In the Beginning: How the Goddess Nammu created the world and then was forgotten

Before Yahweh, there was Nammu, the Goddess of the Primordial Sea. Photo by Sean O'Flaherty

Genesis 1: How the Hebrew Bible says God Created the World:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was  formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.


Where the Genesis stories really came from: Not surprisingly, it seems the Genesis stories really came from the same place that the Jewish people said they really came from– the much, much more ancient civilization of Sumer (in the region later known as Babylon). The Jews believed themselves to be descended from Abraham, who after a series of wanderings eventually moved to the future home of Israel.  His homeland, or where he originally moved from was Ur (Genesis 11:31) and Ur was one of the many city states which made up the country of Sumer, called by many scholars the world’s first advanced civilization.

A model of the ziggurat of Ur

The Sumerians invented, among other things, the stairstep pyramid temples called ziggurats, the wheel, and, perhaps most importantly for our purposes, writing.  One of the things they liked to write about, naturally, was the activities of their gods and goddesses. The first written tales of creation were recorded by the Sumerians and who did they say created the world? A goddess.  Nammu, the mother of all things, Goddess of the Primordial Sea, created the heavens and earth from her own body long before Yahweh had ever been heard of.  Thousands of years before, in fact, as this civilization dates to about 3,500 BC.  For comparison, Father Abraham is said to have lived about 1,800 BC in the Biblical narrative, around the time that Sumer was taken over by Babylon.  Scholars debate the authenticity of this tale, though.  Some say that, rather than a legendary patriarch, Abraham was a literary fiction created by Jewish priests while the nation of Judah (southern Israel) was in exile in Babylon in the 5th and 6th centures BC.

Whether the Jewish people were descended from a Sumerian man, as Genesis asserts, or whether they simply stole Babylon’s ancient tales (which included Sumer’s) while they were exiled in that country much later, there is a clear connection between Israel and Sumer.  This no doubt explains the reason why all the major stories of “Jewish” history prior to the beginning of Abraham’s story in Genesis 11 are nearly identical to tales written first in Sumer.  There is, however, one very important difference between the Jewish (later to become Christian) version of these stories and those of the the far more ancient Sumerian culture:  In the Biblical creation narrative the gender of the Creator of Heaven and Earth has been switched from female to male and the Goddess erased from the tale.  Unless, that is, you know where to look.

Enki

Nammu and Enki, mother of the world and father of humankind: According to the Sumerians, Nammu, the Primordial Sea Goddess, was the first to exist and hence, the creator of all things.  She began by giving birth to An, the Sky God, and Ki, the Earth Goddess. She also was mother to Enki, the God of Water and Wisdom.  Enki was a bit of a trickster and troublemaker, but also the one who helped Nammu make human beings. Just as in the Biblical narrative, we were fashioned out of clay, at Enki’s suggestion (as shown  in this translation by S.N. Kramer, who also translated the other verses below):

“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 . . . . ”

Notice that, just like in the later Bible, humans are made in the image of the Gods. The Sumerians also first wrote about Eden, which they called Dilmun, describing it like this:

“In Dilmun the raven uttered no cries,
The kite uttered not the cry of the kite,
The lion killed not,
The wolf snatched not the lamb,
Unknown was the kid-killing dog…”

The story in which Eve (which means “mother of the living”) is taken from Adam’s rib is probably a garbled rewrite of Ninti, a Sumerian Goddess whose name is a pun, meaning both “lady life” and “rib,” and who assists Enki and Nammu in bringing forth humans.

Later, when Enlil, the king of the gods, decides to wipe the troublesome humans off the face of the earth with a great flood, Enki saves us all by convincing one man (called in different accounts Atrahasis, Utnapishtim, or Ziusudra) to build an ark.

Also here is the equivalent of the Biblical tale of the invention of multiple languages.  Just as in the Tower of Babel story of Genesis, the people once spoke the same language, but when their languages were altered in the Sumerian version, Enki did it:

“In those days, the lands of Suberi (and) Hamazi,
Harmony-tongued Sumer, the great land of the decrees of princeship,
Uri, the land having all that is appropriate,
The land Martu, resting in security,
The whole universe, the people in unison
To Enlil in one tongue [spoke].

