Mesopotamia was an ancient civilization positioned between the Tigris River and the Euphrates River. Today, this area is known as Iraq. The myth describes the structure of the pantheon and the political upheaval, is the Enuma Elish, a Babylonian creation story that describes the battle between the old and young gods.
The Enuma elish tells of a beginning when all was a watery chaos and only the sea, Tiamat, and the sweet waters under ground, Apsu, mingled their waters together. Mummu, the personified original watery form, served as Apsu’s minister. In their midst the gods were born. The first pair, Lahmu and Lahamu, represented the powers in silt; the next, Anshar and Kishar, those in the horizon. They created the god of heaven, An, and he in turn the god of the flowing sweet waters, Ea.
A list of gods of An: Anum, gives a different beginning, Lahmu and Lahamu give rise to Duri and Dari, “the time-cycle”; and these in turn give rise to Enshar and Ninshar, “Lord and Lady Circle.” Enshar and Ninshar engender the concrete circle of the horizon, Anshar and Kishar, probably conceived as silt deposited along the edge of the universe. The gods, who come into being within Apsu and Tiamat, are viewed as dynamic creatures, who contrast strikingly with the older generation.
Adad, Ishkur (Sumer) (m): God of storms. Adad is usually shown carrying a lighting fork, symbolising his power over the storm forces of nature. Adad was known to the Sumerians as Ishkur, and is often shown with a lion-dragon or bull. His wife was Shala.
Allatu (f); see Ereshkigal.
Ama-arhus (f): Akkadian fertility goddess; later merged into Ninhursag.
Amurru, Martu (Sumer) (m): God of nomadic peoples and their flocks. His symbols are a gazelle and a shepherd’s crook. He became important when nomadic people called the Amorites moved into Babylonia from around 2100 BCE.
An (f): Earth goddess. Possibly the female principle of Anu.
An (m): see Anu.
Anshar & Kishar: male and female principles, the twin horizons of sky and earth. Children of Apsu and Tiamat. [Anki]
Antu, Antum, or Ki-ist (f): consort of An.
Anu (Sumer) (m): God of the Heavens, sky god, father and king of the gods, supreme god of the Sumerian pantheon, and city god of Uruk. Father of all the other gods, evil spirits, and demons. He is typically depicted by the horned cap. Anu controls shooting stars, called ‘kishru’. Anu is also in charge of the Bull of Heaven who can be sent to earth to avenge the gods. Leading Sumerian deity from Fourth Millennium BCE until the city of Erech began to lose its power. There are no known pictures of him.
Anzu, Imdugud (Sumer): Anzu is a giant bird with a lion’s head. It is so huge that whirlwinds and storms are caused when it flaps its wings. In one story Anzu steals the tablet of destiny on which the supreme god writes the fate of the universe. Anzu is eventually killed by the god Ninurta who returns the tablet to its rightful owner.
Apkallu fish: a ‘wise man’ or ‘sage’. Babylonian tradition says that there were seven Apkallu who lived at the beginning of time before the flood. They were sent by the god Ea to teach wisdom to humans. Some are dressed in the skin of a fish. They protected people.
Apkallu griffin: a ‘wise man’ or ‘sage’. There were seven Apkallu who lived at the beginning of time before the flood. They were sent by the god Ea to teach wisdom to humans. Griffin have the head of a bird. They hold a bucket and cone for purifying.
Apkallu human: a ‘wise man’ or ‘sage’. Seven Apkallu lived at the beginning of time before the flood. They were sent by the god Ea to teach wisdom to humans. Some are shown as humans with wings.
Apru: one of the primeval gods.
Apsu, Abzu (Sumer) (m): god of the freshwater underworld ocean; begetter of the skies and earth, united with Tiamat at the beginning of time. Apsu was sent to sleep by the god Ea and became the freshwater ocean on which the earth was believed to float. Apsu became the home of Ea.
Arah (f): goddess of fate.
