'ENKIDU AND THE PRIESTESS' focuses on the taming of Enkidu, the wild man who was created by the Great Mother Goddess Ninhursag-Ki to be the companion and brother to Gilgamesh, the proud king of Uruk in the longest and most important literary creation of Ancient Mesopotamia called ' The Epic of Gilgamesh'. The present story is told from Shamhat's standpoint, the initiate of the temple of Inanna/Ishtar, the Great Goddess of Love and Battle, who is sent by Gilgamesh the king to teach Enkidu the arts of civilization so that the wild one can be taken to the king's presence in Uruk. The purpose of telling this story from the priestess' standpoint is to bring some light unto one of the most misunderstood aspects of Mesopotamian religion, namely the sacred service of the body to the Divine Masculine (and Feminine), which was part of the cult of Inanna/Ishtar. - Lishtar
For Caitlin and John Matthews, with all my love
It was in the first days, in the very first days when Gilgamesh, the proud son of Lugalbanda and the goddess Ninsun, pledged to the Sun God Utu, ascended to the throne of Uruk, that a Maiden stood sided by her parents before the gates of the Eanna, the sacred temple of An, the Sky Lord and Inanna, the Great Goddess of Love and Battle. Shamhat was the girl's name, and she had come to the temple to train as priestess of Inanna, the Passionate, Daring and Wise Priestess of Heavens and Down Below. Shamhat's hair was as dark as a the night's sky, her thoughtful eyes had the promise of much insight. Strong of mind, body and soul, she was a girl of noble birth, a child of the Sacred Marriage rite, like the young king Gilgamesh.
From time immemorial the Sacred Marriage rite or hieros gamos was joyously celebrated throughout the Land Between the Rivers, Ancient Mesopotamia. For when the stars in the skies were right, announcing the arrival of springtime, in the first New Moon it was the sacred duty of the king to marry a priestess and votary of Inanna, the Great Goddess of Love and Battle, to ensure fertility to the land and fecundity to the womb. Thrice blessed were all children conceived in this holy night, for a special fate all infants of the Sacred Rite should have, but certainly not the easiest one perhaps.
Shamhat was eight years old and ready to make her vows to the High Priestess and to Inanna. The date chosen for her presentation to the temple had been carefully charted in the stars, as befitted to a Maiden of the royal house of Uruk. Indeed, Shamhat had waited eagerly for this day, because she longed to be one with the long line of learned priestesses queens and scribes that were her ancestresses.
Day by day, step by step Shamhat made her way into the pattern of life as a temple acolyte and royal princess. From the royal palace to the sacred temple precincts she crossed gardens, canals and busy streets to long corridors and staircases that led to the classrooms from lesson to lesson: grammar, the craft of the scribe, sacred poetry, dancing, singing, astrology, dream divination, mathematics, accounts and the religious observances which included deep knowledge and knowing of Inanna's mythology, the enactment of rites and festivals dedicated to Her. The amount of work was sometimes overwhelming. She had to spend long hours in the library copying from the Sacred and Secular Clay Tablets, she had to know by heart long tables of correspondences which had preserved the memory of the land before the name of humankind had been fixed, and she definitely did not like very much to do once a week the accounts of donations given to the temple. A priestess and priest should have a mind as good for numbers as for the holiest incantations. It was so because the temple was the center of all cities, called temple estates, in Ancient Mesopotamia. They were also the pockets of order and civilization always threatened by nomadic tribes especially coming from the North. Careful account should be taken of donations, which in most cases were shared by those who came to the Eanna: devout pilgrims, the poor and needy. Despite all this, Shamhat could be quite free, as far as she handed in work promptly to temple and palace tutors alike.
Thus another seven years went by. Shamhat was now fifteen years old and wished fervently she would be ready soon to hear the Call of the Goddess and meet the challenge issued by Her, whatever it might be. This was the honor-bound custom: a priestess or priest-to-be should prove her or himself worthy by deeds, thoughts, willingness to serve, integrity and strength of character. A Call would then be issued by the Goddess, and had the acolyte accepted the Challenge, its outcome would grant her or him the much sought-after ordination rite. Shamhat knew very soon the Challenge would come her way.
Basically, it was the Outcome of the Challenge that decided the function a future priestess would hold in the temple. There were many places in the temple hierarchy for an ordained priestess to fulfill. There was always a need for a skilled scribe, accountant, dancer, councilor, etc. Counseling was always in high demand. Life in Mesopotamia was hard and short, an average thirty years of age, if .one was lucky. Temple estates, the only scattered pockets of civilization, tried to keep peace, but there was competition among them. Furthermore, nomadic tribes who would not hesitate to destroy everything and everyone on their way continuously threatened Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Kish, Nippur, and so many other temple estates. It was very likely that one would experience losses of loved ones, and therefore that the temple should try and heal the community in some way or another. The function of the temple of Inanna and her priests and priestesses was therefore to provide a haven for the people, a sacred space where one could go to and receive healing, comfort, beauty and love to ensoul their lives' further journeys.
