The Seven Heavens and a Wizards' Duel

After Dumuzi the Shepherd's reign, kingship was taken to Larak, then Sippar, and then Shuruppak. According to the Sumerian king lists the flood occurred well over 30,000 years ago and just like in Genesis, people had shorter life spans after the flood, or at least shorter reigns. After the great deluge, the lists say that kingship descended from Heaven to Kish. The First Dynasty of Kish is said to have lasted 24,510 years, with each of the 23 kings reigning from 306 to 1,500 years. However, the lists vary to some degree on who some of these kings were and how long they reigned. It's founding ruler is the first ruler to have an Akkadian name. It's last ruler, Agga, would get into a conflict with Gilgamesh. The title 'King of Kish' kept great significance long after the city ceased to be the seat of kingship. Sometimes kings even claimed the title when they had no rule over the city.

The kings of the next dynasty were by far the most popular than any other, and the first of it's rulers became immortalized as heroes if not gods. The first dynasty of Uruk, which is estimated to have reigned 2800-2540 BC, has been called the Sumerian Heroic Age5. The first king of E-anna ("House of Heaven"; the original name of Uruk and also the name for Uruk's temple to Inanna) was Meskiaggaseir, son of Utu (the sun god) and reigned as en ("priest"/"lord") and lugal ("man of greatness"/"king") for 325 years. He won the control of the region extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Zagros Mountains. Meskiaggaseir was succeeded by his son Enmerkar, who led a campaign against the city of Aratta.

Restored from 20 tablets and fragments, Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is the longest Sumerian epic that has been uncovered. In it, Enmerkar is given three quests to prove that the Lord of Aratta should submit to Enmerkar as Inanna's king. Like his father, 'Lord-Merker' is also called the son of Utu in the story, although the king lists only give that title to his genetic father. Throughout the story he refers to Inanna as his sister. The text starts off with praise for the city of Uruk-Kulaba and boasts that Inanna's jipar ("temple") was long founded before Dilmun existed, even before gold, silver and copper were used in commerce. Enmerkar asks Inanna to let the lord of Aratta bring gold, silver and lapus lazuli (blue gems) to adorn the temples of Inanna and Enki's temple in Eridu:

"Let Susin and the land of Anshan humbly salute Inanna like tiny mice. In the great mountain ranges, let the teeming multitudes grovel in the dust for her. Aratta shall submit beneath the yoke to Uruk. The people of Aratta shall bring down the mountain stones from their mountains, and shall build the great shrine for you, and erect the great abode for you, will cause the great abode, the abode of the gods, to shine forth for you; will make your me [arts] flourish in Kulaba [Uruk], will make the abzu grow for you like a holy mountain, will make Eridu shine for you like the mountain range, will cause the abzu shrine to shine forth for you like the glitter in the lode. When in the abzu you utter praise, when you bring the me [arts] from Eridu, when, in lordship, you are adorned with the crown like a purified shrine, when you place on your head the holy crown in Uruk Kulaba, then may the ...... of the great shrine bring you into the temple, and may the ...... of the temple bring you into the great shrine. May the people marvel admiringly, and may Utu witness it in joy. Because ...... shall carry daily, when ...... in the evening cool ......, -- in the place of Dumuzi where the ewes, kids and lambs are numerous, the people of Aratta shall run around for you like the mountain sheep in the akalag fields, the fields of Dumuzi. Rise like the sun over my holy breast! You are the jewel of my throat! Praise be to you, Enmerkar, son of Utu!"

Enmerkar heeded Inanna's advice and called his servant, telling him to travel over the Zubi (Zagros) mountains to Susin. He tells the servant to let the men of Susin grovel in the dust and make the Lord of Aratta submit to Uruk "Lest I make the people fly off from that city like a wild dove from its tree, lest I make them fly around like a bird over its well-founded nest."

Susin, also known as Susiana or Susa, is the ancient name for the capital of Elam, which does sit at the foot of the mineral-rich Zagros mountains near the bank of the Karkheh Kur river. The name of this river is also related to the Sumerin word kur, a broad-based word meaning mountain, land, or the netherworld. It is also the river that lent it's name to the Persian emperor Koresh, a.k.a. Cyrus the Great, known to the Jews as a Messiah after he led them out of Babylon in 539 BC. Excavations of Susa have also found the city to be 5,000 years old, and it's art consists of winged animals such as bulls, which perhaps explains the reference to the people flying around like doves. Also found was a mud brick platform about 80x65 meters and 10 meters high, decorated with pottery cylinders stuck into a fašade, which must have once held a great temple. Buildings were found nearby that may have been part of a temple. The four mounds were identified by W.K. Loftus in 1850 and excavated by Jacques de Morgan from 1897-1908. Among the valuable treasures also uncovered in the city: the obelisk of the Akkadian king Manishtusu, the stele of his successor Naram-Sin, and the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. Susa remained a great capital until it was sacked and burned by the Mongols in the 1200s A.D.

