We are all familiar with the old legend in which God forms the first man out of clay and breathes life into him through his nostrils. His name was “Adam”, from the Hebrew ‘Adamah’, meaning “of the earth”. Most of us have become familiar with this legend through reading the first chapters of the Old Testament. Though the text is Jewish, we know it by its Greek name: “Genesis” or “the beginning”.
Though we all know that this is an ancient tale, few of us realize how prevalent this belief actually was in the ancient world. While Hebrew scribes were writing their ‘man from clay’ legend in Israel, there was a similar legend being taught in nearby Sumeria (modern day Iraq). The Sumerians believed that mankind was created to ‘do work’ for the gods (an admittedly different belief than that of the Jews, who believed we were created to live blissfully in Eden). However, the Sumerian myth also states that the gods created man by mixing “blood and clay”. Of course, this “blood” is the “blood” of the gods, and serves the same function as the “breath of God” in the Hebrew legend, which is to animate the lifeless clay and give it life. When the population of mankind gets too large in the Sumerian version, a god named ‘Enlil’ asks the Elder Gods to send a flood to rid the earth of mankind. A man then builds an enormous ark and survives the flood, to later become the father of a new ‘cleansed’ mankind. If this sounds familiar, it is because this story not only appears later in the Old Testament as the story of Noah, it also appears in the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh”, where his name is “Utnapishtim”, in Greek lore as a man named “Deucalion”, and in Hindu stories as a man named “Manu”.
In a seperate Sumerian myth, Ninhursag, the great Birth goddess created a beautiful garden called “Edinu” (later called “Eden” by the Jews). A god named Enki was put in charge of the animals of Edinu and told not to eat any of the plants. Enki ate the plants and this enraged Ninhursag. As punishment, she caused him to feel great pain in his rib. The Sumerian word for “rib” was “ti”, a word that also meant “life”. The other gods begged Ninhursag to cure Enki. She agreed and created a goddess from his rib to be his companion. The goddess was named “Ninti”, meaning “goddess of life” or “goddess of the rib”. This myth appears later in Hebrew lore, in which a woman named “Havah” or “Eve” (which means “life”) is created from the rib of “Adam”, the man “made from earth”. The name “Eve” can also mean “the beginning”, as in “the beginning of life”, becuase Adam and Eve are said to be responsible for the birth of mankind. It is important to note that the “Ninti” story predates the “Eve” story by thousands of years, proving that this myth was prevalent and well accepted by much of the ancient world.
The Sumerian myths seem to be much older than the Hebrew legend. In fact, the Sumerian myths seem to predate Judaism by thousands of years, and appears to be relatively as old as the nearby civilization of Ancient Egypt. In one Egyptian myth, Khnum, the ram-headed creator god crafts all men and women out of clay on a giant potter’s wheel. The ‘man from clay’ story can even be found as far as China, where the goddess of fertility and creation, Nu Gua, forms mankind out of wet clay from the bank of the Yellow River.
What are these myths telling us? Why is man made of clay or dirt, and why is it said that the gods (or God) animated us with breath or blood? It appears that deep within the symbolism of these disparate myths lies a grain of universal truth. As humans, we share a common feeling. It relates to the old saying: “feet on the ground and head in the clouds”. We all know that we are material beings of earthly matter, yet there is more to us than meets the eye… Our ability to imagine, to dream, to create… our soul shines through our “earthly exterior” as something otherworldly, or perhaps something Divine. This spirit/matter duality, this ethereal/material duality of the human condition is what is being expressed in these ancient tales. It may be for this very reason… our ability to simultaneously exist in this earthly realm and a realm beyond (whether real or imaginary), that it has been said that we are made “in the image of god(s)”, for it was and still is believed by many that God is omnipresent. Obviously, it is our ability to imagine, to create, and to speak and to transmit ideas through symbols that make Humans unique within the animal kingdom. Though I feel a kinship with all creatures great and small (I haven’t eaten one in over a decade), I must admit that we are certainly ‘different’ in the above mentioned respects.
By transcribing these legends religiously for thousands of years, not only to illustrate our dual nature of “one part earth” and “one part Eden”, but also to showcase the very tools of writing and imagination that have been bestowed upon us… perhaps the reason for the existence of these ancient tales is simply to remind us of how extraordinary our humanity truly is.
Let’s see. I’m 23. I live with my girlfriend and our son in the historic Stockade area of Schenectady, NY. I’m vegetarian. I’m equally obsessed with logic/math/science and mythology/occultism/magik. Pretty much everything interests me. I prefer documentaries and textbooks to movies and novels, though I do love Star Wars and cartoons (NERD!).
I’ve been studying myth and magik for over ten years as a hobby/obsession. My website: www.christos-mythos.com is something I’ve been slowly building over the last 3 or 4 years. It’s basically a compilation of information that I think people should know. It’s filled with answers to questions everyone asks, but never bother to look up. These include questions like: “What does the Easter Bunny have to do with the resurrection of Jesus?”, “Why do we carve pumpkins every October?” or “Why is the word ‘Wednesday’ spelled so funny?”
I personally NEED to know these kinds of things. So I’ve spent my life reading books on EVERYTHING to quench my infinite thirst for understanding, and in the process, I’ve acquired facts up the wazoo, so I figured I’d put them out there for people to peruse at their leisure.
Eventually, I realized that there was actually one central theme that encompassed all of the seemingly random information on the site (www.christos-mythos.com). The main theme or central idea is this: that all things stem from some unknown source, and the understanding of ANYTHING brings us closer to that source. The more we know, the closer we are. Of course, with the Divine source being omnipresent and infinite in its nature, we can never learn EVERYTHING. But since all things are from the One source, all things are therefore related.
This is my central philosophy now. Though I didn’t come to this understanding until well AFTER I started the website. It really just started out as just a bunch of random info…
But the Universe works in mysterious ways.