THE AVENGING MAIDEN AND THE PREDATOR GARDENER

A STUDY OF INANNA AND SHUKALETUDA

by Lishtar


 


Ancient seal showing Inanna in Her martial aspect, standing on a lioness, with arrows and bow

 

1. INTRODUCTION

The composition known as Inanna and Shukaletuda belongs to the less well-known series of compositions involving Inanna, the Great Goddess of Love and War of the Sumerians, later known by Babylonians and Assyrians as Ishtar, featuring as the archetype for young girls of the higher classes (Jacobsen, 1973: Frymer-Kensky, 1992; Leick, 1994). However, because it is Inanna the main character, the goddess who represents the Dynamic Non-Maternal Feminine, She shows unexpected depth in this myth. Our analysis will attempt to demonstrate that this myth is fundamentally about the coming of age of a young girl, how She meets the Dark Predator, the rapist personified by Shukaletuda, suffers the vilest intrusion a goddess/woman can suffer in her body integrity and proceeds to search for due punishment of the criminal, to finally assert Her Inner and Outer Authority. The historical background to Inanna and Shukaletuda is the invention of shade-tree gardening. Also, Enki/Ea, the god of the sweet fertilizing waters of the deep, patron of all crafts and magick, the Dynamic Non-Paternal Masculine, has an important role to play as the bright counterpoint to Shukaletuda´s inner darkness.

Inanna and Shukaletuda has hardly been analyzed in depth, although it most certainly is a unique composition especially in terms of content. Fundamentally, it presents the young goddess Inanna in her most vulnerable yet emotionally courageous role as yet found in Her cycle. Rare is a myth where the Divine Feminine is as vulnerable as strong, besides the fact that there is no doubt that the goddess is never the victim; rarer still is a myth involving self-healing and justice to affirm Outer and Inner Power from the purely feminine standpoint. The present essay invites further discussion of the themes it intends to discuss for an improved understanding of Mesopotamian worldview and the designs of civilization in the Ancient Near East.

 

 2. FACTUAL EVIDENCE

It was only in 1949, in an article of the volume XVII of the Archiv Oreintalni (p. 399) called A Blood-Plague Motif in Sumerian Mythology, that Samuel Noah Kramer translated for the first time this myth. This narrative is, unfortunately, very incomplete, i.e. we do not have the end of the myth, with the due punishment of Shukaletuda by Inanna. This first version, nevertheless, can be found in Kramer´s very readable and popular book History Begins at Sumer (1981).In 1993, Professor Jean Bottéro, together with Kramer, published a much more complete version of the myth, in their excellent study of Sumerian Mythology, Lorque les dieux fasaient l´homme, published by Galimard in French. The version of the myth which is used as a reference for the present analysis comes from The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature published by the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and all credits are accorded to the authors of the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, J. A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson and G. Zólyomi, Oxford University, since 1998.

 

3. ANALYSIS OF CONTENT

3.1 INANNA´S QUEST TO DETECT RIGHTS AND WRONGS

The myth starts with the exaltation of Inanna as the goddess who has all the divine powers, who deserves the throne-dais, who stands in the temple of E-ana in Uruk as a source of wonder, and proceeds to tell that the young goddess decides then to the climb up the mountains to detect falsehood and justice, to inspect the land and to identify the criminal against the just. In other words, the myth starts telling about a young goddess´ search for justice and balance, to discern between rights and wrongs. Having climbed up the hills, the young goddess descends to the foot of the mountains, Her ascent and descent implying that She crosses the boundaries between the worlds and the land, because Inanna also visits the neighboring areas of Sumer. However, perhaps at this point the young goddess´ instincts and knowledge to detect falsehood, to apply justice and to identify the criminal against the just is still incomplete, as the recurrent lines " Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?" are repeated at the end of the first three stanzas.

Psychologically, therefore, we can say that Inanna in this myth is portrayed as a young girl who has still much to learn and experience. Young girls and boys, on in this case, a young goddess, can be seen as somehow not fully aware of their potential, with a sense of invincibility some possess as if harm could never happen to them, but only to someone else (Pinkola Estés, Clarissa 1995:46). Thus, when the myth starts Inanna wants to know about rights and wrongs and the application of justice, or to find her own Inner and Outer Authority.

 1-10 The mistress who, having all the great divine powers, deserves the throne-dais; Inanna, who, having all the great divine powers, occupies a holy throne-dais; Inanna, who stands in E-ana as a source of wonder -- once, the young woman went up into the mountains, holy Inana went up into the mountains. To detect falsehood and justice, to inspect the Land closely, to identify the criminal against the just, she went up into the mountains. -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

11-14 My lady stands among wild bulls at the foot of the mountains, she possesses fully the divine powers. Inana stands among stags in the mountain tops, she possesses fully the divine powers. -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

15-22 Then the ...... left heaven, left the earth and climbed up into the mountains. Inana left heaven, left the Earth and climbed up into the mountains. She left E-ana in Unug and climbed up into the mountains. She left the giguna in Zabalam and climbed up into the mountains. As she had gone up from E-ana, ...... jipar ....... Inana ...... her cloak ...... and climbed up into the mountains. -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

Nevertheless, the young goddess at this point has yet to achieve the Gifts of Experience, FarSight, Inflexibility and Grace for the right application of Justice, and the myth tells us how She proceeded to learn about it to affirm HerSelf as the Law Giver in all worlds.

 

3.2 THE CREATION OF THE FIRST PALM TREE AND THE GARDEN

The context and setting changes then, and from line 23 to 41 we cannot say much because of the fragmentary state of lines. Basically, Inanna seems to be now in Eridu, Enki´s city, and there She witnesses the creation of the palm tree, first fruit tree, by Enki, who is aided in the process by a raven. The creation of the palm tree follows a sequence of magical actions co-ordinated by Enki and accomplished by the raven himself, who behaves like a human being. The raven´s work will be later performed by a human being, the gardener. Bottéro (1993) thinks that this very first gardener is called Shukaletuda.