(Then) Enki, the lord of abundance (whose) commands are trustworthy,
The lord of wisdom, who understands the land,
The leader of the gods,
Endowed with wisdom, the lord of Eridu
Changed the speech in their mouths, [brought] contention into it,
Into the speech of man that (until then) had been one.”

The disappearance of Nammu:  Yahweh of the Israelites was not the first Sky God to usurp Nammu’s position. Around the same century that Abraham allegedly skipped town (whether before, during, or after depends on which scholar’s estimate of his century is correct), the city-state of Babylon took over Ur and the rest of the country of Sumer.  Under the much more patriarchal influence of the Babylonian Empire the Creator Goddess lost her position to the Sky God Marduk.

Marduk

The Babylonians said Marduk created the heavens and earth by murdering  Tiamat (Nammu’s Babylonian name) and forming the universe from her body. Tiamat did not go out quietly.  The tale of how Tiamat, primordial Sea Goddess and source of all things created demonic monsters to fight against the hero god Marduk and of how Marduk defeated her, claiming kingship of the gods and creating heaven and earth from her body is told in the Enuma Elish.
Eventually, when the priests of Judah rewrote the tale, the Goddess would disappear altogether from the narrative .  Well, almost disappear.  She is traceable still by linguistics, for when God hovers over “the deep” in the opening scene of Genesis (Chapter 1, Verse 2), the word  translated here is tehom, meaning the deeps, the abyss, and linguistically the Semitic form of Tiamat, the name of the Babylonian Goddess.  In time, Nammu would be forgotten, but now, thanks to archaeologists, we can remember the Goddess who came before Heaven and Earth, before the sky gods ascended the throne of history, before even the Bible, before ever the priest put pen to scroll to write the words  “In the Beginning….”


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32 Responses to In the Beginning: How the Goddess Nammu created the world and then was forgotten

  1. xcntrik says:

    That was a very enjoyable read.

    Thanks.

  2. soulcomp says:

    I agree, xcntrik! This blog clearly leads one through the development of the goddess/Mary, and the visuals are terrific. My thanks also.

  3. Pingback: In the Beginning: How the Goddess Nammu created the world and then was forgotten (via Queen of Heaven) « FOLLOWING THE WHITE RABBIT

  4. Byroniac says:

    Thanks for an eye opener!

  5. Water_Nymph says:

    You continue to educate me, X. Reading on as I have the time and energy.

  6. Larry Jones says:

    Very interesting stuff! Thanks for posting it. I particularly found it interesting how that civilization (and hence the writings) predate Abraham by about 1,500 years. And that is quite a parellel between Nammu and “the deep” of Genesis 1.
    Good stuff!

  7. James Solow says:

    I was just watching a documentary made by fundamentalist about the book of enoch. I was shocked and rofling when they said that a statue of Nammu was a depiction of the devil.

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  9. BriBrit says:

    Well, eye opening is indeed the word but I wonder to what extent we must believe iin its accuracy. Three different versions of a Creator, all claiming to be the right one. There is only one true Creator so two accouns are corruptions of the orginal narrative, right?

    But let’s, for the sake of expediency, we stick with Sumeria (thanks guys for the wheel and writing, btw, boy, where would we be without them!) because I don’t really care for horrible monsters and demons. Now, we are left with only one who is do the corrupting, right? The fact that the Hebrew version came along AFTER the Sumerian version does not necessarily invalidate the Hebrew version does it? After all, if a little bit of truth, a little bit of legend and a little bit of myth are popped into a pot and then a large helping of humanisation of the deities (you know, make sound more like us Hollywood style) is added for flavour, then clearly you can end up with something quite impressive, even though it might be far from the absolute truth.

    Now, please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying the Sumerians did this, nor that the Hebrews did this, but just how do you and I know that either side didn’t?

    I don’t have a Sumerian equivalent to the bible at hand but when I follow the Hebrew one I am immensely impressed by how consistent the God they believe in is unlike the creatures “he” made (sorry ladies) beings but is majestic and holy and well, just what I would expect the great El to be, credible, not up to all kinds of hanky panky.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, if I was created by a female goddess (despite for some reason her inability to do it all on her own without a little help from her friends) that would be a whole new ball game for me. And as one trying to fathom what Eve and then Adam really did do wrong in the garden of Eden, then perhaps a gorgeous sexy god putting in an appearance as a usurper might explain why they quickly covered their genitals instead of their mouths, once they knew God was approaching.

