"In the person of Enheduanna, we are confronted by a woman who was at once a princess, priestess, poetess, a personality who set standards in all three of her roles by many succeeding centuries, and whose merits were recognised in singularly Mesopotamian fashion, long after."
W. W. Hallo and J.J.A. van Djik, The Exaltation of Inanna.
Enheduanna is the daughter of Sargon the Akkadian, the king who unified Central and South Mesopotamia for the first time in an empire and founder of a dynasty that ruled the region with success for at least 150 years. Sargon himself can be considered the world's first emperor, having reigned for fifty-five years, from 2334-2279 BC. Georges Roux in Ancient Iraq (Penguin, 1992, London and New York) makes the point that Sargon was meticulous in honouring those civil and religious institutions which suited his purpose, which was hegemony over the largest area possible. Thus, to consolidate his position as the legitimate ruler over Sumer and Akkad, Sargon needed to ensure that the people believed he had been chosen by the gods as the rightful and just ruler. Sargon then appointed his daughter, the royal princess, to be en-priestess of the temple of the moon-god Nanna at Ur. The act of giving his first daughter and royal princess to Nanna as His High Priestess has extraordinary importance, because Nanna-Suen, the Moon god, is the firstborn of Enlil and Ninlil, Lord and Lady Air, the chief couple of the Mesopotamian pantheon, and one of Nanna´s epithets is Prince of the Gods. Nanna, the Moon, therefore represents the justified dominion of the younger generation of gods and goddesses, the symbols the Sargonid dynasty wanted to make their own too. The appointed high priestess and royal princess took the name En-hedu-anna, (Lit: Chief Priestess-of the ornament-of heaven). She is the first known writer in world literature. Her poetry was written in Sumerian (the 'scholarly' language) whereas her father's royal inscriptions were in Akkadian. It is also said that Sargon´s sister was dedicated to An, the Skyfather, whereas Sargon himself was devoted to Inanna, having also married a Sumerian lady, most probably a High Priestess.
Sargon´s background is obscure, but we know that he came from Kish, one of the most important city-states of Ancient Sumer. His mother, by tradition, is said to be a Sumerian High Priestess, and he was brought up by a water-thrower, an allusion to a sage dedicated to Enki, the God of Magick, Sweet Waters and Wisdom, once Sargon´s father is unknown, a fact that may place him in the category of having been conceived in the secrecy of the Sacred Marriage Rite. A military victory over Lugalzaggesi, the ruler of Kish, gave Sargon dominion over Ur and Uruk, and the brave monarch turned military victory into the foundation of a dynasty. By installing Enheduanna as the High Priestess of Ur, Sargon set a precedent combining royal and priestly roles for royal princesses which was going to last for at least 500 years. After Enheduanna, it became a tradition for the royal princess to become the High Priestess of Ur. The choice for this office was politically motivated: the royal princess spoused the Prince of the Great Gods, thus consolidating Sargon´s offspring as rulers of Sumer and Akkad and establishing a remarkable pattern linking kingship and kinship to the gods.
But Enheduanna proved herself worthy of her father´s trust and transcended her secular duties and scribal training to affirm herself in her own right as a poetess and heir of the vision of a united land for Sumer and Akkad. This vision was translated into her compilation of the Temple Hyms, where the shrines of the land are praised and their gods and goddesses, and the cycle of poems to Inanna, where the Goddess is portrayed as the Heroic Warrior and Champion of the Land. (ex. A Hymnal Prayer to Inanna: The Adoration of Inanna of Ur in Gateways). More importantly, she is the first author in world literature: her writings go back 2,000 years before Homer and more than 800 years before the "Epic of Gilgamesh". Writing approximately around 2,300 B.C.E., Enheduanna´s poems are a masterpiece of rhetorical structure, spirituality, political and philosophical statement, sacred testimony and metadiscourse about the author´s creative process. Let it be said that before Enheduanna there were scribes, but they did not identify themselves as authors as well in extant cuneiform tablets.
