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The Tablet of Destiny

The Tablet of Destiny is comprised of two relatively short Mesopotamian myths. They are both from the later Akkadian period, and they express the concepts of 'predestination' and the ability to overcome these limitations. The first is the Babylonian tale of Adapa - the first 'perfect' human created by Enki, and his trip to heaven which sealed the fate of mankind forever. The second story is the epic of Anzu - the great lion-headed eagle that stole the Tablet of Destinies from Enlil and then faced mighty Ninurta in single combat.

The Tablet of Destiny

('The Tale of Adapa')

Deep within the Abzu of Eridu, Lord Enki in his wisdom, made a grand experimentation. He created a new man, formed of his own seminal essence. Enki gave to his new creation perfect wisdom and understanding. Adapa was a demi-god. To Adapa, Enki disclosed the secrets of the earth. To Adapa he gave wisdom, but he did not give Adapa eternal life. To him he gave the fruit of knowledge of Heaven and Earth. At that early time, in those years, Adapa was a Sage, a Son of Eridu, a Priest of the House of Enki.

Lord Enki had created Adapa as a protecting spirit among mankind. A Sage whose word was trusted by all the people, clever, extra-wise. Adapa was one of the Anunnaki, holy, pure of hands, the holy priest who always tended the sacred rites. Adapa did the baking with the bakers of Eridu, he did the food and water of Eridu every day, he set up the offering tables, he took the boat out daily and did the fishing for Eridu.

At that time Adapa, the son of Eridu, when he finished his morning Temple duties, and tended Enki's counsel, went out to the Bolt of Eridu. At the holy quay Adapa embarked in a sailing boat, and without a rudder his boat would drift, without a steering-pole he would take his boat out into the broad expanse of the sea.

One day Sutu, the South Wind, was watching Adapa sail across the sea. Sutu, the capricious wind of the South, sought to vex and chastise Adapa for sailing in her sea, Sutu blew up a mighty storm, which caused the sea to rage. Sutu called up her brothers, the tempest winds, and together they blew against Adapa's small boat. Adapa struggled in vain to keep his small boat afloat, but Sutu and her brothers sent him to live in the fishes home.

As Adapa went down to live with the fishes, he cursed Sutu and cried out in his frustration,


'South Wind, though you do send your brothers against me, however many there may be, I shall break your wing!'
No sooner had he uttered these words than South Wind's wing was broken; For seven days South Wind did not blow towards the Land.

An in Heaven, called out to his vizier Ilabrat,


'Why has South Wind not blown towards the Land for seven days?'
His vizier Ilabrat answered him,

'My Lord, Adapa the son of Enki has broken South Wind's wing.'

When An heard this report, he rose up from his throne and cried aloud in an angry voice,


'Heaven help him; Send for him to be brought here, into my presence!'

Now Lord Enki, who was aware of the ways of heaven, laid his hand upon Adapa, so as to alter his appearance, he made him to wear his hair unkempt, clothed him in mourning garb, and gave him specific instructions,


'Adapa, you are to go before King An in Heaven, when you approach the Great Holy Gate of Heaven, there will be two gods standing guard, they will be Dumuzi and Ningishzida. They shall see you, and they shall ask questions of you, "Young man, on whose behalf do you wear mourning garb?" You must answer them, "Two Gods have vanished from my country, and that is why I am behaving like this." They will ask of you, "Who are the two Gods that have vanished from the country?" You must answer, "They are Dumuzi and Ningishzida." They will then look to each other and laugh a lot, they will speak a word in your favor to An, they will present you to An in a good mood. When you stand before An, they will hold out for you the bread of death, so you must not eat. They will hold out for you the water of death, so you must not drink. They will hold out a garment for you; so put it on. They will hold out oil for you; so anoint yourself. You must not neglect the instructions I have given you; keep to the words that I have told you.'

The envoy of An arrived.


'Send to me Adapa, who broke South Wind's wing.'

The Angel of An took Adapa and led him up to Heaven, when Adapa approached the Gate of Heaven, the two gods, Dumuzi and Ningishzida were standing guard at the threshold. They saw Adapa and cried aloud,


'Heaven help him! Young man, on whose behalf do you look like this? Adapa, on whose behalf do you wear such mourning garb?'
Adapa answered them,

'Two Gods have vanished from the country, and that is why I am wearing mourning garb.'
'Who are the two Gods who have vanished from the country?', They asked of Adapa.
'Dumuzi and Ningishzida', he answered.
They looked at each other, and laughed a lot. They escorted Adapa into the Halls of Heaven and before the throne of An.