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  11. Reblogged this on celestialmusingsblog and commented:
    This is a great blog and in perfect alignment with sacred feminine leanings. Having read all of Zecharia Sitchin’s books I am eternally fascinated with the Sumerians, but see clearly that all those “his-storians” consistently excise the equal if not in some cases superior position the creation Goddesses played. In the beginning their was the Goddess Nammu who created the world as was buried in it …for us to dig up and uncover at long last. Now truly our film Femme Women Healing the World is the hope for this troubled planet as it calls for a partership and an equal one at that..at last!

  12. Mary Weiss says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that when conquerors take over they do not bring in their own stories, but find it necessary to twist the ones they usurp. Have they no creativity?

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  14. Kurtmax says:

    It makes sense to me god is genderless and the war between male and female is part of the pettiness of a tree that bears no fruit. The symbol of a woman riding a dragon illustrates this, although the woman enjoys the riches of the dragon she doesnt feel like she is a part of the dragon.

  15. jbrich1226 says:

    Thanks for posting this story featuring the Divine feminine. It never ceases to amaze me that the Hebrew Bible focuses so much on a patriarchal God while excluding the feminine aspect of the Creator. For millennia, She has been excluded the writings of our forefathers, and only now–in these times–are we digging our way through the layers of history to find the hidden Sophia (Divine Wisdom in the feminine aspect) has been there all along.
    JB Richards
    Author of “Miriamne the Magdala-The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series” and Content Creator for The Miriamne Page
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miriamne-the-Magdala-First-in-the-Series-of-the-Yeshua-Miri-Novels/206903979347028

  16. David says:

    Thanks for the great insight, I am always fascinated by this and other similar things. But here is a tidbit of truth from a Kabbalist/Jewish perspective. According to the Scriptures in the original Hebrew language… The first verse of Genesis 1:1 which most read as “In the Beginning God Created”… Actually says; “Bereshit Bara Elohim.” The word Elohim is a plural word which if you break it down, the word El is Masculine and means God, The word Eloah is Feminine and means Goddess, you put the two words together and you have the Elohim.

    Verse 2 where it says “:And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” It actually uses the term “Ruach Elohim” Which is a Feminine word. Meaning that just like a Mother broods over and protects her young so did the eternal Spirit/The Universal Consciousness (ie the Goddess) hover over the primordial waters of Her creation.

    THE TRUTH – Their is only ONE Creator (Duet 6:4), but this creator is not exclusively male nor female, it is gender-less. God has no more gender than a table has. We use Masculine terms for God out of respect and convenience (as I feel very uncomfortable calling God an it which is a thing. Wouldn’t you?) However God does have Feminine as well as Masculine attributes. The Shechinah which most Christians refer to as the power and glory of God is actually a very feminine word in Hebrew.

    Even the Name of God contains both attributes… What most people interpret as Yahweh (which is mistranslated) comes from the Hebrew Letters YHVH… Yod-Hey-Vau-Hey or Yod-Havah for short. The Yod and the Vau are Masculine and the Hey is Feminine Yod=Masculine, Havah=Feminine. God made Humanity in His/Her image Yod/Phallus/Adam=Man. Havah/Uterus/Eve=Woman.

    Now when I said earlier that there is only One Creator, I didn’t mean that there were not other spiritual beings in existence that also had a hand in the creation process and in fact is still governing parts of creation today. They do in fact exist. Those of other cultures may have called them gods and goddesses, but the Bible refers to them as Angels and they do not need to be worshiped as they are not the ultimate source from which all things originally sprang into being. They are Children of the Most High just like us.

    The Heart of Judaism and of the Torah and indeed of the entire Bible is – –
    “Shema Yisroel, Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad” … “Hear O Israel, The Eternal is our God, The Eternal is ONE!!!” (Duet 6:4)

  17. Amiya Chatterjee says:

    We are talking about the ”goddess” Water . Do not confuse the issue. Water is the origin of creation a feminine image until the church and Christianity took over the theme and created a great big muddle.