The most prestigious temple office was the one of the high priestess, or hierodule of heavens. To become a high priestess of Inanna, the Chosen of the Goddess' Heart, was what every young acolyte aspired, but very few achieved. The high priestess stood as the living representation of Inanna on Earth, thus she should be the most gifted and learned of all acolytes, with a mind for prayer and management (for the temple should be run for the good of all), heart for severity and compassion, a strong and fit body to rule and give sustenance and love to the people, the right balance of prodding and criticism to those who came to her for help. She should also more than the other priestesses and priests excel in the art of lovemaking, which was the service of the body to the Divine Inspirational Masculine and Feminine. This was so because Inanna was the Goddess of Love, and in Her desire and sexual response were experienced as a regenerative power, recognized as a gift from the Divine. All priestesses and priests who served Inanna honored life and the sex act as a tribute to the Goddess, Lover and Beloved as One. To the Great Goddess Inanna, there was no separation between sexuality and spirituality. Thus, when the time was right , usually during one of the great festivals, and the faithful worthy beyond measure, in the privacy of the temple chambers priestesses and priests could place themselves as Garments of the Goddess of Love and for a time provide for the deepest emotional needs of someone, not for her or his gain, but for the Goddess seen in the person in need. The priestess' and priest's sensuous body was never used to obtain admiration or devotion, because they often remained anonymous as a person, cloaked in the sacredness of the temple function. This way the priesthood was preserved from the danger of any unwanted bond from the worshiper. This was the temple's code of conduct, the ethics of serving Inanna. There was no encouragement to promiscuity. All priestesses and priests of Inanna the goddess were honor-bound to this code, but stricter the law was for the High Priestess of Uruk.
It was also a well-known fact that a future high priestess would receive an inner sign, a revelation from Inanna her self at the very end of her Challenge. Without Inanna's Kiss, as the Sign was known, there was no inner or spiritual validation for high priestess or priesthood. Whatever this sign would be, Shamhat prayed fervently to be worthy of receiving, understanding and sharing it afterwards when the time came.
All ordained priestesses were protected by the same law which granted rights to secular married women. They could inherit property and dispose of it according to what they saw fit. They were, nevertheless, prohibited from opening and owning a tavern, because theirs was the knowledge of Sacred Drinks and Ecstatic Potions they were not supposed to reveal. There were also priestesses who having trained in the temple, decided to come back to secular life, marry and have their own children, as well as the ones who were pledged to fulfill an array of temple work. What sort of priestess Shamhat would become depended on how she fared in her Test.
As Shamhat grew, so did unfortunately the reputation of Gilgamesh the King. His was the all-oneness of the strong and fair of visage and body, which can so easily turn into arrogance. There was none that he, Gilgamesh, could not best in physical prowess and dare. Thus, in their houses, the men and women, the young and the old of Uruk muttered, not openly though, fearing the wrath of their ruler: 'Gilgamesh, noisy Gilgamesh! Arrogant Gilgamesh! All young men he has defeated, all young girls he has taken as his own, leaving no virgin to her beloved, sparing not the daughter of a warrior, nor the wife of a noble man. Yet he is the king, what could we do? But he should behave instead as the people's careful shepherd, the guide of the land, the guardian of the city.'
Thus, in the Heights Above, the Great Gods heard the lament of the people, They took notice of the daily prayers priestesses and priests of Uruk raised for the taming of Gilgamesh the King. In the sacred temple of Inanna, Ninanna, the High Priestess, a woman of great knowledge and wisdom, well into her Crone years, knew a sign would be sent very soon. The night before she had had a Vision. In it, the Great Goddess Ninhursag, also called Aruru, the Earth Mother and Mistress of All Creation had appeared majestic in all her regalia, and spoken loud and clear:
' I hear the lament of my people, I hear the prayers of my priestesses and priests! Yes, I did create Gilgamesh, the King, as Mine is the power that has engendered life in all there was, is and will be. . Now I'll create his equal! I'll give a second self to him, so that rushing winds meet rushing winds! I'll give them each other to fight and grow in understanding and friendship. I will form an image in my mind, which has conceived all there is, I'll make him of the stuff that makes up the Firmament in the likeness of my beloved An ( the Great Goddess blew a kiss to the Skies and let the Skylord An kiss back the palm of her hand)) and of the substance of the Deep, Sacred Waters (She plunged hands in the waters), and from a pinch of clay I'll create Another Being! Star of heaven fallen into the wilderness, Enkidu, I name you! '
In the Starlight Vision, the High Priestess saw a fully grown man come into being. He was a sight to behold, laying on the ground like a newborn, at the feet of Ninhursag. Tall, slim but strong of body, long hair, face of incredible beauty and eyes of wonder and joy, clad in a garb of natural leathers trimmed with furs. Very much like Gilgamesh he was, yet totally unclouded by arrogance and pride. He, Enkidu, raised his eyes to the Mistress of All and stared at Her in adoration. Ninhursag-Aruru-Ki declared then his fate:
' Enkidu, born you are with the strength of Ninurta, the God of War, tough of body and hair waved like corn filaments, I give birth to you, Innocent of Humankind and Wise in the Ways of Wilderness!'