A few words about the palm tree and the importance of gardens and orchards should be introduced here. The date palm is described in the poem as unique, a high plant, useful in all senses, fruit bearer and fit for the palaces of kings and temples of the land. Gardens and orchards, on the other hand, which from now on is the setting of the myth, were as important to Mesopotamia as the fields were crops were cultivated. Indeed, we can say that this myth relates to the origins and development of shade-tree gardening and the tending of orchards, an activity as important as agriculture because vegetables and fruits completed the Mesopotamian daily diet. Kramer (1983) adds that the technique of planting shade trees in a garden or grove to protect plants from wind and sun was known and practiced thousands of years ago. It must be also added that gardens and orchards at that time were not only the space where fruits and vegetables were grown. Gardens and orchards were first and foremost closed irrigated spaces, pleasant and fresh in comparison to the heat of the Mesopotamian Summer and the crowded city neighborhoods. Thus, gardens and orchards are frequently mentioned in love poetry, the place where lovers meet also for the hieros gamos, or Sacred Marriage (Bottéro, 1993). The fact that the goddess is raped in the garden acquires enormous significance then, because it means that She was violated in the place where lovers meet in sacred trust and togetherness. This trust is broken by Shukaletuda in this myth.

The poem is fragmentary from lines 23 to 58, so we do not know for sure of Inanna´s part in the magickal operations to create the palm tree. However, we know already that She might have witnessed the creation of the first palm tree and most probably that She helped Enki to carry out such operation, because the setting of action changes to Enki´s temple in Eridu, South Mesopotamia. Secondly, we also know from the Myth of Etana that Inanna has the plant of life, so She possesses the power to create and make life be. We will see that Shukaletuda is not a very successful gardener, and is envious of the gods´ powers to create and make life be.

23-41 1 line missing
7 lines fragmentary
7 lines missing
After ...... had tired ...... with questions and searching, may ...... come alone (?) to the back-room of my shrine. -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

42-58 2 lines missing
3 lines fragmentary
"He will ...... its feet", he (
Enki) says. Full of wisdom he adds the following words: "Raven, I shall give you instructions. Pay attention to my instructions. Raven, in the shrine I shall give you instructions. Pay attention to my instructions. First, chop up (?) and chew (?) the kohl for the incantation priests of Eridug with the oil and water which are to be found in a lapis-lazuli bowl and are placed in the back-room of the shrine. Then plant them in a trench for leeks in a vegetable plot; then you should pull out (?) ......". -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

59-71 The raven paid exact attention to the instructions of his master. It chopped up (?) and chewed (?) the kohl for the incantation priests of Eridug with the oil and water which were to be found in a lapis-lazuli bowl and were placed in the back-room of the shrine. It planted them in a trench for leeks in a vegetable plot; then it pulled out (?) ....... A plant growing in a plot like a leek, an oddity standing up (1 ms. has instead: sticking up) like a leek stalk -- who had ever seen such a thing before?
1 line unclear
That a bird like the raven, performing the work of man, should make the counterweight blocks of the shadouf bump up and settle down; that it should make the counterweight blocks of the shadouf bump down and rise up -- who had ever seen such a thing before?

72-90 Then the raven rose up from this oddity, and climbed up it -- a date palm! -- with a harness. It rubbed off the kohl (?) ...... which it had stuffed into its beak onto the pistils (?). ...... just as with a date palm, which......, a tree growing forever -- who had ever seen such a thing before? Its scaly leaves surround its palmheart. Its dried palm-fronds serve as weaving material. Its shoots are like surveyor's gleaming line; they are fit for the king's fields. Its (?) branches are used in the king's palace for cleaning. Its dates, which are piled up near purified barley, are fit for the temples of the great gods. That a bird like the raven, performing the work of man, makes the counterweight blocks of the shadouf bump up and settle down; that it makes the counterweight blocks of the shadouf bump down and rise up -- who had ever seen such a thing before? At his master's command, the raven stepped into the abzu. -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

Birds can be seen symbolically as messengers from the Higher Realms, because they travel the Heights and yet dwell on earth. In Mesopotamian mythology, nevertheless, birds of prey such as the eagle (in the myth of Etana), the raven in this myth or the composite mighty figure of the Anzu, the eagle and lion bird, are greedy and envious of the gods´ powers. The Anzu bird (Sumerian Imdugud), for example, steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil and Ninurta is called upon to win them back on behalf of all the gods. In Etana, the eagle betrays the trust of the snake and has to pay dearly for his treason. We will see that the raven who helps Enki to create the first palm tree will become the predator gardener as the myth unfolds.

It must be added for the sake of completeness that there is one example of myth which reached us so far where the Anzu bird acts as a positive figure, when he rewards Lugalbanda for protecting his offspring in the myth Lugalbanda and the Anzu bird. In this case, the piety of Lugalbanda is the central theme of the myth, who could pray even to a fearsome creature such as the Anzu bird.

 

3.3 SHUKALETUDA, THE ENVIOUS GARDENER

The poem proceeds to introduce Shukaletuda, the gardener, who is presented in a definite negative light. It is not clear to us, but the text says that he was to water the garden and build a well for the plants, but not a single one grew, because Shukaletuda had pulled them out by the roots and destroyed them. The raging winds then smote his face with dust. It is therefore clear that Shukaletuda is an unfortunate gardener, whose plants never grow and who has a very poor understanding of the weather phenomena which may affect the growth of his plants.

Thus, Shukaletuda can be seen as an unhappy, frustrated gardener, a failed man. The failed, frustrated man in many fairy tales usurps the place of the knight in the eyes of the princess until she realizes who he really is and so breaks the bond with him. The failed man and sexual criminal such as the rapist in general is filled with hatred for women, with the desire to possess and kill the light that he perceives in them, the touch of the Goddess or the Spark of the Divine Feminine all women possess.