Ashur (m): principal Assyrian god. Ashur is the main god of the first Assyrian capital city, also called Ashur. National god of Assyria and war, symbolized by a dragon and winged disk. He wears a horned cap. He became more important when the Assyrians conquered Mesopotamia. Ashur is sometimes shown riding on a snake-dragon. He is pictured on Assyrian monuments, cliff reliefs and cylinder seals. See Enlil.
Aya (f): amother goddess, consort of Shamash.
Bau (f): dog-headed patron goddess of Lagash.
Bel, Baal (Canaan) (m): the Bull god, cleverest sage of the gods.
Belit-tseri: tablet-scribe of the underworld; recorder of the dead entering the underworld.
Birdu (m): an underworld god; consort of Manungal and later syncretized with Nergal.
Bull-man: see Kusarikku.
Bull of Heaven (m): see Gugalanna.
Bulls with human head: protective creatures. They are decorating objects, later replaced by the lamassu guardian figures.
Dagan, Dagon (m): West Semitic god of crop fertility and the underworld. Father of Baal.
Damgalnuna (f): mother of Marduk.
Dumuzi, Tammuz (m): shepherd god who represents the harvest season, but also became a god of the underworld thanks to his wife Ishtar. She decided to visit her sister Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. Anybody who went to the underworld could not leave. Even gods had to stay there. Ishtar went through the seven gates leading to the underworld and found that she couldn’t escape. The other gods became worried when Ishtar didn’t return. The god of wisdom Ea tricked Ereshkigal into returning Ishtar to life but someone had to take her place in the underworld. Ishtar chose her husband, the shepherd Dumuzi. Demons carried him off to the underworld. However, he was allowed to spend half of the year on earth. That is why he represents the yearly cycle of death and rebirth of the crops on earth. Sumerian god of vegetation, city god of Kinirsha, the son of Enki.
Ea, Enki (Sumer) (m): God of the subterranean lake Apsu, from which all springs and rivers draw their water, and on which the Earth floats; said to have fixed national boundaries and assigned gods their roles; in Akkadian myth, Ea was the god of ritual purification, who is the father of Marduk, Lord of Water and Wisdom. He is a god of wisdom, farming, building, magic and arts and crafts. He emits streams from his shoulders; he is the god who gave rulers their intelligence and who provided craftsmen with their skills. Ea appears as a bearded man surrounded by flowing water. Ea’s symbols are the goat-fish and a sceptre with a ram’s head. Ea is attended by a god with two faces called Usmu (Isimud). In Ea’s temple in Babylon, the god Marduk was born.
Ellil (m): see Enlil.
Emesh (m): god of vegetation, created to take responsibility on earth for woods, fields, sheep folds, and stables.
Enbilulu (m): god of rivers, canals, irrigation and farming.
Enki (m): One Sumerian myth is called ‘Inanna and Enki’. In the beginning of this story, Enki controls the ‘me’ which are the rules of the universe. One day, Enki and Inanna get drunk and she tricks him into giving her the ‘me’. When Enki realises that he has given the ‘me’ away, he tries to recover then from Inanna. But Inanna takes the ‘me’ back to her city. It is too late for Enki to get them back. See Ea.
Enlil, Ellil (m): Lord of the Air and Storms. Initially, leader of the pantheon. Enlil is credited with separating the heavens from earth and, therefore, described as the “father of the gods,” “king of the universe,” “king of all lands.” The god between heaven and earth where human activity took place, cult center in Nippur and made humanity activity his responsibility, god of the atmosphere and agriculture. Son of An and Ki. Enlil is supreme ruler of Sumerian pantheon of gods and guardian of the city of Nippur; he is credited with raising up the “seed of the land” and with bringing “whatever is needful” into existence. Enlil is said to have been responsible for the me, a set of universal laws governing all existence. He guards the ‘tablets of destiny’. These are cuneiform tablets on which he writes the fate of everything on earth. Ellil is so powerful that the other gods can’t even look at him. He is therefore only shown as a horned cap. Also see Ashur.
Enmesharra (m): an underworld god of the law, equated with Nergal.
