This head might show the face of Inanna. Uruk, 3000 BCE.
Go back to Part I
The third part of the Cycle of Inanna is the Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi. There, we meet the young goddess as the Lover and Beloved united as one. The Courtship deals with Inanna and Dumuzi as they meet and fall in love with each other to become one of the most passionate and vibrant couples in world myth and religion. Perhaps only Solomon and Sheba in the Song of Songs can approach the Sumerian spontaneity and exuberance of Inanna and Dumuzi, and it is very likely that the Sumerian composition is the inspiration for Solomon´s Song of Songs. There are more than twenty-plus compositions celebrating Inanna and Dumuzi, it preceeds the Song of Songs and The Courtship can be said to be the most beloved and well-known love story of ancient Mesopotamia, therefore known to Jewish sages and poets. Thus, we can assume thus with a degree of certainty that it was the source for Solomon´s love song to Sheba. In what follows, we will review in brief the main stages of the ourtship for your delight:
a) Inanna and Utu and the Bridal Sheets - It is in
the beginning of Springtime and nature a feast of colors, smells, growth and
renewal when Inanna, the young Sumerian goddess of love and war, meets and falls
in love with Dumuzi, the mortal shepherd of royal lineage. Utu, the Sun God
and Inanna's brother comes to tell her that the land is in full bloom, and that
a piece of linen is always needed, so he will bring some flax for her. A delightful
dialogue follows, where Inanna, full of curiosity, asks Utu who will ret, spin,
dye, weave and bleach the cloth for her sheets. Finally, bursting with eagerness,
the young goddess finds courage to ask The Real Question she wanted to know:
"Brother, when you have brought it to me already bleached, who will go to bed with me? Who will go to bed with me?"
Utu replies that she will lie with Dumuzi, the mortal
shepherd, of the offspring of a king. Inanna first rejects Dumuzi, argueing
that the shepherd´s garments and wool are coarse, and that She will marry the
farmer instead, the one who tends to her storehouses and grains. My interpretation
is that Inanna, first of all, represents the Sumerian urban elite that comes
from a rural background and needs to integrate the herding shepherds in society
and nobility. Utu defends the choice of Dumuzi to no avail. Only when Dumuzi
himself comes to Inanna and enummerates his qualities in comparison to the farmer,
affirming that his lineage is as holy as Inanna's, the young goddess accepts
him in full. This passage can be seen as the young goddess´ veiled request to
encourage Dumuzi to "prove himself worthy of Her". The message is that there
are outer material and inner emotional expectations to be met on both sides
by any and every relationship, and the fencing groud of the first encounters
may well lead to the 10,000 ways of asking and replying:
" How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways..."
b) Inanna and Ningal - next Inanna runs to Ningal,
her mother, for advice on how to proceed towards Dumuzi, how she should get
ready for him. We meet therefore Inanna´s mother, who acts as the female initiator
of the young goddess in the mysteries of femininity. The choice of words in
the poem are bathing, robing herself, dowry, the lapis lazuli necklace and the
seal in her hand. Bathing is self-explanatory, but the following actions carry
more meaning. Anointing oneself is a sacred act, because oil contains the four
elements (Air, Water, Earth and Fire), thus seen as the ritual blessing of the
body. Clothes represent the Outer Garment we present to the world, and Inanna
chooses wisely the royal robe of a young goddess who knows herself well. The
dowry may represent the riches she brings to the outer and inner relationship
with the beloved, the lapis beads, which lay exactly on the throat chakra, the
power of words to captivate. Finally, Inanna takes the seal in her hand, her
authority, inner and outer, to meet her promissed bridegroom. And throughout
this time Dumuzi is made to wait for her, and we can guess he is also getting
ready to meet the young goddess, but nothing is said about his actions. We know,
nevertheless, that Anu, the Skyfather, covered himself with the velvet mantle
of the firmament and the stars before he descended to Earth to mate with Ki
in another myth.
Again, we have Inanna as a maiden, lovingly initiated by her close family members, as befitted to any girl (and boy) who is loved and well cared for her (his) family.
c) The first encounters - From the moment Inanna and Dumuzi first meet and fall for each other, the lovers enter a world of senses and feelings that explodes in color and emotions around them. What they experience is a world that is vibrant and alive, full of meaning in which they totally engage themselves. This process is described in verses that speak of simple things the lovers do together, like drinking, eating, churning, dancing, singing, tasting, smelling, everyday acts whereby both open up to each other, willing to share everything and everywhere in all worlds they thread upon.
As Inanna and Dumuzi meet and experience their own world in the world, the similarities with Solomon's and Sheba´s Song of Songs become more startling in structure and meaning. This is not surprising: Jewish sages probably found inspiration to write their Song of Songs in the Courtship. Numbers speak for themselves: the Song of Songs is the only romantic-erotic piece in the Old Testament Bible, whereas we have hundreds of clay tablets in cuneiform with songs of divine love preceeding the Song of Songs by a couple of centuries at least.
d) The Consecration of the Sacred King - after the close complicity of the night spent with Dumuzi, Inanna decrees the fate of her chosen consort and priest-king, because because "in all ways" She found him " fit" and "Inanna holds you dear". It must be pointed out that in South Mesopotamia, after kingship descended from the avens to Eridu, it is Inanna and Enlil who descend to Earth to choose and crown the king, as described in the myth of Etana. It is Inanna (or her earthly representative, the High Priestess of Uruk/the land) again in the Courtship that decrees the fate of the king/Dumuzi. This is a very strong evidence that at least the High Priestess was equal in status to the king, once he had to be first accepted by her to rule the land as her consort. The words that consecrate the king spoken by Inanna are the following:
'In battle, I am your leader
In combat, I am your armour-bearer
In the assembly, I am your advocate
n the campaign, I am your inspiration
You, the chosen shepherd of the holy shrine
You, the king, the faithful provider of Uruk,
You, the light of An's great shrine
In all ways you are fit
To hold your head high on the lofty dais
To sit on the lapis lazuli throne
To cover your head with the holy crown
To wear long clothes on your body
To bind yourself with the garment of kingship
To race on the road with the holy sceptre in your hand
And the holy sandals on you feet
You, the sprinter, the chosen shepherd
In all ways I find you fit
May your heart enjoy long days.
That which An determined for you - may it not be altered
That which Enlil has granted - may it not be altered
You are the favourite of Ningal
Inanna holds you dear.'
Then comes Ninshubur, Inanna´s main advisor, who in this context represents the people´s acknowledgement of Dumuzi´s sacred kingship conferred by Inanna. She takes Dumuzi by the hand and together they go to Inanna. Ninshubur says:
'My queen, here is the choice of your heart
The king, your beloved bridegroom
May he spend long days in the sweetness of your holy loins
Give him a favourable and glorious reign!
O my Queen of Heaven and Earth
Queen of all the Universe
May he enjoy long days in the sweetness of your holy loins!
Give him a favorable and glorious reign,
Grant him the king´s throne, firm in its foundations.
Grant him the shepherd´s staff of judgement,
Grant him the enduring crown with the radiant and noble diadem.
From where the sun rises to where the sun sets,
From South to North
From the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea,
From the land of the hulupu tree to the land of the cedar,
Let his shepherd´s staff protect all of Sumer and Akkad..."
e) The final verses of the Courtship tell us of the delight the couple found in each other, and I will leave you with the words of Inanna:
" My beloved, the delight of my eyes, met me.
We rejoiced together.
He took his pleasure of me.
He brought me into his house.
He laid me down on the fragrant honey-bed,
My sweet love, leying by my heart,
Tongue-playing, one by one,
My fair Dumuzi did so fifty times."...