Moreover, the predator or rapist has a desire of superiority and power over others, their chosen preys. The predator rapist is also a sociopath, who cannot relate and have empathy for others, so he is heartless, has distorted values and therefore does not deserve to be called human, although certainly is a being of sorts. The text makes clear therefore from the start that Shukaletuda is a loser, a gardener who kills his plants, a weakling who envies the powers of gods, the criminal disguised in human form who will find in death decreed by the Triumphant Dynamic Feminine the end for his worthless life.

91-111...... Cu-kale-tuda was his name. ......, a son (?) of Igi-sigsig, the ......, was to water garden plots and build the installation for a well among the plants, but not a single plant remained there, not even one: he had pulled them out by their roots and destroyed them. Then what did the stormwind bring? It blew the dust of the mountains into his eyes. When he tried to wipe the corner of his eyes with his hand, he got some of it out, but was not able to get all of it out. He raised his eyes to the lower land and saw the exalted gods of the land where the sun rises. He raised his eyes to the highlands and saw the exalted gods of the land where the sun sets. He saw a solitary ghost. He recognized a solitary god by her appearance. He saw someone who fully possesses the divine powers. He was looking at someone whose destiny was decided by the gods. In that plot -- had he not approached it five or ten times before? -- there stood a single shady tree at that place. The shady tree was a Euphrates poplar with broad shade. Its shade was not diminished in the morning, and it did not change either at midday or in the evening.

Shukaletuda´s luck as a gardener only begins to change when he lifted his eyes to the highlands and learned about the divine laws that rule the weather phenomena, and found out that a tree could bring a broad shade to the garden lasting from sunrise to sunset. Only then Shukaletuda´s garden blossomed forth with all kinds of greens.

 

3.4 THE RAPE OF THE GODDESS

The text says that after going round the heavens, the earth and the regions of Elam and Subir, Inanna felt tired and laid down by the roots of a tree to rest. There is a deep meaning embedded in these sentences.

First, the goddess had traveled the heavens, the earth and had crossed the physical limits to Sumer, or the lands of Elam and Subir. We can also infer that Inanna had seen and learnt much, but she still lacks Full Discernment and Awareness of Rights and Wrongs. Why so? Because She felt tired and thus laid down to sleep by the roots of a tree. Sleep in this case may mean lack of Awareness or full consciousness. As Inanna chooses to rest on the roots of the tree, She is not on the alert from a position of strength and strategy. She displays in fact the sense of invincibility and no harm the young and untried possess towards life, which can lead to disastrous consequences for the young of heart, mind, body and soul. The roots in this case may represent the protection of the living Earth, which is both womb and tomb for the living.

Asleep, power involved the Maiden Goddess as symbolized by the brightness of her womanhood in bloom. Unselfconscious, Inanna was unaware of the glow of glory that surrounded Her, and in perfect love and perfect trust, laid down to rest. Shukaletuda then comes as a thief and criminal, when the goddess is asleep, and rapes her during the night, leaving Inanna right after, to hide in his piece of land. Only when Utu the Sun and Light of the Day comes in the morning, Inanna wakes up and inspects HerSelf, realizing what violence She had been subjected to.

Let us first analyze in brief the motivations for rape. Rape is motivated by many factors, i.e. desire to possess, control or punish, as well as it may be due to fear of feelings aroused by the inner woman in man, so that the rapist will seek to subdue or destroy these feelings projected in the living woman, or the criminal´s prey. It commonly involves the use of physical strength, a coward and vile use of force to subdue the subject of desire. I chose carefully the term subject of desire, because in the rapist-predator´s language, there is no human being involved but a mere object to be used and discarded afterwards. The many cases of criminal pursuit or stalking and the serial killing of women by obsessional men would fall into the lowest category of control as subjugation of another human being. Rape and sexual abuse are so tied up with domination and gratification of the lowest instincts in men in patriarchy that an appalling misconception arises: that women enjoy being raped because they unconsciously desire it or are "asking for it". The context in Sumer was obviously not so terrible, because in previous myths there is always a mother advising the young maiden not to venture alone in certain areas, as well as we are going to see that Inanna is fully aware of having been penetrated.

In Sumer rape is invariably always followed by: 1) punishment of the perpetrator, and b) healing and transcendence for the non-victim. Ninlil, Lady Air, for example in the myth of Enlil and Ninlil, or the Birth of the Moon God Nanna, is in fact the dynamic Avenging Bride and Inanna in this myth is Nemesis incarnate, the Greek Goddess of Justice as the Due Retribution for the rights and wrongs accomplished. Again, pay attention to my choice of words: in Sumer young goddesses are either penalized or feel victimized by the violence they were subjected to, but emerge in full authority to punish the wrongdoer, with the support of gods and the community.

Secondly, it is of paramount importance to point out that Inanna´s rape happens when She is tired and asleep resting on the roots of a tree, i.e. when Inanna considers HerSelf safe and protected under the shade of a tree, connected with the Earth Mother and Womb of Abundance. It is Shukaletuda, envious of the goddess´ beauty and power who sees Inanna, while the goddess is totally unaware of the evil that is plotted against Her. The subtlety of this passage is remarkable. In rape cases since the onset of patriarchy, women are frequently accused of leading men astray, of having tempted them into sexual assault. This is absolutely NOT the case here. Rape in most cases reflects the same pattern: women are unaware of the rapist until it is too late for them to react simply because most women do not believe such a terrible act could be committed against them, as Inanna probably thought when She chose to rest under a tree.

Thirdly, we stress the point that when the light of the day comes, the Sun bringing full awareness, Inanna realizes what has happened to Her. In other words, Inanna knows the full extent of having been abused. There is enormous vulnerability in this passage, but the standpoint Inanna takes is of strength and courage. She is no victim and the text makes it very clear.

