The Mesopotamian god known as Enki in Sumerian and Ea in Akkadian was the god of the subterranean freshwaters, which were called the abzu. In Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, he was a wise god and determiner of destinies. Enki was also the deity of magic and incantations, and he played a role in the creation myth.
Enki is sometimes described as the son of the sky god, An. Other myths identify him as the offspring of Enlil, god of the winds and wisdom. At other times, he is the issue of the goddess of the sea, Nammu.
Enki’s main cult center, called E-abzu (Abzu House), was located in the southern Mesopotamian city of Eridu. The temple, according to a Sumerian tradition, was the oldest shrine in Mesopotamia. In the Sumerian myth Enki’s Journey to Nippur, the shrine was described as built from precious metal and lapis lazuli.
An early second-millennium Sumerian tale, Enki and Ninhursanga, described a sacred land called Dilmun, in which “the raven was not yet cawing, the partridge not cackling. The lion did not slay, the wolf was not carrying off lambs, the dog had not been taught to make kids curl up, the pig had not learned that grain was to beeaten.” This land was virginal and pristine, aplace where there was no disease, death, or old age.
The latter part of the story revolves around Enki, the mother goddess Ninhursanga, and their offspring and descendants, all of whom Enki impregnated. One descendant, the spider goddess Uttu, had Enki’s semen removed by Ninhursanga. From this seed, eight plants grew that Enki devoured, causing him great pain. Ninhursanga then healed Enki and gave birth to eight divinities. The composition ends with Enki assigning destinies to each of his offspring. Other stories about Enki and creation are found in two other Sumerian compositions, Enki and Ninmah and Enki and the World Order.
Enki was depicted in art as a water god, friendly to humanity, with streams of freshwater ﬂowing from his shoulders to the ground. In the myth of Atra-hasis, Enki helped the mortal hero Atra-hasis to avoid the dire consequences of plague, famine, and ﬂood. In the epic story of Gilgamesh, Enki helped the hero Uta-napishti to escape the ﬂood and gain immortality.
A Sumerian myth, Enki and Inanna, tells of the attempt by Inanna, the goddess of sex and love and daughter of Enki, to visit her father in his temple at Eridu. Her goal was to obtain greater powers through possession of the me (pronounced may), the divine standards that underlie human civilization. Inanna received the me from her father while he was drunk. In spite of Enki’s attempts to stop her, she brought them to her home city of Uruk. It is unknown whether Enki ever got the me back.
Enki ﬁts into the general storytelling archetype of the trickster.