I have discussed the role of the priestesses of Inanna/Ishtar as the Hierodule or Sacred Prostitute in detail in The Mystery of Sacred Prostitution, Shamhat here in Ladies... and in a myth retelling called The Priestess and Enkidu. Therefore I would kindly ask you to refer to these files. Nevertheless, as much of the bad press targeted to Inanna/Ishtar is based on Her persona as a Love Goddess, it is worth making the following remarks:
a) the language that refers to the sacred service of the body to the divine seen in the worshiper by a priestess of Inanna/Ishtar is in general to say the least depreciative displaying the split between mind-body-spirit that has plagued Western thought for the last 2,000 years;
b) the text that is frequently invoked to justify Inanna´s/Ishtar´s terrifying behavior towards Her ex-lovers is Tablet 6 of the Epic of Gilgamesh, when the king of Uruk rejects to be the goddess´ consort in the Sacred Rite saying that Inanna reserved a fate worse than death to Her former consorts. I have discussed this point elsewhere, but because of its importance I will refer to my interpretation of this passage: i) first of all, Gilgamesh is not an authority himself in matters of the heart or courting ladies. In the first Tablet of the Epic, he is consistently rude and did not treat either young girls or ladies the way befitted to a sacred king, so how could he act as one in Tablet 6? ii) Gilgamesh expresses a purely male-centered point of view towards the Divine Feminine in Inanna/Ishtar, and let me remind you that Love Goddesses cannot be possessed, as all Great Gifts are. Love, like Wisdom or Laughter, cannot be possessed, because they belong to all, and should be seen as Eternal Flow in all worlds and spheres. Inanna did not transform Her former lovers in their beastly selves: they did it to themselves the moment jealously they wanted to possess Love for themselves and not to serve Her as the worshiper.
Thus, Inanna/Ishtar is not truly a man-eater or a disgrace for those who love Her well and keep doing so. It is important to remark that according to Mary Wakeman ( In: Ancient Sumer and the Women's Movement: The Process of Reaching Behind, Encompassing, and Going Beyond." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 1985, pages 7-27), around 2,600 Before Common Era, temple power passed from entu (priestess) to en (priest), meaning that the en priest acquired political importance to become something of a ruler. This is probably the time when temple power changed from Uruk to Nippur because of the increased incidence of war. Uruk, as we all know, is Inanna´s city, whereas Nippur is Enlil´s. The Uruk system, where the ruler was still chosen by Inanna conflicted with these new northern attitudes, thus Her negative appearance in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
c) Clearly, Inanna/Ishtar does not belong to the domestic domain, but to the World Soul of Mesopotamia. As She is never the suffering mother or the sexless bride She does not fit in the agendas of post-Mesopotamian creeds, therefore having been subjected to one of the vilest persecutions the Divine has ever suffered in world religion.
All this to taint Her triumphant image as the Lover and Beloved, which, nevertheless, could never be suppressed and comes to life vibrant and passionate especially in the Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi. Let it be said that there are many more sources that show us the radiant face of the goddess instead of the doom to the male of the species. Based on the above, I am delighted to affirm that it is the face of the Lover and Beloved united as One that prevailed in Mesopotamia.
By Professor Frymer-Kensky (extracted from In the Wake of the Goddesses, New York, Columbine, 1992. © All rights reserved to author. Text reproduced here for aid in study and research purposes only)
The sacred marriage expressed a close bond between King and goddess. Through Inanna, their divine partner, the kings of Sumer stepped closer to the world of divinity, reinforcing the king´s status and highlighting his superiority. The king, standing above the rest of humanity, was the first step on the staircase to the gods. The next step higher was Inanna. The goddess, unencumbered and fundamentally unattached, marginal to the family structure and power hierarchy o fthe gods, was available and eager to be the intimate of the kings of Sumer. She was the liminal deity, who transcended all boundaries and could bond with the king. She was the divine link to the world of the gods, and when She took the king as a lover, teh conjugal pair was a bridge between the people and the gods. The powerful gods who determined the people´s survival were much less remote than the king, the people´s representative, was initimate with them. Over this bridge to the gods, blessings could flow. The kings received blessings on their reign, success in politics and victory in war. The people achieved peace-through-triumph, security and prosperity. The songs of the sacred marriage celebrate the royal power as they sing of the blessings which Inanna bestows on the king after the union, blessings of a long and successful reign.
The key to the ability of the king to reach intimacy with Inanna was erotic attraction. In the sacred marriage, the king was no ordinary mortal worshipper. He came in pride and dignity, for he was the special beloved of Inanna. This infinitelly alluring goddess - HerSelf the essence of sexual desire and attractiveness, the hili of the whole cosmos, of the earth and its people- looked upon the king who came to Her in splendor as the embodiment to her of sexuality. The king is the object of Inanna´s sexual delight, and She actively craves his attentions.
As the goddess´ sexual partner, the king had a unique status. He was the counterpart of Dumuzi, celebrated in Sumerian song as the husband of Inanna. The king was ritually transformed into this husband of Inanna, and the sacred marriage texts call him "the king who is the god" or simply Amaushumgalanna (a byname of Dumuzi). In this ritual transformation, the king is touched by divinity and attains suprahuman approval of his powers. The festive ritual procession in which the king was borne publicly to the temple also reinforced the special status of the king. Through his marriage to the goddess Inanna the king achieved intimacy with the divine in a way that was not attainable by other humans. The sacred marriage ritual, performed yearly during the New Year´s festival, annually reinforced the divinity and authority of the king.
To be a bridge to the gods, the king had to be superior in his very essence to ordinary people. The early kings were crucial to the development and survival of Sumerian civilization, able as they were to coordinate and motivate the cooperative labor and accumulation of surplus to support a more diversified cultural profile and a greater density of population. They could also expand trade horizons to foreign areas and engage in warfare with other emerging city-states. Kingship was so important in Sumerian times that the Sumerian King List records "that kingship came down from haven". Crucial as they were to state formation, these earliest kings had to finda way to legitimate their power. As they had to weight of historical precedence to buttress their idea of rule, no dynastic principle to assure the rights of a successor, they had to demonstrate that they were greater than the rest of the populace.
The divine world provided the means to elevate the king. Throughout Sumerian history, kings are portrayed as gods, as sons of gods and goddesses, and husbands of the goddess Inanna. The divine character of Sumerian kingship starts with the very first kings, who ruled at the dawn of history (the Early Dynastic Period). Writing was just beginning, and there are no original inscriptions from their reign, but later Sumerian tradititions remembered and celebrated the kings of this early heroic age. In these laer traditions, the early kings of Sumer were gods and demgods. Even Gigalmesh, son of Ninsun and Lugalbanda, who is portrayed in the Old Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic as Everyman, the representative of the existencial dilemma of humanity, is also considered a god, one of the judges of the Netherworld. We do not know what these early kings of Uruk said about themselves, but it is clear that the later Sumerian considered them divine. Did the Sumerians that these early heroes achieved divine status because of their greatness? Or was there a legend that at the beginnin of time, gods came to rule on earth? In the final analysis, it doesn´t really matter. In the eyes of the Sumerians, gods sat on the throne of Uruk in the early days: the kings at the dawn of history were gode-men.
This claim of godhead alternates with another divine attribute of the kings, that of son of the gods. The kings of the first fully historical period claim in their records that they are the sons of gods. The royal inscriptions of early historical Sumer show us the entire world of the gods attending to, instructing, and bestowing gifts on the newly-born royal scion. There is, moreover, a consistently prominent role for the mother goddess. All the pre-Sargonic kings use a particular epithet in their royal inscriptions: "nourished by the good milk of Ninhursag". By this epithet, the early kings of Sumer indicate that whoever their divine mother may be, Ninhursag, the mother goddess, one of the three prime gods, was their god-mother and nurturer. In this way, the king receives divine authority "with his divine god mother´s milk".
The next period, the Sargonic (Akkadian 2500-2200) period, marked a new stage in state formation: a unified Sumer and Akkad, on a larger geographically scale with a more complex government system. The empire was composed of old city-states, each of which retained its identifity, and was ruled by a governor whom the king of Akkad appointed. The Akkadian kings also instated themselves as the owners of landed property that had previously been under the control of the local temple. It was no longer enough for the king to be son of the god, nursed by god mother. Instead, the Sargonic kings sounded the first kings of Uruk: they proclaimed themselves god. Becoming gods themselves gave them greater warrant for the new suprasegmented powers tht they were assuming. As divine beings, they also had greater warrant for their secularized appropriation of divine powers.