Before the Vision faded, the High Priestess for a very brief second saw Shamhat and the Wild One together. In this very night, Shamhat also dreamt she was singing to the moonlight, bathed by Nanna's shine and for someone important in her life. She knew she mattered to this Stranger too. The feeling was wondrous and poignant at the same time, her face looked deeply moved, with a hint of bittersweetness she could not yet define.
The Goddess' Call had been heard, Shamhat's turn to prove herself worthy of Inanna had come. Now all Shamhat should do was to wait and see what it would become.
Out in the woods, oblivious of humankind, Enkidu was one with the wilderness, embracing the beauty of Life for the first time. Reveling in what he saw, touched and felt, Enkidu said, stretching his arms and contemplating the Mystery of Life:
' Star fallen from Heaven, I range this land, conversing with the Green and the Wild, happy and free! None can surpass me, none that I see. I am one with All Nature, bird, fish or beast. I roam pastures and woods with glee, saving the entrapped Wild Ones when need be. I rejoice at being vibrant, alive and in Union with all there is!'
Enkidu knew neither of people nor country. Dressed in coarse leather, he ate vegetation with the gazelles, in the place where the wildest beasts drank water, there he satisfied his needs for a drink. He was indeed Innocent in the Ways of Humankind, in harmony with the wilderness around and within. Wherever Enkidu found entrapped beasts, he set them free, for instinctively he could not accept that animals should be taken as food or enemies.
One day, at the sight of Enkidu a hunter stopped, horrified and frozen stiff with fear, as he saw the Man-Beast freeing wild animals from traps and pits.
' All my hunt slipped away, only torn game traps are there to stay! Why are the gods presenting me with such a dreadful fate? What does this mean? No more game for my table, fur or meat for sale?' thought frantically the hunter.
Perplex but also worried beyond measure, the hunter sought after his father's advice, who immediately told him to go to Uruk and see Gilgamesh the king. The king should know of the wild one to Gilgamesh the king. As the Shepherd of the Land and the people, Gilgamesh would know what to do, he would ensure the problem would be seen to.
Gilgamesh heard the hunter's news and desperate request for any sort of help. The king considered carefully the case, and came up with a peculiar solution:
' A wild one, a star fallen from heaven, strong and free? But unversed in the ways of women, I bet he is! I'll ask for a Maiden of the Eanna, the Holy Temple of Inanna, A Child of Pleasure who will embrace him, and teach the art of woman so that a man he will finally be. I'll send a message to the High Priestess to send the wild one such a gifted maiden to satisfy my request. And that she must by all means bring him to my presence at the end of her Quest. '
As soon as Ninanna, the High Priestess of Uruk received the message from Gilgamesh the King, she called Shamhat immediately to her private chamber. It was there that Wise Ninanna granted audiences for matters of most relevance to the temple and the designs of the holy city of Uruk. The Most Noble Lady had taken a seat by her private shrine. Shamhat approached and bowed deeply in front of her spiritual mother.
' There is a message from the King, ' the Great Lady said without further delays,' and I believe it brings the Confirmation from the Gods of the Dreams we had. Beforehand I need to ask you a most important Question though.'
The High Priestess paused. Shamhat's heart started beating quicker, but she held on to temple's discipline that had been drilled in her mind, body and soul since her training had started at the Eanna.
' My Lady, I stand here to serve you,' she replied in the temple standard form. 'Please do ask what you may.'
The High Priestess smiled inwardly. Shamhat was anxious, perhaps as anxious as she herself had been when called to the same chambers to give her answer about accepting or not The Test. For a brief moment the Wise Lady saw not only Shamhat, but a succession of young faces since time immemorial that had reflected the same desire to follow Inanna's Call.
' Are you ready to follow the Goddess' bidding, wherever it may take you, whatever the outcome may be?' Ninanna asked, her voice deep, serene and gentle, with that kind of steel-forged strength of those who had seen and learnt much in all worlds and spheres.
Shamhat took a long breath, closed her eyes and looked within her very Self, from the Center were all truths are found.
