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Outside the Abrahamic religions and mythology are there any equivalents to the Garden of Eden? More specifically:

  • A garden, orchard, or similarly cultivated or designed space distinct from wilderness or primordial forests
  • Present at or near the beginning of time, creation of the world, a previous age, or the like – so not your run-of-the-mill sacred grove
  • More than just a Tree of Life/Knowledge/etc; it may house it or other things of significance, but is a place itself, more than the tree

I'd appreciate even tenuous comparisons that fit the above.

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    The Garden of the Hesperides comes to mind, although it doesn't really fit your third bullet. Is this close to what you are looking for?
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 9:48
  • There is the Heavenly Peach Garden in Chinese mythos but it might not fit point 2, or at least it is never said when it was created. Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 13:47
  • I don't think either of those quite fit, they seem more special gardens than gardens connected to creation etc.
    – rek
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 15:54
  • When you say "creation," do you mean necessarily linked to early humans , such as the manner in which the Garden of Eden seems to have been planted specifically to be the home of the first humans? Or do you mean rather more generally that it needs to be clear in some way that this place existed close to the beginning of time or of a particular era?
    – Adinkra
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 18:29
  • @Adinkra Not necessarily the creation of mankind, moreso the world, life itself, maybe gods themselves, and so on.
    – rek
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 3:29

3 Answers 3

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There are decent parallels, but finding something exactly as you describe is harder. Notably, a possible direct precursor to the Eden myth is found in the description of Dilmun in a myth of Enki. I'll quote Kramer's summary:

Dilmun, a land described as “pure,” “clean,” and “bright,” a land which knows neither sickness nor death, had been lacking originally in fresh, life-giving water. The tutelary goddess of Dilmun, Ninsikilla by name, therefore pleaded with Enki, who is both her husband and father, and the latter orders the sun-god Utu to fill Dilmun with sweet water brought up from the earth’s watersources; Dilmun is thus turned into a divine garden green with grain-yielding fields and acres. In this paradise of the gods eight plants are made to sprout by Ninhursag, the great mother goddess of the Sumerians, perhaps more originally by Mother Earth. She succeeds in bringing these plants into being by an intricate process involving three generations of goddesses all begotten by Enki and born without pain or travail. But because Enki wanted to taste them, his messenger, the two-faced god Isimud, plucks these plants one by one and gives them to his master who proceeds to eat them each in turn. Whereupon the angered Ninhursag pronounces the curse of death against Enki and vanishes from among the gods. Enki’s health at once begins to fail and eight of his organs become sick. As Enki sinks fast, the great gods sit in the dust, seemingly unable to cope with the situation. Whereupon the fox comes to the rescue and after being promised a reward, he succeeds the dying water god. She seats him by her vulva and after inquiring which eight organs of his body ache, she brings into existence eight corresponding deities–one of these is Enshag, the Lord of Dilmun–and Enki is brought back to life and health.

The connection between the two is most clearly stated by Kramer in his book on the Sumerians:

And there is good indication that the Biblical paradise, too, which is described as a garden planted eastward in Eden, from whose waters flow the four world rivers, including the Tigris and the Euphrates, may have originally been identical with Dilmun, the paradise-land.

Aside from the already-mentioned Peach Blossom Valley, post-Classical depictions of the Garden of Hesperides closely mirror Eden, as Wikipedia notes:

The garden of the Hesperides in Greek mythology was somewhat similar to the Jewish concept of the Garden of Eden, and by the 16th century a larger intellectual association was made in the Cranach painting. In this painting, only the action that takes place there identifies the setting as distinct from the Garden of the Hesperides, with its golden fruit.

So the connection is less what's found in the earliest Greek sources and more about what later traditions considered.

Other contenders include Avalon, Goloka, Tir na nOg, Emain Ablach (of which Avalon might be a doublet), and perhaps Goat Island (Homer's Odyssey 9.116–141), though the latter instead is perhaps too wild to count; it's more idyllic than paradise. Besides Goat Island, special trees figure prominently in their mythology.