The Akkadian period was brought to a close by turmoil and invasion. There was to be no central control in southern Mesopotamia until the next period of national unity, Ur III (2100-2000 BCE) The Ur III kings faced with the monumental task of bringing a suprastructure to the ancient Sumerian cities, applied every theological concepts possible and all metaphors of divinity by which they could indicate a special status for their kingship. The kings claimed that their authority over all of Sumer had been granted by divine council under Enlil. They were sons of god and goddess, but this relationship, important as it was in bringing them in close relationship to a god, could not differentiate the king from the rest of the populace. All Sumerians claimed divine parentage. Being son of a god did not make the king special enough, and the kings of Ur III used the title god, declaring that they themselves were divine. Many royal hymns were writtena to and in the name of Shulgi, the second great king of the dynasty. There were offerings and festivals to him and to the sons who succeeded him, and months named after them. There were special places for the worship of Ur III kings. Several chapels have been excavated, and even the Ehursag of Ur, which was built by Shulgi, may have been dedicated to him. Nevertheless, the deification of the kings was limited: they were, after all, human beings who fell sick and died. They were divine, but not actual gods among the gods. Unlike the early legendary hero-kings like Lugalbanda, and to a lesser extend Gilgamesh, the divine kings of Akkad and Ur III were not truly part of the divine world. There are no months in which these kings act with the gods, no poetry in which the name of a king appears in a row of gods´ names. Their iconography is similar to that of the gods, but there are always crucial differences.
The divine status of Ur III kings, a profound metaphor for their godlike powers and authority, did not ease their obvious humanity. The very human god-kings had to find a way to associate the king closely with the gods, ideologically and psychologically, in their own and in their own and the public´s eye. To do this, yet another paradigm of divine-human relationships was developed, the metaphor of spouse, the Beloved of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar. This paradigm was developed fairly early. The early king Eannatum of Lagash called himself dam-kiága-dingirInanna, beloved husband of Inanna, and the early kings of Lagash also entitled themselves "called in the heart of Inanna", another epithet which indicates the love of Inanna for the king. King Naram-Sin of Akkad, whose inscriptions are in the Akkadian language, called himself "spouse of Inanna". By this metaphor, the king moved beyond the realm of humanity into the social world of the gods.
The marital metaphor had yet another great advantage over son-of-godship. The metaphor son of god has the capacity to both elevate and diminish humanity. While on the one hand showing a degree of closenessand intimacy to the deity, at the same time it emphasizes humanity´s lesser status to the god, and its dependence on the god´s protection and instruction. The metaphor of spouse, on the other hand, expressed the near-equality of the king to the gods. The metaphor of spouse and its ritual expression, the sacred marriage, focused on the mutuality of the love between king and and goddess. The Neo-Sumerian sacred marriage songs emphasized that Inanna, well-known as the goddess of desire, desired the king. It is because She loves the king that She bestows blessings upon him. Desire and sexuality created the bridge between teh king and the goddess, but the result is power. Warfare was often a way for Inanna/Ishtar to bestow her love-gifts on the king. The relationship of Inanna to the power of kings goes back to the dawn of history, and was considered a major factor in the rise and fall of the kings of Uruk and Agade. There is a historical reason that Inanna can bestow political power: Inanna was the city-goddess of the important cities of Kish, Uruk (sharing rule there with An), and (as Ishtar) Akkad. To the Sumerians, control over these cities depended upon Inanna´s will. In this spirit, one of the inscriptions of Eannatum, an early king of Lagash, records that "Inanna, because She loved him so, gave him the kinghip of Kish in addition to the rulership of Lagash."
The Sumerian Epics about Enmerkar, a legendary early king of Uruk (ca. 2600 BCE), emphasize the importance of the love of Inanna to the king´s power. These stories tell of the relations of Uruk and Aratta, a non-Sumerian city int he mountains to the far east of Sumer and deal with the rivalry and opening of trade between Enmerkar of Uruk and the lord of Aratta. In this rivalry, the love of Inanna is a crucial factor, for both cities worshipped Inanna, and both kings had a special relationship to Her, one which this epic tradition viewed as a conjugal bond. According to the Epic, Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, the problems of Aratta began because the lord of Aratta did not please Inanna as well as did the lord of Kullab (Enmerkar, who unified the city of Uruk-Kullab). Enmerkar wanted the stones, precious metals and lapis lazuli of Aratta, and upon his asking Inanna to make Aratta submit to him, Inanna advised Enmerkar to send an envoy. As Aratta´s fortune rose and fell in the battle of wits that followed, the lord of Aratta announced his belief that Inanna had not deserted Aratta, that She had not abandoned the ornate bed, had not delivered it up to the girin-flowered bed, and had not abandoned her lord. Ultimately, Aratta was forced to agree to trace with Uruk. The confrontation between them proceeded as a battle of wits in which Enmerkar showed himself wise and ingenious, and his very superiority was the clue that Inanna loved him. In another epic about this rivalry, the kings Enmerkar and Esuhkesdanna have made beautiful beds for Inanna, but Inanna prefers Uruk and the fertile bed of the Eanna, and Ensukeshdanna capitulate, delcaring that "Inanna has called him to Her holy lap, he is her beloved". These epics were probably composed during the Ur III dynasty, more than 500 years after the events that they depict, and they show the same king-Inanna relations as the sacred marriage texts from this later period. Like most historical epics, they may have had their source im much earlier folk traditions and may be an indication that this concept of Inanna´s love for the king is quite ancient. After all, in the epic, Inanna grants power over Aratta to Enmerkar and Uruk because of Her love for king Enmerkar, adn in ancient Old Sumerian inscription of King Eannatum of Lagash, Inanna gave Eannatum the gift of power over Kish because She loved him. Inanna´s love for the king grants him expanding powers.
The way that Inanna awards power to her beloved is often through victory and conquest. The Epic, Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, calls Inanna a warrior, one set for battle. The other two epics about relations with Aratta, the two Lugalbanda epics,.relate the battle between two cities. Inanna accompanies Enmerkar to battle before the walls of Aratta. When the battle did not go well for him, he understood that Inanna had deserted him, that She had returned to Uruk. He interpreted Inanna´s departure as an indication that he no longer had his hili, his sexual attractiveness and desirability, that Inannano longer desired him as Her partner. Eventually, Lugalbanda became the next king of Uruk. He also went to war against Aratta, and Inanna came to him to prepare his battle. Yet another historical epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Akka, relates the adventures of Lugalbanda´s son, Gilgamesh, who continued this close relationship with Inanna. When Akka, king of Kish, threatened Uruk, and the council of Uruk wanted to yield rather than fight, Gilgamesh did not submit, for he trusted Inanna.
These epics concern the very beginning of Sumerian history. But Mesopotamian tradition also remebered that Inanna, as Her Semitic counterpart Ishtar, had a very close relationship with the Sargonic kings of the city of Akkad, who unified Sumer and created the first empire. In the Sumerian Sargon legend, another Sumerian epic written long after the time of its hero, Inanna is shown protecting Sargon before he became king, while he still worked for King Urzababa:"Inanna was unceasingly at his right side", and acted to protect him. The close relationship (called love) between Ishtar and Sargon and the resto of his dynasty, is remebered throughout the Mesopotamian literature; this dynasty was so closely Ishtar-related that Assyrian chronicles called the much earlier Akkadian period ina palê Ishtar, or the reign of Ishtar. The Akkadian kings believed themselves the beloved of Ishtar (Inanna) and king Naramsim attributed his many victories in battle "to her love".
The victory of Akkad had important consequences in the development of Sumerian culture. The Sargonic period (the Akkadian period) witnessed a great flowering of Sumerian religious literature which produced the first major compositions that we can read with any fluency. In compositions of this time, Inanna/Ishtar´s prowess as goddess of war was a prominent feature. These works were all written by Enheduanna, the daughter of King Sargon, whom he installed as the En-Priestess of the moon god Nanna at Ur. In this role, she represented the goddess Ningal; in an Akkadian inscription, Naram-Sin´s daughter Enmenanna, who held the position after Enheduanna, calls herself "wife of Nanna"; she might have taken part in a sacred marriageceremonh there, and is shown otherwise supervising the cult. Enheduanna had a very important theological role in Sumer. She authored two cycles of hyms to the temples of Sumer expressing a theme of cultural unity that was appropriate o the unified Akkadian empire. She also wrote three major hymns to the goddess Inanna, the hymn Ninmesharra (Lady of the Mes), the hymn Inninshagurra (stout-hearted Lady) and the hymn Ninmehussa (Lady of the fiercemes, commonly known as Inanna and Ebih). In these hymns, Enheduana portrays Inanna as a strong and ferocious warrior, devastator of the land, one whose rage is not tempered.