Enten (m): god of vegetation, created to take responsibility on earth for the fertility of ewes, goats, cows, donkeys, birds.
Ereshkigal, Allatu (f): Lady of the Great Place, supreme goddess of underworld, and wife or mother of Ninazu, sister to Ishtar/Inanna. Goddess of Darkness, Gloom, and Death. When Inanna (Ishtar) ventured into the underworld, Ereshkigal forced her to take off a piece of clothing at each of the seven gates before she reached her. Ereshkigal knew that if Inanna arrived naked, she would be stripped of her special powers.
Erra (m): see Nergal.
Gaga (m): a minor deity featured in the Enûma Elish.
Gatumdag (f): a fertility goddess and tutelary mother goddess of Lagash.
Geshtinanna (f): Sumerian goddess of wine and cold seasons, sister to Dumuzid.
Geshtu-E: god of intelligence. ‘His’ blood and intelligence were used by Mami to create man.
Gibil, Gerra (m): god of fire.
Gilgamesh (m): hero and king of Uruk; central character in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Gizzida, Gishzida (f): consort of Belili, doorkeeper of Anu.
Gula (f): goddess of healing, a patroness of doctors, and a constellation. She often appears as a woman with stars and her dog. People dedicated small statues of dogs to Gula because they believed it would help them avoid, or recover from, illness.
Gugalanna (m): the Great Bull of Heaven, the constellation Taurus, controlled by the sky god Anu. The first husband of Ereshkigal.The Bull of Heaven appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Ishtar tries to stop Gilgamesh and Enkidu from killing the Bull of Heaven. She convinces her father Anu to send the Bull of Heaven to earth to destroy the crops and kill people. However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven. The gods are angry that the Bull of Heaven has been killed. As punishment for killing the bull Enkidu falls ill and dies.
Hadad (m): see Adad.
Humbaba, Huwawa (m): a monster in the Epic of Gilgamesh who guards the cedar forest in the Lebanon mountains. He is a giant human and is sometimes shown with lion’s claws, long hair, and a monstrous, hairy face. Humbaba is killed by the hero Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu who journey to the forest to cut down cedar trees.
Igigi: Gods of the Younger generation. They were given the task of digging gold and riverbeds by the Anunnaki.
Imdugud: see Anzu.
Inanna: see Ishtar.
Irra (m): plague god, god of scorched earth and war.
Ishkur (m): see Adad.
Ishtar, Inanna (f); Goddess of sexual love and war, Akkadian counterpart of Semite goddess Astarte, goddess of fertility, Venus. Ishtar is the morning and evening star (the planet Venus). She is shown as a woman standing on a lion, generally holding several weapons. Ishtar was sometimes thought to be the daughter of the moon god Sin. Since the lunar month usually has 30 days, Sin’s sacred number is 30. As Sin’s daughter, her Ishtar sacred number is 15. Inanna stands beside her insignia, gateposts hung with streamers, and is present whenever life is conceived through love or ended in battle.
Ishum (m): brother of Shamash and attendant of Erra.
Ištaran (m): god of the city of Der (Sumer).
Ki (f): Goddess of the Earth. Ki Belet-Ili Ninmah – Ninmah Mama – Kishar Aruru Nintu Mami. See Anshar and Kishar.
Kingu (m): second husband of Tiamat; killed by Marduk, who used his blood to create mankind.
Kubaba (f): tutelary goddess of the city of Carchemish.
Kur (m): the first dragon, born of Abzu and Ma. Also Kur-gal, or Ki-gal the underworld.
Kurlil (m): priest.
Kusarikku, “Bull-Man” (m): a demon. He holds the gates of dawn open for the sun god Shamash and supports the sun disc. He is a man above the waist and a bull below the waist. He also has the horns and the ears of a bull. The Bull-man helps people fight evil and chaos. He is often shown on cylinder seals.
Lahmu & Lahamu: Twin deities born from Apsu and Tiamat. [“Man and woman” possibly Anshar and Kishar.]