' Long was my journey until this very day, and now that the moment has come I can truly say to you, Wisest of All, Brightest Garment of Inanna in flesh: whatever the test, whatever the outcome, in failure or success, I accept the Goddess bidding, to Her and you promising to do my best until my very last breath. And as it was, is and will be, let it be done unto me according to Inanna's will, because this is the Highest Will in me, fruit of my own Choices and Deeds, now and forever in all worlds I dare to fare'.
' You answered well, my daughter,' said the High Priestess. Her hand reached out for a clay tablet that rested on the altar, among personal items especially chosen by the High Priestess to honor Inanna.
' This is the message. A man, as wild one was found in the woods, totally oblivious of the ways of the humankind. I've witnessed his birth in a dream, when holy Ninhursag, the Mistress of all creation gave birth to him in reply to our heartfelt prayers for the taming of king Gilgamesh. Our king asked for a Maiden of the Eanna, our Holy Temple, to embrace the wild one and teach him the art of woman so that a man he will finally be. I believe you, Shamhat, are this gifted maiden to satisfy the king's request. '
Shamhat was at once delighted and alarmed by the High Priestess words, by the king's request. Delighted for the Wondrous Nature of the Challenge, alarmed by the responsibility it implied. To make a wild one into a man, a fuller human being and bring him to meet the king of Uruk, what a mighty challenge this was. Would she be able to accomplish it? No matter what, Shamhat was going to try. Otherwise how would she know? Training and discipline won in the end of some charged minutes or seconds, Shamhat would never be able to say.
She bowed graciously to the High Priestess and to the Holy Hierodule of Heaven who stood in the heart of the shrine:
' I serve Inanna, the proud Queen of Earth Gods, supreme among the Heaven Gods. I serve the Loud Thundering Storm who pour rain, grains and blessings over the land for the people, I serve the one who makes the heavens tremble and the earth quake. I serve the Mighty One of Life's Pleasures, the Mistress of Innermost Desires. You, First Daughter of the Moon, I worship. Your Footsteps are mine to follow in great joy and reverence. So by my Initiate Vows, by my Oath, I'll go to the woods and do the Goddess' bidding to transform the Wild One into a fuller human being!'
Ninanna traced in the air the Sign of the Goddess, the eight-pointed star, acknowledging the young acolyte's acceptance of the Call. Then the Wise Lady proceeded:
' Now I must tell you a Great Mystery, the Inner Core of your Quest, ' continued the High Priestess. ' More than a human being you are called to help the wild one to become. As I witnessed in my dream, Enkidu (for this is the Wild One's name) was conceived to be one in all levels with Gilgamesh the king. He will sure be the answer to our prayers for the taming of our king, but only if he transcends his wilderness without and within. Not before this will he be capable of healing our King. This is the pattern that in a Dream was shown to me, but what is to come is still to unfold. What the Great Gods design in reply to the heartfelt prayers of humankind is a Process and Be-Coming, to be accomplished and fully realized in Reality by us. Enkidu will sure be the answer to our prayers for the taming of our king, but only if he transcends his wilderness without and within. Not before this will he be capable of healing Gilgamesh. Shamhat, fully trained you now are, with knowing and knowledge of all the True Rites. Initiate then the wild Enkidu into his healed Higher Self, tame the beast within to find the man without, a man who is both divine and very human. Only then Enkidu will become the best friend and companion Gilgamesh the king longs to find.'
For a moment, Shamhat felt as if the Challenge might be beyond her powers. She swallowed hard and asked the High Priestess:
' Wise One, will I be able to do all this? Or worthy enough? '
The Great Lady took a couple of seconds to reply, and when she did, her voice was at once stern and soft:
' Shamhat, Soul-Daughter, what you've asked, not even the Great Gods can answer at this very moment, because it is for you to find out. I can only tell you that Inanna find you worthy of this mighty challenge, otherwise we would not have had the dreams we did. So hold on to the faith you have in the Goddess, trust your training and let the pattern unfold. And may you be able to make the ordinary extraordinary and the extraordinary mundane along your Quest.'
' Will you pray to the Lady on my behalf?' asked Shamhat very moved, kissing the Wise One's hand.
' Daughter, by now I thought you had already learnt never to ask the striking obvious! Don't you know the answer already?' replied the Wise One, humor and love hinted in the slight irritated tone that was Ninanna's trademark.
Shamhat laughed, feeling a bit more relaxed.
' I won't say I am not a bit afraid,' she said honestly. ' But I am also dying to have a go at my Challenge. '
Ninanna's eyes were laughing, but the voice had her well-known (and sometimes feared) tone of quiet command:
' Leave this old woman, pack light, fulfill this Quest and come to us right back.'
