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Theology and Cosmology in Ancient Shumer - Vol 1.



Despite the obvious differences between Arata and Kholinor (it is perhaps unnecessary to note that I here refer to the First Kholinor not the rump that exists today), in both their culture and their origins, they more or less shared the same pantheon and cosmology. Consequently I feel confident in referring, in this general synopsis, to a religion of Shumer. Resolutely polytheistic and anthropomorphic the ancient Shumerian was prepared to assign deities to the many secrets of life that presented themselves. The bewildering array of gold-like personages that issued from these assignations leads to a theological confusion for those of us who strive to categorise such things some millennia after they were originally conceived. Indeed it appears from the monumental evidence that such confusions from time to time worried these ancient folk who subsequently, and occasionally not successfully, endeavoured to square the theological triangle.



It is most likely best to begin with a commonality; these being the ranking of the deities, on all lists that currently survive there is agreement on the foremost four, these being in order of priority:



Anu ('An' in Arata) - The Lord of Heaven

Enlil – The Lord of the Sky/Air

Innana ('Belitili' in Arata) - The Lady of the Gods ('mother' in Arata)

Enkir ('Ea' in Arata) – The Lord of The Earth




Anu was the founder and initial ruler of the divine dynasty; although the actually ruler was his son Enlil, who commanded the Gods and both created and had dominion over Nir . Innana seems to have been a type of representative female, as she is accorded no familial relationship with any of the other gods and therefore having no father or husband cannot be seen as in anyway subservient. Enkir the son of Enlil holds a pre-eminent position for the peoples of Nir, because he, along side his sister, created all the creatures that exist specifically for the purposes of serving the gods. This pre-eminence was eventually, in Arata at least, supplanted by his son Meradoch ('Marduk' in Arata)



For the first 1000 years of recorded history the Ancients seem to have been content to let Anu rest as the head of the pantheon; however, sometime during the 3rd Dynasty of Valhinna it seems also to have been required that these gods (less Inanna) should sit within a more elongated familial dynasty and Anu was given ten antecedents as follows.



Enuruula = Ninuruula

Alalaalam = Belilialam

Alala = Belili

Ekur = Gara

Lahma = Lahama

Duri = Dari

Ensar = Ninsar

Ansar = Kisar

Ansargal = Kisargal

Uraras = Ninuras



These antecedents appear to have served no useful purpose – they were nowhere worshipped nor called upon to intervene in the lives of people. It is further unclear why such an implicitly mythological framework (the female names are too casually assigned) should only contain ten antecedents. Perhaps the numeral ten had an early significance of which we are now no longer aware; and indeed if one looks to those places that currently hold to the old religion; Anu sits at the head of the pantheon once more. However whether the divinities start with Anu or his ancestor Enuruula the question remains, where did the gods come from? The answer to this question was of sufficient importance to require an early answer and this seems to have been formulated towards the beginnings of the 1st Dynasty. The universe before the gods was conceived as a huge and uniform sea; its fertility nurtured by an entity referred to as Nammu. At some point this single 'sea' turned or was turned into two a salty sea and its inferior freshwater equivalent. The former was represented by the divine mother 'Tiamut' and the latter by the subservient Apsu (in Arata - Ansar). The coupling of these two beings produced the first in the line of the Gods. Subsequently, Nammu and Apsu retreat into obscurity after the hard work of creation; but Tiamut persisted in the world and persisted as a sometime malign Lady of the Primaeval Sea.



Let us now provide bulk to the rather sparse list that is the foremost four. Anu has three wives Ninili, Ninursalla and Nammu; the later being the mother of Enlil – the God of the Sky, oft portrayed as a eagle or raven. Enlil is coupled with Ninlil who was called the Lady of the Sea/Water and subsequently was the mother of Enkir, Ninurata and their sister Ninhursag. Nanna, The Moon Goddess (and overseer of harvests) and Utu, The Sun God arose from the coupling of Anu with Ninili and Ninursalla respectively. Also, presumably from the loins of Anu, we have Innana (Arata – Istar) the goddess of love and harmony and Iskur (Arata – Adad) the weather/storm god. (the Innana referred here is not the Lady of the Gods of previously) We should also be reminded before moving on, of the coupling of Enkir and his sister from which issued the champion of Nir, Meradoch. As we shall see there are many others divinities, perhaps a few hundred that make an appearance on more than a few monuments and over two thousand that can be named from but one appearance. But very few of these established any great status outside the local areas that gave birth to them and none of them were sufficiently elevated to become patrons of the great cities; such as Enkir in Eridu, Enlil in Valhina, Utu in Larsa, Ninurata in Lagash and Ea in Akkad



Before moving to describe the cosmology of Shumer it may profit the reader to know the primary difference between the practice of religion in Kholinor and Arata. In Kholinor it was deemed necessary to explain all the workings of the world through the mechanism of supernatural figures who officiated over these workings. Consequently we have lords and ladies (En and Nin) presiding over all manner of associations. From the obvious, Lugalaabba (Lord of the Sea) to the seemingly trivial; Ennamas (Lord of Livestock Pens) and Ninkilim (Lady of Small wild Animals). In Arata such extensive epithets were not deemed necessary and such as there were, were generally used to enhance the majesty of the deity rather than make an association; the latter being restricted to the obviously important such as the sun, rain, storms and harvests.

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