Uncovering the Ancient City of Eridu
Depending on how much of an ancient history buff you are, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Eridu.
This ancient city, said to be one of the oldest in the world, is located in what is today Iraq and better known as Abu Shahrein.
Today, few remnants remain of Eridu. You may wonder how such a seemingly random place was once anything of great importance. By examining Sumerian mythology, architecture, Genesis, and texts, we find a rich and intriguing picture of what it once was.
While many ancient Mesopotamian cities have unique aspects, Eridu’s purported definition of “guidance place” makes it particularly noteworthy.
However, given the large structures found therein, as well as its perceived importance among other ancient cities of the time, the definition of “mighty place” might be the most appropriate for the ancient city of Eridu.
Ancient Sumerian City
According to Sumerian mythology, Eridu is said to have been one of the oldest cities in Mesopotamia. It was believed this ancient location was created by the god Enki, also known as Ea, or the god of wisdom.
In Sumerian mythology, Eridu is allegedly one of the five cities built in this region before the Deluge, or Great Flood, occurred and is still argued by many to be one of the oldest cities in the world.
Eridu is also listed as the city of the first kings in the Sumerian King List.
Temples of Eridu
Excavations of the Eridu site in the last couple of centuries offered more insight into additional layers of the city, perhaps most prominently its architectural structures.
For example, during excavations of Eridu on Mound 1, 18 successive levels of mud-brick temple architecture were uncovered. Eridu’s claim to fame when it comes to architecture is most likely its temples, also known as ziggurats.
These grand structures had the form of a terrace-step pyramid, with successively receding levels. Each ziggurat was part of a larger temple complex, which included other buildings. Inside, they often consisted of a small room and offering table.
This temple of Enki in Eridu also contained a holy tree in a holy grove, which was the central point for the king to perform various rites, as he was known as a “master gardener.”
Because Eridu’s ziggurat ruins are older and larger than any others, some believe these ziggurats are those mentioned in the Bible when referencing the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel was said to have been created not for the worship and praise of a God, but to glorify the builders of the temple itself.
Beyond the architecture of Eridu, much of what is known about its beginnings come from the Eridu Genesis, a Sumerian text written on a cuneiform tablet. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the content in these tablets has been lost. However, much of these parts can be reconstructed by using other texts.
The Eridu Genesis texts cover many topics, most notably the creation of man, first cities, building of the ark, the Great Flood, etc. Many such items directly correspond with similar accounts referenced in other texts of the time, such as the Bible.
For example, within the Eridu Genesis, it states the gods created mankind to farm, herd, and worship them. According to its account, Ziusudra from Eridu was instructed by Enki to build a boat to survive the Deluge or Great Flood.
This account largely mirrors that of the Bible, which credits Noah with the creation of the ark for similar purposes.
Incantation of Eridu
Other texts linked to Eridu connect it more closely to Sumerian magic and myths.
These writings, in particular, the Incantation of Eridu, were believed to compel the gods in the name of Marduk, a significant deity of Mesopotamian religion, which began a larger system of magical hierarchies. This incantation has been credited with the source of power for Mardukite magic.
Some of what is known about such magic has been gained from these ‘spiritual’ or ‘magical’ cuneiform texts. According to studies of Mesopotamian magic, priests learned prayers such as the Incantation of Eridu to compel the gods in the name of Marduk.
Through such structures used by those practicing Mesopotamian magic, it is said magical hierarchies were created.
Certain such powers were said to have been sealed in Eridu, such as petitions to assume god-form, wherein the individual would continue a ceremony or proceeding, acting as a divine representation of the God ‘invoked.’ This practice has similarities with other religious practices, such as in a Catholic priest taking on a Christ form in imitating and reenacting the Last Supper.
Eridu: City of Mythology and Magic
Many ancient Mesopotamian cities have intriguing aspects about them, and Eridu is certainly no exception. Thanks to its ties to Sumerian mythology and magic, Eridu is a fascinating city to explore through further research. Although the Eridu of today is largely sand dunes, remnants of what the complex city might have been in the past suggest it was indeed, a mighty place.
