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An Introduction to Sumerian Deities

In a region located in what is now modern Iraq, Sumer was an ancient civilization that is often referred to as the earliest known civilization in the world. In this article, you will learn more about the people who have come from what is called the Cradle of Civilization.

Background on Sumer

The Sumerian civilization thrived over the course of 3,000 years. During the middle of the 6th millennium BC, it started out as a settlement of Eridu during what is known as the Ubaid period. The civilization holds a special place in history because it is where the wheel was invented, and writing began.

Agriculture, such as techniques in irrigation, had a start within the Sumerian civilization.  The cities throughout Sumer were the first to follow practices in agriculture that lasted all year-round. They embraced mono-cropping and created a specialized labor to complete their tasks.

The Primary Deities

In the Sumerian culture, there were four primary deities that the people worshipped.

·    An (who was known as the Great Father of the Gods, the king of the Gods or the God of the Sun) was seen at one time as the head of the Sumerian pantheon. Over time, his influence and powers faded, and his importance was eventually transferred to Enlil , his son. An was represented by the star.

·    Enki was the lord of water, wisdom, creation, and fertility, who was responsible for creating the first humans. He also held the position of keeper of the divine laws and is often associated with the invention of writing. Two serpents entwined on a staff served as the symbol for this god. In myths, it is Enki who warned Ziusudra (the King of Sippar who is often compared to Noah) of the impending flood.

·    Enlil succeeded his father as the head of the Sumerian pantheon and represented the lord of rain, wind, and air. It is said that it was he who invented the tools of agriculture that the humans benefited from. Seven small circles were used to symbolize Enlil.

·    Ninhursag (also known as the Great Mother Goddess) was the daughter of An and Nammu. She is also the goddess of childbirth and referred to as the Queen of the mountains. In some myths, she is referred to as Enlil’s sister, while other records mention that she is also his wife.

Now, that you have become acquainted with the primary deities, you will meet a few other gods and goddesses, who together with the four above make up those that who looked upon as being able to decree fate for the Sumerians.

·    Inanna was the goddess of love, fertility, procreation, and war. She was also known as Queen of the beasts and the protector of Aratta. Early accounts state that she is An’s daughter. A star with eight or sixteen points was used to represent Inanna.

·    Nanna was god of the Moon and was represented by the crescent. His parents were Ninlil (the goddess of the grain) and Enlil.

·    The Sun god of justice was Utu, who was the son of Nanna and Ninga. His child, Mamu, was the god or goddess of dreams and visions.