The hymns of Enheduanna are, in part, narrative poems. In the Ninmesharra hymn, Enheduanna relates a rebellion that deposed her from office and Inanna´s aid in Enheduanna´s restoration to office. In telling this story, she recites a litany Be it known that describes Inanna in most ferocious tones:
That you totally destroy rebellious lands - be it known!
That you roar at the land - be it known!
That you kill - be it known!...
The hymn Inanna and Ebih tells the story of how Inanna devastated the land that would not worship Her, a fearsome event that is mentioned both in Ninmesharra and Inninshagurra hymns as well. Inanna came before An to complain that Ebih was not interested in being obedient to Her. He replied that the mountain was very fertile and awesome, but could not withstand Her. As soon as He had spoken, Inanna went to war and totally destroyed Ebih.
In these Enheduanna´s hymns, the image of Inanna presented is one of force. But Enheduanna´s poetry also conveys a message of the cultural unity all Sumer and Akkad. How does the force of one city-god relate to the policy of the whole nation? And how does the ferocity of one goddess relate to the governance of the gods and the authority of political leadership? Enheduanna´s poems emphasize the relationship between the force of Inanna and the authority of An and Enlil. Inanna gets her power directly from An and Enlil. But this is a reflected form of authority. It is not independent power. Inthe ordering of the pantheon, An and Enlil (particularly Enlil) are the heads of government. Inanna /Ishtar has no position of power among the gods, no political authority over them. She is sheer force, rage, and might, with a physical power that exists in a somewhat uneasy relationship to the orderly world of the hierarchical pantheon. The nonultimate, noncontrolling nature of Inanna´s power manifests itself in the Mesopotamian explanation of the fall of Akkad. Upon the fall of the kingdom of Akkad, the city of Akkad was destroyed and so thoroughly devastated that it was never rebuilt. Historical reality brought a serious question of theodicy: if Inanna/Ishtar so loved the kings of Akkad, how could She let this happen? This question is dealt with in the Curse of Agade, a historiographic tale written during the Ur III dynasty. In this text, Inanna, the patroness of Agade, provisions for the city with riches, endows its elders with counsel, gives its maidens dancing grounds, its young men martial might, its children joy. Suddenly Enlil brings the matter of the Ekur (Enlil´s temple in Nippur) on a peaceful Agede: no warning is given, no explanation is offered. Inanna grows uneasy and abandons her temple. As She leaves, She, the spirit of battle and fight, take these qualities out of the city. Later, after king Naramsin commits a sacrilege against Nippur and the Ekur, Enlil brings barbarians to devastate the city, and all thegreat gods (including Inanna) curse Akkad. The new tone in this tale is evident from the opening lines: "When Enlil´s frowning brow had killed Kish.. and Enlil tehn tand there had given Sargon, king of Akkad, lordship and kingship from south to north". In classic Sumerian literature, Enlil´s decision is conclusive. The kings of Akkad might have attributed their victory to Inanna/Ishtar, but the religion of later Sumer clearly envisions a world in whcih such historical rise and fall depends on Enlil. The myth reflects historical processes: as Sumer became a national entity, the individual gods of the old city-states could no longer decide things on their own. Historical decisions were made by the council of the gods, with Enlil presiding, and individual gods had to operate by petitioning this council. Still later, in the latter part of the second millennium, the state myth of Enuma Elish signifies another change in political and historical theology, for in this myth the counsel is replaced by the kinghsip of Marduk, who inherits the position of Enlil and adds to it all the attributes of kingship. ....
For all of these reasons, Inanna/Ishtar unites erotic attraction with aggression, love with rage, desire with combat. As goddess of might and war, She can bring victory. As goddess of Love, not fully involved in family connections, She has no real place in the hierarchy of power among the gods, a state hierarchy dominated by males, and thereby seeks Her power niche in the upper reaches of human society, in the company of the king. Amorous and available, she brings the king into the world of the gods, shrinking the distance between the divine and the human, providing a bridge through which blessings flow. (End of Text by Professor Frymer-Kensky)
Frequently, Mesopotamian scholarship stumbles very much at loss when considering Inanna as the Goddess of both Love and War. This is not surprising because to understand how Love and War relate to each other, once they are the two faces of the same coin, one needs: 1) either to go beyond all dualities and contemplate the complementarity of a wholer soul, something that is indeed a mighty task due to the dichotomies enforced by major fundamentalist world religions in the last 2,000 years at least, 2) to be familiar with pre-Judeo-Christian theological precepts involving the idea of deity as encompassing the full spectrum of being and becoming, or 3) be familiar with the concept of the Self in Junguian Psychology, where deity (God or Goddess) is also centered on the image of Wholeness of the Divine, which must comprehend all facets of the deity under consideration, involving therefore the full spectrum of His or Her manifestation.
In the specific case of Inanna, Her positive manifestation of power involve love as connection, association, passion and play, energy as life-force, vigour, assertiveness and drive. Inanna´s dark side, on the other hand, would be the opposition of Her positive characteristics, thus focusing on strife, violence, rage and the ultimate destruction, or war. Junguian Psychology therefore gives us the clues to understand how the ancient Mesopotamians saw Inanna/Ishtar: a tremendous goddess who embodied love and war, energy and connection, rage and allure. God/dess as Self need to integrate all contradictions, and manifest wholeness which, nevertheless may not be perfect but represent the harmonisation of forces for a greater good. Thus, in actual fact, a god or goddess may encompass opposite qualities, but should manifest the positive side and keep the Shadow, or Dark Side, under control as many times as possible.
Mesopotamian worldview was centered on wholeness, i.e. the king should emulate the gods and the people should emulate the king, whereas Judeo-Christiam reasoning and philosophy is based on irreconcilable pairs of opposites, god vs evil, dark vs light, sun vs moon, etc. Thus, to provide a wholer understanding of Inanna´s/Ishtar´s warrior nature, I decided to use the term the Heroic Feminine in Mesopotamia and will proceed to provide the reasons for the choice of terminology. The idea is to go beyond the paradoxes posed by scholarship when interpreting the goddess as a warrior by choosing a term that is martial and faithful to Inanna´s character in the myths where She takes the heroic role. The choice of heroic to describe Inanna´s behaviour is also intended to stress the dynamic aspect of the Goddess as Wisdom-through-Experience. We say Wisdom-through-Experience, because different from Enki/Ea, whose Wisdom is reflexive as the Master of all Crafts, Inanna represents the impulse to learn from active involvement in the action performed. As such, Inanna is practical and flame that inspires, the One who rewards Her adherents with success and delight.
We also propose the following metaphor to integrate love and war within the historical development of the Goddess and Mesopotamia. Love is the energy of creation, the force that allows life to manifest. War is the denial of life, because it destroys the fabric of creation, it brings with it death and disunion. Now, to understand Love in its fullness, it is necessary to know its complete Loss, and this is the meaning of War. Contemplate the frailty of the Sumerian city-estates as described in the Lamentations to destroyed cities, for example, and you will perhaps start to understand what I am implying: love, order and fruition as the polar opposite/complement to war, chaos and destruction, and perhaps it is going to be easier to understand why the Great Goddess of Love is also the Goddess of War in Mesopotamia. The Land Between the Two Rivers had no physical barriers against the constant flood of invaders, and there was rivalry between city-states on top of everything.
