ANZU AND THE TABLET OF DESTINIES



Ninurta is the son of Mami and Ellil; he is called by the names Superb Ninurta; Beloved of Mami; Powerful God; Ellil's Son; Ekur's Child; Leader of the Anunnaki; the Focus of Eninnu; He who Waters Cattle-pens, Irrigated Gardens, Ponds in Country and Town; Flood-wave of Battles; He who Darkens the Sash; Warrior. All the demons fear him.

There are three stories about Ninurta. The first, how he bound the Mountain of Stones; the second, how he conquered Anzu; the third, how he killed the Bull-man of the Abyss. The first two stories are known; the last has been lost, although the Greeks preserved their version of it in a story called "Theseus and the Minotaur." This is the second of these three stories.



This is the story of Ninurta, who defeated Anzu and regained the Tablet of Destinies.

After the world was created, when the Tigris and Euphrates flowed, and seas had been formed, but springs and clouds had not yet watered the land; at this time the Igigi had no daises, were not yet worshipped. They gathered to their father Ellil for their power.

One day the Igigi informed Ellil of something strange. They said:

"Listen to this! On the wooded mountain Hehe, the mountain rocks gave birth to Anzu! His beak is a saw which topples trees; his wings are thunders which cleave the seas; his body is eleven coats of mail; all the mountains tremble under his mighty talons! When he shouted, the south wind blew, the north wind massed clouds, tornadoes came from the four quarters, they picked him up and brought him here!"

They led him in. Enlil, the Father of the Gods, looked at Anzu. He looked at him, but said nothing. He was wondering what to do with him.

Enlil left Anzu there and went to talk with Ea, who knows everyone's thoughts. Enlil asked Ea, "Who could have given birth to Ea, and why has this strange creature come to us?"

Ea answered: "The deep springs, the holy water of the Gods of the Abyss, begot Anzu. The wide Earth conceived him, and the mountain rocks bore him. You can see it by looking at him. You must employ him, make him serve you. Set him at the door of your private chamber, and let him guard it forever."

Ellil thought about Ea's words. Later, when he took his seat in the Great Hall of the Gods, he distributed the powers to all the Gods and made an extra power which he gave to Anzu. He did what Ea had said, and appointed Anzu to guard the entrance to his private chamber.

Now Ellil would wash in holy water, with Anzu guarding him. Anzu himself began to have other thoughts. He would gaze at Ellil's things - his Crown of Lordship, his Robe of Godhood, and especially the Tablet of Destinies, which Ellil held in his hands. Anzu became jealous of these powerful objects, and made up his mind to steal the power of Ellil. He was thinking: "I shall take the God's Tablet of Destinies for myself, control the distribution of powers to all the Gods, have the throne, and become Master of the Rites! I shall direct all of the Igigi!"

So the next day, while Ellil was bathing, naked and with his crown set down on the throne, Anzu walked up and grabbed the Tablet of Destinies. He had stolen the Power of Ellil.

All the rites stopped. Radiance faded, silence was everywhere. Anzu flew away and hid.

Father Ellil, still in his bath, was stunned: the chamber had suddenly gone dark!

The rest of the Gods got together and wondered what to do next.

Anu, father of Ellil as well as the other Gods, spoke up:

"Whoever kills Anzu and regains the Tablet of Destinies will be famous forever!"

So they called Anu's son Adad, the canal-controller. The decision-maker addressed him:

"Powerful and Ferocious Adad, you know you cannot be beaten! So go and strike Anzu with your weapon, lightning! You will be famous with the Great Gods; you will actually be more famous than any of them! When you defeat Anzu, people will set up shrines and worship the Gods, especially you, all over the world! Go and fight for the Gods; if you do, your name shall become Powerful!"

Adad answered and addressed his father Anu:

"Father, who can get to Anzu? Which of your sons can really beat Anzu? He has the Tablet of Destinies, he has the Power of Ellil. What he says is now more important than what Ellil says! If he wants he can turn someone to clay. The Gods are afraid of anything he says!"

At that he turned away and refused to go after Anzu.

Then they called Girra, Anunitu's son. The decision-maker said the same thing to him, asking him to burn Anzu with fire. But he also refused.

Then they called Sara, Ištar's son. The decision-maker said the same thing to him, asking him to strike Anzu with a storm. But he too refused.

When these three, strong young Gods, had refused, none of the Gods knew what to do. The Igigi became very depressed and sat down in silent worry.

Then Ea, the Lord of Wisdom who lives in the Abyss, came up with an idea; he thought of something that could be done. He leaned over and told Anu the idea in his heart:

"Bring all the Gods to me. When they are assembled I shall pick the one who will beat Anzu."

The Igigi trusted Ea; they listened to what he said, and thanked him for the idea.