We reach a crucial point in the myth, because patriarchal religions wrongly equate innocence to virginity or absolute lack of sexual and body knowledge in their distorted thirst for the control of the female body to assert the power of the all-father. Innocence can never be equated to lack of sexual and body awareness. It is exactly the lack of body and sexual awareness enforced upon women by patriarchy that have led women to be victimized by their aggressors for the simple reason that everyone, women and children in special, cannot defend themselves from situations and events they are not prepared to face or deal with. Real Innocence is in fact knowledge so great that one knows how to protect oneself not to be hurt in one´s deepest essence, in other words, innocence involves deep knowledge of the body, mind, body, heart and spirit, it is INTEGRITY and WHOLENESS to face and survive life´s hardest trials. It is definetly not a concept of goodness that equals virtue to being or not defiled. Now, contemplate the post-Mesopotamian concept of knowledge as the forbidden fruit and virginity as innocence-stupidity. How can one protect oneself without knowing and experiencing the world from the standpoint of wholeness?

Furthermore, to equate innocence to virginity-ignorance is not natural. When we look at Nature, what do we see? Among wolves, when the bitch leaves her pups to go hunting, the young ones try to follow her out of the den and down the path. The mother snarls at them, lunges at them and scares the hell out of her own pups till they run slipping back to the den. The mother is in fact training the young not to venture where they should not as yet. Later, she will teach them to spot predators, both harshly and well (Pinkola Estés, 1995). The same pattern takes place in the whole spectrum of the natural world. Thus, basic teachings about predators and dangers are a precondition to self-preservation. Real innocence should be based therefore on emotional understanding from a position of strength that is alert instead of blind no-fear/no-knowledge. This is another mighty healing contained in this myth.

112-128 Once, after my lady had gone around the heavens, after she had gone around the earth, after Inana had gone around the heavens, after she had gone around the earth, after she had gone around Elam and Subir, after she had gone around the intertwined horizon of heaven, the mistress became so tired that when she arrived there she lay down by its roots. Cu-kale-tuda noticed her from beside his plot. Inana ...... the loincloth (?) of the seven divine powers over her genitals. ...... the girdle of the seven divine powers over her genitals ....... ...... with the shepherd Ama-ucumgal-ana ....... ...... over her holy genitals ....... Cu-kale-tuda undid the loincloth (?) of seven divine powers and got her to lie down in her resting place. He had intercourse with her and kissed her there. After he had had intercourse with her and kissed her, he went back to beside his plot. When day had broken and Utu had risen, the woman inspected herself closely, holy Inana inspected herself closely.

 

3.5 THE FIRST PLAGUE: BLOOD FILLS UP THE WELLS AND THE LAND

Because we are dealing with a Sumerian myth involving the Dynamic Non-Maternal Feminine, Inanna takes action and displays Her righteous rage. The display of righteous rage especially for women is an issue of great importance. Whenever one is treated with injustice or mistreatment, to turn the other cheek or to be forced into silence in name of propriety is to injure one´s individuality as a human being and to justify the aggression/oppression. Silence in this case means to surrender to fear or shame, to grant space and legitimacy for violence, oppression and injustice to go on. Thus, in response to a serious offence - and which offense to women can be more serious than rape? - there is definetly a right time for Hot Anger or rage. However, for the right application of Justice with Impartiality and the Gift of Grace, we we do not need the flames of conflagration, but the fire that transforms fury into hot energy to plan for the right application of due punishment.

The first plague Inanna sends to the land of her wrongdoer is blood to fill up the wells of the land, the orchards, the drinking-water of the rich and the poor and reflects the deep hurt and indignation of the young goddess, but no discrimination or focus in Her objective, i.e.to find the criminal only:

129-138 Then the woman was considering what should be destroyed because of her genitals; Inana was considering what should be done because of her genitals. She filled the wells of the Land with blood, so it was blood that the irrigated orchards of the Land yielded, it was blood that the slave who went to collect firewood drank, it was blood that the slavegirl who went out to draw water drew, and it was blood that the black-headed people drank. No one knew when this would end. She said: "I will search everywhere for the man who had intercourse with me". But nowhere in all the lands could she find the man who had had intercourse with her. -- Now, what did one say to another? What further did one add to the other in detail?

Blood means fundamentally life-force and vitality, but in this specific context we can attribute to it the following meanings:

1) The visual display of Inanna´s rage to the land - the wells of the land bleed because Inanna bleeds with justified rage;

2) She makes the land barren, because according to Shuttle and Redgrove (1989):

" every woman knows that she has two kinds of flow that come from her vagina. Ancient sources called these the River of Life and the River of Death, meaning the clear or white flow at the time when a child is more likely to be conceived; and the forbidden flow of menstruation, when it is most unlikely that a child can be conceived" (page 21).

We could very well interpret this passage in the light that Inanna is menstruating publicly, i.e. making a clear and undeniable statement that She is not with the rapist´s seed within HerSelf. As Leick (1994) put so well:

"Inanna, although She is the goddess of voluptuousness, is not to be taken advantage of. She is not to be used as an object of phallic impulse. Although the garden is a popular locale for amorous encounters, and a metaphor for the female genitals, the action of Shukaletuda constitutes a violation" (page 52)

There is enormous power in Inanna´s bleeding, in the sense that She is also affirming that Her body belongs to HerSelf alone again.

