Campaign of the Month: February 2017
The Anunna god of war and disease
One of the most feared of his pantheon, Nergal is the fierce god of war and pestilence, a lion-featured warrior who accepts no surrender and shows no mercy in the face of his foes. The embodiment of the scorching desert sun, he leaves a path of destruction, plague, disease and wasteland in his wake wherever he goes – except for his sojourns to the underworld, which he oversees along with its dark mistress, his wife Ereshkigal.
Nergal and Ereshkigal
Though the gods were pleased that Ereshkigal had accepted the responsibility of ruling the Underworld, she could never leave it again and could not attend the feast they announced in her honor. Instead, she sent her servant in her place; all the gods stood to honor him because he represented her, but Nergal refused, remaining seated and brazenly eating while he snubbed the guest of honor. When her servant reported this back to her, Ereshkigal was furious; seeking to avoid upsetting her, Enki suggested that Nergal should bring her a peace offering.
The gods agreed to this and Nergal spent many days felling wood to create a magnificent throne for the death-goddess, painting it so that it sparkled as if covered in gold. Forewarned by Enki not to accept any gifts or eat any food while in the Underworld, he traveled there to present the throne to Ereshkigal. Though he refused all her offers of gifts and hospitality, Ereshkigal also offered him her own body; Nergal initially refused, confused and wary, but when he saw her strip to enter her bath was overcome with passion and made love with her for six days. At the end of this time, realizing that he would be trapped forever in the Underworld if he did not leave soon, he fled while she was sleeping, telling her gatekeepers that she had sent him away.
Upon awakening and finding her lover missing, Ereshkigal sent a wrathful message to the gods, demanding that he be returned to her, but her messengers could not find Nergal, who had disguised himself as a bald old man in order to hide from them. All the gods joined in the search when Ereshkigal threatened to release all the dead from the Underworld if they did not return Nergal to her, and when he was finally found hey rebuked him for his cowardice.
Realizing that they were correct, Nergal armed himself for battle and strode back into the Underworld, fighting his way through Ereshkigal’s guards until he reached the throne room. He seized her by the hair, intending to kill her and free himself, but was so overcome with lust that instead he made love to her again and agreed to accept his fate as a god of the Underworld.
Nergal and Marduk
One day as Nergal was making love to his wife, he was interrupted by Marduk and a party of warriors who called on him to join them in setting out to slay some dangerous beasts that menaced the landscape. More inclined to stay at home and enjoy himself, Nergal instead convinced Marduk that he was an ideal choice to be left in charge during his ruler’s absence, and that he could use the opportunity to polish Marduk’s crown jewels for him. Thinking this an excellent idea, Marduk departed; now given full authority over the world, Nergal immediately caused war and chaos to run rampant across the earth, pitting human against human in bloody battle and glorying in the slaughter. When Marduk returned, the other gods complained of the carnage and demanded that he be put on trial; Nergal, however, pointed out that as a war god it was in his nature to encourage strife, and they were forced to concede that this was true.