Then Ea, the Far-sighted One, spoke up and said to Anu and Dagan:

"First, have the Gods call Belet-ili, the Sister of the Gods, the Wise Cousellor of the Gods her brothers. Have them make her speaker in the assembly, and honor her; then I shall tell her my idea."

So they called Belet-ili, the Sister of the Gods, the Wise Cousellor of the Gods her brothers. They made her speaker, and honored her. Then Ea told her what he was thinking.

"We used to call you Mami, but because you are honored in the assembly, your name shall be "Mistress of All Gods." Please now, offer the Powerful One, your Superb Beloved One, the Broad-chested, He who Builds the Battle-formation, Ninurta! Offer him to battle with Anzu, and the Gods will call him Lord. Let him fight for the Gods so his name will become Powerful! He will be known among all peoples, he will have a place in Ellil's temple, the Ekur, and he will be Lord all over the world!"

Mami listened to what he said, Belet-ili the Supreme responded: "yes."

The Gods were ecstatic at her reply. Their depression evaporated and they kissed her feet in gratitude.

Then the Mistress of All Gods called her son into the assembly, into the presence of Anu and Dagan, and they announced the ordinances of the assembly to him:

"I gave birth to all the Igigi; I made every one of the Anunnaki; and I created the Gods' assembly here. I, Mami, assigned the Power of Ellil to my brother, and designated the Kingship of Heaven for Anu. Now Anzu has disrupted the Kingship that I assigned. He has stolen the Tablet of Destinies out of Ellil's hands! He has rejected your father, taken the rites and done what he wanted with them.

So: Make a path, fix the hour, let the light dawn for the Gods whom I created! Gather your destructive battle-power, flash your evil winds upon him! Capture soaring Anzu and flood the earth I have created - destroy his house! Thunder your might above him, let him tremble in fear of your force, unfurl a tornado against him!

Set a poisoned arrow in your bow - keep changing form like a gallu-demon - emit a mist so that he cannot make out your features - let your rays shoot out over him - make a high, attacking leap - shine with a glare more powerful than Šamaš at noon - then let darkness dim his daylight, seize him by the throat! Thus conquer Anzu, and let the winds bear his feathers as good news to Ekur, your Father Ellil's house.

Then quickly flood the insides of the mountains, and slit the evil Anzu's throat. With this done, Kingship will come again to Ekur, and the Ordinances return to the father who begot you. Shrines for the Igigi will be built, your name will be famous all over the world, and you shall have a place within Ekur. So fight for the Gods, and your name shall be "Powerful"!

The Warrior listened to what his mother said, bowed respectfully and left the assembly.



He was ready. The Lord Ninurta marshalled the Seven of Battle; the Warrior Ninurta marshalled the Seven Evil Winds, the Seven Evil Whirlwinds. He mustered his battalion to make terrifying war. Even the gales were quietly poised beside him, ready for the conflict.

It was on the mountainside that Anzu and Ninurta met. Anzu's radiance covered the mountain. He snarled at Ninurta like an umu-demon, shaking with rage. He roared like a lion, and furiously shouted to the Warrior:

"I hold every ordinance of the Gods, I am in charge of all their commands! What right have you to come to fight me? Answer me!"

The Warrior Ninurta replied:

"I am Ellil's avenger, Ea's champion! I have come to the mountain to fight you and to trample upon you!"

Anzu shouted a war-cry that darkened the mountainsides. Both Anzu and Ninurta stood poised for battle.

The fight broke out - blood-drenched, clouds of death rained down, lightning flashed all over as the battle raged. Ninurta pulled away and drew his bow, he fired - but the arrow did not go near Anzu - it turned back! Anzu had shouted at it:

"You, shaft that came: return to your reed thicket! Bow-frame: back to your copse! Bow-string: back to the ram's gut! Feathers: return to the birds!"

He had magick power because he was holding the Tablet of Destinies.

Thereupon Ninurta stopped fighting. He shouted to his messenger Šarur:

"Tell Ea what you saw! Here is my message: 'Ninurta and Anzu were fighting desperately, covered with destruction. But when he fired his bow it did not go near Anzu - it turned back! He used a spell and was holding the Tablet of Destinies; the arrows did not approach him. Thereupon Ninurta stopped fighting."

Šarur bowed and took the message to Ea. When he had repeated it to Ea, Ea gave Šarur a message:

"Repeat to your Lord everything I say! 'Keep fighting hard until Anzu sheds his pinions in the clash of tempests! Take a throw stick to follow your arrows, and cut off his pinions, both right and left. When he sees his wings and shouts 'Wing to wing!' don't panic. Fire your arrows like lightning, and watch his wing-feathers dance like butterflies. Grab his throat and so conquer Anzu, and let the winds bear his feathers as good news to Ekur, to your father Ellil's house. Then quickly flood the insides of the mountains, and slit the evil Anzu's throat. With this done, Kingship will come again to Ekur, and the Ordinances return to the father who begot you. Shrines for the Igigi will be built, your name will be famous all over the world, and you shall have a place within Ekur. So fight for the Gods, and your name shall be "Powerful"!