When Adapa drew near to the presence of King An, the King saw him and shouted,


'Come here, Adapa! Why did you break South Wind's wing?'
Adapa answered King An,

'My Lord, I was catching fish in the middle of the sea for the House of my lord Enki, but South Wind inflated the sea into a storm, South Wind blew against me and sank me! I was forced to take up residence in the fishes' home, in my fury I spoke a word of power and cursed South Wind.'

Dumuzi and Ningishzida responded from beside him, they spoke a word in his favor to King An. An's heart was appeased, he grew quiet. An spoke softly to Dumuzi and Ningishzida,


'Why ever did Enki disclose to mankind the ways of Heaven and Earth, give unto them a heavy heart? It was he who did it! It was Enki who caused this to happen. Now what can we do for this man here? Fetch him the bread of eternal life and let him eat of it!'

They fetched him the bread of eternal life, but he would not eat. They fetched him the water of eternal life, but he would not drink. They fetched him a garment, and he put it on himself. They fetched him oil, and he anointed himself.

An watched him and laughed at him.


'Come, Adapa, why didn't you eat? Why didn't you drink? Don't you want to be immortal? Alas for the people of Earth!'
Adapa answered,

'But Enki my Lord told me: "You musn't eat! You musn't drink!"'
But it was too late. An spoke up with authority,

'Take him away and send him back to his earth, to live out his life among humankind, and from this day forward, such shall be the lot of the people of earth.'

(So Ends the Tale of Adapa)


*********


('The Epic of Anzu')

I shall sing the praises of the superb son of the King of Populated lands, the beloved of Mami, the powerful god, Enlil's son; I praise superb Ninurta, E-Kur's child, leader of the Anunnaki, focus of the Heavens. He is the mighty Flood-wave of battle, who darkens the sash, the invincible warrior of the gods. The fiercest of the gallu-demons fear his attack. Listen to the praise of the powerful one's strength, he who subdued the Mountain of Stones in his fury, he who conquered the soaring Anzu with his weapon. He is strong, a warrior who slays with his weapon, a powerful commander who is quick to form a battle array.

Until now, no dais had been created for the Igigi; the Igigi would assemble at the House of E-Kur for their Enlil-power. Rivers were formed - the Tigris, the Euphrates - but springs had not yet sent their waters to the land. Seas were not yet lapping at the shores, clouds were still far away on the horizon.

All the Igigi gathered together in E-Kur, to Enlil their father, warrior of the gods, they, his sons, brought a report:


'Pay attention to reliable words! On Hehe, a wooded mountain of stone, in the lap of the Anunnaki lands, the earth has given birth to Anzu, a great winged beast, a Lion-Eagle. His beak is as a saw, his shining feathers are as eleven coats of mail armor, the solid mountain stone has composed his bones, his shout is as a powerful weapon. The South Wind has blown against him to no avail, the powerful winds have blown against him, moving him not. The four winds and the whirlwind have blown against him, moving him not. Mighty is Anzu, and he has agreed to be presented before the court of the King of all populated lands, the E-Kur of father Enlil.'

With that, the Igigi brought out Anzu, placed him before the throne dais of Enlil. Father of the Gods, Duranki's God, looked upon him, but kept his thoughts to himself. He studied Anzu carefully and closely, he considered the origin of this great beast.


'Who gave birth to this mighty beast? Why is this being brought to existence?'
Enki answered his own heart-searching, the wise one addressed his words to Enlil,

'Surely water of the spate begot Anzu, Holy Water of the Gods of Abzu. Broad Earth conceived him, and he was born from mountain rocks. You have looked upon Anzu himself, his strength, his power. Let him serve you and never cease! In the sacred hall let him bar the way to the innermost chamber, forever.'
Enlil was pleased with the words of Enki, he took Anzu to his cult-center, taught Anzu how to administer the orders.

Anzu administered the orders of all the gods, Enlil created an extra fate for Anzu, and he administered it to him. Enlil then appointed him to guard the entrance of the chamber which he had perfected. Enlil would bathe in holy water in his presence. Anzu's eyes would gaze at the trappings of Enlil-Power: His lordly crown, his robe of divinity, the Tablet of Destinies in his hands. Anzu often gazed at Duranki's God, father of the gods, and fixed his purpose, to usurp the Enlil-Power.


