The Recording Process:
Tony Garone - Vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards
Johnny Monkey - bass guitar, tin whistles
Recorded at Cow Pilot Studios
In the Sumerian version the "Noah" of the flood was Ziasudra - in the Babylonian his name is Utnapishtim. I used Utnapishtim because (strangely enough) it fit the lyric pattern of the song. I originally wrote this big epic version of this song, which took me weeks to write and complete, and it just wasn't personal enough for me. It just seemed that the deluge must have been the most terrifying thing that could have happened - not just to the victims - but to the few survivors. I wanted the song to portray the lonliness of the survivors.
Monkey recording the tin whistle at Cow Pilot Studios
So one day I sat down with the acoustic guitar and used a melody I had written two years ago - deliberatley keeping the song simple. I wanted to portray the lonliness of Utnapishtim after the flood, when all that was left was ocean. I have this picture in my mind of opening the upper door to the Ark and looking out at the endless ocean, knowing that all mankind was now gone. I think this song portrays that stark reality.
Anyway, when the Monkey came out to visit (and to attend our legendary Halloween party), he brought along his tin whistles. It took the better part of an afternoon to record both the bass guitar and tin whistles. It was great to record once again with the Monkey.
What is this song about?
The Flood story presented in the Epic of Gilgamesh as an excerpt from "The Myth of Atrahasis", and is not considered a crucial part of the Epic by some scholars. I think it has a place in the Epic in that it explains how one human became a god and is given eternal life - the very thing Gilgamesh longs for, but is unable to attain.
After his encounter with Siduri, Gilgamesh crosses the Waters of Death with the help of Urshanabi the boatman. This is reminiscent of the Boatman of the river Styx in Milton's "Paradise Lost - Paradise Regained". I wonder if Milton was familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh?
Anyway, upon arriving on the other side he finds an old man on the beach. Gilgamesh begins to ask the old man if he knows of the whereabouts of Utnapishtim. After a short time Gilgamesh realizes he has been speaking with Utnapishtim all the time, but cannot understand how he is a god and yet looks so old. At this point Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh "the secret of the gods" and the story of the flood - and how he was ordained a god.
Before the deluge, mankind had become "noisy", depriving the gods of sleep. Enlil tired of this, and decided to destroy mankind with a great flood. All the gods agree in secret to do this, and all agreed not to tell any mortal of the oncoming deluge.
The god Enki (credited with creating mankind), speaks to a wall of the house of Utnapishtim (a rightous man) - so as not to break his agreement with the other gods - and tells the "house" to get rid of its possesions and make itself into an Ark to save Utnapishtim and his family. Obviously Enki intends for Utnapishtim to overhear this.
Utnapishtim builds an Ark as instructed, and gathers two of each creature on earth into the Ark. The flood comes, and after seven days, Utnapishtim releases a turtledove and a raven to find land. As the waters of the deluge recede, the Ark comes to rest on top of Mt. Nimush, where Utnapishtim leaves and offers libations and sacrifices to the gods.
Enlil smells the burning of the sweet flesh and is drawn to it, only to find that somehow a mortal had survived the deluge. He is infuriated by this. At this point Enlil admits his folley, but convinces Enlil that there are no humans left to offer libations to the gods, and Enlil blesses Utnapishtim and makes him immortal.
If you're thinking to yourself, "Is this the same flood written in the Old Testament of the Bible?", you could be right and you could be wrong. There are startling similarities between the account of the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah's flood. There are also some striking differences, but they are ethical in nature. For instance, Jehovah/YHWH destroyed the earth by flood because mankind was evil. Enlil destroyed the earth with a flood because the gods "Tired of the noise of mankind."
There are scholars who postulate that the Gilgamesh version of the flood predates the Biblical flood account, and that the Hebrews borrowed heavily from it. And of course there are scholars who believe that the Sumerian account is derived from the Hebrew account.
In either case, it is interesting to note the similarities:
1. Both Noah and Utnapishtim were instructed to build an
Ark to survive a global deluge.
2. Both Noah and Utnapishtim were instructed to gather two (male and female) of each species of animal.
3. Both were righteous men.
4. Both Arks came to rest atop mountains (Noah's Ark on Mt. Arrarat, Utnapishtim's on Mt. Nimush)
5. Both released doves and ravens after the deluge
And the differences:
1. Jehovah destroyed the earth because mankind had become
wicked, Enlil destroyed the earth because mankind was "noisy"
2. The Biblical Flood lasted forty days, the Sumerian flood lasted seven days.
3. Utnapishtim was ordained a god after surviving the flood, Noah was blessed and told to replenish the earth.
4. Enki "broke his promise" with the gods (specifically Enlil) when he told Utnapishtim of the coming flood, Jehovah initiated the flood and told Noah to build the Ark to survive it.
5. The gods were terrified by what they had done in the Sumerian flood, Jehovah was not terrified by his decision, but made a promise never to destroy the world by flood again (for those of you who don't read the Bible, that covenant is represented by the rainbow - so the next time you see a rainbow after a rainstorm, think of Jehova's promise).
My personal belief is that the Sumerian Flood is a "corruption" of the Biblical version. When you study the Gematria of the Bible (the correlation of numbers to the Hebrew text), the measurements of the Ark take on a deeper meaning. The Ark in the Biblical account corresponds to the Gematria for Jesus Christ, who symbolically represents the "Ark" that saves mankind from the turbulent waters of sin through his sacrifice. But that's my opinion. I challenge you to read both versions and decide for yourself!
A cuneiform tablet of the flood story.
The Cuneiform for Utnapishtim:
Dr. Pagan explains:
Shown above are two spellings for the name Utnapishtim. The name itself consists of two elements: ut(a) and napishtim. So far, I have beenunable to find any satisfactory explanation for the first element, Ut(a)-. The second element is Old Babylonian Akkadian. In the nominative case it would be napishtum and it means "life, breath," from the root npsh, (infinitive napashu) "to breathe." It is in the genitive case, the second element of a genitive compound, "... of life." The first spelling is a Sumerogram UD.ZI (for ut-napishtim; ZI is Sumerian for "life"). The second spelling is syllabic: ut-na-pi-ish-tim.
There is still one more spelling of the name Utnapishtim. This one is: ú-ta-na-pi-ish-tim /Utanapishtim/. In the Old Babylonian version of Tablet X (Meissner Fragment) the name is spelled ú-ta-na-ish-tim. The omission of the sign pi is probably a scribal error. So the name may be read as ú-ta-na-(pi-)ish-tim.