Its old age alone sets it apart from similar Mesopotamian cities. In addition, the Temple of Eridu, Eridu Genesis, and Incantation of Eridu are all remnants of this city’s history that seems to invite more research and interest, as they connect the Sumerian faith with other religions still practiced today.
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The Transformational Power of the Viking's Runes
The Birth of Runes
The Viking runes came into being when Odin brought them forth from another world. Historians from the National Museum of Denmark explain that Odin ruled over Asgard, which contains Valhalla, “the hall of the slain.” Half the warriors who died in battle were collected by his female handmaidens, the valkyries, who belonged to him. As such, Odin was the object of worship by kings, warrior chieftains, and their people.
In a mythic Viking tale, Odin wounds himself with his own spear before hanging himself from the Yggdrasil—the world tree in Norse culture—for nine nights, drawing wisdom from the Depths of Urd, just below it. From there, Odin sees the runes that existed even before his own coming into being, “a time before time.”
Just as he’s about to die, Odin gathers up the runes and shares them with all of creation and an array of supernatural entities and human beings. Eventually, the runes were given their shapes and phonetic values by subsequent tribal elders. They were carved on weapons, tools, jewelry, amulets, bones, pieces of wood, memorial stones, church walls, and other hard surfaces.
Ancient peoples of the Germanic lands knew the runes to be beyond the time and space with which most people are familiar. Some experts suggest that they were never really “invented,” but are instead eternal, pre-existent forces that Odin discovered through his aforementioned superhuman ordeal.
Historians have linked the runes to areas with a history of Germanic-speaking peoples, including from Iceland to Scandinavia, throughout England, and into Central Europe. Even Constantinople is home to the runes, showing that ancient seafaring cultures had made their way into what is now modern-day Turkey.
Reading the Runes
We may use the metaphor of a tree to assess how the runes are read. Historian Emma Groeneveld noted that “they are generally made up of vertical lines — one or more — with ‘branches’ or ‘twigs’ jutting out diagonally (and very occasionally horizontally) upwards, downwards or in a curve from them. They can be written both from left to right and from right to left, with asymmetrical characters being flipped depending on the direction of writing.
Each rune represents a phoneme (a speech sound) and had a name, made up of a noun, that started (and in one case, ended) with the sound the rune was mainly associated with. Lots of regional and temporal variation existed in the shapes of the letters.”
Experts of Norse mythology explain that, on the surface, runes seem to be letters. However, they are much more, because each one is a symbol of a cosmological principle or power. The very act of writing a rune called upon unseen spiritual forces. In every Germanic language, wrote historian Daniel McCoy, the word rune comes from the Proto-Germanic word that means both “letter” and “mystery.”
The Eternal Magic of the Runes
The runes have been used to link the natural and supernatural worlds, and this gives them the power to enact spells for protection or success. Still, said Olsen in an exclusive Gaia interview, according to archaeological and historical evidence, runes were used as magical tools for healing, transformation, building wealth, and for making the world a better place.
The power of the runes is in their sound vibrations, teaches Olsen. Each runic character represents a letter so that it can be combined with others to form words. The runes are also magical symbols, and each character has its own name and symbolic meaning.
Norwegian historian Marit Synnøve Vea explained that runes are not limited to their carved signs, but are also applied in certain songs, magical formulas, secret skills, and for secrets hidden in Skaldic (Old Norse) poetry. Vea noted that runic magic was used to foretell the future, as a form of protection, to cast spells, to cure illness, to bestow love, and much more.
But where there is power, there is a warning. In the wrong hands and minds, runes carved by unskilled persons could represent risky business. Vea cites a poem from the Old Norse Egil Saga that serves as an ancient warning for the modern generation:
Runes none should grave ever
Who knows not to read them;
Of dark spell full many
The meaning may miss.
Ten spell-words writ wrongly
On whale-bone were graven:
Whence to leek-tending maiden,
Long sorrow and pain
The history of the runes is the history of timelessness, a paradox among paradoxes. Often regarded as tools for parlor games, serious historians have found the deeper meaning in ways the runes can be read and applied for the betterment of life on this planet and the invisible worlds.