'I shall take the Gods' Tablet of Destinies for myself, and control the orders for all the gods. I shall possess the throne and be master of rites! I shall direct every one of the Igigi!'

Anzu plotted dire opposition in his heart. And at the chamber's entrance from which he often gazed, he waited for the start of day. While Enlil was bathing in the holy water, stripped and with his crown laid down on the throne, Anzu gained the Tablet of Destinies for himself, he took away the Enlil-Power. Rites were abandoned, Anzu then flew off and went into hiding. Radiance faded, darkness descended on the land, silence reigned. Father Enlil, the great counsellor, was dumbstruck, for Anzu had stripped the chamber of its' radiance.

The gods of the land searched high and low for a solution. An, King of heaven, made his voice heard and spoke, addressed the gods his sons,


'Whichever God slays Anzu will make our name great in all the populated lands!'
They called the canal-controller, An's son, the decision-maker spoke to him,

'Powerful Ishkur, ferocious Ishkur, your attack cannot be deflected; Strike Anzu with lightning, your weapon! Your name shall be glorified in the great gods' assembly, you shall have no rival among the gods your brothers. Then surely shall shrines be created for you! Establish your cult-centers all over the four quarters of the world! Your cult-centers shall enter E-Kur! Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!'

Ishkur answered the speech, addressed his words to An his father,


'Father, who could rush off to the inaccessible mountain? Which of the gods your sons will be Anzu's conqueror? For he has gained the Tablet of Destinies for himself, he has taken away the Enlil-Power; the holy rites are totally abandoned! Anzu flew off and went into hiding! His utterance has replaced that of Duranki's God! He has only to command, and whoever he curses shall turn to clay! At Anzu's utterance the gods must now tremble!'
Ishkur turned away, saying he would not make the expedition.

They called Gibil, Antu's son. The decision-maker spoke to him,


'Powerful Gibil, ferocious Gibil, your attack cannot be deflected; Burn Anzu with Holy Fire, your weapon! Your name shall be great in the Great Gods' Assembly, You shall have no rival among the gods your brothers. Then surely shall shrines be created for you! Establish your cult-centers all over the four quarters of the earth! Your cult-centers shall enter E-Kur! Show prowess to the gods and your name shall be Powerful!'
Gibil answered the speech, addressed his words to An his father,

'Father, who could rush off to the inaccessible mountain? Which of the gods your sons will be Anzu's conqueror? For Anzu has gained the Tablet of Destinies for himself, he has taken away the Enlil-Power; the sacred rites are abandoned! Anzu flew off and went into hiding! His utterance has replaced that of Duranki's God, he has only to command, and whoever he curses turns to clay! At his utterance the gods must now tremble!'
Gibil turned away, saying he would not make the expedition. An turned to several other of the gods, but none would venture in pursuit of Anzu. The gods fell silent and despaired of advice. The Igigi grew despondent.

The Lord of Intelligence, the wise one who dwells in the Abzu, formed an idea in the depths of his being; He told his father An what he was thinking in his inmost being.


'Let me give orders and search among the gods, and pick from the assembly Anzu's conqueror.'
The Igigi listened to this speech of his; The Igigi were freed from anxiety and kissed his feet. The far-sighted one made his voice heard and spoke, addressed his words to An and Dagan,

'Have them call for me Belet-ili, sister of the gods, wise counsellor of the gods her brothers. Have them announce her supremacy in the assembly, have the gods honor her in their assembly; I shall then tell her the idea which is in my heart.'

They called Belet-ili, sister of the gods, to him, wise counsellor of the gods her brothers. They announced her supremacy in the assembly, the gods honored her in their assembly. Then Enki told her the idea in the depths of his inmost being.


'Previously we used to call you Mami, but now your name shall be Mistress of All Gods. Offer to us the powerful one, your superb beloved, broad of chest, who forms the mighty battle array! Give us Ninurta, your superb beloved. Then shall his name be "Lord" in the Great Gods' Assembly. Let him show strength and prowess to the gods, that his name may be Powerful, Let his name be made great in all populated lands, his cult-centers shall spring forth!'
Mami listened to this speech of his, and Belet-ili the supreme uttered her answer, 'Yes.'