Lama (f): goddess of protection. She appears as a woman in a long, 7-tiered dress. Lama is often shown on cylinder seals leading people into the presence of important gods and goddesses.
Lamashtu (f): evil demon who preys upon unborn and newborn children. Lamashtu is also known as ‘she who erases’. She had a hairy body, a lioness’ head with donkey’s teeth and ears, long fingers and fingernails and the feet of a bird with sharp talons. She is often shown standing or kneeling on a donkey, nursing a pig and a dog, and holding snakes. Pregnant women often wore amulets of Pazuzu, the demon who fought against Lamashtu.
Lamassu: human-headed winged bull or lion. Huge sculptures of lamassus guarded Assyrian palace doorways and city gates. They were there to frighten away the forces of chaos.
Lilû: wandering demon.
Lugalbanda (m): second king of Uruk, who ruled for 12 years.
Mammetum (f): maker or mother of fate.
Manungal (f): an underworld goddess; consort of Birdu.
Mandanu (m): god of divine judgment.
Marduk (m): Marduk is the city god of Babylon. When Babylon became the capital of Babylonia (from about 1500 BCE), Marduk became more important, and supplanted other Babylonian deities to become central figure, the chief city god of Babylon and national god of Babylonia. He is the god of thunderstorms. Marduk is called upon to fight an army of demons led by the goddess Tiamat. He goes into battle when the other gods agree to elect him as their leader. He hunts down Tiamat, kills her and is crowned as the supreme god. Marduk’s symbols are a spade and the Mushhushshu snake-dragon. His four divine dogs: Snatcher, Seizer, He Got It, and He Howled. His consort is Zarpanitum. Marduk is sometimes called ‘Bel’ which means ‘lord’. The citizens of Babylon celebrated a New Year festival, during which the king would kneel before a statue of Marduk and vow that he was a good ruler.
Martu (m): see Amurru.
Mummu (m): primordial god of crafts and technical skill.
Mushdamma (m): god of buildings and foundations.
Mushhushshu: protector of the supreme gods. Its name means ‘furious snake’. Gods like Marduk, Ashur, Ellil and Nabu all rode on a mushhushshu dragon.
Nabu: god of scribes and the patron of writing and wisdom. In Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian times, Nabu was sometimes associated with irrigation and agriculture. Nabu rides on the back of a Mushhushshu snake-dragon. Nabu’s most important temple was at Borsippa, near Babylon.The symbol of Nabu is a wedge, which stands for either a cuneiform sign or a stylus.
Nammu (f): Creation goddess, Goddess of the Primeval Sea, “the mother who gave birth to heaven and earth.”
Namtar(a): the fate-cutter, herald of death.
Nanaya (f): goddess personifying voluptuousness and sensuality.
Nanna: See Sin.
Nanshe (f): goddess of prophecy, fertility and fish.
Nazi, Ninsutu (m): a minor deity born to relieve the illness of Enki.
Nergal, Erragal, Erra, Engidudu (m): warrior and underworld god. City god of Cuthah, underworld; hunter; god of war and plague. His symbol is a mace, often decorated with lion-heads. Nergal lives in the underworld with his wife Ereshkigal. He uses forest fire, fevers and plague as weapons against humans.
Neti: a minor underworld god; the chief gatekeeper of the netherworld and the servant of Ereshkigal.
Ningirama (m): god of magic and protector against snakes.
Ningizzia: guardian of the gate of heaven; a god of the underworld.
Ninhursag, Aruru, Mami, Ninmah, Nintu, Belet-ili, Dingirmakh (f); Earth and Mother goddess, the source of all life, Mother of All Children, and city goddess of Adab and Kishgoddess; she was the midwife of the gods. Ninhursag came the birth of the planets; she is usually seen wearing a leafy crown and holding a branch to indicate fertility.
Ninlil (f): goddess of destiny. Enlil’s consort and mother of the moon god Sin. City goddess at Nippur and Shuruppak, grain goddess.
Ninmena (f): Sumerian mother goddess who became syncretized with Ninhursag.