We return to Leick (1994) and her brilliant study of "Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature" to make the following important points:

a) There is no actual word that denotes the concept of virginity in Mesopotamia: it could only be expressed as in the absence of sexual experience;

b) There is no suggestion that a deflowered girl is devalued, such as in Inanna in this myth or Ninlil in the myth of Enlil and Ninlil. There is no suggestion that Ninlil or Inanna bring shame upon their families, a fact sadly still so common in fundamentalist families of our days. Indeed, the contrary happens in Mesopotamian mythology: it is the man who has to pay for the price of his wrongdoing;

c) Perhaps a most remarkable feature of myths involving the defloration of goddesses is the transition from immaturity to sexual maturity. I personally find that this transition, a serious crossing of several biological and emotional barriers, was made easier because of society´s attitude towards pregnancy, the protection of the coming offspring and more importantly, because of the absence of the idea of virginity.

d) legal texts show clearly that the defloration, especially of a free girl, was a serious offense, and that in Sumerian times it was sanctioned by forcing the man to marry the girl.

A final crucial point should be added here. Ancient Mesopotamia saw the sexual impulse as a gift of the gods, especially a Gift of Inanna/Ishtar, the archetypal Goddess who is the Lover and the Beloved united as One, a sign of civilized behavior. This is clearly stated in the initiation of Enkidu by Shamhat in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Shamhat, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, is the priestess of Inanna/Ishtar who teaches Enkidu the arts of civilization, eating and drinking and everything else, before he could meet his equal, Gilgamesh. For those who are not familiar with the myth of Gilgamesh, Enkidu was created to be the Soul Brother to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk. In the beginning, Enkidu is oblivious of civilization and lives in communion with Nature, whereas Gilgamesh is the King, arrogant and full of himself, who treats all badly, women in special. But no one dares to fight the young king, whose strength and looks are unmatched. Enkidu is the natural man whereas Gilgamesh is the civilized brute. Both men will meet and befriend each other in a first story of male bonding ever written. To make Enkidu into a man, Gilgamesh sends him Shamhat. She first shows herself to Enkidu, then lets him make love to her for seven days and six nights (an allusion to the transit or initiation of the seven planets). After this time, Enkidu feels he has grown, and the wild is not his home anymore. He goes back to sit at the priestess' feet and she tells him that he is like a god and that there is someone he must meet.

From this brief summary of the first great epic written in world History, we can say that for ancient Mesopotamians lovemaking was a sign of civilized behavior, the most sacred act of being human in connection, transformative in all levels, and in many cases, an act initiated by women, who embodied the power of the archetypal Lover and Beloved united as One, Inanna/Ishtar. We return to Leick (1994), who analyzed the myth of Inanna and Shukaletuda using Kramer´s incomplete version, and added the following:

"We shall see from the love-songs that the sensual pleasure experimented by women during intercourse was much emphasized. ... Shukaletuda desires Inanna and satisfies his lust upon the sleeping goddess without her invitation, whereupon he is punished. .. As far as the Goddess is concerned, [forced=my emphasis] intercourse during sleep is not what Inanna/Ishtar would consider an erotic experience worth having. We would conclude that in both cases the hubris is failure to give the goddess pleasure" (page 53)

Just a necessary remark on Dr. Leick´s quotation: failure to give the goddess pleasure is an unfortunate addendum in an otherwise flawless interpretation, and the terminology used by Dr. Leick can be called the language of erasure as defined by Professor Mary Daly in Gyn/Ecology (1979)) , regarding the skillful use of language by patriarchy to diminish the impact of concepts, events or situations which directly affect women. Shukaletuda raped the goddess and was a criminal in the eyes of the Sumerians, the text shows it clearly. This myth deals with the rape of the Great Goddess of Love and War, the Archetypal Lover and Beloved, Her unstoppable rage in facing the extent of Her ordeal, self-healing and punishment of the wrongdoer, when Inanna/Ishtar asserts her Inner and Outer authority, so failure in pleasing the goddess is not the main issue here. Let us not forget that for the Sumerians rape, self-healing and punishment this was the case, and that the violence committed by Shukaletuda should not be repeated, as proved by his condemnation to death by Inanna in a clear warning for the coming generations. Yet the first plague still does not bring to light the whereabouts of Shukaletuda to Inanna. Hot anger shows excess of emotion, lack of objectivity and impartiality (von Franz, 1995). Without objectivity and impartiality to ponder and assess all angles no judgement can be issued. Thus, Inanna as yet is not ready to find and condemn Shukaletuda.

 

3.6 SHUKALETUDA AND HIS FATHER

Meanwhile, Shukaletuda is terrified at being discovered by Inanna, because he knows that the Goddess will not be merciful towards him. So the predator-rapist now tries to avoid being killed. He searches for his father, pleading for time and perhaps also for an ally to support or defend him in face of Inanna´s righteous rage. Thus, Shukaletuda goes after his father for advice, telling him all about he had done to the young goddess.

129-159 The boy went home to his father and spoke to him; Cu-kale-tuda went home to his father and spoke to him: "My father, I was to water garden plots and build the installation for a well among the plants, but not a single plant remained there, not even one: I had pulled them out by their roots and destroyed them. Then what did the stormwind bring? It blew the dust of the mountains into my eyes. When I tried to wipe the corner of my eyes with my hand, I got some of it out, but was not able to get all of it out. I raised my eyes to the lower land, and saw the high gods of the land where the sun rises. I raised my eyes to the highlands, and saw the exalted gods of the land where the sun sets. I saw a solitary ghost. I recognized a solitary god by her appearance. I saw someone who possesses fully the divine powers. I was looking at someone whose destiny was decided by the gods. In that plot -- had I not approached it five or ten (1 ms. has instead: three or six hundred) times before? -- there stood a single shady tree at that place. The shady tree was a Euphrates poplar with broad shade. Its shade was not diminished in the morning, and it did not Change either at midday or in the evening.

160-167 "Once, after my lady had gone around the heavens, after she had gone around the earth, after Inana had gone around the heavens, after she had gone around the earth, after she had gone around Elam and Subir, after she had gone around the intertwined horizon of heaven, the mistress became so tired that when she arrived there she lay down by its roots. I noticed her from beside my plot. I had intercourse with her and kissed her there. Then I went back to beside my plot.

