Enlil was the Mesopotamian god in charge of controlling the realm of deities. As you might know, Mesopotamian mythology is the quintessence of the power, life, and authority of gods and goddesses over humankind on earth. You will embrace the significance of this powerful deity in the lives of ancient Mesopotamians as his story unfolds here.
A Foreword About Mesopotamian Gods
The classical period in Mesopotamia revealed a triad of gods composed of Anu or An in Sumerian, Ea or Enki, and Enlil, the Lord Wind. All of these gods were sublime in dominion and supremacy. Their power is incomparable because they’re the highest in authority in heaven, on earth, and in the underworld.
The uniqueness of these gods lies in the fact that they acknowledge their differences and limits, but Enlil takes the most prominent position because he is regarded as the supreme deity, or the god of all gods. Needless to say, all other deities approve of his throne, and they know the repercussions of any disobedience against him. You can add that anyone who withholds support for Enlil could expect an abhorrent life.
Who Is Enlil?
The world of Mesopotamian mythology is incomplete without the presence of Enlil, the god of the atmosphere. He was as omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient because he was the totality of everything in heaven, on earth, and even in the underworld. There are many stories and legends about him, so let’s dive into the deep of his origins and life.
– The Origin of His Name
The name Enlil signifies the Lord of Wind, which gives you the correct impression that the typhoon, as well as the gentle breeze, is a representation of his breath. This is why his word was so powerful that nobody could ignore it.
Mesopotamian god Enlil is also revered as the Lord of the Air. You could probably assume that he shows his benevolent side when he feels good, and he could be the god of destruction when he is indisposed.
However, there has been a debate about his name. The Sumerian word “lil” in Akkadian means ghost and the entire name Enlil means Lord Ghost, which could be another interpretation of his name Lord Wind.
You must recognize that his name could mean a turbulent wind when he comes with anger, and a gentle wind when he is at peace. You could also tell that his presence as a typhoon would mean devastation on earth.
– Enlil’s Power
Known as the highest god in Sumerian mythology, Enlil is a manifestation of power and dominance. You could visit his official residence in Nippur, where believers worshipped him as the god of agriculture.
At the beginning of the universe, heaven and earth were divided to provide a field for plantation. Enlil created the hoe and cultivated the land for the seeds to grow. As the Myth of the Creation of the Hoe reveals, men came out of the openings in the earth.
Another story that regards Enlil’s power refers to the molestation of his consort Ninlil, the goddess of grain. This immorality drove him to move to the underworld, where he would stay for six months, as reflected in the change of seasons.
In this stage, farmers are given a break during the winter season. From being an important god of the Babylonians, Enlil was replaced by Marduk, the chief of the Babylonian kingdom.
As one of the supreme gods of Mesopotamia, Enlil could pronounce your fate and destiny. His inescapable command was absolute, and his believers honored him without fail. As he was living in the Mountain House in Nippur, this place became the center of religious worship in the southern region of Mesopotamia.
– Enlil’s Character
Enlil’s position in the world of Mesopotamian mythology gave him absolute power over his dominions. In fact, he could make and unmake a person’s life. The destiny of worshippers lied in his benevolence. So much so that people knew that they had to offer more sacrifices and adoration to his temple to please him and let him grant their request.
Adamant and clever in his decisions, Enlil is not the god who will play with his decrees. He’s right all the time. Meanwhile, he is not just an honorable god: He is also a provider. That’s why he’s called the Lord of Abundance. Don’t be misled, because he could give abundant blessing and great devastation at the same time.
As he is the god of gods, it’s customary to offer him the first fruits of your harvest because he is not an understanding god. He is a jealous deity, and he has the authority to send drought, flood, plague, pest, or everything that could shatter your life. However, if you got in his good graces, he could turn into a generous god who could send you a bountiful harvest.
– Divine Bloodline
As the firstborn of Anu and Ki, Enlil was a primary god worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hurrians. Enlil bloodlines come down from his father Anu, the god of the heavens.