Šarur bowed and took the message to his Lord Ninurta, repeating everything.

The Lord listened to Ea's words. He bowed respectfully, and set to work. He was ready. The Lord Ninurta marshalled the Seven of Battle; the Warrior Ninurta marshalled the Seven Evil Winds, the Seven Evil Whirlwinds. He mustered his battalion to make terrifying war. Even the gales were quietly poised beside him, ready for the conflict.

Then the fight renewed. Destruction swept over the mountain, blazing heat, chaos and terrible cries. Both Anzu and Ninurta were bathed in blood and the sweat of battle.

Soon, Anzu got tired and shed his pinions. Ninurta took a throw-stick to follow his arrows and cut off his pinions, both right and left.

Anzu saw his wings, and shouted "Wing to wing!" And just then a javelin went through his heart. Ninurta had beaten Anzu.

Then he flooded the insides of the mountains, flooded the pastures, flooded the earth with his furious storm - this was how he killed the evil Anzu, and this is how Ninurta regained the Tablet of Destinies of the Gods; and as a sign of this good news, the winds brought Anzu's feathers, flitting like butterflies, back to Ekur.

Dagan saw the feathers first. He jumped with joy and called the Gods, shouting:

"Ninurta has killed Anzu! The Strong One has recovered all the Ordinances of the Anu and Dagan! When he comes back we have to have a huge party for him, a celebration where we'll tell him all the secrets of the Gods! And Ellil, our Father, will grant him all the ordinances!"

Then Ellil said to Dagan:

"Because he killed the evil Anzu, Ninurta got the Tablet of Destinies for himself. When he comes to you, have him put the Tablet of Destinies in your lap."

Then Ellil said to Nusku, his minister:

"Nusku, go get Birdu and bring him here."

Nusku went and got Birdu, and Ellil said to him:

"Birdu, go to Ninurta and tell him this: 'The Gods have heard of your victory over the evil Anzu in the mountains. They're celebrating it now. Father Ellil told me to come to you to tell you to come back to the Assembly of the Gods."

Birdu hurried to Ninurta in the mountains. He told his Lord what Ellil had told him.

Then Ninurta hurried back to the Assembly of the Gods, back to his Father Ellil in Ekur. All the Igigi were rejoicing, they kissed his feet in gratitude and showered him with praises. Ninurta approached Dagan, and set the Tablet of Destinies on his lap. Then the Father of the Gods Ellil pronounced Ninurta's fate:

"Because you fought and killed the evil Anzu, regained the Tablet of Destinies for yourself and brought it back to Ekur, you shall always have a seat in Ekur. You shall always gaze in your Powerfulness upon the evil Anzu in Ekur.

Because you fought for the Gods and killed the mountain, because you made every enemy bow down to Ellil your father, you have gained complete power and every Ordinance. Who is like you? No one! Therefore may the Ordinances of the mountains be hereby proclaimed, and the shrines of Gods of Fates given wholly to you.

When you are purified, your worshippers call upon Nisaba.

When you are in the furrow, you are called Ningirsu.

When you shepherd the nations as King, your name is Duku.

In Elam you are called Hurabtil.

In Susa you are called Susinak.

In Anu's temple they call you Lord of the Secret.

In Egalmah you are called Pabilsag.

In Ur your name is Utaulu.

In Ekurmah they call you Nin-azu.

You were born in the house of Duranki.

In Der they call you Ištaran.

In Kiš you are Zababa.

In Dilbat your name is Uraš.

In Nippur you are Lugalbanda.

In E-igi-kalama you are called Lugal-marda.

In E-sikil you are the Warrior Tišpak.

In Kullab you are the Warrior of Uruk, beloved son of Belet-ili.

In Lagaš they call you Lord of the Boundary Arrow.

In Larsa you are Panigara.

In E-akkil, your name is Papsukkal, He Who Marches in Front.

These are your surpassing names, Mighty Ninurta! You are Capable, Vigorous, Wise and Penetrating; your counsellor is the Far-sighted One Ea, your Father is Anu. You are Splendid in Battle and Combat! Ellil hereby grants you all the Ordinances, calls you Master of the Ordinances!



Thus the Great Gods called him by his names among the nations, increasing his fame all over the world. May the the names of Ninurta be cherished forever! May elder explain them to youth, may the wise and the learned discuss them, may the father repeat them and teach them to the son, may the mother repeat them and teach them to the daughter. May the ear of the shepherd and the herdsman hear them, and may they always worship Ninurta, the Warrior of the Gods!

May Ninurta's country always be fertile, may he always be healthy and whole. May the peoples of Ninurta, beloved of Mami, weave the tale and call upon his name, remembering the story of Ninurta, who defeated Anzu and regained the Tablet of Destinies!