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 and in the Babylonian his name is Utnapishtim. I used Utnapishtim because (strangely enough) it fit the lyric pattern of the song. I originally wrote a big epic version of this song, which took me weeks to complete and it just wasn't personal enough for me. It seemed 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 loneliness of those survivors.
Anyway, when the Monkey came out to visit (and to attend my 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 is an excerpt from "The Myth of Atrahasis" and is not considered a crucial part of the Epic by some scholars. I think it has an important 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 crossed 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 sometimes wonder if Milton was familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Upon arriving on the other side he found an old man on the beach. Gilgamesh asked the old man if he knew of the whereabouts of Utnapishtim. After a short time Gilgamesh realized he has been speaking with Utnapishtim all the time but cannot understand how he was immortal and had aged. Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh of the secret of the gods, 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. With the exception of Enlil's brother, Enki, the gods agreed in secret to do this and agreed not to tell any mortal of the oncoming deluge.
Enki, who created mankind, did not want to see his creation destroyed and came up with a scheme that would not betray the gods but also saved mankind. Enki loved Untanapishtim, who was a just and fair man and because of this came down to earth to Untnapishtim's home and spoke to a wall instructing it to get rid of its possesions and make itself into an Ark to survive a great deluge to come. Obviously Enki intended for Utnapishtim to overhear this.
Utnapishtim built an Ark as instructed and gathered two of each creature into the craft. The flood came and after seven days Utnapishtim released a turtledove and a raven to find land. As the waters of the deluge receded, the Ark came to rest on top of Mt. Nimush where Utnapishtim offered libations and sacrifices to the gods.
Enlil smelled the burning of sweet flesh and was drawn to it only to find that somehow a mortal had survived the deluge. He was infuriated! At this point Enki admited his folly, but convinced Enlil that there were no humans left to offer libations to the gods save Utnapishtim and his family. Enlil, recognizing his dilemma, blessed Utnapishtim and made him immortal so he would always have meat to eat.
If you're thinking to yourself, "Is this the same flood written in the Old Testament of the Bible?" you would be right. 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 largely ethical. 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."
Scholars largely agree that the Gilgamesh version of the flood predates the Biblical flood account and the Hebrews borrowed heavily from it. After reading both accounts, it is obvious this is true. From a practical standpoint, it makes more sense to me that there was a conflict between two gods with one bent on destroying mankind while the other intent on saving it.
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 Jehovah's promise).
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 (actually, the Hebrew name, Joshua, as Jesus Christ is a title, not a name), who symbolically represents the "Ark" that saves mankind from the turbulent waters of sin through his sacrifice. I also believe that the flood story, like much of these ancient stories are Alchemical treatises with deep and purposeful meaning. I challenge you to read both versions and decide for yourself!
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.