His brother, Enki, was the god of wisdom. The three of them constituted the triad of gods in Mesopotamian mythology, which recognizes Enlil as the most powerful of all.
As the god of wind, he had the privilege to have direct communication with Anu. His mother was Ki, the earth goddess, and his wife is Ninlil. Their marriage produced Ninurta, Nanna, Nergal, Ninazu, and Enbilulu.
Widely honored from the Early Dynastic Period I (2900 – 2700 BC), the worship of Enlil was widespread in Mesopotamia. He was also revered in the Akkadian Empire (2334 – 2083 BC) for his immense power and holiness.
You must know that Enlil was so honored that even his fellow gods could not oppose him. However, he failed the gods when he raped his wife Ninlil, and he was demoted from his position.
Enlil and Ninlil
The love story of Enlil and Ninlil began when the god of wind was still a young deity in Nippur. It started even before the creation of man. Nippur was already a developed urban region of the gods, which was administered by a system of laws. Ninlil or Sud was a young and lovely goddess who fell in love with Enlil the moment they saw each other.
It is also noteworthy for you to know the truth behind the relationship between Enlil and Ninlil. Nisaba, the mother of Ninlil, warned her not to bathe in the river to avoid the advances of Enlil, but she didn’t listen.
As a result, she was seduced by Enlil and became pregnant at an improper time. To settle the problem, Enlil went to Nisaba and asked permission to marry Ninlil.
The fate of Enlil was jeopardized by his love affair. The other gods seized and detained him. His final destination was a region in the underworld. Ninlil was also sent there, although they were apart.
– In the Underworld
Enlil tried to speak with the gatekeepers to keep his whereabouts from Ninlil. He even impersonated one of the gatekeepers when Ninlil arrived, asking for his location. He didn’t tell her anything even when Ninlil offered to give him sex in exchange for the information.
They made love in exchange for the information, but he didn’t tell. Each time it happened, he would promise to tell her the information. It was repeated several times, with him using different disguises, which explains how their children Nergal, the god of war, Ninazu, the god of healing, and Enbilulu, the god of canals, were born.
The love story of Enlil and Ninlil is the epitome of true love in the face of persecution. They were able to celebrate their love despite their banishment from the earth, which showed their inseparable feelings for each other. Enlil defied the rules on earth just to fight for his love. Even in the underworld, they found time to show their love.
As a result, the people worshipped him even more for setting a standard for what true love is all about. His action served as an example to mortals that you could conquer all and win your love despite all odds.
Enlil and His Symbols
Known as the most sovereign god of the Mesopotamians, Enlil was endowed with divine power, wisdom, and authority. As a supreme god, he oversees the Tablets of Destiny, sacred items that fulfill the rules of the highest god.
To magnify his power, he is represented by a horned crown. Enlil symbol reveals seven pairs of superimposed horns of an ox. As a divine being, this symbol is a strong representation of power, because gods are supposed to be appearing with this crown to show their legitimate domain.
Aside from the crown, Enlil is also symbolized by the number 50 as a sanctified number to him. This number represents the accuracy and precision in his manners and his presence in the triad of gods.
The three of them symbolized the fixed stars in the heavenly realm. It is significant for you to know that Anu was related to the equatorial sky, while Enlil was associated with the northern sky, and Enki was connected with the southern sky.
Enlil and Constellations
To know Enlil’s path in the sky is to follow the unbroken, balanced circle of stars around the north celestial pole. This constellation symbolizing Enlil is associated with Bootes.
You should not also miss the presence of the bird Zu or the symbol of typhoon and a squall, who is the evil god who wanted to overpower Enlil. His most ambitious goal was to take the Tablets of Fate to acquire his powerful dominion and seal his lordship over the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.
In other words, his sole intention is to depose Enlil. Zu was constantly looking for a chance to steal the crown or the tablet. One day, when Enlil put down his crown to wash his face, Zu suddenly grabbed the tablet and flew away.
Anu commanded the gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon to retrieve the tablet, but nobody helped. This unwanted event broke the relationship between heaven and earth. You should now understand why there is a gap between the two realms.