    • David says:

      I don’t feel as though I confused the issue at all. All things are connected as one and we are one with the ultimate source of creation (what we call God). But I am not going to worship water as a goddess type thing. I drink water, I bath and shower in water, I wash my dirty clothes and dishes in water, I even swim in water. Water is indeed a useful element, but not something to be worshiped. Yes we do need water to live, but I refuse to worship a created thing… I will worship the creator alone who is indeed both male and female (Androgynous). Just like we humans were at one time… The Bible is full of allegories not to be taken literally. The story of Eve being separated from Adam’s side is the allegory of how we humans were separated into two sexes. If you study the Kabbalah as well as the Hebrew language and even the Zohar (The Kabbalistic Holy book) then this all makes more sense. By the way, I am not a Christian and do not believe in the teachings of the Christian Church. What I was talking about above was from a Jewish Perspective.

      • -C- says:

        While it is true that in later times Jews (and some Christians) came to have a more allegorical and esoteric understanding of what is written in the Bible, this is largely due to their contact with Greek philosophy. Plato and others did the same thing with the ancient Greek (and Egyptian, in the case of Plutarch- a Middle Platonist) myths where they gave a more symbolic reading of the ancient myths. I honestly don’t find their belief that the myths are allegorical so far fetched, as the Greeks were a very poetic and philosophical people. However, I do find it a bit of a stretch to say that the writers of the Bible were writing from an allegorical or philosophical perspective. I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive, but the ancient Jews were far from philosophers. You see philosophical achievements by Jews in later Antiquity (like Flavius Josephus) and the Middle Ages (like Moimandes), sure; but this only occurred due to the contact they had with Greeks and Romans and Greek and Roman philosophy. Canaan (which would later become Israel) was seperated along ethnic and tribal lines and so there was probably a fair amount of conflict. The Israelites (and the other tribes in Canaan) probably didn’t have much time to develop arts and sciences like the more civilized Greeks and Romans could, as they were more focused on survival in their chaotic enviroment. They ancient Israelites are hailed as a remarkable people, but in reality they were far from such. The only reason the ancient Israelites are given such reverence is because their ancient texts form the first half of the Bible of one of the world’s largest religions. The texts (Torah, Tanakh, etc.) themselves are, in reality, quite unremarkable. Far better myth, prose, poetry, etc., can be found amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans. In short, I find an “allegorical truth” hidden in the Bible unlikely, at best

        (P.S.- I want to make it clear that my comments should in no way be taken as anti-Semitic. My arguments are directed solely against the Jewish religion and the notion of allegorical truth hidden within Jewish religious literature. In no way do I condone or support anti-Semitism.)

  18. jackie says:

    thank you for sharing this info about Munna ~ it filled all the gaps from other accounts i’ve seen!

    ps: 
did you know that Shekinah means “presence of God” and relates to the feminine aspect of Jehovah…who created adam in its image

    /
    that rabbi’s say adam was a primal androgyne, and that eve was one of adam’s “sides” (was NOT made from “his rib”),

    &
    that Phanes (Greek), Purusha (Hindu), and Zurvan (Zoroastrian), are just afew examples of other primal androgynes,

    &
    that Nana Buluku (W. Africa), Oludumare (Yoruba), and Ometeotl (Aztec) are afew of the other dualistic deities of creation

    /
    that the hermaphroditic nature of gods and the universe is well known throughout the world?!

  19. Jackie says:

    Thank you for sharing this info about Nammu ~ it filled all the gaps from previously found accounts!

    ps:
    did you know that Shekinah means “presence of God” and relates to the feminine aspect of Jehovah…who created adam in hir image

    /

    that rabbi’s say adam was a primal androgyne, and that eve was one of adam’s “sides” (was NOT made from “his rib”),

    &
    that Phanes (Greek), Purusha (Hindu), and Zurvan (Zoroastrian), are just afew examples of other primal androgynes,

    &
    that Nana Buluku (W. Africa), Oludumare (Yoruba), and Ometeotl (Aztec) are afew of the other dualistic deities of creation

    /
    that the hermaphroditic nature of gods and the universe is well known throughout the world?!

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  22. Simone Streeter says:

    As far as going forward: if one insists on believing in a creator god at all, and generously says it is both male and female, then how about you use feminine pronouns at all times in reference to Her, just to balance out the last 5,000 years of exclusively male pronouns. No problem, right? Go ahead then.

