hebrew and sumerian goddess of life
Bronze 45 cm high
Eve is most famous for her appearance in the Book of Genesis as Adam's partner. According to the story, God made her from one of Adam's ribs, while Adam was asleep. She was named Eve, which in ancient Hebrew meant "Mother of all Living."
in the garden of eden
In the middle of the Garden was a sacred tree, the Tree of Knowledge. God had warned Adam that if he ate from this tree, he would surely die that very day. Eve approached the tree, discovering among its roots a large serpent, which spoke to Eve. The serpent said that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would not die, implying that God was lying when he said she would. He said that she would gain knowledge, and as the tree was called the Tree of Knowledge, not the Tree of Death, Eve thought his argument sound. So she ate some of the fruit, and she did not die.
The fruit tasted good, so she offered some to Adam, who took it without resistance or protest. Some theologians say that God gave the ability to choose to Adam, but it seems that Eve was doing all the thinking and choosing. Adam just went along with her. Considering what God had said about the consequences of eating the fruit, Adam was pretty stupid. At least Eve made up her own mind after a reasoned argument. And since she didn't die, why shouldn't she have believed the serpent rather than God? The effect of their disobedience was God's curse on them and on the snake, and their banishment from Eden.
sumerian paradise myth
Eve is perhaps not so famous for her appearance in an ancient Sumerian paradise myth, where she is called "Ti", or "Goddess of Life". As the story goes, the mother goddess Ninhursaga and her partner Enki were on the island of Dilmun in Ninhursaga's garden, where there is no death, sickness, old age, or violence.
Ninhursaga comes home one day to find that Enki has eaten all her sacred plants -- all seven of them. Knowing that the plants are fertile and that Enki has no womb or vagina to give birth to their fruits, she curses him, saying she won't help him and he can just die. However, a fox goes to the Council of Gods with the story. They decree that Ninhursaga, a lesser deity, must obey them and save Enki, and the fox returns with the order. Grudgingly, Ninhursaga helps Enki give birth to the seven goddesses, who have been generated from the seven fertile plants.
Since Enki does not have a vagina, the seven goddesses emerge from other parts of his body. Each goddess is named after a part, an arm, a thigh, etc. The goddess who came from Enki's rib was called "Ti", which in ancient Sumerian is the word for "life" and "rib" at the same time. Therefore, from Enki's rib comes the "Goddess of Life". From the Genesis story, we know that Eve's name meant, "Mother of all Living" to the ancient Hebrews.
what is the difference?
The Sumerian myth is much older than the Hebrew myth, and no doubt the Hebrews drew on Sumerian culture for some of their inspiration. However, the Sumerian myth means something quite different than the Hebrew myth, and the connection is merely a borrowing of form rather than a borrowing of ideas. The differences between the two stories do, though, illustrate a fundamental difference in attitude towards women, goddesses, obedience, authority, and life in general. The Sumerian myth is humorous and playful, based on the equal but contentious relationship between Ninhursaga and her husband, Enki. No one gets hurt in the end. The Hebrew myth is far more serious, reflecting on Hebrew notions of human nature, God, authority, pain, death, and the unavoidable suffering of life. Everyone gets hurt in the end.
|So why have I depicted Eve as a human headed snake?|
indian goddess of life
The equivalent goddess in Indian mythology is Shakti, a goddess who represents the power and life force of all creation, even the gods. According to some Indian religious ideas, Shakti resides in the bodies of all people, and more so in women's bodies because they give birth and are the source of human life. In most people, Shakti lives in the most earthly centres of the body, at the bottom of the spine where the energies which control procreation reside. Shakti, in the form of a serpent, sleeps there until the person, through meditation and yoga, wakes her up. She then uncoils, and snakes up the spine until her power is transformed at the top of the head into a spiritual rather than an earthly power. The individual becomes "enlightened" and is released from the wheel of life, the otherwise ceaseless round of birth and death.
The serpent in many ancient mythologies symbolised life, fertility, and supernatural power. Eve's ability to talk to the serpent, her decision to choose knowledge rather than blind obedience, and her role as "Mother of all Living" make her equally a symbol for life, fertility, and supernatural power. Therefore, like Shakti, she shares a symbolic relationship with the serpent.