Winged Bull
Winged Bull, Susa

Before Enmerkar's messenger leaves on his mission, the king has one last thing for him to remember to recite, the Spell of Enki:

"On that day when there is no snake, when there is no scorpion, when there is no hyena, when there is no lion, when there is neither dog nor wolf, when there is thus neither fear nor trembling, man has no rival! At such a time, may the lands of Cubur and Hamazi, the many-tongued, and Sumer, the great mountain of the me of magnificence, and Akkad, the land possessing all that is befitting, and the Martu [Amorite] land, resting in security -- the whole universe, the well-guarded people -- may they all address Enlil together in a single language! For at that time, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings, Enki, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings -- Enki, the lord of abundance and of steadfast decisions, the wise and knowing lord of the Land, the expert of the gods, chosen for wisdom, the lord of Eridu, shall change the speech in their mouths, as many as he had placed there, and so the speech of mankind is truly one."

True to the nature of the Towel of Babel story, this "spell" relates a spiritual event in the past that caused everyone to speak different languages:

"Now the whole world had one language and one common speech. As men moved east, they found a plain in Shinar [Babylonia] and settled there." -Genesis 11:1-2

Babylonia makes up the area comprised of Sumer and the northern Akkadia area. Returning to story, the messenger begins his trek to Aratta:

He journeyed by the starry night, and by day he travelled with Utu of heaven. Where and to whom will he carry the important message of Inanna with its stinging tone?

He brought it up into the Zubi Mountains, he descended with it from the Zubi Mountains. Susin and the land of Ancan humbly saluted Inanna like tiny mice. In the great mountain ranges, the teeming multitudes grovelled in the dust for her. He traversed five mountains, six mountains, seven mountains. He lifted his eyes as he approached Aratta. He stepped joyfully into the courtyard of Aratta, he made known the authority of his king.

From this we can see that the seven mountains that lay on route the Karkheh Kur represent the seven gates of Kur, the netherworld. They were believed to be the great pillars that separated the heavens from the underworld. The association between these pillars of heaven with mountains and the netherworld river can be found in the Greek Poet Hesiod's Theogony ("Gods' Origin"):

And there dwells the goddess loathed by the deathless gods, terrible Styx, eldest daughter of back flowing Ocean. She lives apart from the gods in her glorious house vaulted over with great rocks and propped up to heaven all round with silver pillars.

Likewise, ziggurats, pyramidal temples built in Sumer and Akkad like the Tower of Babel, were built in seven levels, each one representing one of the heavens. References to these heavenly arches are also spoken of in the first apocryphal book of Henoch (Enoch):

"And there I saw a place on the other side of an extended territory, where waters were collected. I likewise beheld terrestrial fountains, deep in the fiery columns of heaven. And in the columns of heaven I beheld fires, which descended without number, but neither on high, nor into the deep. Over these fountains also I perceived a place which had neither the firmament of heaven above it, nor the solid ground underneath it; neither was there water above it; nor anything on wing; but the spot was desolate. And there I beheld seven stars, like great blazing mountains, and like spirits entreating me. Then the angel said, This place, until the consummation of heaven and earth, will be the prison of the stars, and the host of heaven. The stars which roll over fire are those which transgressed the commandment of Elohim before their time arrived; for they came not in their proper season. Therefore was he offended with them, and bound them, until the period of the consummation of their crimes in the secret year." -1 Enoch 18:11-16

The scripture even mentions the precious stones that were associated with the Zagros mountains:

I went from there to another place, and saw a mountain of fire flashing both by day and night. I proceeded towards it; and perceived seven splendid mountains, which were all different from each other. Their stones were brilliant and beautiful; all were brilliant and splendid to behold; and beautiful was their surface. -1 Enoch 24:1-2

Even though this scripture is not included in the Bible canon, it is directly quoted in the book of Jude (1 Enoch 1:9; Jude 1:14), which also positively identifies the author of the first book of Henoch as the real Henoch from Genesis. St. Augustine likewise accepted the book to be genuine scripture, but it lost accreditation in the 300's A.D. and the scripture was lost for centuries until a Greek-to-Ethiopic translation was rediscovered in Abyssinia in 1773. The first book of Henoch is also the earliest Hebrew text suggesting the division of souls between the elect and the damned and supplies some of the allegories that the parables of Jesus derive upon. The oldest portion of the text (chapters 1-36) has been dated by scholars to no earlier than the second century B.C.

