Tiamat: Planet, Goddess, Creator
The story is familiar: chaos reigned before order; darkness filled the void before light; waters crested and ebbed to shape the land and mountains; generations of gods and humans battled over power and control. These are shared mythologies that run through continents and civilizations. Out of all the creation narratives, one name rises above the rest — Tiamat, the ancient Babylonian goddess considered the foundational force of the universe.
Ancient Babylonia, part of the Mesopotamian empire, was renowned for its beautiful gardens, astronomy, and astrology, and as a cultural bridge between Africa and Asia. The legend of Tiamat is told through the ancient Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish, thought to have been scribed by Hammurabi, the sixth ruler and considered the first king of the Babylonian Empire.
The Enuma Elish: The Seven Tablets of Creation
Enuma Elish is the Babylonian creation story, predating and influencing early Judeo-Christian texts. Comprised of 1000 lines etched on seven clay tablets, the Enuma Elish is the primary source for Mesopotamian cosmology and tells the story of how the order was shaped out of swirling chaos. The shaper is Tiamat, goddess of the deep salt waters, who with her mate Apsu, the god of fresh, clean water, gives birth to the first generation of deities. The opening passage sets forth how raw and unformed the world was prior to Tiamat’s efforts:
When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu, their begetter,
(And) Tiamat, she who bore them all, Their waters commingling as a single body;
No reed hut had been matted, no marshland had appeared,
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined—
Then it was that the gods were formed within them.
This early generation of deities is violent and power-hungry, ready to overthrow Apsu and assume power, launching Tiamat into her second, more violent stage. Many scholars view Tiamat through two phases — the nourishing, creative force, and the destructive, vengeful goddess.
The Face of Tiamat: Caring Mother and Avenging Spouse
At the beginning of Tiamat’s story, she personifies young and fertile motherhood, giving birth to a multitude of deity offspring. During this stage, Tiamat is described as calm and loving. But when her offspring turn murderous, killing her husband Apsu, Tiamat enters her second phase — her anger transforms her into a vengeful monster with five independent heads. Ultimately, this stage is Tiamat’s undoing, as her need for revenge and her formidable power leads her into battle with Marduk, the god of storms. Even more ambitious than the previous generation, Marduk would only agree to wage battle with Tiamat on the condition that if victorious, he would be crowned “King of the Gods.”
In a true “war of the worlds,” Marduk emerged as the victor against Tiamat by utilizing his wind-driven power, splitting her in half with an arrow. Marduk succeeds Tiamat, but only after using her split body to fashion the heavens and the earth. As described by the New World Encyclopedia:
“The entirety of the material creation was thus generated, with half of her body as the sky, the other half as the Earth, her ribs (or thigh bones) as the vault of Heaven and Earth, her monstrous udder as the mountains, her weeping eyes as the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates and her poisonous spittle as the earthly moisture (clouds, winds, rain, and fog).”
Tiamat and the Legacy of Feminine Power
According to Rivkah Brickman Harris, author of “Gender and Aging in Mesopotamia,” Tiamat’s multiple personalities represents the many stages of in a woman’s life, as well as prescribed gender roles relating to power and sexuality. Harris concentrates her scholarship on Tiamat’s older self, and how society negatively stereotypes older women, ultimately punishing them for their independence and ambition. Tiamat’s violent end is identified with the often complicated role powerful women face, both in ancient and modern times.
The emergence of the hero-god in the form of Marduk, who slays the creation goddess, Tiamat, resonates in today’s #MeToo movement, as humanity continues to struggle toward equity and power. Tiamat’s legacy as the original powerful female persona lives on, from the women of Greek mythology, such as Medea, to Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, to the emergence of a new generation of politicians and activists.
Will we finally move from a society that shuns women’s power, as Tiamat was ultimately destroyed, or will be learn to celebrate the multiversity that is feminine power? Only time will tell.
The Heroine's Journey
Stories have been told throughout time and across cultures of the hero’s journey, a series of events that a hero faces in order to fulfill his destiny. Most of these stories are cyclical, the hero ending up back where he started, only smarter, stronger, and with something gained from his struggles that will allow him to be the hero he was destined to be.
What is the Heroine’s Journey?
