Enki & Enlil
Enki & Enlil
When learning about the Anunnaki, you often hear two names: Enki and Enlil. While several “central characters” exist in the legends of the Anunnaki, considerably of the action revolves around these two sibling rivals.
This article consists of a crash course into the legend of Enki and Enlil. This is a complex topic, and I want to lay the groundwork before jumping into it. So here are the basics. When we talk about the Anunnaki, we refer to the ancient gods of Mesopotamia. However, the Anunnaki may have been extraterrestrial visitors to planet Nibiru which orbits around the sun. Naturally, the alien space theory doesn’t fly in the mainstream. Still, it was popularised by a Russian-born American author called Zecharia Sitchin.
Since he described his ideas to the world, they have become a recognisable fixture in popular civilisation. I will introduce Enki and Enlil in Sumerian mythology and their establishment in the Mesopotamian pantheon. Then I will inform you how they figure into the ancient flood legend. Finally, I will explain how they inspired other mythologies and faiths, such as Christianity.
Sumerian Pantheon & Creation Myth:
The Sumerian pantheon consists of many gods connected to one another. It is most straightforward to explain the formation of this family tree by beginning with Anu. Anu is “An,” meaning the Great Father of the Sky. He is the original ultimate deity in the pantheon, lord of all the other gods. Nevertheless, as the Sumerian tale develops, he loses this position, passing it off to Enlil and Marduk (in Babylonian lore). Within the family tree, Anu is not the first god.
Anshar and Kishar are his parents and are two primordial gods. Suppose you are versed in Greek mythology. In that case, you can think of these primordial gods as the titans who forewent the Greek gods. After the Greek gods beat the titans, the significance of the titans took a backseat to the importance of the gods.
The primordial gods factor into the creation mythology of the Sumerians but are not as important after that.
Anu’s two consorts are Antu, Ki, the Earth Mother and Great Mother of the Sky. Both blessed him with children.
- Ki gave birth to Enlil, who is the lord of the earth and air, Guardian of the Tablet of Destinies, and later to be Nin khursag, Lady of Mountains.
- Antu’s child was Enki, Lord of the Waters and earth, also known as “Ea.”
Enki and Enlil are half-brothers. Enlil cleaved the earth from heaven. At this moment, he and Ki took command of the earth while Anu resumed reigning in heaven.
What is the Tablet of Destinies?
As mentioned, Enlil the “Guardian of the Tablet of Destinies.” This is a mythical object of the highest importance. It is believed to be a clay tablet engraved with cuneiform. Whichever god owned it was considered the ruler of the universe. Note that “Tablet of Destinies” is the correct name for this object.
According to numerous texts, Enlil had the Tablet for a long time, making him the ultimate ruler of the universe, overtaking even Anu. Finally, a Sumerian poem, “Ninurta and the Turtle”, mentions Enki containing the Tablet.
The Tablet switches hands several times. At one moment, Tiamat, the Dragon Queen, possesses it. She passes it to her consort Kingu, who becomes commander of her army. Marduk, Enki’s son, defeats Tiamat in single combat, then beats Kingu, claiming the Tablet and the command for himself. At that point, Marduk becomes the ultimate ruler.
This whole story with Marduk only occurs in the myth’s Babylonian version. In the Sumerian interpretation, Enlil defeats Tiamat and reigns on top.
Genesis Of The Flood Myth:
If you have read about the Anunnaki in the Bible, you probably knew I would get around to this. This is where a lot of the narratives of the Anunnaki connect. And as you may also have assumed, Enki and Enlil are important characters.
The Christian - Judeo Version:
Many individuals are aware of the flood myth in the Bible. This is the narrative of Noah’s Ark. The overview version is that Yahweh was getting fed up with the sins of humanity. More precisely, He was upset about the corruption of humankind by beings referred to as the “Nephilim.” For instance, view this passage from The Book of Jubilees, 7:21 - 25:
“ For owing to these three things came to the flood upon the earth, namely, owing to the fornication wherein the Watchers against the law of their ordinances went a whoring after the daughters of men and took themselves wives of all which they chose: and they made the beginning of uncleanness.”
Equating the “Nephilim” or the “Watchers” with the Anunnaki is easy. The fallen angels carried science and technology to humankind but did it to enslave and corrupt them. As a result, interbreeding occurred, leading to a race of demigods.
The Sumerian Version:
The Sumerian flood mythology is older than the one in Genesis. This view is shared by many scholars. It is thought that many early ancient Hebrews were residents of Mesopotamia. This would have allowed them to pick up on the Sumerian mythologies and legends and utilise them as a basis for their religion. Several Sumerian texts feature a great flood in one shape or another. The earliest known sample is in the Epic of Ziusudra. Others contain the Epic of Atrahasis and the renowned Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the narrative that resembles the later Genesis version featured in the Bible. Interestingly, it was not originally included in the tablets; it was later edited into Tablet XI by somebody inspired by the Epic of Atrahasis. The Eridu Genesis was uncovered on a fragmentary tablet by historian Thorkild J. This is how we discovered the Sumerian creation myth. Because the tablets are incomplete, bits and pieces of the tale still need to be included. In origin, we find that Anu, Enlil, Enki and Nin-khursag have constructed human beings.