The young priestess-in-training chuckled and rushed to obey her orders. Only the Wise One could have said exactly what she needed to get herself ready without further ado, delay or much haste.
Shamhat and the hunter traveled together until they stood quite still at the sight of the lake in the middle of the woods where Enkidu and the wildest beasts were known to quench their thirst. Once there, the young priestess-in-training ordered the hunter to come back home where he belonged. She wanted to meet Enkidu by herself, totally alone, no interference's were required to do the goddess' bidding. That same night, by her campfire under the highest tree, Shamhat sang to the Moon, to Nanna's brightness and the Stranger, as she had done in a very special Dream.
A movement, light as a summer breeze told Shamhat Enkidu was nearby. Anticipation, faith and dare filled Shamhat. Would he accept her? She did not know, but trusted Inanna's designs, Nanna's full brightness that night and her role in the Pattern to Unfold. Without fear or prejudice, Shamhat opened up to the watchful Stranger lurking in the dark. She took off her garments, one by one. She let the moonlight cover her body as she bathed for the Wild One. She showed her self to Him, vibrant and free, and later, as the Morning and Evening Star announced the New Day, bringing Fulfillment and Promises to stay, Shamhat rose her arms in Trust, Delight and Dare to invite the Wild One into the Sweetness of her Lair. In swift movements she swam then to the shore. and on solid ground, stood waiting Enkidu's next move.
He, who had been speechless in hiding adoring the sight of Shamhat, Enkidu, the Divine Wild One approached the waiting young priestess-in-training. Not knowing exactly how to act, Enkidu made a full circle around Shamhat, considering the beauty he had in front of his very eyes.
' Small but perfect,' he said more to himself than to the expectant Shamhat, wonder in his deep, sexy male voice, ' different and yet so similar to a desire until now I did not know I had within my heart. What is in you that makes my heart beat, my head spin, my blood sing? '
Shamhat did not say a word, just smiled and stood on the ground, holding her small breasts in cup, in the ritual stance of the goddess as the Holy Grail, the Ever Flowing Cup of Love, Boundless Delights and Life Force. Suddenly Enkidu understood: as the tiger met his tigress, as the lion mated with the lioness, finally Enkidu had found his mate, the one who kept the closest resemblance he knew to his Mother Goddess seen once as he came into being. He put his hand on her hand, he pressed his neck close against hers. Lips met untutored lips.
Shamhat laughed in pure delight. Gone were her worries about performing for the first time the Sacred Marriage Rite. Time to put the theory of Love into practice. She incited Enkidu to love her, she welcomed his eagerness, his touch and kiss, all in kind reciprocating as Inanna, the Great Goddess of Love and Battle dictated.
For six days and seven nights, as the planets and the stars traveled the skies, Enkidu and Shamhat shared all flesh's delights. A world of touch, tastes, senses and experiences exploded around them as they shared the pleasures of body, mind , heart and spirit. So many things they learnt with each other, they taught each other.
Shamhat showed him how to cook and eat from the table food prepared with precious spices , she taught him how to drink from sources other than springs and lakes. Clothing they shared, one piece for him, another for her. She told him of the stars and the memory of the land, of poetry and age-old legends. Enkidu showed her in return the music of rushing winds, the roar of thunderstorms and the magic of the wilderness, from huge beasts to the tiniest crawlies. Together, Shamhat and Enkidu ran the hidden pathways of the forests, they ate the sunsweet berries of the Earth, they swam the longest rivers and climbed the highest mountains of the land. Who taught whom was impossible to say: from the moment Shamhat and Enkidu caught sight of each other, more and yet so fully human they were: a woman and a man , Lover and Beloved bonded in Freedom for as long as they wanted this bond to be.
When the seventh dawn came, Enkidu, holding Shamhat asleep in his arms, felt the full impact of having surrendered to this Wondrous Stranger, who refused to tell him her very name. Gently he disentangled the arms around his neck, heading to the woods. Enkidu felt the need to come back to where he once belonged.
' She is a thing of wonder,' he thought, ' untamed heart within a most polished surface, she widens my boundaries to limits unknown. Yet she freely gave herself to me, satisfying all my fantasies . But before I surrender to designs I feel she has for me, once again I'll converse with my fellow wild ones, and relish in their company . '
But the gazelles scattered at his sight, and he seemed not to be recognized anymore by the beasts of the wild. Disconcerted, but not totally displeased, he realized he had deeper feelings within. The forest, the wild beasts were dear to him, but somehow he needed more than to eat, bask in the sun or sleep. So Enkidu returned to Shamhat, who, having woken up, was seated on a tree's exposed root combing her hair. While she did so, she also hummed a song as she went along. Enkidu sat on the ground, playing with a piece of wood. After a time he raised his head to ask Shamhat:
' What is in you that makes me forget time and yet feels so much alive? The hills, the wild beasts have no appeal to me anymore. Yet I feel a different kind of strength, Thoughts in my heart, a man's heart. What is it in you that has strengthened me and makes me rejoice by just sitting at your feet?'
