By Lishtar

Ereshkigal is the Sumerian Great Goddess of the Underworld, the realm of the dead. Her name means Lady of the Great Place, an euphemism for the land of the departed (known also as the Land of No Return and The Great Place). She is already mentioned in Old Sumerian offering lists, and temples dedicated to Her are known from the period of the Third Dynasty of Ur, such as the ki.babbar.e and the ki.nam.tar.ri.da, or place of the fate at Ur.

Who is Ereshkigal and how can we understand Her nature? In the Creation Myth, Eridu Model, after Ki, Mother Earth and Queen, was separated by Enlil, Lord Air, Master of Winds, her firstborn, from An, Skyfather and King, after the primal Unity of Heaven and Earth was forever lost, in the Heights Above, An wept for Ki, longing for her embrace and kiss. His heartfelt tears met Nammu the Sea. Nammu reached out for the Sky Lord, and Mother and grieving son made for the first time sweet Love. From the mingling of their bodies a Boy and a Girl, Divine Twins were born. Enki and Ereshkigal, they were called.

Here we have the first clue to understand Ereshkigal´s mystery. She is the Twin Sister of Enki, the lord of Magic, Crafts and the Watery Deep. As his twin sister and best friend, She is the Knowing Within, whereas He is Knowledge Without. Because Magic, Arts and the Sweet Waters that make life grow are the Outer Manifestations of Inner Knowledge in Action, so what Enki knows and does without, Ereshkigal does and knows within.

She is also the Queen of the Underworld, and the question that comes to mind is what is/was the Underwold for the ancients and still is for those of us who live in the Light of the Mystery Traditions? Cosmology teaches us that ancient Mesopotamians saw reality as encompassing the Physical and the Subtle Worlds united as one by the Duranki, or the Bond of Heaven and Earth. There were the Heights above, where Anu reigned sovereign, and the Igigi and the Anunnaki, the Hosts of Heaven and Earth, earthly and heavenly powers who had counterparts in the Underworld. And the Underworld, the realm of Justice and attonement, where Ereshkigal reigned sovereign.

Now, the clue to understand the Underworld is not in the bad press it is usually depicted in by the hasty, but in the rewards of all descent stories. Bear with me, and think a little. It is in darkness that many treasures are to be found, if only one has eyes to see. Gold, silver, precious stones, petrol, they are all to be found in the Inner Core of the Living Earth. This is why alchemists say that one should visit the interior of the Earth and find the Stone that makes everything into gold. And this is the main threshold to transform Ereshkigal into the Vision of Humanity that Transcends All Deaths, the Beloved and Lover united as One, or Inanna/Ishtar, her vision in the Middlearth or the Physical Plane.

For Ereshkigal is the Mistress of Essence, and she teaches us to go beyond Appearances, to the Reality of Justice and Truth. Needless to say that these can be immensely difficult thresholds to cross over in everyday life.

It is said that Ereshkigal was kidnapped by Kur, the primeval Dragon, and that she took then the Underworld for her Domain. Kur may represent the Untamed and Wild, the Energies that need to be balanced out, the Unknown. It Is also said that when this happened, Enki, her twin brother, went running for the rescue, having built a boat to this end. During Enki´s descent to bring back Ereshkigal to the Heights Above, Enki was attacked by cosmic rocks and stones, but he kept to his intent. We don´t know how the meeting of brother and sister took place, but we know that Enki came back from the Underworld with the seeds of the future Tree of Knowledge, the Huluppu Tree, which he planted in the banks of the Euphrates river.

Fundamentally, all great initiatory journeys that to the Underworld demand that one achieves the balance of inner and outer elements in the self and the world, as well as integrity of mind, heart, body and soul. Thus, Ereshkigal is a necessary threshold to understand Inanna as the Shaman that conquers death, to grasp the full extent of one´s magical acts (Enki), and to assess one´s track record beyond physical existence (Nergal).

Perhaps the quotation below, a favorite of mine, can give a better idea of the true essence of Ereshkigal. It is by Florence Farr, one of the four priestesses of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it says:

"I stood naked in a dark and bleak eternity and filled it with my exultation"

I think Ereshkigal HerSelf would have made these words Her own too.


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