If I suggest that Enki, as we understand the character, did not exist, that might come as more of a surprise. Enki has become a well-established uncontested Sumerian celebrity. His name slips off the tongue. But who is he really?
If an ancient Sumerian wisdom teacher were to arrive here today and read our Enki stories, I think he would roll around on the floor, splitting his sides with laughter. He would also have a thing or two to teach us.
I’m currently working on another long translation. This one, unlike the first, mentions Enki numerous times, so I’ve been able to see him in his original context. That’s the condition I impose on myself as a translator of Sumerian before spouting about such familiar names as this. I might still get some things wrong but please believe I won’t do it lightly! And I certainly won’t invent.
Let’s divide the name into symbols and syllables: AN EN KI.
AN is the eight-pronged star with the meanings of ‘sky’ and ‘god’. If you look for it in the academic transliterations, it will be written with a small ‘d’ for deity; d Enki. It is recognized by academics as prefix to the name of a god. I don’t accept that this is always true.
EN is a symbol used frequently in the texts. It takes the form of a pointed wizard-type hat with spikes coming out of the two sides of its pyramid shape. It has the meanings ‘noble’ and ‘end’, this last having been firmly established during my work on The Story of Sukurru. (See line 253.)
KI is the sign for ‘place’ and ‘Earth’. It’s recognized by academics as a qualifier, a suffix that indicates a place name. I agree up to a certain point.
AN EN KI. Positioning is important in the riddles that constitute the early Sumerian language. Here we find the end in the middle, so to speak. On the left is the sky. On the right is Earth. The meaning of the phrase might be “In the middle, between the sky and the earth”. Taking into consideration the double use of KI as both ‘earth’ and designator of a place, we find “the place where sky and earth meet” and “sky-end place” or simply “sky-end”. It is interesting to note that we might read this phrase as a place called ANEN. Anen is a name that exists in ancient Egypt, a priestly figure, wearing the skin of a puma or cougar covered in stars.
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