Shamhat's heart, mind, body and soul delighted in Enkidu's straightforwardness. She called him now Bright Eyes, not only for the real light Enkidu's gaze reflected from within, but also for having opened for her windows to realities before unseen. A thing of wonder was his tenderness and lovemaking skill. Now Wisdom was also growing and surfacing from the depths within, so perhaps it was time for her to tell him of Gilgamesh, Uruk and all the rest.
' We've been together for six days and seven nights, Enkidu, so now you have Wisdom! Now you are as a god! But there is much, much more: I bid you to come to Uruk of the strong walls, to Inanna's Temple of Love, and to the Eanna, where the Sky God An can be found. Gilgamesh is there, the king of our city, strong and raging like a wild bull, for he is so alone. But I, the Keeper of the secrets of the heart, mind, body and soul, know that Gilgamesh longs to find a friend, equal in all respects and perfect in strength. I believe this friend he needs is you, Enkidu. So I bid you to come with me to Uruk, and see come into being this Great Truth.'
' A friend, very much like myself, strong and alone? ' Enkidu asked.
Shamhat knew she had captured his interest, touched a need Enkidu had finally begun to acknowledge he had. He needed to connect, give as much as to receive. She had been the first human he had met in his life. Now Enkidu longed to meet others. Like her and himself too. And more. From his questions (now a string of them!), she could see he longed to experience other realities she had started to tell him about.. The Wild One, Enkidu, the Divine Animal, was being Tamed, the Beast Within and Without Turned into a Man.
' Now that we've been together, Enkidu, I truly believe you and Gilgamesh need each other. Indeed, so much alike the two of you are. The reason why I was sent to you was a request made by Gilgamesh the king to the temple of Inanna, the Goddess I serve, to bring you to Uruk, to meet him, who is our king and Shepherd of the Land fully prepared. Not as a Wild One, but as the man you've become and I am so very proud of. '
' Were you truly sent for me? Sent by your king to find me and take me to his presence ?´ Enkidu's surprise and delight were evident.
' Yes, Enkidu. Your coming was announced in dreams, and I came to fulfill a very special request from Gilgamesh. So, what do you say? Would you like to come with me to Uruk, to the holy Eanna and to Gilgamesh, our sovereign and king? '
' If it is so, then take me to Uruk, where lives Gilgamesh of perfect strength,' agreed Enkidu. ' I'll summon him forth and challenge him. We'll see who is the mightiest. We'll see whether we can be the best of friends! '
Shamhat took to her feet and stretched her hand to Enkidu:
' Yes! I'll take you to Gilgamesh! You are so like him, Enkidu! When I look at you, Enkidu, You seem to be like a god. Like Gilgamesh, whom you'll love like yourself. But before we go, give me your hand, so that we can go to the Sacred Place of the Sheepfold. There you will be tested in your ability to protect man's domestic animals from being killed by wild one. This is the sacred rite all kings should pass to become Shepherds of the Land, and you are our king's soul-counterpart. We will then eat at the Table The Earth's gifts labored by man and drink from the seven cups the beer of the Wise. Come, Enkidu, let's go together to Uruk!
Days later, Enkidu and Shamhat, hand in hand, entered the gates of Uruk. Shamhat kept her head high, despite the storm she felt was about to break out inside. It had been lurking in the background since they had left the woods, it had increased on the road to Uruk, although she tried to ignore it. She couldn't escape Truth now, and the Truth was that Enkidu since they had left the wilderness only thought of meeting Gilgamesh, of experiencing a brand new life in Uruk in all its facets. His enthusiasm for the new doors that were open wide to him was a thing to behold, but it instead made Shamhat quieter and quieter. They were already within Uruk's walls, soon she would take Enkidu to Gilgamesh, the conclusion of her Test almost as guaranteed success. So why the storm within, why was she at once glad and sad?
At the city gates, along the quays, the gardens and streets of Uruk, at the sight of Enkidu, the people stared open-mouthed:
' Look at the Newcomer! He is like Gilgamesh in form: smaller in size, stronger in bone. He is a match for Gilgamesh!'
Next the people of Uruk was standing around Enkidu and Shamhat. The country gathered around the Wild One Turned into a Noble Man and the priestess-to-be, the young men crowded over him, the maidens whispered about him, children tried to kiss his feet. All this Enkidu took great delight in.