Avalon isn't necessarily connected with creation, but Emain Ablach was where the Celtic god Lug Lamfada was reared. That sounds similar to Zeus' rearing on Crete, so there may be some primordial elements here. This is backed up by two further connections: it's the home of the sea god Lir (the sea is often seen as a source of life) and it was glossed as the "island of women," which potentially speaks to the generative power of women. This is speculative, of course.

Two traits of Tir na nOg I want to highlight from the Wikipedia article prove strong to be strong parallels to Eden, namely its connection human origins and its beautiful yet deadly forests:

The god that rules this region is said to be the first ancestor of the human race and the god of the dead, and in the surviving tales is almost always named as Manannán mac Lir. In the tales, Manannán is usually described as a warrior and is sometimes accompanied by his golden-haired wife or daughter, who sometimes wears a golden helmet.

Tír na nÓg is described as a beautiful place (a forested wilderness or flowery meadow), but it is usually dangerous or hostile to human visitors.

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  • You say there are several, can you reference some of them?
    – rek
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 19:43
  • @rek I added a few more places and explained some of the connections I see.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 0:25
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The Peach Blossom Valley.

Wikipedia ascribes to a specific literary work The Peach Blossom Spring, which may have been the origin, but there have been many forms of it: a man stumbles on a hidden, tranquil, Arcadian valley, where the inhabitants believe China to still be ruled by an dynasty that is several dynasties in the past. Modern variants, for instance, think that China is still an empire. It does not, in fact, have things of significance, it's just the place where they live.

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Are there other Gardens of Eden?

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon comes to mind. An Oxford scholar believes that this Hanging Garden was at Nineveh and not Babylon. This is where the Prophet Jonah preached repentance.

According to Oxford University, Dalley, who is a scholar in ancient Mesopotamian languages, found evidence in new translations of the ancient texts of King Sennacherib that describe his own “unrivaled palace” and a “wonder for all peoples.”

Recent excavations around Nineveh, near the modern-day Iraqi city of Mosul, have uncovered evidence of an extensive aqueduct system that delivered water from the mountains with the inscription: “Sennacherib king of the world…Over a great distance I had a watercourse directed to the environs of Nineveh.” Bas reliefs from the royal palace in Nineveh depicted a lush garden watered by an aqueduct, and unlike the flat surroundings of Babylon, the more rugged topography around the Assyrian capital would have made the logistical challenges in elevating water to the gardens far easier for an ancient civilization to overcome.

Dalley explains that the reason for the confusion of the location of the gardens could be due to the Assyrian conquering of Babylon in 689 B.C. Following the takeover, Nineveh was referred to as the “New Babylon,” and Sennacherib even renamed the city gates after those of Babylon’s entrances. Dalley’s assertions could debunk thoughts that the elusive ancient wonder was an “historical mirage,” but they could also prove that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are mislabeled and should truly be the Hanging Gardens of Nineveh. - Hanging Gardens Existed, but not in Babylon

Assyrian kings created a slice of paradise on earth with their exotic botanical gardens.

Gardens fit for a king

Assyrian kings built on a lavish scale. Ashurbanipal’s capital at Nineveh was a vast metropolis and the palaces were a symbol of the King’s wealth and power. However, it wasn’t just the architecture that made the royal residences impressive. Surrounding the palaces were orchards, game parks and lush and exotic gardens that evoked a paradise on earth.

The Assyrian kings boasted in inscriptions about collecting plants and animals from across the empire for the gardens. Orchards were planted with a plethora of plants, alongside pomegranate, pear, fig and olive trees. In creating these idyllic settings, rulers demonstrated their ability to bring abundance and harmony to the world.

Ashurbanipal claimed:

I planted alongside the palace a botanical garden, which has all types of trees and every fruit and vegetable.”

Paradise on earth: the gardens of Ashurbanipal

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    Can you please elaborate on how the Hanging Garden was a Garden of Eden? Also, it is not necessary or desirable to quote a Wikipedia article so extensively unless it directly answers the question in some way. People who are interested in learning more about the Hanging Gardens can head over to Wikipedia to read it in detail. We do not really want to become an archive of out of date Wiki articles. Thanks.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 7:18

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