Enlil and the Triad
Much has been told about the triad, and you can testify to the immense power behind the triad of gods ruling the Mesopotamian pantheon. Anu was the god of the kings and the calendar. He fathered the gods and the evil spirits, as well as Lamashtu, who devoured infants. Enki is the god of water and knowledge in Sumerian mythology.
He is also associated with mischief, crafts, and creation. He’s the patron god of the city of Eridu, and his popularity reached the entire Mesopotamia and its neighboring countries.
His major role in the myth was written in the Atrahasis when he admonished the gods to make fewer creatures work for them. This resulted in a need for workers, which was solved by Ninhursag, who mixed his body and blood with clay to make humans.
This was accepted and helped the earth for a while. Nevertheless, the people grew in number, which made the earth extremely noisy and chaotic to the great disgust of Enlil, who could not live with the noise of men. He caused drought and pests, which killed many people.
A great flood wiped out the people on earth, but behind this was Enki, who was creating ways to preserve the lives of men. He saved some men who stayed in the ark while the flood was ravaging the earth.
Enlil was enraged when he learned that men survived, but do you think other gods were happy with him? Those who mourned for the death of men celebrated the fact that Enki helped in saving some of them in the ark.
Enki, the creator, played a vital role in the salvation of men. He was instrumental in the preservation of mankind, but he proposed to allow men to live and suffer from infertility, sickness, a shorter life span, and daily threats to their lives.
Enki and Enlil disagreed on how to settle the problems of mankind. In the end, all other gods agreed on the creation of more men who would live with a shortened life span.
Enlil and His Adventure with Gilgamesh
The epic of Gilgamesh began with the presence of Humbaba, a notorious monster who was feared by all men for his horrible acts. Enlil commanded him to take care of the Cedar Forest and protect the tree that bears gem fruits.
You should know that the enormous monster, Humbaba, was delighted to do his terrible task in the forest because he enjoyed harassing men with his bizarre looks. He was ruthless and a purveyor of demonic acts to mutilate men.
However, when Gilgamesh thought of going to the forest to kill Humbaba, all his elders kept quiet instead of celebrating his decree. You could feel the horror in their minds as they heard the proud words of Gilgamesh.
As expected, Humbaba’s jubilee was short-lived when Gilgamesh revealed his ambitious plan to end the inhuman activities of Humbaba. After a series of tricky duels, Humbaba was subdued by the brave warrior, Gilgamesh.
Enlil in Gilgamesh Tablet II was enraged because his pet monster was beheaded. Enkidu, who accompanied Gilgamesh in his endeavor — didn’t waste any time ending the life of the monster because of his atrocities to men.
While everyone was satisfied with the plan conceived by Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the great warriors brought home the triumph, to Enlil’s grief.
Some Final Words on Enlil
Enlil is known as the supreme deity in the Mesopotamian triad of gods. He possessed the highest power and absolute authority as the Lord of Wind.
His power was so enormous that you should be aware of it, especially when he got rowdy and lost his temper. This could cause a powerful typhoon to hit the land.
He showed his kindness when he felt good, and that was the chance for believers to enjoy a gentle air in the field. Such an attitude of Enlil makes his presence unstable and tough to bear. Nonetheless, people in his hometown, Nippur, greatly honored him.
Ancient people continued their worship of Enlil as an integral part of their lives because they grew up believing in a supreme being that could protect them and provide for their needs. These gods were adored, worshipped, and served. Above all, the people embraced them as the givers of life and hope.
Enlil hated the noise of men, which led him to eradicate many inhabitants of the earth through floods, drought, pests, and all forms of plagues. Nonetheless, Enki was always there to rescue the people or create more humans to take care of the fields.
Constant wars in the ancient world destroyed temples and palaces. Enlil was not spared in these times of catastrophe. People became more focused on many other facets of their lives, which included having faith in other gods as well.
The worship of Enlil survived until 141 BC, but it later declined until he was forgotten. The mighty works of Enlil have been a genuine part of Mesopotamian mythology, which will always keep his name as the god that breathes a glorious life for mankind.