Namma (goddess)

Goddess from Eridu [~/images/Eridu.jpg]. She is known as the mother of the god Enki/Ea as well as the mother goddess who gave birth to the cosmos and all the gods. Like her son Enki/Ea she is also associated with magic. In later times, her role is taken on by Tiamat.


Very little is known about Namma, who belongs to the oldest generation of Mesopotamian deities and is associated with the pantheon of Eridu. She is mainly known for her role in the cosmogony of early Mesopotamia and her importance in magic, which is restricted to texts written in Sumerian (Wiggermann 1998-2001c: 137-8). According to the god list An-Anum, tablet I line 28 (Litke 1998: 24; Wiggermann 1998-2001c: 137), Namma bears the title "mother who gave birth to the heavens and the earth."

Because this goddess's name is written with sign for "(cosmic) subterranean waters" (Sumerian: engur) Wiggermann (1998-2001c: 136-7) has called her the "Cosmic Ocean" (also see Lambert 2008: 31). No husband or male god is attested in connection with Namma, thus leading to the belief that "the first cosmic production is asexual" (Wiggermann 1998-2001c: 137). In later tradition, namely in Enūma eliš TT , Tiamat takes over the role of Namma as primeval ocean. However, there are significant differences in the way the goddesses are portrayed in the literature (see the entry on Tiamat).

In the Sumerian poem of Enki and Ninmah (ETCSL 1.1.2, line 17) Namma is called the "original mother who gave birth to the gods of the universe", again according her primary status among all the gods and describing her role in Mesopotamian cosmogony. Later on, in particular in Akkadian texts, Namma loses importance and is only rarely mentioned.

Aside from the few mentions of Namma in other mythological and literary texts about other gods, no mythology of this ancient goddess has survived the ages.

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

In the god list An-Anum (Litke 1998: 24) Namma is identified as the "mother of the god Enki," which clearly accords her, at least originally, a higher or more ancient status than that of her son. In an inscription dating to the Early Dynastic III (?) period, king Lugal-KISAL-si, a king of Uruk, (Frayne 2008: 422-3, no. 2) dedicated a temple to the goddess, who is described as the "spouse of An," the god of heavens, although Wiggermann (1998-2001c: 138) has interpreted this as a secondary development.

Cult Place(s)

There is very little evidence attesting to a cult of Namma. Because the Early Dynastic III foundation inscription mentioned above (Frayne 2008: 422-3, no. 2) is of unknown provenance, it is unclear where her temple may have been built.

The Early Dynastic zà-mì-hymns (lines 140-41) (Biggs 1974: 50, 55) also mention a temple for her, yet the passage is difficult to read. For more information on evidence of her cult, dating even to the Neo-Babylonian period, see Wiggermann 1998-2001c: 139.

Time Periods Attested

The earliest attestations of Namma date to the Early Dynastic IIIa period, where she is mentioned in one of the "Fara god lists" (Krebernik 1986: 175 column VIII l. 10). Her latest reference dates to the Neo-Babylonian period, when king Nabonidus mentions her shrine, the ki-ús-dnamma ("foundation(?) of Namma") as part of the Esagil, Marduk's temple at Babylon (George 1993: 113).


Namma's iconography is uncertain.

Name and Spellings

The reading and spelling of Namma's name has been subject to some research. Originally, her name was read Nammu, but Civil (1985: 27 n. 1) suggested a reading of the name as Namma, which is now more commonly accepted. It has been suggested that her name is etymologically related to a word that means "creation" (Wiggermann 1998-2001c: 135-36), although it is not clear whether this might be a folk etymology.

Written forms:
dnammu; dlammu; dnamma; na-am-na-am-mi; na-am-ma; dna-na-ma-ke (for more information see Wiggermann 1998-2001c: 136)
Normalized forms:
Namma; Nammu

Namma in Online Corpora

Further Reading

Nicole Brisch

Nicole Brisch, 'Namma (goddess)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 []

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