air began to stir in the darkness within the mountain, it separated sky and earth.
Then to see better, Enlil begot the modd god Nanna, who in turn begot the sun god, Utu, presumably to make the light brighter. By this time the world had come into being, for the sky (An) by expansion of air (Enlil) had reached a great height, and the earth (Ki) had made a solid floor below, with sun and moon to bring light.
When air moved above earth ( or when Enlil united with his mother Ki) and received the aid of water (Enki), plants and animals came into being. Finally, man was created by the joint efforts of Nammu, the primeval sea, Ninurta mother earth, and Enki, the water god.”
Sumerian creation myth as retold by Neal Robbins
This is one of the oldest recorded myths in human history, dating back to 3000 BCE. These myths date back before the Babylonians and were recovered in the late 20th century by archeologists in southern Iraq. Sumerian culture started in the area upriver from the meeting place of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Their civilization consisted of cities, agriculture (including domesticated animals), a complex social structure, temples, music, and the beginnings of written languages.
The poem/myth continues with the story of how Nammu, tired from days of work digging trenches and making bread, went to her son:
The gods were dredging the rivers,
were piling up their silt
on projecting bends–
and the gods lugging the clay
She woke her son Enki (En = lord, Ki = Earth) and the two of them fashioned humans.
Mix the heart of the clay that is over the abyss,
The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay,
You, [Nammu] do you bring the limbs into existence;
Ninmah [earth-mother or birth goddess] will work above you,
The goddesses [of birth] . . . will stand by you at your fashioning;
O my mother, decree its [the newborn’s] fate,
Ninmah will bind upon it the image (?) of the gods,
It is man . . . .
Creation myths offer an interesting insight into how we have evolved as a race. Looking back at these older myths, poems, and song of our creation the gods are more primal and less human-like. As civilizations have grown our gods/goddesses have become more like us. My personal thought is that it is not so much that we are created in God’s image as we gave the gods our image.
There is a theory that I like that both our bodies and our gods are shaped by the planet on which we live, shaped by the Gaia-sphere. Our bodies are shaped by the DNA of our planet, and the parts of the divine that are able to touch us here are filtered by our mother, Gaia, so that parts of the universe that are alien to us cannot enter. So our images/selves and the images we form of our deities shape each other. This idea has a certain appeal.
In the past few decades we have made startling discoveries into our own histories changing how many of us thought we came to be and even more startling discoveries outside our Gaia-sphere into the possibility of life on other planets. We are beginning to learn how small and tiny we are on this outer spiral of the Milky Way, and yet our expanding knowledge is causing us to grow in leaps and bounds.
I have heard from those of us who are long practitioners of the pagan or magi way speak of the old gods/goddesses returning or re-awakening. I believe our Gaia-sphere is starting to expand. While it is unclear to most what this change will bring, it is clear that change is coming. We are standing on the precipice of change for our species. What is our next evolutionary leap? How much conscious awareness are we going to be able to bring to this evolution?
Nammu (or Namma) and Tiamat
Nammu is the Sumerian goddess of water and creation, and Tiamat is the primordial goddess of the sea who united fresh and salt water to create the cosmos. Tiamat is often seen as a serpent or water dragon in the early portrait of her. Very little is known of Nammu – she is mentioned only once in a line of texts of An-Anum where she is given the title of ‘Mother who gave birth to the heavens and earth’.
It was conventional wisdom among archeologists that Tiamat evolved from Nammu, that they are both one and the same. Both later then evolved into Ishtar. As a pagan worshipper who has studied and worked with both they share an archetype of creation goddesses but they are three separate beings.
Nammu gave up her power willingly, handing it over to her son Enki. Tiamat was betrayed by her children, who slaughtered her and flung her body into the heavens where she became the night sky. Nammu represents the sweet water of life; Tiamat represents the salty water of birth. These are just simple examples of their differences.
Both represent a primal aspect of creation. I met Tiamat first, in my younger baby pagan days. I must admit that my first dealings with her were not pleasant. I had fallen into that Christian mindset of not really understanding the underworld, but that’s another topic for another day.
Nammu is really the one I want to talk about today.
Nammu first came to me in dreams, very hard and graphic dreams. In these dreams I was always worshipping in her temples, and every one ended with my death as the temples were attacked and all within slaughtered. Yet with these horrible dreams there was an overwhelming sense of peace. I was in the right place and I died in the right way, in her presence. I am struggling to find the words to really describe all that I felt in these dreams. It comes down to an overwhelming sense of being mothered. That sensation a child feels when picked up by a parent and hugged or rocked to feel safe. There was the sensation of familiarity within the dream – the layout of the temple, the colors, the smells – even in death. The dreams ended with me being cradled in the palm of a giant purple/garnet colored dragon whispering ‘Remember…”.
When a dragon tells you to remember something, it’s easy to remember.
Nammu is active again now, after 5,000 years of slumber. At the changing of our age, she is once again creating and becoming part of the new age. As a caring mother-creator, her energy is present and growing around us.
For a long time, human deities have ruled the mind of humanity. In the dark ages humanity was isolated from many influences. This time of isolation is over, and many teachers will be returning to us. One of the things I would like to talk more about in this blog is how one worships or works with a deity or being that isn’t human. Working with dragons, Fae, and other non-humans isn’t the same as working with the more human deities. For now keep in mind that these beings are not human – they don’t think like humans and they need or want little from humans. They are willing to teach, however, if one shows curiosity and initiative.