Checking with a friend of mine on the Gulf Coast to see how they were weathering the hurricanes sparked an old memory from my childhood. She said, “With all the water we’ve had lately, I’m thinking of gathering up all of the animals.”
We all learned the Bible story of Noah’s Ark in Sunday school when we were children. My Sunday school teacher Jesse Schulenburg was blessed at birth as an artist. She did a marvelous job of bringing the story of Noah to life for us by recreating all of the many little critters and colorful animals with her artistic hand, using ink pen on paper. The kids got to cut out their favorite little creatures and color them with brightly colored crayons. I chose the kangaroos, platypuses and koala bears, creatures of Australia. Then one by one, we each got up and taped our masterpieces to the blackboard. We had them waiting in line as they were led onto the big ark that she had also created and taped up there. It was a childhood experience I’ll never forget.
As time marched on, many of us saw the movie “The Ten Commandments” released during the 1960s which recreated Noah’s Ark on the silver screen.
As a Christian, I assumed that was it. But recently my Native American spirit guide, Princess Linda Hawkins of the Chickasaw Nation, pointed out to me that since the dawn of time, many different cultures from all over the world have a story about the great flood in their mythology. The versions vary from one culture to another and not all of them are told the same way as the Christian Bible. However, there is one tale of the great flood that has striking similarities to the biblical account – the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamish titled “Utnapishtim and the Flood.”
After human beings were created, the earth was peaceful for many years. But Ishtar, goddess of love and war, made people fight with one another. There was so much noise and confusion that the gods could not rest.
Enlil, god of air, decided to send a rainstorm that would flood the earth and destroy the unruly people. He made the other gods promise not to warn the people of the coming disaster.
But Ea, god of water, had one good and faithful servant, Utnapishtim, whom he wanted to save. So that he would not break his promise to Enlil, Ea whispered a warning to the reeds that grew by the banks of the River Euphrates. Then the reeds whispered the secret to Utnapishtim while he slept.
Utnapishtim was wise and heeded his dream. He built a boat big enough to hold all of his family and one male and one female of every living creature on earth.
The storm came and the rain fell for six days and six nights. All the world was drowned. But all who sailed in Utnapishtim’s boat were safe.
On the seventh day, the rain stopped and Utnapishtim’s boat came to rest at the top of Mount Nisir. Utnapishtim sent out a dove and it returned. The next day he sent out a swallow. It too came back. On the third day, Utnapishtim sent out a raven. When it did not return, Utnapishtim knew it had found a dry place to land. Joyfully, he, his family and all of the animals left the boat.
Enlil and Ea took Utnapishtim and his wife by the hand, touched their foreheads and said, “You are no longer ordinary humans. Now you are like the gods. You will live forever and be mother and father of all the people to come.”
Ref: “The Children’s Book of Myths and Legends,” retold by Ronnie Randall
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.