While the hero’s journey is more often talked about and better known, another journey exists, one that is, at this moment, crucial to be reminded of. That story is the one of the heroine’s journey, the feminine hero who learns in a completely different manner than our beloved hero. It’s important to remember that these stories of heroines and goddesses were once plentiful in the world. During the ages of goddess worship, these stories were not only shared, but lived by women around the world. Unfortunately, as the patriarchal society that we know today, filled with modern inventions and technology, began to take hold, these women and their stories were pushed to the sidelines, told that they were weak and fragile.
Over generations, women began to believe the stories men told them, and they gave up the life they once knew, trading it in for one of domesticity and servitude.
Guided by Intuition
In the heroine’s journey, woman warriors are uniquely guided by intuition, a knowingness that comes from within. This intuition is sourced and nurtured by nature and the creative connection that the feminine has with it. While men on the hero’s journey are guided by tangible things, like people, the female hero seeks guidance from the earth, hearing the voices of the plants and animals that no one else can hear, seeing signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars.
A Desire to Heal
Today, stories told about the heroine’s journey are about a woman’s desire to heal the wounds caused by living in a patriarchal society. Also coined “the mother wound” by Dr. Oscar Serrallach, women’s journeys are fueled by a need to recover what has been lost, a means to cope with the psychological struggle, the inner turmoil that drives her to reclaim the power and spirit of the sacred feminine. Dr. Serrallach writes that the four fundamental aspects of the feminine are “to nurture, to protect, to empower, and to initiate.” Roles that are either diminished, ignored, or refused of many women in today’s world.
When the patriarchal society gained footing, and women were removed from their place of power, an unforeseen side effect began, one that is beginning to be impossible to ignore today.
Connected to Nature
Women, who carry an innate connection with nature and a desire to nurture and protect, were made to forget their purpose on the planet, their voice drowned out by the droning of machines. Indoors, women turned to their family, doing what they could to nurture, protect, and empower their sons and daughters. But, away from nature, their source of power, women were weakened, removed from the planet’s cycles, no longer hearing the voice of the infinite mother who speaks softly through the wind, the leaves, and the whistles of birds.
A Call to Protect Mother Earth
Over centuries of being forgotten, her female protectors locked behind walls, our mother earth is suffering – burned, scarred, abused, and ignored. She is crying out louder now, begging for someone to come and to remember her, to protect her against the atrocities that are taking place on her soil and in her sky. Only she knows exactly who will come to her rescue: women.
Women, when they start to remember who they are, can speak to her. They can fight for her and do what they do best: nurture, protect, and empower.
Relearning From the Divine Feminine
The beautiful thing is that women today don’t need to start from scratch; there is a relearning that needs to take place, one that can be facilitated by the groups of women who never lost touch with the divine feminine. In the documentary Arise women can be inspired by others who are leading efforts to protect and restore our natural environment. On every continent, there are women who have not forgotten their roots, women who are actively creating and being involved with projects that are solving some of the world’s largest natural problems.
In another film, Juliette of the Herbs, women can see the beauty of a life lived through herbalism, holistic medicine, and a deep love and affection for animals. Finally, we can see the potential of our actions in the beautiful documentary, created by the futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, Visions of a Universal Humanity, highlighting the optimism that is needed to fuel our ambitions of saving our planet.
There is no doubt that women play a role, an important role, in the future of our planet. Designed to tune in to the subtleties of nature, to draw power and strength, to share in the creative force, to be led by intuition, women, as the Dalai Lama famously projected, will save the world.
Three Things You Can Do Now
- Get inspired by women (like those in the films above) who are already blazing a trail for you. Listen to what they have to say, notice how they live, and ask yourself what resonates and calls to you.
- Take action now, even if you just start by going outside and listening. Find yourself in nature, close your eyes, and take in long, deep breaths. Take off your shoes and feel the earth beneath you. Pay attention to the beautiful intricacies of flowers, leaves, and individual blades of grass. Recognize the spirit in animals. Begin to remember who you are and the power of carrying the divine feminine.
- Get involved at some level with protecting and reconnecting to the planet. It might be as simple as starting a garden in your backyard or joining a community garden to help bring beauty and nourishment to your neighborhood. Consider donating to efforts you have researched and feel connected to. Think about changing your diet, so that you are eating more whole, plant-based food. Whatever you do, do something that causes you to change the patterns you have fallen into. Do something that draws you outside of your comfort zone and back into the wild – where you belong.