Secondly, remember that Sumerians in special were farmers, that "the baskets built the cities (myth of the Creation of the Pickax). Farming and agriculture need peace and order to survive. Inanna, according to Thorkild Jacobsen is associated to the power of the storehouses relating to Inanna´s marriage to Dumuzi in the Second Millennium Before Common Era (Treasures of Darkness, 1976). Early on in the history of Uruk, the primary economic base was in dates, and while Dumuzi was the date harvest, Inanna was the storehouse of the dates as the Lady of the Date Clusters. Because of Her relation to the storehouse, which eventually covered wool, meat and grain, Inanna´s symbols were the reed bundle and the rolled up screen of the gate of the storehouse. Thus, it seems logical that as the patroness of the fruits of the land, Inanna had to protect them against the conflicts, because the fruits of man´s labors on earth are also one of the most coveted bounties of war. This may be very well the reason why Jacobsen in Treasures of the Darkness (1976) says that other lands feared Her and that battle was the "dance of Inanna". There is another reference quoted by Jacobsen (1970) that says that the function of young, unmarried women was to go out to the battlefield and encourage the warriors to fight if not with praise, with taunts and jeering.
Thirdly, Inanna´s warrior aspect was an important feature of the work of Enheduanna, the royal princess and high priestess of Ur, daughter of Sargon of Akkad, who is also acknowledged as the first author in world literature and whose work was fundamental to establish Inanna´s importance as a Great Goddess in Mesopotamia. Enheduanna´s poems tell of Inanna as the Lady of a Myriad Offices and the heroic warrior goddess who defeats the enemies and is the doom to those who attack the lands of Sumer and Akkad. Inanna is described therefore as "a ferocious lion, who makes the enemy silence and opens the Door of Battle, the Wise One of Heaven, Inanna" (from The Sumerian Temple Hymns compiled by Enheduanna. We will analyse some of Enheduanna´s poems below.
Based on the above, we choose the Heroic Feminine to define Inanna´s warrior nature as more encompassing and appropriate to the context of the Mespotamian greatest and most beloved goddess.
Inanna is described by Jacobsen (Treasures of Darkness, 1976) as "the mistress of battle", the very spirit of battle", and he proceeds to affirm that "...warfare ...was Inanna's dance," as stated in the myth of Ishtar and Saltu, where Ishtar is noted for her ferocity, for the strength and devastation of her rage. The raging heart of Inanna/Ishtar troubles heaven and earth." In Her warlike mode, Inanna is almost always armed with bow and arrows. One of the most vitally important weapons, because its invention marked perhaps the first technology created on earth to enable hunting and warfare without engagement in direct body fight, arrows and bows require precision and skill to aim right at the target, which in psychological terms also mean strategy, use of intelligence and discrimination, essential qualities for successful engagement in all battlegrounds. Historically, composite bows and arrows were also used by the Akkadian empire builders from Sargon onwards made of wood, animal horn, sinews and glue so bound together that before stringing, the arms of the body bent the other way. When strung, it was thus very tense, giving a light bow with an effective range of three to four hundred yards. So for the first time enemies could be attacked from beyond their range of hearing, vision and retaliation.
However, a closer look at Inanna´s/Ishtar´s mythology will see that She rarely engages in actual warfare as a blood-bath. Instead, She acts much more as a strategist whose aggressive stance commands respect and subjugation. This is the case of the series of myths involving the king Enmerkar of Uruk and his rival, the Lord of Aratta. Both kings, who love Inanna, engage on a war of nerves (according to Kramer in History begins at Sumer), for ten years and the war is much more on the contest level, where both sides challenge each other without engaging in real mortal combat. In the myth of Ishtar and Saltu, Ishtar and Her belligerant double Saltu/Strife created by Enki also engage in a more verbal fight than actual body-to-body entanglement. It seems to me that Inanna/Ishtar is much more about gaining mastery over battle (in Junguian terms, the Shadow or the Dark Side we all possess) than battle itself.
In short, I personally find that it is the aggressive stance of the Dynamic Feminine that strikes us deeply in the figure of Inanna/Ishtar, Her affirmation of power which is so improper for patriarchy on the rise, but not necessarily unusual in Ancient Mesopotamia, which had a tradition of learned goddesses and gutsy Mother-Goddesses.
From Ninmesara, Enheduanna´s masterwork, I quote now and will return to Sargon´s daughter poetry below in this text:
That you totally destroy rebellious lands
- be it known!
That you roar at the land - be it known!
That you kill - be it known!
That like a dog you eat the corpses - be it known!
That your glance is terrible - be it known!
That you lift this terrible glance - be it known!
That your glance flashes - be it known!
At those who do not obey - be it known!
That you attain victories - be it known!
Dr. Butler, in his PhD thesis Jung, Individuation and the goddess Inanna says of Her:
"As goddess of war,"More passionate than Athena (with the energies of wild instinct which were later in Greece assigned to Artemis...she sings with abandoned delight of her own glory and prowess;"Heaven is mine, earth is mine, - I, a warrior am I. Is there a god who can vie with me?" ...More extroverted than Aphrodite, she craves and takes...Her receptivity is active... healer, life-giver, composer of songs,...creative in all realms...behaviour of emotions is considered to be in her keeping".
To pester, insult, deride, desecrate - and to
venerate - is your domain, Inanna.
Downheartedness, calamity, heartache - and joy and good cheer - is your domain, Inanna.
Tremble, afright, terror - and dazzling and glory - is your domain, Inanna..
A final point must be made, and this refers to the invariably negative connotations ascribed for those who read the poem above. The point is, that "to pester, insult, deride and desecrate" may sometimes be used as prodding and encouragement which is aimed as a quick, swift action without any further delay by the listener, a sort of slightly negative comment or command aimed at impelling immediate action to reverse the matter under consideration. Surely this is not the attitude of a mother goddess, but of a mention. Unfortunately, whenever these actions are ascribed to Inanna/Ishtar, interpretation tends to the negative extreme, which is not nevertheless reflected in Her mythology and devotion of Her worshippers. Inanna/Ishtar as the youthful non-compromising and strong goddess is therefore:
"a many-faceted symbolic image, a wholeness pattern, of the feminine beyond the merely maternal... combines earth and sky, matter and spirit, vessel and light, earthly bounty and heavenly guidance."
Inanna/Ishtar as the Strategist and Warrior is more appealing and passionate than the fiery Egyptian lioness goddess Sekhmet, and more alluring and fiercer than the sensual also Egyptian cat goddess Bast. Passionate, strong, quintessentially feminine and powerful, all this was Inanna in her transcendent humanity. No wonder all these assertive qualities had to be condemned and seen as negative because patriarchy was on the rise also in Mespotamia, despite the fact that the heritage of Ninhursag, Nisaba, Ninlil was still strong in the minds of the people, who then gave to Inanna/Ishtar the amalgamation of the powers of Her ancentresses. .
This myth was first published by Stephen Langdon and Edward Chiera in 1934, as stated by Kramer in Sumerian Mythology. It is composed on similar lines as the songs of Enheduanna praising the courage, resourcefulness and valor of Inanna as the fearless warrior and champion of the land, and may reflect the political events in the later part of Sargon´s reign, when the empire unified by Sargon struggled to maintain its unity. There is also an astrological interpretation for this myth which relate it to the temporary disappearance of Venus "behind the mountain" during the cycle of the year.
The myth tells us that how the goddess defeats the rebellious kur (mountain, country) Ebih, who refused to acknowledge Inanna´s superiority. She first appears as the "maiden", magnificent and coming forth like the Sun God, the great child of Suen, who fearlessly walks throughout the land and the mountains, and who demands to be respected by her brilliance and deeds by all. Ebih refuses to do so, therefore presenting itself to the Goddess as a rebelious land. Inanna does not feel intimidated and ascends to the Heights to ask for An´s approval to destroy Ebih. The Skyfather warns the young goddess that this might be a task much too great for her to engage in. But Inanna trusts her capability to pass through Ebih´s terror and fear, advancing step by step, fully garbed and fearlessly roaring like thunder. This way Inanna thus imposes her victory on Ebih.
Pagan Dawn, Samhain 1994, Revised September 1999
From the Great Above She opened Her ears to the
From the Great Above the Goddess opened Her ears to the Great Below
From the Great Above Inanna opened Her ears to the Great Below
My Lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the Underworld...