The gods of the land were glad at her utterance; The Igigi were freed from anxiety and kissed her feet. She called her son into the gods' assembly, and instructed her favorite, saying to him,


'I gave birth to all the Igigi, I created every single one of the Anunnaki, and I created the gods' assembly. I, Holy Mami, assigned the Enlil-Power unto my brother, I then designated the kingship of Heaven for An. Anzu has disrupted the kingship that I have designated! He has obtained for himself the Tablet of Destinies. He has robbed Enlil; he rejected your father, stole the sacred rites and turned them to his own use.'

'Make a path, fix the hour, let light dawn for the gods whom I created. Muster your devastating battle force, make your evil winds flash as they march over him. Capture soaring Anzu, and inundate the earth, which I created - wreck his dwelling.'

'Let terror thunder above him, let fear of your mighty battle force settle in his belly, make him quake with fear, make the devastating whirlwind rise up against him.'

'Set your arrow in the bow, coat it with a deadly poison. Your form must keep changing, like a gallu-demon. Send out a fog, so that he cannot recognize your features!'

'May your rays proceed above him, make a high, attacking leap; have a glare more powerful than Utu generates. May broad daylight turn to darkness for him. Seize him by the throat; conquer Anzu, and let the wind bring his feathers as good news to E-Kur, to your father Enlil's house.'

'Rush forth and slit the throat of wicked Anzu. Then shall holy kingship enter E-Kur again, then shall the sacred rites return for the father who begot you! Then surely shall shrines be created! Establish your cult-centers all over the four quarters! Your cult-centers shall enter E-Kur! Show prowess to the gods and your name shall be Powerful!'

The warrior listened to his mother's words. He hunched over in deep thought, and withdrew himself from the gods' assembly in order to make preparation for battle. The Lord marshalled the Sebitti, the Seven of Battle, the warrior marshalled the seven evil winds, who dance in the dust, the seven whirlwinds. He mustered a battle array, made war with a terrifying formation; Even the gales were silent at his side, poised for conflict.

On the mountainside Anzu and Ninurta met. Anzu looked at him and shook with rage at him, bared his teeth like an umu-demon; his mantle of radiance covered the mountain, he roared like a lion in sudden rage, in utter fury shouted to the warrior,


'I have taken away every single sacred rite, and I am in charge of all the gods' orders! Who are you, to come to do battle against me? Give your reasons!'
Insolently his speech rushed out at him. The great warrior Ninurta answered Anzu,

'I am the avenger of Duranki's God, the Lord of the Broad Earth, Enki King of destinies. I have come to make war against you, to do battle with you, to trample on you!'

Anzu listened to this speech, then hurled his shout furiously amid the mountains. Darkness fell over the mountain, their faces were overcast. Utu, the Light of the Gods, was overcast by darkness. Ishkur roared like a lion, his din joined that of Anzu. A clash between the battle arrays was imminent, the flood-weapon was massed, the armor-plated breast was bathed in blood. Clouds of death rained down, arrows flashed like lightning, the battle force roared between them.

The powerful one, Mami's son, most trusted of An and Dagan, beloved of the far-sighted one, set the arrow-shaft to the bow, drew it taut, aimed the shaft at him from the bow's curve. But Ninurta's arrow did not go near Anzu - the shaft turned back. Anzu shouted at it,


'You, arrow-shaft that came - return to your reed thicket! Bow-frame - back to your copse of trees! Bow-string - back to the ram's gut! Feathers - return to the birds!'
He was holding the gods' Tablet of Destinies in his hand, and they influenced the string of the bow; the arrows did not come near his body. Deadly silence came over the battlefield, and conflict ceased. Weapons stopped and did not capture Anzu amid the mountains. Ninurta shouted out and instructed Sharur, his mighty mace;

'Repeat to far-sighted Enki the actions you have seen! The Lord's message is thus - Ninurta was encircling Anzu, and Ninurta the mighty warrior was wrapped in devastation's dust. But when he set the shaft to the bow, drew it taut and aimed the shaft at him from the bow's curve, it did not go near Anzu: the shaft turned back as Anzu shouted at it, as did all the parts of my bow. Now deadly silence rules the battlefield, the weapons have not captured Anzu in the mountains.'