The turmoil drew the attention of Gilgamesh the King, who was out in the streets, in the company of his royal vizier. The young ruler had left the palace and was on his way to the Eanna, to the High Chamber in the ziggurat, the Holy of Holies where Inanna the Great Goddess of Love and Battle reigned sovereign.
Enkidu saw Gilgamesh first. He released Shamhat's hand and advanced in large steps through the crowds towards the king. Enkidu just stopped in front of the young ruler, empty-handed, but fully armed with confidence in his physical strength. He blocked Gilgamesh's way, preventing the king from p[proceeding to the temple precincts.
The people of Uruk held their breaths. Who dared to block the king's way? For electrifying minutes Enkidu and Gilgamesh stood in front of each other, legs slightly apart, eyes locked, assessing each other's strength: Enkidu, the Divine Animal turned into a Man and Gilgamesh the King, who, made angry by the stranger's daring, was quickly displaying without the Beast he had within. Both men circled around each other, as if they were two fighting lions, two fearless bulls ready to fight to the very end.
' Who is blocking my way to the temple? Who is preventing me from approaching the Sacred Marriage Bed? Who dares to face the king's wrath?' shouted Gilgamesh.
' I dare! I, Enkidu, dare to oppose you! For here I stand as your equal! Prove me wrong if you can!
' No one dares to challenge me without being reduced to dust afterwards! Insolent! You'll get what you deserve!' responded Gilgamesh, red with fury, and taking fighting stance.
Enkidu and Gilgamesh grappled their belts and wrestled like champions. Rushing wind met rushing wind, heart to heart. Holding fast like bulls they struggled. They fought in the streets, they battled in the market, they challenged each other along the canals and waterways of the city. The combat advanced through the streets, avenues, alleyways and monuments of Uruk. The people, clearly divided, cheered for both opponents. Shamhat followed the struggle with the people as it went on. How long the memorable fight took place, no one could tell. But in the end, Gilgamesh brought Enkidu to the earth with a punch on the heart. Off balance, Enkidu fell to the ground.
' I won! ' exulted Gilgamesh, raising his arms in a sign of victory to the people of his city.
He then looked down at the defeated Enkidu, who was trying to stand up. Gilgamesh's eyes appraised the worthiest opponent he had ever had in a combat, a strong and courageous man like no other, a defeated hero in his own right.
' I will spare his life,' he thought, ' Never before had I fought such a worthy opponent, never before had I been challenged by someone who could equal my strength and daring. I cannot kill this stranger.'
Shamhat ran briskly towards the king:
' My king, I am the initiate of the temple of Inanna, the Great Goddess you sent to bring this man to your presence. The mighty opponent my king defeated is the Wild One first seen in the woods of the land by the hunter, conversing with wild beasts and freeing entrapped animals. He is the man Your Majesty asked to be taught the arts of woman and civilization before coming to Uruk. Your wish was my command, the Wild One is now turned into a Full Man, and he is the perfect match for you, my king, as you must have seen. So my mission is complete. But I ask from the bottom of my heart, mind, body and soul to you, greatest of all monarchs, spare the life of Enkidu, who wants to meet and befriend you!'
Gilgamesh looked at Enkidu and understood it all. His instincts were right. If this was the Wild One who ran and conversed with the wild beasts of the land, as well as fought with the strength and courage of a warrior touched by the gods, he the king wanted to know him better. He would make the stranger welcome into his palace, and later on decide on his destiny.
Gilgamesh nodded to Shamhat, who released a sigh of relief. Then, with great chivalry as befitted to the king he was, Gilgamesh stretched his hand to help Enkidu get up.
' I did win, but gone is my anger, for never had I such a worthy opponent, never was a victory so sweet yet so hard to conquer! I claim you as a friend instead! '
Enkidu looked at the hand that had helped him up, to the king who was ready to accept him fully the way he were. How alike the king was to his own self. Enkidu embraced Gilgamesh in friendship.
' Who am I to you, my King?' Enkidu dared to ask.
The king's reply came from the bottom of his heart.
' The friend I've cried for in my loneliness, the Companion I've always known that I'd find! So come to the great palace of Uruk, live with me: a place will be reserved from now on only to you at my left hand. Together we will achieve the world's glories, the mightiest deeds'.
Shamhat had seen it all happen. Her heart was at once glad and bleeding, yet she knew she had succeeded in her Test. Enkidu had truly been accepted by Gilgamesh, as she had prayed so hard for him to be. And more: because Enkidu also truly deserved to eat food fit for the gods, to drink wine fit for kings, to dress clothes fit for aristocracy. He deserved a life in the palace, new friends, he deserved it all. Yes, she had clothed him nobly, she had taught him a few things, but he had been adorable and infuriating in his wild ways. Now he had grown into a full man. She had brought him to the king, the king had accepted him. Time for her to withdraw. He needed to discover a new world not through her, but by his own choices and deeds. Shamhat's heart was bleeding, although she was really happy for him too. Hers perhaps now was another Quest.