168-176 "Then the woman was considering what should be destroyed because of her genitals; Inana was considering what should be done because of her genitals. She filled the wells of the Land with blood, so it was blood that the irrigated orchards of the Land yielded, it was blood that the slave who went to collect firewood drank, it was blood that the slavegirl who went out to draw water drew, and it was blood that the black-headed people drank. No one knew when this would end. She said: "I will search everywhere for the man who had intercourse with me". But nowhere could she find the man who had had intercourse with her."

Bottéro (1993) in his interpretation of Inanna and Shukaletuda says that Shukaletuda´s father is the god Enki himself, the patron of the sweet fertilizing waters of the deep, patron of all arts and crafts. Although it is not explicit in the text who is in fact the gardener´s father, it is very likely that he might be Enki himself because of the link between the sweet waters needed for irrigation and the growth of gardens and orchards. Nevertheless, the text does not make it clear whether Enki is or not Shukaletuda´s father. However, in a very Enkian fashion, Shukaletuda´s father advises the gardener to seek for hide in the cities at the mountains, where Inanna would not be able to find him.

177-184 His father replied to the boy; his father replied to Cu-kale-tuda: "My son, you should join the city-dwellers, your brothers (1 ms. has instead: who are your brothers). Go at once to the black-headed people, your brothers! Then this woman will not find you among the mountains." He joined the city-dwellers, his brothers all together. He went at once to the black-headed people, his brothers, and the woman did not find him among the mountains.

Now, if Shukaletuda´s father is in fact Enki/Ea, the third most important god in the Mesopotamian pantheon, who represents the Spirit of Civilization, Wisdom, Resourcefulness and Soul of Mesopotamia, why would he help the rapist gardener to run away from his due punishment by the young goddess?

Perhaps we can find an answer to this riddle if we take into account that Inanna was travelling the Heights and Depths to detect falsehood and justice, to inspect the land and to identify the criminal against the just. By displaying hot anger and flooding the wells, gardens and orchards with blood, Inanna is punishing everyone in the land, and not the criminal who raped her only. So somehow Enki might have wanted to teach Inanna to control her wits, because full of hot anger She was as yet not ready to confront her aggressor with the impartiality of a Great Judge.

It is important to add up that Enki, on the other hand, is also the god who never denies anyone succor, and this is the reason why He advised Shukaletuda to seek hide in the cities, where it would be more difficult for the goddess to find him.

Finally, one must not forget that Enki as the Dynamic Non-Paternal Masculine acts invariably in myth as the great empowerer/challenger of Inanna. Enki never fathers Inanna protectively, nor shows unbalanced anger towards the young goddess´ ways. This is the case when: a) Enki surrendered the Sacred Measures to Inanna in Enki and Inanna, sealing an alliance between the cities of Eridu and Uruk; b) when Enki creates Saltu in Ishtar and Saltu, so that the martial goddess could appease her martial behavior, and finally, c) when He created galla creatures to rescue Inanna/Ishtar to be rescued from the Underworld in the Descent of Inanna/Ishtar. Summing up, Enki behaves towards Inanna as the Mentor and Empowerer, helping the goddess to stretch Her limits and prove HerSelf worthy in all myths both interact.

 

3.7 THE SECOND PLAGUE: THE SWEEPING WINDS AND THE FLOOD

Not having as yet found Shukaletuda, Inanna sends the second plague to the land under the form of sweeping winds and a great flood.

185-193 Then the woman was considering a second time what should be destroyed because of her genitals; Inana was considering what should be done because of her genitals. She mounted on a cloud, took (?) her seat there and ....... The south wind and a fearsome storm flood went before her. The pilipili (one of the cultic personnel in Inana's entourage) and a dust storm followed her. Abba-cucu, Inim-kur-dugdug, ...... adviser ....... Seven times seven helpers (?) stood beside her in the high desert. She said: "I will search everywhere for the man who had intercourse with me". But nowhere could she find the man who had intercourse with her.

Basically, after a tremendously emotional state, the climax is characterized by ice-cold emotion, which in this case is not totally frozen or rigid, because it is represented by the elemental unstoppable forces of Nature as unbalanced Air and Water. Inanna starts to discriminate her emotions by sweeping off the debris of uncontrolled rage and attempting to extinguish with water the flames of anger. The storm winds and unstoppable floods can be seen as the forces that fight for control within the young goddess, who has yet to reach the element of objective reflection between herself to achieve impartial judgement and mastery without.

The same process repeats for the second time. Shukaletuda goes to complain to his father, who gives him the same advice, i.e. to hide himself in the cities of Sumer, where he could not be found by Inanna.

194-205 The boy went home to his father and spoke to him; Cu-kale-tuda went home to his father and spoke to him: "My father, the woman of whom I spoke to you, this woman was considering a second time what should be destroyed because of her genitals; Inana was considering what should be done because of her genitals. She mounted on a cloud, took (?) her seat there and ....... The south wind and a fearsome storm flood went before her. The pilipili (one of the cultic personnel in Inana's entourage) and a dust storm followed her. Abba-cucu, Inim-kur-dugdug, ...... adviser ....... Seven times seven helpers (?) stood beside her in the high desert. She said: "I will search everywhere for the man who had intercourse with me". But nowhere could she find the man who had intercourse with her."

206-213 His father replied to the boy; his father replied to Cu-kale-tuda: "My son, you should join the city-dwellers, your brothers. Go at once to the black-headed people, your brothers! Then this woman will not find you among the mountains." He joined the city-dwellers, his brothers all together. He went at once to the black-headed people, his brothers, and the woman did not find him among the mountains.

However, even with the sending of the second plague, Inanna still cannot discover the whereabouts of Shukaletuda amongst the city-dwellers. Again, the plague of winds and waters is still directed to the whole of the land, instead of being focused on te criminal only.