Sharur bowed, took the message, carried the battle dispatch back to far-sighted Enki. Everything the Lord had told him, he repeated to Enki. The far-sighted one listened to his son's words, called out and instructed Sharur,


'Repeat to your Lord what I say, and everything I tell you, repeat to him: Don't let the battle slacken, press home your victory! Tire him out so that he sheds his pinions in the clash of tempests. Take a throw-stick to follow your arrows, and cut off his pinions, detach both right and left. When he sees his wings and emits his utterance, shouts, "Wing to Wing", don't panic; Draw taut from the curve of your bow, let the arrow-shafts fly like lightning, let the wing feathers dance like butterflies, seize him by the throat, conquer Anzu and let the winds bring his feathers as good news to E-Kur, to your father Enlil's house. Rush and slit the throat of wicked Anzu. Then shall kingship enter E-Kur again, then shall the sacred rites return for the father who begot you! Then surely shall shrines be created! Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!'

Sharur bowed, took the message, carried the battle dispatch to his Lord. Everything that Enki had told him, he repeated to his Lord. The Lord listened to the words of far-sighted Enki. He hunched over, planning his next move. Ninurta again rallied the battle forces against Anzu.

Devastation ruled over the mountain, a heatwave blazed, confusion struck the minds of all who did battle, the tempests blew from all four quarters of the land, weapons slew and both were bathed in the sweat and blood of battle. Anzu grew weary and in the clash of tempests shed his pinions. Ninurta took a throw-stick to follow his arrows, and cut off his pinions, detached them both right and left.

Anzu saw his wings, and emitted his utterance; but as he shouted 'Wing to Wing', an arrow-shaft came up at him,a dart passed through his very heart. Ninurta made an arrow pass through pinion and wing, the dart passed through heart and lungs. Ninurta slew the mountains, inundated their proud pastures, inundated the broad earth in his fury, inundated the midst of the mountains, slew wicked Anzu. And warrior Ninurta regained the gods' Tablet of Destinies for his own hand.

As a sign of the good news, the wind brought Anzu's feathers, Dagan saw this sign and rejoiced, called all the gods and joyfully he spoke,


'The strong one has indeed slain Anzu on his mountain, he has regained the Tablet of Destinies. Come! Let him come to us, let him rejoice, play, make merry. Let the gods his brothers come before him, let him hear their secrets, the secrets of the gods. Let Enlil, father of the gods his brothers, bestow on him the sacred rites.'
Enlil made his voice heard and spoke, addressed his words to Dagan,

'When Ninurta slew the wicked Anzu in the midst of the mountains, warrior Ninurta regained the gods' Tablet of Destinies for his own hands. Send for him and let him come to you. Let him place the Tablet of Destinies in your lap.'
Enlil made his voice heard and spoke, addressed his words to Nusku, his vizier,

'Nusku, go outside, bring Birdu into my presence.'
Nusku went outside, brought Birdu into Enlil's presence. Enlil made his voice heard and spoke, addressed his words to Birdu,

'Birdu, I shall send you, I shall send you to the mountain to fetch mighty Ninurta, bring him here into my presence. Bring him now for all the gods his brothers await him in the divine assembly, they all await the feast of Ninurta, in celbration of his victory this day. Go now and fetch him, bring him by force if you must!'

Birdu left, and went to the mountain to fetch the Lord Ninurta. When Birdu told the Lord all that Enlil, his father had told him, Ninurta made his voice heard and spoke, addressed his words to Birdu,


'Birdu, why do you come here so aggressively?'
Birdu made his voice heard and spoke, addressed his words to Ninurta his Lord,

'My Lord, Enlil your father sent me to deliver his message to you, "The gods have heard that you slew wicked Anzu amid the mountains, they rejoiced and made merry." Enlil made me come to your presence and bring you back Go to him, that he may come to his victory feast. Bring with you the corpse of Anzu, let Enlil in his majesty gaze upon the wicked Anzu in E-Kur. O Great Warrior in your powerfulness, when you slew the mountain, you captured Anzu, slew him in his powerfulness, slew soaring Anzu in his powerfulness. Because you were so valiant and brave and slew the mountian, you made all foes kneel at the feet of Enlil your father. Ninurta, you have bravely won complete dominion, every single sacred rite is yours. Who was ever created like you? The mountain's rites are proclaimed, the shrines of the gods of fate have been granted to you. They call upon Nissaba for your purification ceremony; they call your name throughout the land, they designate for you the entire shepherding of the peoples, they give you the holy names of kingship, among the gods your brothers do they exalt you, brave Ninurta. Exalted above all others is your name. Come now to your kingship feast!'

With that, Ninurta departed the mountain and returned to the divine assembly of the gods, and there, in the secret chamber, returned the Tablet of Destinies to Enlil his father.

Thus Concludes the Tablet of Destiny.




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