Enkidu must have captured some of Shamhat's deep thoughts and emotions.
' My king, before I go with you, I should lend my graces to the priestess who brought me to you.'
Shamhat did not quite notice Gilgamesh's assent or small bow in her direction. All she had eyes for was Enkidu.
' Did I prove myself worthy of your trust?' he asked, elation hardly concealed in his voice . ' Am I not one with Gilgamesh now? As you wished us to be from the start? ' Enkidu asked her.
' Yes, one you are truly one with Gilgamesh now,' replied Shamhat, and she meant what she said with all her mind, body, heart and soul.
Then she held her breath, overcome by a flood of insight and revelation, the Goddess touch in her forehead resonating in her mind, body, heart and soul, branding her whole Self forever. Inanna's Kiss, the high priestess's unique understanding of the Goddess to be revealed in a life of service to the Her and to the people who loved the goddess. Now she understood why she had been sent to Enkidu, her role in the Pattern the two of them had woven together. For although she had initiated Enkidu to civilization, he had also been the catalyst for a major change taking place within and without herself.
Shamhat experienced the depth of the vows each high priestess or priest of Inanna, the Morning and Evening Star, Queen of Heaven and Earth, took when she or he came into the full power of the office. Many were the ways to swear the Dedication Oath, and now she knew what her own Oath would be: not to want love to serve me, but to serve Love, and as such become the embodiment of Joy, Passion and Play not for my gain, but for the wholeness of others and the glory of Inanna, the Greatest of all Goddesses. With deep emotion she understood the ethics embedded in this: she would serve Inanna by empowerment, by bringing back to those who needed passion, healing and relatedness as much as she could. As one with the True Chosen of Inanna of 10,000 Names since the beginning of times, she would never use the sacred office to encourage promiscuity or self-aggrandizement, because as a hierodule she could not use her station for power or personal gratification.
It suddenly became so clear to her the deeply moved and serious stance of every newly ordained high priestess she had never before quite understood, why she had sung so sad and yet with such tenderness in the Dream that had announced her encounter with Enkidu.
' Lady of Passion, Love and Many Dares, now I understand the full extent of your Mystery,' she said silently to Inanna.
The Lady's immense capacity for giving was as huge as Her capacity for giving up to ensure the continuity of life. Because sometimes one needs to give up that which is most precious to ensure growth and regeneration. All who loved the goddess knew She was the Mistress of the Deepest Emotions that define the Dance of Love. Enkidu had never been Shamhat's. They had been the best of friends and passionate lovers, he had been the Worthiest Initiator a hierodule-in-training could wish for. A thing of wonder and mystery, Enkidu had truly initiated her into becoming a Sacred Prostitute.
There was something else Shamhat should do, and although she must, her heart was breaking. Now that Enkidu had met Gilgamesh, his Soul Brother and Complement, now that he had being befriended by the king of Uruk, Shamhat was no more needed. It was time for her to disappear graciously. From the start, she had never wanted Enkidu for herself, as any jealous or possessive lover would, but prepared him for a world Enkidu had to discover by his own choice and doing. His place was in the palace, hers would be in the temple full time for the coming months, not in the palace as well, to prepare for the sacred rites to priestesshood. She would report to the Wise One first, then send the auspicious news of having succeeded in the Challenge to her parents in the palace. They would understand and see her in the temple as soon as they could. For a brief moment she felt an even deeper sadness: would Enkidu always be able to see them as what he had been to each other, the best friends and lovers for a time along a road that had led them to many inner and outer discoveries? She shook her head and dismissed these gloomier thoughts.
' Inanna, Lady of my Heart, Companion of my Soul, ' she prayed silently, ' I hope I have succeeded in this great test by being spiritual, practical and joyfully sexual. '
Loud, she said very gently:
' You may leave me now. I will be safe in the temple. Gilgamesh is waiting for you to go to the palace. No words can describe the gifts you brought to ensoul my life. You were truly a worthy Companion, Friend the Very Best along this Quest. I lend you graces, Enkidu, Star Fallen from Heaven and Soul-Counterpart to Gilgamesh. May the Goddess guide your steps, may your faith in Her forever last.'
Enkidu wanted to say something else, but words did not come out of his mouth. Somehow he intuitively understood much had changed now that they were finally in Uruk. His eyes fell on Shamhat's for a long last time. Then he took the young priestess' hand and kissed it, not with the gallantry of a friend and lover, but with the humility and reverence of a mortal man faithful to the goddess acknowledging the future holder of the most prestigious temple office, the High Priestess of Uruk.
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