Utu

Utu was the Sumerian god of the sun, justice, truth, and morality. It’s said that he returns every day in his chariot to brighten the lives of humankind and provide the light and warmth necessary for plants to grow.

aUtu had many siblings including his twin sister Inanna. Together with her, he was responsible for the enforcement of divine jua\stice in Mesopotamia. When Hammurabi carved his Code of Justice in a diorite stele, it was Utu (Shamash as the Babylonians called him) who supposedly gave the laws to the king.

Ereshkigal

Ereshkigal was the goddess of death, doom, and the Underworld. She was a sister of Inanna, the goddess of love and war, with whom she had a falling out at some point during their childhood.  Since then, Ereshkigal remained bitter and hostile.

The chthonic goddess is featured in many myths, one of the most famous being the myth of Inanna’s descent into the underworld. When Inanna visited the underworld where she wanted to extend her powers, Ereshkigal received her on the condition that she removed one piece of clothing each time she passed one of the seven doors of the underworld.  By the time Inanna reached Ereshkigal’s temple, she was naked and Ereshkigal turned her into a corpse.  Enki, the god of wisdom, came to Inanna’s rescue and she was brought to life. 

Enki

Inanna’s savior, Enki, was the god of water, male fertility, and wisdom. He invented art, crafts, magic, and every aspect of civilization itself. According to the Sumerian creation myth, also named The Eridu Genesis, it was Enki who warned King Ziusudra of Shuruppak at the time of the Great Flood to build a barge big enough so that every animal and person would fit inside.

The flood lasted for seven days and nights, after which Utu appeared in the sky and everything went back to normal. From that day on, Enki was worshipped as the savior of mankind.

Enki is often portrayed as a man covered in fish skin. On the Adda Seal, he’s shown with two trees alongside him, which symbolize the female and male aspects of nature. He wears a conical hat and flounced skirt, and a stream of water flows into each of his shoulders. 

Gula

Gula, also known as Ninkarrak, was the goddess of healing as well as the patroness of doctors. She was known by many names including Nintinuga, Meme, Ninkarrak, Ninisina, and ‘the lady of Isin’, which were originally the names of various other goddesses.

 

In addition to being a ‘great doctoress’, Gula was also associated with pregnant women. She had the ability to treat diseases of infants and she was skilled in using various surgical tools such as scalpels, razors, lancets, and knives. Not only did she heal people, but she also used illness as a punishment for wrongdoers.

Gula’s iconography depicts her surrounded by stars and with a dog. She was widely worshipped throughout Sumer, although her main cult center was at Isin (modern-day Iraq).

Nanna

In Sumerian mythology, Nanna was the god of the moon and the main astral deity. Born to Enlil and Ninlil, the god and goddess of air respectively, Nanna’s role was to bring light to the dark sky.

Nanna was a patron deity of the Mesopotamian city of Ur. He was married to Ningal, the Great Lady, with whom he had two children: Utu, the god of the sun, and Inanna, the goddess of the planet Venus.

It’s said that he had a beard made entirely of lapis lazuli and he rode on a large, winged bull, which was one of his symbols. He’s portrayed on cylinder seals as an old man with a crescent symbol and a long, flowing beard.

Ninhursag

Ninhursag, also spelled ‘Ninhursaga’ in Sumerian, was the goddess of Adab, an ancient Sumerian city, and Kish, a city-state located somewhere in the east of Babylon. She was also the goddess of the mountains as well as rocky, stony ground, and was extremely powerful. She had the ability to produce wildlife in the desert and foothills.

Also known as Damgalnuna or Ninmah, Nanna was one of the seven major deities of Sumer. She’s sometimes depicted with omega-shaped hair, a horned headdress, and a tiered skirt. In some images of the goddess, she can be seen carrying a baton or mace and in others, she has a lion cub next to her on a leash. She’s regarded as the tutelary deity to many great Sumerian leaders.

In Brief

Each deity of the ancient Sumerian pantheon had a specific domain over which they presided and each played an important role not only in the lives of humans but also in the creation of the world as we know it.

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