She abandoned Her office of Holy Priestess to descend to the Underworld
She gathered together the Measures of Heavenly and Earthly Powers
She took them into Her hands
With the Measures of Heavenly and Earthly Powers
She prepared HerSelf...
Inanna set out to the Underworld (1)
These are the haunting opening lines of the first full account of a Descent to the Underworld, the Descent of Inanna, recorded in clay tablets around 3,000 Before Common Era in cuneiform writing. This myth is a heroic epic journey to the Land of the Dead, centered on the confrontation between two goddesses, Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld of Mesopotamia. To better apprehend the depth of this great myth, it is going to be broken down into the following sections:
a) The Call - Inanna's descent starts when she opens her ears to the Great Below. Until then, the young goddess´ understanding of life's mysteris is limited, because as the Queen of Heaven and Earth, she lacks the knowing of the Underworld, the Inner Reality that gives sustenance to everything there is and restores balances lost. Inanna also does not know Death and Rebirth, the other side of Life and Fertility She embodies in HerSelf. Thus Inanna readies herself for a Journey She might not get back from. First, the goddess gathers the Measures of Earthly and Divine Powers, next she visits her temples (prepare herself spiritually and mentally) and finally instructs her faithful vizir Ninshubur to set up a lamentation for her with the Great Gods in case she did not return in three days. Only then Inanna starts the Descent.
At the first gate to the Underworld, she is asked by the gatekeeper why She had come:
'Because of my older sister Ereshkigal,'she replies, 'Her husband, Gugulanna, the Bull of Heaven, has died. I came to witness the funeral rites'(2).
Inanna's response anticipates the mystery which is going to happen. She came to visit Ereshkigal, the Great Goddess of the Underworld, and witness the funeral rites of Ereshkigal's husband, who died recently.
A note on the meaning of the term sister, which is how Inanna defines her kinship to Ereshkigal. Sister or brother are terms of endearment that do indicate kinship, but not necessarily on a direct line as far as ancient texts are concerned. Ereshkigal is indeed much older than Inanna, belonging to the generation of gods who were born in the beginnings of Creation. In Sumer, life started with Nammu the Sea, who gave birth to An the Sky and Ki the Earth. Ereshkigal is daughter of Nammu the Sea and An the Skyfather, sister of Enki, the God of Magic and of Sweet Waters. She received the Underworld for her domain in the first days of creation, and there reigns as the All-Powerful Sovereign. Inanna belongs to a further generation of gods and goddesses, as the daughter of Nanna, the Moon God and Ningal, who is fathered by Enki. Sister in this context therefore means "equal to me in all levels, kin".
Secondly and fundamental to capture the depth of this great myth is to understand the complex character of Ereshkigal. As twin sister of Enki, the God of Magic, Wisdom and the Sweet Waters, Ereshkigal is both Enkips and Inanna´s Complement. What Enki knows in the Outer, Ereshkigal knows in the Inner, as well as Ereshkigal means the Inner Knowing of Death and Rebirth Inanna still has to conquer to become wholer. Inanna, on the other hand, brings the Lust and Enthusiasm for Life Ereshkigal should retrieve after being so long on her own in the bowels of the earth. Therefore, Inanna and Ereshkigal are bonded to each other, and their confrontation epitomizes the search for wholeness and integration of the conflicting aspects of the Self. Only Inanna can bring the riches of the Worlds Above to Ereshkigal, and only Ereshkigal can give Inanna the trials and experiences that will provide her with the Inner Realities that Sustain Life and Restore Balances lost in all levels.
b) Initiation - Ereshkigal allows Inanna's entrance to her domain on the condition that at each of the seven gates of the Underworld Inanna leaves one of her heavenly and earthly powers. Seven are the classical planets, seven are the degrees of initiation that Inanna must relinquish so that She can be reborn. Inanna first protests, but then bows heroically to the designs of the Underworld. She surrendered her role of Queen, Priestess and Lover, for only bowed low and naked Inanna could enter Eternity and face her darker Self and sister Ereshkigal. Ereshkigal strikes Inanna dead. Inanna is then left to rot hanging on the wall.
This is one of the highlights of this great myth. The Descent is the only account where a divine being experiments death as dissolution and decay to be reborn afterwards. Nevertheless, Inanna's death means that She is reborn in Ereshkigal. While Inanna rots hanged on the wall, Ereshkigal moans as a woman in labour. Thus, Inanna is both Ereshkigal's kinswoman, daughter and healer, so much as Ereshkigal is Inanna's Older, Wiser Self, Mother, Challenger and Initiator.
After three days, Inanna's faithful vizir, Ninshubur, pleads before the Great Gods of Sumer on behalf of Inanna. The Great Gods are Nanna, the Moon God and Inanna's father, Enlil, the Air God and Enki, the God of Wisdom. Ninshubur asks for Inanna's return. Only Enki, the God of Wisdom, Magic and of the Sweet Waters intercedes and takes action. It is so because only Enki can understand the full extent of Inanna's existence to all worlds, and only he can figure out the need for both Inanna and Ereshkigal have for each other. Without Inanna the land is barren, there is no love, poetic musing, laughter and daring. However, Enki does understand the need Inanna has for Ereshkigal's Inner Wisdom. Enki then creates from the dirt of his fingernails twin creatures endowed with empathy, capable of mirroring Ereshkigal's loneliness, her deep and unacknowledged emotions.
c) Compassion - The creatures descend to meet Ereshkigal, now moaning in labour. As she moans, they moan with her. The Dark Queen's anguish is then appeased, because She was shown concern as never before. Indeed, perhaps this is the mistake Inanna made when she failed to ask Ereshkigal the Question of All Questions, the one all initiates come across under so many forms in a lifetime. In Inanna's case, the Question could have been phrased in the following manner: "Sister, what ails thee and what can I do to relieve thy suffering?".
Ereshkigal asks the two creatures what their wishes are, because She wants to show them gratitude for the empathy She was given. The creatures refuse anything for their own gain, but ask for Inanna's corpse instead. Ereshkigal concedes and they sprinkle Inanna's body with water and food of life. So is Inanna reborn.
Inanna now wishes to leave, but no one ascends from the Underworld unmarked. A part of Inanna must stay in the Depths too. Thus, She has to find someone to replace her. In other words, from now on Inanna cannot leave Ereshkigal neglected or abandoned. A passageway between the Great Above and the Great Below must be kept open.
Who should replace Inanna in the Underworld? The one closest to her heart, who nevertheless did not miss her at all during the three days of her ordeal in the Underworld, acting as Inanna had not been lost to Middle and Upperworlds for three days. Dumuzi, Inanna's consort in the Sacred Marriage, the Shepherd and King, was the only person who did not mourn for Her while She was undergoing her Underworld initiation. The land and the people cried for the Lady, but Dumuzi did not notice Her absence at all.
d) Return and Redemption - Inanna choses Dumuzi to replace her in the Underworld. The meaning of this bitter choice lies in the fact that Dumuzi needed to undergo his own Underworld initiation to learn about reciprocation, self-sacrifice and love that goes beyond death itself. It is important to point out that Ereshkigal was mourning the loss of her husband, Gugulanna, at that time too. Perhaps only Dumuzi, Inanna's partner, could heal Ereshkigal's better than anyone else. Secondly, Dumuzi had also to learn to bow low and forget his dellusions of self-importance. Indeed, He had to undertake his own journey of Inner Transformation so that he could be the Chosen of the Goddess and King of the Land in full measure.
There is another element of wholeness in the Descent of Inanna, and this lies in the fact that Dumuzi, a mortal man, does not undertake the Underworld initiation for the whole humankind alone. Throughout the myth of Inanna, of which the Descent is only one chapter, there is a wonderful interplay of male and female energies. Thus, the Inanna and her Soul-Sister Ereshkigal would not accept only a male as their sole initiates to represent humanity. A mortal woman called Geshtinanna, Dumuzi's sister, who is full of compassion and understanding enters the scene. Geshtinanna mourns for her brother and king, and thus touches Inanna's heart. Inanna then decides that half the year Dumuzi will go to the Underworld, and the other half Geshtinanna will take his place. While Dumuzi ascends, Geshtinanna descends, when she goes up to the Heights of the Middleworld, Dumuzi descends to meet Ereshkigal. Therefore, two mortals, a man and a woman, are made imortals and initiates of both Inanna and Ereshkigal. At the end of the myth, Inanna takes the hands of both Dumuzi and Geshtinanna and places them on the hands of Ereshkigal.