 

3.8 THE THIRD PLAGUE: BLOCKAGE OF THE HIGHWAYS

The third plague sent by Inanna involves the indiscriminate use of strength. The text is broken in the weapon the young goddess used to ascert her power, but it is clear that the weapon/regalia or implement chosen has the power to block the highways of the land, preventing circulation and movement across the land.

214-220 Then the woman was considering a third time what should be destroyed because of her genitals; Inana was considering what should be done because of her genitals. She took a single ...... in her hand. She blocked the highways of the Land with it. Because of her, the black-headed people ....... She said: "I will search everywhere for the man who had intercourse with me". But nowhere could she find the man who had intercourse with her.

Again, but for the last time, Shukaletuda goes to complain to his father, who gives him the same advice, i.e. to hide himself in the cities of Sumer, where he could not be found by Inanna.

221-230 The boy went home to his father and spoke to him; Cu-kale-tuda went home to his father and spoke to him: "My father, the woman of whom I spoke to you, this woman was considering a third time what should be destroyed because of her genitals; Inana was considering what should be done because of her genitals. She took a single ...... in her hand. She blocked the highways of the Land with it. Because of her, the black-headed people ....... She said: "I will search everywhere for the man who had intercourse with me". But nowhere could she find the man who had intercourse with her."

231-238 His father replied to the boy; his father replied to Cu-kale-tuda: "My son, you should join the city-dwellers, your brothers. Go at once to the black-headed people, your brothers! Then this woman will not find you among the mountains." He joined the city-dwellers, his brothers all together. He went at once to the black-headed people, his brothers, and the woman did not find him among the mountains.

Why is it that for the third time Inanna is not as yet able to discover the whereabouts of Shukaletuda? Because She has yet to pass the Ultimate Test to become a Great Judge. She has to learn about the use of strength in proportion, a precondition for the statement of precise and accurate judgement for the task at hand.

 

3.9 MEETING WITH ENKI, SELF-HEALING AND RETURN

It is always very refreshing to study and live by the light of Sumerian mythology because of the healing and positive messages it brings. Because we are now reaching a decisive point in the myth, where the healed image of the Masculine will mark His presence with the gift of Empowerment and Grace in the figure of Enki.

When another day comes, Inanna inspected herself closely, and I see this inspection as a thorough mind, heart, body and soul process, because the Sumerian text at this point does not mention the body only (or "the genitals" as in the myth). Inanna is thus reflexive and thoughtful, no more totally overcome by hot or cold anger. It is therefore most natural that She turns to Her first mentor and ally, Enki, the God of the Fertilizing Waters of the Deep, of Magick and all Crafts.

Enki, as we have already pointed out, is one of the most important gods in the Mesopotamian pantheon. Of the many male gods in the pantheon, He is also the one who has the psychic muscle to handle all situations, the One who assists all in times of trouble by lending advice, cunning and instructions which, if carried to the letter, bring the expected successful results to all who come to Him for support.

For the first time the young goddess states clearly Her case to Enki, vulnerable yet strong, inflexible in the pursuit of Her objective, yet willing to hear the judgement of Her Great Mentor and Empowerer, who most probably in this very moment speaks for the Assembly of the Gods, the Igigi and the Anunnaki. Gone are the hot and cold rage, gone is the indiscriminate use of strength to be replaced by Courage, Integrity and Amazing Grace under Pressure. Inanna has grown to demand for Justice to be made on Her behalf, and from a position of strength affirms that She will only re-enter Her shrine when the criminal is handed over to Her at that very moment. Acknowledging the extraordinary Inner and Outer Sovereignty achieved by Inanna, Enki cannot deny Her Truth and Justice, and tells Her of the whereabouts of Shukaletuda.

Inanna leaves Enki´s temple in Eridu renewed, and She, as bright as the rainbow, now travels the Heights and the Depths without being swept by the strong winds of the North or South. Why so? Because Inanna is now fully conscious of where She threads upon, no more naive to be a defenseless prey, vital and strong enough to issue wise judgements to bring balance to the vilest crimes in all worlds.

239-255 When day had broken and Utu had risen, the women inspected herself closely, holy Inana inspected herself closely. "Ah, who will compensate me? Ah, who will pay (?) for what happened to me? Should it not be the concern of my own father, Enki?" Holy Inana directed her steps to the abzu of Eridug and, because of this, prostrated herself on the ground before him and stretched out her hands to him: "Father Enki, I should be compensated! What's more, someone should pay (?) (1 ms. has instead: make up) for what happened to me! I shall only re-enter my shrine E-ana satisfied after you have handed over that man to me from the abzu." Enki said "All right!" to her. He said "So be it!" to her. With that holy Inana went out from the abzu of Eridug. She stretched herself like a rainbow across the sky and reached thereby as far as the earth. She let the south wind pass across, she let the north wind pass across. From fear, (1 ms. adds: solitary) Cu-kale-tuda tried to make himself as tiny as possible, but the woman had found him among the mountains.

 

3.10 CONFRONTATION AND INTEGRATION

Shukaletuda tries to make himself as tiny as possible, but this time he could not escape the goddess. When they finally face each other, Inanna is now the Judge and Law Giver, with the All-Seeing Eye of Justice which all Hears, Assesses and Issues the Right Punishment for the Wrongdoer with a Measure of Mercy as well. This is the reason why She listens to Shukaletuda´s version of the events without bursting into emotion, hot or cold rage, or misusing Her Inner and Outer Authority.