The mountains which separated Heaven and Hell in ancient lore came to represent the proverbial seven heavens (and seven hells) in the latter day Zoroastrian religion of Persia (Iran). Each were believed to be a dimension in itself, where each layer of Heaven was more grandiose than the next and where each layer of Hell reserved a more horrible torment fit for the level of evil each person brought out. This concept of a multi-layered Heaven is found in non-apocryphal scripture as well:

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from Kuriou [the Lord]. I know a man in Christos who fourteen years ago was caught up into the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or apart from the body I do not know- Theos knows. -2 Corinthians 12: 1-2

It is even more prominent in the writings of the Islamic Qu'ran (Koran):

"For over My servants no authority shalt thou have, except such as put themselves in the wrong and follow thee." And verily, Hell is the promised abode for them all! To it are seven gates: for each of those gates is a (special) class (of sinners) assigned. -Surah 15:42-44

The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbear, Most Forgiving! -Surah 17:44

When Enmerkar's messenger reaches his destination, then men of the city bow down to him in the dust. When he threatens the Lord of Aratta with bird metaphors, the king is at a loss for words and starts looking at his feet for an answer. The king tells the messenger that he will submit but only if they bring an amount of wheat for the famine they were experiencing, and not in sacks but in nets. The grain goddess Nisaba helps Enmerkar grow grain so fermented it wouldn't fall through nets and Enmerkar asks that the king accept the sceptre of Uruk. When the messenger gets there, the king is still indignant and states that he will only submit to a sceptre made of genuine kumea. So Enki helps Enmerkar grow one and once again the messenger astonishes the Lord of Aratta. Finally, he suggests that the argument be settled with a tournament, only that the champions of the tournament be ones that have a shirt with no color on it. When his messenger returns, Enmerkar accepts the challenge, demands that the Aratta Lord heap gold, silver and lupus lazuli for Inanna at Uruk, and once again threatens total destruction. But the messenger's mouth is "heavy", so Enmerkar invents the art of writing messages in clay tablets in order for the messenger to remember everything. (Evidence indicates however that writing tablets had existed for some 600 years before then.) The well-travelled servant conveyed the message, but then Ishkur, the storm god, gets involved. He brings a raging storm like 'a great lion', which defeats the famine. This king is encouraged and tells the messenger that Inanna has in no way abandoned her house and bed in Aratta. The ending of the story is lost, but presumably, a champion with a shirt of no color refers to a magician, since it can barely be made out that a young wise woman shows up in Uruk and becomes Enmerkar's queen.

In a different version of the tale, the name of the Lord of Aratta is Ensuhgirana. Enmerkar and Ensuhgirana starts off with a short praise for Uruk and tells how Enmerkar was destined to become a god. But in this version the Lord of Aratta is the first to claim superiority and tells the messenger of Enmerkar to submit, enumerating all the ways Inanna considered him the better. Enmerkar countered with his own tirade of browbeating, saying that Enlil had given him the true crown and sceptre, Ninurta held him on his lap, and that Aruru (Ninmah) extended her right breast to him. In a bid to prove his manliness, he includes how respondent the temple priestess is during the Sacred Marriage Rite:

When I go up to the great shrine, the mistress screeches like an Anzu chick, and other times when I go there, even though she is not a duckling, she shrieks like one.

He also makes it a point that Inanna's temple was in Uruk, not Aratta, and the messenger returns to Susa. Defeated, Ensuhgirana held a council and asked it what he should do. Knowing they didn't stand a chance against Enmerkar, the council tells him to hold back on his boasts, but Ensuhgirana replies that he will never submit to Enmerkar, even if his city becomes a mound of ruins. A sorcerer tells the Lord of Aratta that he will make Enmerkar submit to him and is hired for five minas of gold. The sorcerer goes to Uruk and talks to the cow and the goat. When asked, they tell him that the cheese and butter made from their milk would be eaten by Nisaba (Ninmah). When they told him this, he enacted a spell that caused their utters to dry up. The calves and kids began to starve and they wept bitterly. The wise woman Sajburru came to Uruk's rescue and confronted the sorcerer on the Euphrates and proceeded to have a wizard's duel. They both threw things, maybe fish spawns, into the water to enact each of their spells. The sorcerer made a carp come out but Sajburru made an eagle come out and snatch the carp. At the next throw, the sorcerer made a lamb but Sajburru made a wolf. Then the sorcerer made a cow and its calf but Sajburru made a lion. Then the sorcerer made a wild goat and a wild sheep but Sajburru made a mountain leopard. Then the sorcerer made a gazelle kid but Sajburru made a tiger and a lion. At that point the sorcerer's face darkened and his mind became confused. The wise woman acknowledged that he had magic powers but asked where his sense was trying to do sorcery in the city that An and Enlil had predestined and Ninlil loved so much. The sorcerer pleaded ignorance and asked that he be allowed to go back to Aratta and sing praises of her greatness, but she reminded him that Nanna the moon god had made the cutting off of butter and milk a capital offense and threw him off the river's bank. Having heard this, Ensuhgirana sent a message to Enmerkar admitting that from the moment of his conception he was not the equal of the his 'older brother', the true lord of Inanna. The final praise of the text goes to Nisaba.

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