Therefore, the first full written account of a descent to the Underworld is the Descent of the Great Goddess Inanna, Goddess of Love and War of the Sumerians, later known as Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Astarte. She went down to the bowels of the Earth in a true initiatory journey, because She wanted to Know and so She Willed, Dared and Surrendered to the Process of Becoming, leaving behind who She thought She was. And why did She do that? We may ask ourselves. Because She trusted more than anything else WHO and WHAT She could Become.
Below, my favorite version of The Descent of Inanna
Source: Ishtar Rising, by Robert Anton Wilson
At the first Gate the guardian forced Inanna to surrender her sandals, which the wise men say symbolise Will. And at the second gate Inanna had to surrender her jeweled anklets - which the wise say means giving up Ego. And at the third gate She surrendered her robe, which is the hardest of all, because it means giving up Mind itself. And at the fourth Gate Ishtar surrendered her golden breastcups, which is giving up Sex role. And at the fifth gate She surrendered her necklace, which is giving up the rapture of Illumination. And at the sixth Gate she surrendered her earrings, which is giving up Magick. And finally, at the seventh gate, Inanna surrendered her thousand petalled crown, which is giving up Goddesshead.
It was only thus, naked, that Inanna could enter Eternity.
Enheduanna´s poetry is exceptional in style, language, theology and politics. Her writings combine spirituality and deep devotion to Inanna in special, as well as a political agenda within the context of the emerging Sargonid Empire that is based on the ideal of a united and strong land for Sumer and Akkad. Our main focus will be the poems addressed to Inanna, because Enheduanna´s writings were of paramount importance to establish the warrior character of the goddess, as well as remarkable literary and spiritual creations. Enheduanna´s main poems are the following:
a) Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna - The Adoration of Inanna of Ur (translated by Samuel Noah Kramer in The Ancient Near East: A new anthology of Texts and Pictures, edited by James A. Pritchard, 1975) - also known as The Exhaltation of Inanna, first translated from the cuneiform by Hallo and van Dijk in 1968. This is the most widely known work by Enheduanna, containing about 153 lines. It is carefully set up in a format of two column stanzas that can often be read down as well as across. The hymn begins with the description of the powers of Inanna naming Her by a myriad of epithets, where the goddess is hailed as equal to An, the Skyfather and senior Mesopotamian god, in power and authority. Hallo suggests that when Enheduanna implies Inanna's equality with An, she is in actual fact suggesting that the kings of the Sargonid dynasty haved adhered to the Sumerian norms and beliefs, having therefore achieved legitimacy to rule over Sumer and Akkad.
Next Enheduanna depicts Inanna as disciplining mankind as a goddess of battle. She thereby unites the warlike Akkadian Ishtar's qualities to those of the gentler Sumerian goddess of love and fecundity. She likens Inanna to a great storm bird who swoops down on the lesser gods and sends them fluttering off like surprised bats.
Then, in probably the most interesting part of the hymn, Enheduanna herself steps forward in the first person to recite her achievements, establishing her credibility, and explaining her present plight. She has been banished as high priestess from the temple in the city of Ur and from Uruk and exiled to the steppe. She begs the moon god Nanna to intercede for her because the city of Uruk, under the ruler Lugalanne, has rebelled against Sargon. The rebel, Lugalanne, a generic name for the local ruler, has even attempted to destroy the temple Eanna, in Uruk, one of the greatest temples in the ancient world. Further, he has dared to equate himself as an equal to the new high priestess and --in the most ancient recorded instant of sexual harassment-- made sexual advances to the high priestess, his sister-in-law, in this case probably Enheduanna herself.
In the last lines of the poem, Enheduanna recites the divine attributes, exalting the greatness of the goddess, who is equal in power with Anu, the supreme god of Mesopotamia. The hymn moves on to a passage "unique to Sumerian literature describing the process of poetic inspiration" (Hallo, Exaltation 62), where the poet-scribe characterizes her creative labors as giving birth, i.e. "conceiving the word." Then in the next stanza (lines 143-50) Enheduanna reverts to the third person as the simultaneous exaltation of Inanna and the restoration of Enheduanna are proclaimed. The concluding three-line doxology conveys the sense of the goddess and her poetess emerging triumphant.
Clearly, in The Adoration of Inanna of Ur there is a strong authorial presence that may be unmatched in ancient literary creation until the time of Sappho. She is self-consciously present in the process of writing and in the poem. The double "I" of the creatrix, Enheduanna and Inanna, are always at the center.
Personally, I find this poem extremely modern. All of us who work with integrity and passion for the retrieval of the ancient Mesopotamian Mysteries are committed to the restoration of the true Light of the goddess here and now. As such, we stand at the threshold of heaven and earth, communicating the wisdom of our soul ancestors as it were through all possible means, cyberspace inclusive, o the modern generations of priests, priestesses, magicians and sorceresses who will succeed us.
b) In-nin sa-gur-ra - Stout-hearted Lady - Assyriologists traditionally title works by their first line, hence the title In-nin sa-gur-ra. This work, translated by Ake Sjoberg, and using 29 texts and fragments, is published (1976) as "In-nin-sa-gur-ra: A Hymn to the Goddess Inanna by the en-Priestess Enheduanna." Although at 274 lines, it is the longest work so far discovered by Enheduanna it is much less complete than the translation of The Exaltation of Inanna. In all 57 lines are missing at important points in the composition. The text breaks off entirely at the point that Enheduanna steps forward: "I am Enheduanna, the en-Priestess of Nanna,......, I am the ... Of Nanna" (199). The Sjoberg translation does not begin again until line 243 with Enheduanna still speaking in the first person. When the text resumes Enheduanna still speaks of her own experience of punishment. The translator speculates her punishment may have been sent by Inanna to discipline Enheduanna: "'I have experienced your great punishment'... this statement clearly indicates that Enheduanna had offended the goddess who then had punished her" (163). In a footnote on the same page, he notes that another translation is possible. "'My body has experienced your great punishment,'"...referring to a disease sent against the en-Priestess by Inanna" (163). In any case, her apparent recovery must have occurred because she ends the hymn praising Inanna "My Lady, I will proclaim your greatness in all lands and your glory!"
The structure and rhethoric of the hymn is similar to The Exaltation. Both works move from an opening address of Inanna in third person to addressing her in second person. In both hymns there is a section exalting Inanna. Since almost the entire section of In-nin sa-gur-ra in which Enheduanna steps forward in first person are missing, 24 of the most important lines in the hymn, it cannot be compared to The Exaltation except to say that this section which is the most personal contains the reason that Enheduanna speaks to Inanna, why she writes the hymn. It is in this personal section, that Enheduanna seems to explain her motivation and her process. In The Exaltation, she adds her metacommentary that helps to illuminate the meaning of the hymn on a personal, psychological, and universal level. Finally, both works conclude with a doxology to the goddess, once more returning to the theme of exaltation.
c) The Temple Hymns - The Temple Hymns consist of 42 hymns of various lengths addressed to the temples of the most important Mesopotamian deities and cities. They were translated by Ake Sjoberg in collaboration with E. Bergmann, S.J. in 1969, and our source in Gateways for them comes from the excellent Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature of the Oxford University, United Kingdom. Each hymn follows the same form, directly addressing the temple in second or third person by describing it in epithetical statements. For example the first Temple Hymn opens by naming the main temple in Eridu, identifying it, naming the city and the god or goddess to whom it is dedicated. The narratives move from the outside structure of the temple to its inner meaning, where the temple is addressed in the second person as a living, sacred being, the main rites and holy objects it contains, and/or are characteristics to it.