Thus, so far, the following are the works attributed to Enheduanna:
a) ninmesara, or A hymnal Prayer to Inanna - The Adoration of Inanna of Ur, also referred to as The Exaltation of Inanna, on how the Goddess acquired Her Myriad Offices;
b) Inanna and Ebih, or how the Great Lady defeated the terrible Dragon who inhabited the mountains neighbouring the Northern borders of Sumer and Akkad;
c) ninsagurra, or Stout-Hearted Lady;
d) a hymn of praise, whose title is as yet unknown;
e) Enheduanna´s hym of praise on assuming the title of Chief Priestess of the Moon God at Ur, and
f) The Temple Hymns already referred to above.
Enheduanna´s visual evidence is attested by an alabaster disk which was discovered by Sir Leonard Woolley in 1925. The Enheduanna´s Pages by Michelle Hart discusses Enheduanna´s Visual Evidence. Harvard art historian Irene J. Winter describes the disk as carved of translucent alabaster. It measures approximately 25.6 centemeters in diameter and 7.1 centimeters thick. During the University of Pennsylvania excavations in 1927, it was found in several fragments in the area of the giparu [inner sanctum] of the temple at Ur in 1927. It has been heavily reconstructed and now is on display as part of the collection of the Univeristy Museum, Philadelphia.
Enheduanna´s career as a High Priestess reveals a complex mix of spirituality, cultic obligations and political idealism. We glimpse her perfroming rites and arising from the couch of dream divination, and we can visualize her handling the cuneiform stylus diligently writing down in clay tablets the Temple Hymns and the poems that still inspire us.
Yet political power is an ever-prsent theme in her life. Firstly, her poems served to keep together the land her father had made an enormous effort to unite, exalting the greatness of Inanna as the Divine Patroness of the Land. Secondly, when Sargon, her father, died, Enheduanna was temporarily removed from sacred office through the revolt against her nephew Naram-Sin. The removal of a High Priestess from office was a serious offense, and Enheduanna was especially vocal, expressing this way about this injustice:
"I have been attacked most cruelly.
Ashimbabbar has not spoken my verdict.
But what matter, whether he spoke it or not!
I, accustomed to triumph, have been driven forth from (my) house,
Was forced to flee like the cote like a swallow, my life is devoured,
Was made to walk among the mountain thorns,
The life-giving tiara of En-ship was taken from me,
Eunuchs were assigned to me -
"These are becoming to you," it was told ((A Hymnal Prayer to Inanna: The Adoration of Inanna of Ur)
But in the same poem we know that Enheduanna was restored to power, and that such a change of affairs was thanks to Inanna´s intervention:
"The heart of Inanna was restored,
The day was favorable for Her,
She was clothed with beauty, was filled with joyous allure,
How she carried (her) beauty -- like the rising moonlight!
Nanna who came forth in wonder true,
(and) her Ningal, proffered prayers to Her,
Greeted her at the doorsill (of the Temple).
To the hierodule whose command is noble,
The destroyer of foreign lands, presented by An with the me,
My Queen garbed in allure,
O Inanna, praise! "
Dr. Bernard Butler in his thesis Pagan Queen: Jung, Individuation and the Goddess Inanna, offers an interesting interpretation for this event of Enheduanna´s life based on Junguian analysis. Dr. Butler suggests that the event can be explained by Enheduanna´s crush on one of her student priests-to-be, the Lugal-An, which is literally translated as the "Great man of heaven." When the High Priestess finally understood that she was her own person, not his father´s favorite with the enormous responsibility to write to ground the family´s hold on Sumer and Akkad, or the teacher who fell for one of her students and had to maintain her poise and values, she finally reconciled her role as a High Priestess, Mystic, Scribe, Teacher, Scholar and Woman. Only this way Enheduanna could reach out at last for the Goddess in her, or Inanna, by receiving, understanding and mediating the unique message of her High Priestesshood. Dr. Butler finalizes his interpretation of Enheduanna´s encounter with Lugal-An by stating that it made utlimately Enheduanna discover her inner values and exalt them as knowledge and wisdom, as a law and a faith. As painful as the event was, it was necessary for Enheduanna to understand how she could really conform to her own expectations as the en-Priestess of Ur in full authority, inner and outer.
Thus, somehow the life of the priestess-scribe contained an heroic passage where the human garment and the Divine Companion mirror each other. This is, nevertheless, a profoundly spiritual experience, as if Enheduanna were experiencing her own descent to the Underworld to resurface in full glory, as Inanna HerSelf does every year.
