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The World of the Sumerian Mother Goddess: An Interpretation of Her Myths
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, History of Religions.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present study is an interpretation of the two myths copied in the Old Babylonian period in which the Sumerian mother goddess is one of the main actors. The first myth is commonly called “Enki and Ninḫursaĝa”, and the second “Enki and Ninmaḫ”. The theoretical point of departure is that myths have society as their referents, i.e. they are “talking about” society, and that this is done in an ideological way. This study aims at investigating on the one hand which contexts in the Mesopotamian society each section of the myths refers to, and on the other hand which ideological aspects that the myths express in terms of power relations.

The myths are contextualized in relation to their historical and social setting. If the myth for example deals with working men, male work in the area during the relevant period is discussed. The same method of contextualization is used regarding marriage, geographical points of reference and so on. Also constellations of mythical ideas are contextualized, through comparison with similar constellations in other Mesopotamian myths. Besides the method of contextualization, the power relations in the myths are investigated. According to this latter method, the categories at issue, their ranking, as well as their changed ranking, are noted.

The topics of the myths is issues important for the kingship and the country, such as irrigation, trade, health and healing, birth, collective work, artisanry and rivalry. All these aspects are used in order to express what the power relations between the goddess Ninḫursaĝa/Ninmaḫ and the god Enki look like. The relations are negotiated and recalibrated, which leads to the goddess getting a lowered status. Part of the negotiations and recalibrations is gender behavior, which is related to historical developments in society. The present work points to the function of these myths as tools of recalibrating not only deities, but also men and women in society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2014. , 354 p.
Historia religionum, ISSN 0439-2132 ; 35
Keyword [en]
Sumerian mother goddess, Mesopotamia, myth, Ninḫursaĝa, Ninmaḫ, Enki, kingship, midwifery, birth-giving, creation, death, sexual intercourse, gender, ideology, contextualization
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-228932ISBN: 978-91-554-8979-3OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-228932DiVA: diva2:735198
Public defence
2014-09-06, Ihresalen, Tunbergsvägen 3L, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-08-18 Created: 2014-07-23 Last updated: 2014-09-08

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