At the conclusion of the Temple Hymns, Enheduanna steps forward and names herself as the compiler of the tablet, and that "(here) no one has created (before)" . We need to point out that the Temple Hymns contain hymns added later by other scribes, i.e. hymns to temples that did not exist at the time Enheduanna wrote. Thus, her original creation was one that scribes continued to amend after Enheduanna´s death.
d) Additional Works - there are two additional works translated by scholar Joan Goodnick Westenholz, one by Enheduanna that she apparently wrote on the assumption of the en-ship (office of high priestess) to the moon god Nanna. The second fragmentary work, dedicated to Enheduanna and apparently written by an anonymous scribe, indicates her apotheosis during or immediately after her death, according to Westenholz. Unfortunately, I have just secondary references on them.
She is shining
The en-priestess chosen for the pure "divine offices,"
may the she bring you your prayer to the abzu.
The one who is worthy for Suen,
Summing up, Enheduanna´s voice in her poems and hymns sounds confident, strong and powerful, telling us of values that go beyond the aesthetics of accomplished scribal training. Indeed, it is her vision for Inanna the Warrior Goddess and the ideal of unity for Sumer and Akkad that the goddess is there to defend, protect and guard as a fierce lioness that still fill us with wonder. As Roberta Binkley pointed out, Enheduanna lived, composed, and taught roughly two-thousand years before Aristotle and seventeen-hundred years prior to Sappho, and that in in The Adoration of Inanna of Ur she tells her own story of banishment and her ultimate restoration to sacred office by Inanna. This specific hymn became part of the cultural myths of Sumeria, and for the next thousand years it existed as a component of the wisdom tradition of that civilization and the cultures that followed. The High Priestess´ voice sang of a heroic goddess, and the human poetess and follower of the Mysteries made of her life a vibrant song to mirror the warrior character of the goddess that was the closest to her soul.
The values that guided Enheduanna's life and literary works are the ones of Inanna, the Lady of the Myriad Offices who serves Her people, defends the land and makes available to the whole of creation the Divine Measures of Earthly and Heavenly Power. Again we find the vision of the articulated, powerful, passionate and heroic feminine that encompasses the Image of Transcending Humanity in Triumph that goes beyond Death.
As for me, I am 100% certain that Enheduanna´s light and dedication continues to be a wellspring of inspiration for all of us who trail the paths of the Mesopotamian Mysteries passing on the Torch she carried with such integrity and grace for the glory of Everlasting Babylon and the generations to come.
Integrity is basically made of the innumerable elements that compose the whole. It comprises a set of characteristics, amongst them we can quote standing tall, being untouched even when involved by not losing one´s sense of Self, staying intact, honesty, continuity, sincerity, obedience to one´s code of conduct and inner values, conscience, prudence, constancy, amiability, and holiness. For the purposes of this article, I will put aside the equation of integrity to purity and innocence, the quality of the sexually untouched, because of the obvious Judeo-Christian bias. We favour instead the terms that define integrity as the embodiment of the whole, simply because the definition of integrity or integritas is the entire. But there is more to integrity than this, because from it stems the action to integrate and the accomplished act of making whole, integration, all originated from the same Latin root as integrity. Integrate means to combine all the disparate elements into one harmonious entity. This is what the Goddess Inanna/Ishtar really does and fundamentally what many cannot grasp as they assume Inanna´s nature is contradictory or dual. In actual fact, Inanna´s character is better understood in terms of conciliation of opposites, which is the labor of integration as an act of renewing and restoring integrity into a whole.
Thus, we return again to the planetary correspondences that since the dawn of consciousness in Mesopotamia equated Inanna/Ishtar to the Morning and Evening Star. The metaphor is clear. The Morning Star announces the coming of the day, whereas the Evening Star the eternal return of the night, in a perfect circle and cycle. In Greek and Medieval Alchemy, the Morning and Evening Star is also identified with Hermes/Mercury, the Guide of Souls and Messenger of the Gods, the God that enables transformations, ever youthful, cunning and resourceful. But in Mesopotamia, preceeding Hermes/Mercury by two millennia of recorded history, Inanna shows HerSelf as resourceful, dynamic, witty and straigth-forward in her actions without abusing of trickery. Dr. Butler in his doctoral thesis Jung, Individuation and the goddess Inanna (Chapter 3) says of Her that "... the ultimate trickster convinces us that She is not a trickster at all". I agree: Inanna never harms who should be left unharmed, Her behaviour is goal-oriented and there is no deception involved in Her actions.
This can be seen as one of the possible meanings for the metaphor of the Morning and Evening Star, when circle is only then complete as intended the Ancient Mesopotamians.
Frequently overlooked in the analysis of Inanna is that as the Dynamic Non-Maternal Feminine She is an Image of Wisdom conquered through experience. How can we support this argument? Inanna´s actions frequently lead to success and integration, Her myths show invariably success stories, where only the ones who ill-treat the Goddess have to face due punishment. Thus, the predator-gardener who rapes the young goddess Inanna is condemned to death, and so is the human girl who sleeps with Dumuzi. Inanna/Ishtar also condems Dumuzi/Tammuz to the Underworld only because he had not missed Her during the three days that Inanna was in agony in the Land of the Dead.
Wisdom, as put so well by Caitlin Mathews in her book Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom (1991), is the craft of life, the process of acquiring insight and knowledge through experience, which is tempered by common sense, practicality and compassion and applied in one´s daily routine. Wisdom is therefore never maternal, but stimulates change and transformation through inspiration and deep insight. Thus, Inanna is never static, neither maternal, nor all-forgiving to those who transgress. The process of becoming wise is equally never static nor unconditional in love for the lazy in the heart, mind, body and soul. To become wise one needs to cross of inner and outer thresholds, to trespass of inner and outer boundaries to come back to one´s own Self by integrating the parts that need to be put together and reshaped anew, by confronting the painful aspects that should be overcome. Thus, wisdom is about change and evolution, another metaphor that is embedded in the symbolism of the Morning and Evening Star. One of Inanna´s epithet as sahiratu means "the one who roams about", just like the Star of Daylight and Nightfall through the cycle of the year.
Inanna´s integrity thus challenges us to go beyond our limits to search for our own inner wholeness. Most importantly, lack of understanding of what integrity is makes it very difficult the search for the Divine. Without integrity, the search for the sacred and the Divine cannot be unified. Why so? Because the Search for the Divine is ultimately about Transcendence, or Trespassing Boundaries so that the Reconciliation of all Dichotomies into a harmonious whole can take place. This was the Ancient Mesopotamian mystical view of the Dynamic Non-Maternal Feminine, where Love/Connection and Energy/Libido could apprehend the full spectrum of being and becoming, thus including as well War and Aggression. For to understand Inanna/Ishtar as an image of integrity requires the acknowledgement of the Shadow, the occult side we all have and that must be brought to light and integrated into our True Selves. The dark, unlived side of the personality should be acknowledged and integrated, because there is enormous power and healing in knowing one´s limitations... exactly not to feel limited by what one finds. Inanna accepted her beligerant Other in Saltu, or the Agushaya Hymn, and Enki then transformed the occasion into a collective festival. This is the best fight with the Dark Self I have come across in world mythology, another Mesopotamian first, where the Divine Non-Maternal Feminine emerges with the Triumphant gift of Grace without starting a war or blood bath.
A third clue to understand Inanna is that She shows transcendent humanity in Her acts especially when She apparently "fails" or surrenders to the will of the Universe. Inanna DIES in the Underworld and is REBORN. The alchemical name for holding shame with integrity is mortificatio, the rot of human chemicals in a closed container--truly a mortifying experience. In this myth, Inanna shows us that spiritual survival has to do with enduring and transcending obstacles, which is facilitated by the flame of hope, the bedrock of faith, a strong sense of self, and integrity.
Dr. Butler in his thesis (Inanna, Pagan Queen) says that for five thousand years, an immensely powerful archetypal force of love and war has been sahiratu, wandering about with little recent recognition. But She is resurfacing with strength and splendor because we need Her playfulness, inspiration, drive, power and most of all, Her integrity to guide modern women and men into the millennium. We need, most of all, Her Spirit to inspire our bodies, minds, hearts and souls so that armed with the arrows of our inner and outer desires can soar to the heavens and return to the earth with the power of dreams come true out of our deeds in all worlds we thread upon.
Back To The 'Gods'-Section