Ninshubur (f): Sumerian messenger goddess and second-in-command to Inanna, later adapted by the Akkadians as the male god Papsukkal.
Ninsun (f): Lady Wild Cow, city goddess of Kullab. Mother of Dumuzi.
Nintu (f): see Ninhursag.
Ninurta, Ishkur, Asalluhe (m): Sumerian god of rain and thunderstorms, city god of Bit Khakuru, chamberlain of the war god. He is often shown holding a bow and arrow and a sickle sword. Ninurta is sometimes shown running on the back of a monster with a lion’s body and scorpion’s tail, which is chasing after a lion monster with a bird’s wings, feet and tail.
Nissaba, Nisaba: cereal grain harvest.
Pazuzu (m): King of the demons of the wind. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought. Demon who protected humans against plague and evil forces. He has a human body with the feet and claws of an eagle, and the head of a monster. Pazuzu is especially strong at fighting against the powers of the malicious goddess Lamashtu. Son of Hanbi.
Rabisu: an evil vampiric spirit.
Sarpanit (f): mother goddess and consort of Marduk.
Scorpion people: powerful protectors against demons. They have a human head and body but their lower half is like a bird with a scorpion’s tail. Scorpion people served the sun god Shamash. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a terrifying scorpion-man and scorpion-woman guard the gate of the mountain where the sun rises.
Sebitti: the seven warrior gods led by Nergal (Erra) also called the Underworld Gods. In the sky they are the Pleadies. They are the children of Anu and the Earth-mother. In the Book of Enoch they were called “The Watchers”.
Shakka (m): patron god of herdsmen.
Shala (f): goddess of war and grain.
Shamash, Babbar, Utu (m): Sun god and part of astral triad of divinities. (Shamash the sun, Sin the moon, and Ishtar the morning star). He is also the god of truth and justice because he can see everything. Shamash holds a knife with a jagged edge so that he can cut his way through the mountains at dawn. Shamash’s symbol is a disc, sometimes with sun-rays, or a winged disc. He was thought to travel in a boat, but from about 1000 BCE. his symbol became a horse, and later, a chariot. Utu, sun god who lights the world with rays issuing from his shoulders: Utu was also the god of justice and carved out justice with the many-toothed saw he carried with him.
Shara (m): minor god of war and a son of Inanna.
Sharra Itu (f): Sumerian fertility goddess.
Shul-pa-e (m): astral and fertility god associated with the planet Jupiter.
Shul-utula: personal deity to Entemena, king of the city of Eninnu.
Sin, Suen, Nannar, Nanna (m): Moon god, father of Shamash and Ishtar, city god of Ur. His symbols are the crescent moon, the bull, and a tripod (which may be a lamp-stand). Sin had a beard made of lapis lazuli and he rides on a winged bull. The lunar month usually has 30 days, so Sin’s sacred number is 30.
Sirara (f): goddess of the Persian Gulf.
Šulak; the bathroom demon, “lurker” in the bathroom.
Sumuqan: god of cattle.
Tammuz: see Dumuzi.
Tiamat (f): primeval chaos, the goddess of salt water, the spouse of Apsu bearer of the skies and earth, also consort of Kingu. In the Babylonian Epic of Creation, Tiamat is an angry goddess, who decides to destroy the other gods. She creates a vast army of demons. The other gods decide that Tiamat should be killed, but they are all afraid. Marduk agrees to kill Tiamat if he is made supreme god. To make heaven and earth, cuts her body in half. From her eyes flow the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
Ugallu (m): a demon who protects people against evil demons and illnesses. He has a human body with the head of a lion and the feet of a bird.
Usmu, Isimud (m): an official of the god Ea. He has two faces. Usmu acts as a messenger and is sometimes shown bringing a bird-man before Ea.
Utu (m): see Shamash.
Wer(m): a storm god linked to Adad.
Zaqar (m): messenger of Sin who relays communication through dreams and nightmares.
Zu: divine storm-bird and the personification of the southern wind and the thunder clouds.