    • I have absolutely no problem with that at all. The problem is though that I have not been around for the past 5,000 years, (at least not in this physical incarnation) so in my own life personally (and I can’t speak for anyone else) but I need a balance in my own life. So therefore I use both the masculine and the feminine. A lot of ancients did the same as far as the seasons go. Starting in late fall, winter and early spring they prayed to the mother goddess. Then in mid-late spring, summer and early fall they prayed to a masculine deity. Now I personally believe (and so did Merlin when he was teaching king Arthur as a young boy) that all of the gods are ONE God. In other words all things are connected as one. We came from the source and one day we shall return to that source. Now what we call God in it’s pure essence has no gender, but has manifested itself as two distinct genders in order to create balance, they are male and female. Study Gnosticism – Go to: gnosticteachings.org

      Also, the modern Gnostics teach about the Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), Spiritual Alchemy, Meditation, and Astral Projection/Travel. Plus many other things. Which by the way is the way to awaken the consciousness and achieve enlightenment. In other words it doesn’t matter what you believe…. You can KNOW the Truth through personal experience. They teach practical techniques to develop the soul, in order to become a Buddha, Bodhisattva, an Angel, A being of light, etc. This is awesome stuff and I highly recommend studying this stuff out thoroughly and then make up your own mind as to what path is right for you. After all that is what the term Gnosis (In Greek) means, it is the same word as Da-ath (in Hebrew) it means knowledge. But it is not intellectual knowledge that is derived from book study and learning (Although that is the proper place to start) but it is knowledge of the heart. The soul already knows all of this and when you are connected to your higher self then everything becomes clear. However, what is the right path for one person may not necessarily be the right path for everyone. You will know the right path for you when you feel it within and there will be no doubt.

  23. Carri says:

    This issue of gender is an interesting one. Also interesting that our society is now grappling with ‘transgender’ and androgyny (and which bathroom they can use!). My own feeling is that we are exactly where we are meant to be as regards our collective soul evolutionary development. Which also means that it is time to reunite and strengthen the feminine element once again to bring a NEW type of balance and integration.
    Also on this same subject of gods, goddesses and genders, it brings to mind Kannon or Guanyin of eastern religious traditions. It is generally accepted among East Asian adherents that Guanyin originated as the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Commonly known in English as the Mercy Goddess or Goddess of Mercy but often depicted as both male and female to show this figure’s limitless transcendence beyond gender. Guanyin is also revered by Taoists as an immortal. In Chinese folk religion, there are mythical accounts about Guanyin’s origins that are not associated with the Avalokiteśvara described in Buddhist sutras.

  24. Carri says:

    This issue of gender is an interesting one. Also interesting that our society is now grappling with ‘transgender’ and androgyny (and which bathroom they can use!). My own feeling is that we are exactly where we are meant to be as regards our soul evolutionary development. Which also means that it is time to reunite and strengthen the feminine element once again to bring a NEW type of balance and integration.
    Also on this same subject of gods, goddesses and genders, it brings to mind Kannon or Guanyin of eastern religious traditions. It is generally accepted among East Asian adherents that Guanyin originated as the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Commonly known in English as the Mercy Goddess or Goddess of Mercy but often depicted as both male and female to show this figure’s limitless transcendence beyond gender. Guanyin is also revered by Taoists as an immortal. In Chinese folk religion, there are mythical accounts about Guanyin’s origins that are not associated with the Avalokiteśvara described in Buddhist sutras.

  25. Noreply says:

    Nammu shows similarity to Kalypso and Varima-te-takere, as a Goddess of Creation holding the essence known as love which forms seals, names or glyphs… Genesis as such would (among other interpretations) represent the ‘discovery’ (of creation)… the birth of human consciousness and intellect as the brush of creation

  26. See Penny-Paditz says:

    Thank You, for information that puts the more modern religions who try to claim authority over people into a more proper perspective.

  27. GOD are actually 2 seperate beings GOD the mother and GOD the father GOD the mother gave birth to GOD the father she was a virgin when she gave birth for the first time Jesus Christ is not GOD the father nor GOD the mother. GOD the mother and GOD the father fell in love with each other it eventually led to them having sex for the first time they were both virgins back then and some time later they had many healthy children together. GOD the mother and GOD the father possibly have over 20 or even over 100 healthy children together GOD the mother could possibly give birth countless times even 500 trillion years after year 2017 A.D . GOD the mother and GOD the father fell despite them being mother and son they became lovers they became parents together and became like a married couple. GOD the mother and GOD the father created the universe even a multiverse and created heaven and created earth and started humanity.

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