256-261 Holy Inana now spoke to Cu-kale-tuda: "How ......? ...... dog ......! ...... ass ......! ...... pig ......!"
1 line missing

262-281 Cu-kale-tuda replied to holy Inana: "My lady (?), I was to water garden plots and build the installation for a well among the plants, but not a single plant remained there, not even one: I had pulled them out by their roots and destroyed them. Then what did the stormwind bring? It blew the dust of the mountains into my eyes. When I tried to wipe the corner of my eyes with my hand, I got some of it out, but was not able to get all of it out. I raised my eyes to the lower land, and saw the exalted gods of the land where the sun rises. I raised my eyes to the highlands, and saw the exalted gods of the land where the sun sets. I saw a solitary ghost. I recognized a solitary god by her appearance. I saw someone who possesses fully the divine powers. I was looking at someone whose destiny was decided by the gods. In that plot -- had I not approached it three or six hundred times before? -- there stood a single shady tree at that place. The shady tree was a Euphrates poplar with broad shade. Its shade was not diminished in the morning, and it did not change either at midday or in the evening.

282-289 "Once, after my lady had gone around the heavens, after she had gone around the earth, after Inana had gone around the heavens, after she had gone around the earth, after she had gone around Elam and Subir, after she had gone around the intertwined horizon of heaven, the mistress became so tired that when she arrived there she lay down by its roots. I noticed her from beside my plot. I had intercourse with her and kissed her there. Then I went back to beside my plot."

Inanna by then has truly achieved an unshakable flexibility, a hardening that is not stiff, She has become the vision of Wisdom, the Rock of Strength from which flows the waters of Life. The young Goddess as the Law Giver has achieved full Sovereignty: She is no longer easily dissociated or swept away by emotion, does not lose her point of view through pressure, standing by what She considers right for HerSelf and for the land under Her protection. Thus, Shukaletuda is condemned to death, but Inanna decrees that his story will be remembered in song for the generations to come not to repeat his crime ever again.

290-310 When he had spoken thus to her, ...... hit ....... ...... added (?) ....... ...... changed (?) him ....... She (?) determined his destiny ......, holy Inana spoke to Cu-kale-tuda: "So! You shall die! What is that to me? Your name, however, shall not be forgotten. Your name shall exist in songs and make the songs sweet. A young singer shall perform them most pleasingly in the king's palace. A shepherd shall sing them sweetly as he tumbles his butter-churn. A young shepherd shall carry your name to where he grazes the sheep. The palace of the desert shall be your home."
5 lines unclear
Cu-kale-tuda ......
1 line missing
Because ...... destiny was determined, praise be to ...... Inanna!

"The balanced temperament is the pillar of the personality, when the inner and outer elements are in a state of balance and the soul enjoys living in the body", says Marie-Louise von Franz in her masterwork "Alchemy, an introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology" (1980). Inanna has finally conquered Her full Inner and Outer Sovereignty, and Her victory over the predator restores the image of Femininity as Force, Integrity, Implacable Effectiveness and Severity tempered by Mercy that gives the due Retribution for all rights and wrongs that may affect all worlds.

 

AFTERWORD

Writing Inanna and Shukaletuda was an intense experience, exciting and troubling at once. Why so? Because apart from the analysis of the myth within the framework of the Ancient Near East, I had to dive into the world of my first readings on feminism, proceed then to enquire deep into the questions of rape, pornography, and review of the cruel concepts of virginity, original sin and virtue as total ignorance of the body enforced mainly on women by post-Mesopotamian faiths. These were necessary, but painful readings, which give me nightmares for some of days, for with immense indignation followed by sadness I contemplated again the extent of the alienation enforced upon the Divine Feminine, and consequently, the Divinity of all Women.

Nevertheless, in the privacy of writing and meditating on this great myth, where Inanna as the Divine Non-Maternal Feminine triumphs over the male predator-criminal, I felt the pleasure Inanna HerSelf must have felt over Shukaletuda: the victory over my subject by interpreting in the Light of the Tradition and showing it in a way that is defined by a language that is centered on the women´s experience of the Mystery embedded in the myth, in the mighty figure of the Avenging Maiden turned Law Giver, rather than allowing for post-Mesopotamian (mis) conceptions to interfere and define what I wanted to define.

It is a pleasure to bring to you Inanna and Shukaletuda. As a priestess scribe, I stand for all women because I want the younger generations to be able to act following Inanna´s Sovereignty and Determination especially in cases of extreme violence against the integrity of their bodies.. We will be free only when rape no longer exists, for we are the women and children in it.

Lishtar, November 30th 2000


REFERENCES

Bottéro, Jean (1992) Mesopotamia: writing, reasoning and the Gods. Chicago, London, University of Chicago Press. First published in French by Gallimard in 1987.

Bottéro, Jean and Kramer, Samuel Noah (1993) Lorsque les dieux faisaient l´homme: mythologie mésopotamienne. Ed. Gallimard, Paris.

Daly, Mary (1979) Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston, Beacon Press.

Frymer-Kensky, Tikva (1992) In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Tansformation of Pagan Myth. Fawcet Columbine, New York.

Jacobsen, Thorkild (1976) . The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Collected Works (CW). Ed. Gerhard Adler et al. Bollingen Sieries XXX. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954ff., in special Symbols of Transformation, CW 5, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14 and Aion, CW 9.

Kramer, Samuel Noah (1972) Sumerian Mythology: a study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium BC (revised edition). Greenwood Press, Connecticut.

Kramer, Samuel Noah.(1981) History Begins at Sumer. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Leick, Gwendolyn (1994) Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature. New York and London, Routledge.

Pinkola Estés, Clarissa (1995). Women who run with the Wolves. New York, Ballantine Books.

Shuttle, Penelope and Redgrove, Peter (1989) The Wise Wound: menstruation and everywoman. London, Paladin.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise (1980) Alchemy: an introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology. Psychology. Inner City Books, Toronto, Canada.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise ( 1995) Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales: revised edition. Shambhala, Boston and London. 

Von Franz, Marie-Louise ( 1999) Archetypal dimensions of the psyche. Shambhala, Boston and London.

Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories, and Hymns from Sumer. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1983.

 

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