Cities have been established, and life is thriving. There is then a section that requires to be added. We discover that a major destructive flood is arriving. Unfortunately, the pantheon has chosen not to warn humankind or do anything to save them.
Enki determines he isn’t okay with this, so he alerts a hero and tells him he should create an Ark. In the Eridu Genesis, this hero is called Atra-hasis. Known Epic of Gilgamesh, it is Utnapishtim. The tales of Enlil and Enki are intertwined deeply into the fabric of Sumerian legends. These two played a role in multiple different aspects of the mythos. There are numerous ways that I could approach this discussion. The simplest way to arrange the information would be to write a summary of each. While I could tell a detailed chronology of events, I find it easier to remember information when presented with specific characters.
Humanity's Oppressor - Enlil:
Enlil’s role in Sumerian mythology can be calculated regarding humanity in one word: oppressor. Enlil was the god who originally authorised the creation of the human race. That would be a positive thing, but the reason he wanted human beings was so he would have an enslaved race to do his bidding.
This was a bid for power among the gods. In the Sumerian myth, many gods are on strike because they are exhausted from maintaining creation. Enlil offers to solve the strike issue if he is named the ultimate ruler of the gods. In this narrative version, he subdues Tiamat. Later, Enlil gets tired of humanity’s “noise” and, as a result, decides to exterminate them all with the great flood. This was easy for him to do as the god of weather. This carries us back to the narrative of Utnapishtim, who was rescued by Enki and corresponded to Noah in Judeo-Christian mythology. Enlil finally gets over his anger after the flood and makes Utnapishtim immortal.
Enki: Humanity's Champion:
Now let’s talk about Enki, Enlil’s half-brother. Enki’s role can be totalled up as humankind’s creator and champion. While Enlil is fighting with Tiamat, Enki misses everything because he is asleep. Thankfully, his mother, Antu, known as “Nammu,” can speak with him. She says:
Oh, my son, arise from thy bed, from thy (slumber), work what is wise, Fashion servants for the Gods, may they produce their (bread?).
Enki then wakes up and suggests the creation of a slave race using humanity. Now, you might believe this made it his idea, but in fact, it was Enlil’s. First, Enlil spoke to Nammu, who then offered the idea to Enki. Enki creates human beings from a clay mixture and the blood of the god Kingu. You may have heard of Prometheus, the ancient titan who formed humankind out of clay in Greek mythology. These two functions are very similar; like Prometheus, Enki protects and stands up for the human race in disputes with the gods.
Returning to the flood narrative, Enki was not pleased when he realised Enlil planned to wipe out the race he had created. So he took it upon himself to alert Utnapishtim. He told Utnapishtim to build an Ark. Like Noah, Utnapishtim was directed to load the Ark up with animals. But instead, he preserved life on earth with his wife when the flood was unleashed. After the waters began to reduce, he released the animals to repopulate the planet. But, as said, Enlil eventually overcame his outrage and granted Utnapishtim and his wife immortality.
The Extraterrestrial Version Of The Flood Myth:
The current extraterrestrial version was popularised by author Z Sitchin in volumes such as The Lost Book of Enki. The idea is this: the Anunnaki were not gods or just gods—they were alien travellers from outer space. You have probably heard Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote, “Any fine advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This is the underlying presumption in correlating the Anunnaki with aliens. If ancient humans encountered beings from another world, they would describe them in a language that made sense then. For example, they did not have the word “aliens,” so they would call them “gods.”
There are numerous parallels and arguments that Sitchin and other alien Anunnaki theorists draw across the texts. Unfortunately, there is no way to total it all up here, but here are a few key points:
- The Anunnaki originate from the planet Nibiru.
- They came to earth to mine gold, which they needed to power their civilisation. They constructed and enslaved humanity to do the hard work for them.
- All the familiar players from Sumerian mythology—Enlil, Enki, Anu, Marduk and the rest—were actually alien administrators.
- Nibiru is in a long orbit around the sun. The last time it came close to the earth, it upset the tides, causing the great flood.
- Eventually, Nibiru will return, causing another cataclysm.
People in the mainstream consider Sitchin’s work with some insult—but I would argue that it supports viewing the extraterrestrial story as modern mythology. Think about it for an instant. Even the Sumerian and Babylonian texts dispute whatever seed of truth may have inspired them. There are some inconsistencies involving Sitchin’s alien approach, but there are inconsistencies between the ancient texts.
I hope you now have a much more powerful understanding of Enki and Enlil and their positions in Sumerian mythology and the Anunnaki alien mythos. It would benefit if you also had a good idea of how this all ties into Judeo-Christian lore. But your main takeaway is this: Every interpretation of every story is interpretive. The truth behind the stories is unknown. Nevertheless, by piecing together what we learn from ancient and modern mythologies, we can imagine what the completed puzzle looks like. These pieces have value and something to tell us about our collective journey as humankind. This is why it is key to keep an open mind.