For those who are not familiar with the Mysteries, it seems at least puzzling that Enheduanna has written so much about Inanna when by sacred office she was the High Priestess of the Moon God Nanna in Ur. But in fact in the light of the Mesopotamian tradition, Enheduanna was dedicated both to Nanna, her personal god and countersexual mystical partner she served as His High Priestess in Ur, and to Inanna, her personal goddess and guide, the Lady of Love and War, a most appropriate choice for a brave, talented royal princess and scribe who had to prove herself worthy of the trust of her father and the people as a the mediator of the Divine Essences in Ur.
According to Michelle Hart, Enheduanna´s title as dam of Nanna can be translated as "wife of Nanna." Quite a few sumerologist use "spouse" rather than "wife" in English translations for several interlocking reasons. The range of dam is different than wife. In Enheduanna's time, dam is used to denote both the wife of a man and the female companion of a god. In early Ur III times, dam and lukur (Akk. naditu) seem to describe both wives of men and gods, and were used interchangeably. Later in the Ur III period, lukur is used only to describe the wife of a deified king or god, and dam is reserved for human relationships. Since "spouse" has the special meaning of a woman affianced to God, it seems to be a good translation of lukur in neo-Sumerian and dam in Enheduanna's inscription.
The Inner Teachers and Guides we find along our paths in the Mysteries may take many guises, but S/He in general appears first as the countersexual image, the Wondrous Stranger that is nevertheless known to us as no other, the Beloved and the Torchbearer of our Souls. His/Her image may then change and evolve to embrace the complementarity of our Souls, assuming the features of the Divine that belongs to our own Sex and gender. I don´t think there is a rule for the one who comes first along one´s path, but in my case I met first my personal god (Hermes-Thoth-Odin-Enki), and then Inanna, Freya, Maat. The question that may come to mind is which god/dess comes first? My reply to this question is both, although Enheduanna seems to single out Inanna as her Favorite Soul Companion along the Mesopotamian path.
Our Soul Ancestors of Mesopotamia called as extremely lucky the coming and recognition of the Spirit into one´s life, or the acquisition of one´s Personal God/dess. Enheduanna knew and lived to the fullest the truth that it is the Spirit that sustains Matter, that it is the Spirit that ultimately has the key that enable us to reach out for the Ineffable, that element of luck, wholeness and holiness that gives meaning to life and deeds. Spiritual reality is therefore fully engaged in actualizing itself
It is the Nature of the Spirit to take human forms when called upon by the worshipper through devotion, but Spirit can only incarnate through receptive love. Enheduanna, the first poet and writer in world literature, knew of these great truths. May we, guided by Enheduanna´s light, be able to retrace her steps and find the ways to the Living Spirit that Ensouls Matter, here and now.
To you, Inanna, once again, we sing!
Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart : Poems of the Sumerian High, 2001
Pagan Queen: Jung, Individuation and the Goddess Inanna by Dr. Bernard Stewart Butler, a groundbreaking study on the Goddess Inanna as the Vibrant, Dynamic Feminine who has the gift of Grace. Chapter 5 is dedicated to Enheduanna. Excellent.
The Enheduanna´s Pages by Michelle Hart - a brilliant website dedicated to Enheduanna.
The Exhaltation of Inanna. Trans. William W. Hallo and J.J.A. Van Dijk. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968 - this is the best reference on her.
Ozaniec, Naomi. Daughter of the Goddess. The Aquarian Press, London, 1993. Has a good chapter on Enheduanna. I find the author a bit dry.
Westenholz, Joan Goodnick. "Enheduanna, En-Priestess, Hen of Nanna, Spounse of Nanna," in Dumu-E-Dub-Ba-A: Studies in Honor of Ake W. Sjoberg. Hermann Bherens, Darlene Loding, and Martha T. Roth, ed. (Philadelphia: Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, 1989).
Winter, Irene J. "Women in Public: The Disk of Enheduanna, The Beginning of the Office of En-Priestess, the Weight of the Visual Evidence." La Femme dans le Proche-Orient Antique. (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1987).
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