The Burney Relief , terracota plaque of Inanna-Ishtar with lions, owls and the rod and line of measurement and sacred kingship, c. 2300-2000 BCE, Louvre Museum, Paris
3. The Cycle of Inanna
Go to PART II
Our tribute to the Divine Feminine in Mesopotamia turns now to the most fascinating and all-encompassing goddess of Mesopotamia and arguably as well as in world myth and religion, the Great Goddess of Love and War known as Inanna by the Sumerians and Ishtar by the Babylonians and Assyrians. Among Her many titles, we find Queen of Heaven and Earth, Holy Priestess of Heaven, Morning and Evening Star, the Lover and Beloved united as One, as well as the Heroic Champion and the Destroyer of Foreign Lands, Foremost in Battle, The Lady of a Myriad Offices or Nin-me-sar-ra. Therefore, we have in Her one of the most complete mirrors of Triumphant Femininity, from Maiden Goddess to Young Sovereign and Law Giver, Archetypal Beloved to Joyous Bride, the Maker of Kings in the Sacred Rite and Coronation, the fierce Protector of the Land, as well as the Shaman who transcends Death. She is also the Mesopotamian goddess who has suffered some of the vilest persecutions in world religion by faiths which had and still have their own agendas against the Divine Feminine, perhaps because Her Dynamic and Assertive Non-Maternal qualities go frontally against the subservient virgin and/or all-mother figures of later times. Let it be said that none of the bad press Inanna/Ishtar was subjected to survive the scrutiny of high scholarship, modern psychology and historical accuracy. Indeed, we can already dismiss post-Mesopotamian interpretations of Inanna with a shrug, because there is no point in confronting prejudice, mysoginy and bad scholarship, historical and religious.
Personally, finding Inanna was soul homecoming, for She is a wondrous Truth I had ever known I would find one day, although some years back I could not exactly put into words what and whom I was seeking out for. Only now I can say that I had a longing within for a strong presence of the Divine Dynamic Non-Maternal Feminine to ensoul my life. Post-Mesopotamian images of the Divine Feminine were seriously lacking strength, power, wit, courage to go beyond boundaries and joy, whenever I confronted reality, inner and outer. My personal quest is easy to understand, because I come from a background of strong, gutsy and passionate Ancestresses, thus I have always being told of honourable stories involving the very human Feminine in my family, so somehow I knew I would find a Personal Goddess who would encompass the Feminine in Triumph as defined by HerSelf in all Worlds. Also, my Personal Goddess should go beyond the impoverished stereotyped Virgins (learned, mothers or not, who had, poor things, little or no interest in sex), Mothers-only (subservient to the all-powerful father, with or without a real consort) and most of all have little or no trait at all of the almost-masochist Lady of Sorrows of later religious traditions.
Having dived in earnest into the High Magickal Arts, prior to my training for priestesshood, I started looking for a goddess who should fulfil the following requirements:
a) She had to have had a full range of feminine experiences not man-defined, but asserted by HerSelf in all worlds, by Her own deeds and choices;
b) She had to be vibrant and passionate and courageous. Why should Love and passion, expressions of Life Force, be alienated from the Divine?
c) She had to possess a Warrior´s drive and energy to rouse and motivate towards action;
d) She had to relate well to the masculine, human and divine. The Assertive, Galant Lover has always been a strong neglected feature of the feminine that I wanted to see in a positive light. The Fatal Man-Eater tired my Soul, because in the end she just reproduces the shadow of men´s fears towards the feminine or a woman´s ambiguity about an experience of the Self that should be all life-affirming. I was looking for the image of Seduction,
which involves the courting of the Divine in others and in the Self that is not based on power-over but in reciprocity and sharing. I came to name Her as the Beloved and Lover united as One;
e) She had to have gone to the Underworld, because I have always been fascinated by descent stories. The Descent, however, should have been by her own choice, not as a kidnapping or abduction by whatever means;
f) She had to be an Inspirer and Empowerer to help me take me to my limits one more time... again and again;
e) Finally and most importantly, I did not want my personal goddess to mother me, but to expand my horizons with a Gift of Grace.
Be it understood that at that time I was already familiar with Greek, Roman and Celtic mythology, with some Egyptian in the sidelines, but my knowledge of Mesopotamia was restricted to the Hanging Gardens and Hammurabi. However, I remember the impact of seeing the Gates of Ishtar in Berlin when I was backpacking in Europe years back.
To make a long story short, having studied Mesopotamia for two months in earnest, finding Inanna was homecoming, and since then there has been no way back for me.
Why so? Because Inanna and Her Cycle is a mirror of wholeness, where sexual polarities become complementary, Her stories a thread that involve a full range of being and becoming a woman, human and divine, in all levels and spheres. She is a goddess that relates well to the masculine as a daughter, sister, young sovereign on the make, the Joyous Bride and the Sorrowful Spouse who waits for the Eternal Return of the Healed Beloved. Moreover, Inanna is also the Justified Warrior whose standard is carried by the king in battle, She is the Inspirer and Lioness of Strength who reshapes HerSelf so many times, even after confronting Her Darkest Spots twice (in the Agushaya Hymn, when She reduces Saltu, Her violent unbalanced warrior double, to due proportions) and in Inanna and Shukaletuda, when the young Goddess was raped by a coward gardener and resurfaces healed in strength and Integrity, as well as Law Giver who decides the Fates of the Land and the Shaman who descends to the Underworld and resurrects in the third day to the Heights Above. With so many attributes, it is therefore not surprising the constant bad press Inanna endured, but those who have dared to know Her have truly been transformed.
In what follows, we will be exploring Inanna, Her genealogy, characteristics, Her Cycle and myths to better apprehend the High Magick of this Great Goddess. To you, Holy Priestess of Heaven, I sing!
Inanna as Queen of Heaven and Earth, cylinder seal, Akkad period, c. 2334-2154 BCE. In it, the Goddess wears the horned and tiered crown, image of the sacred mound, which is worn by all the major Sumerian deities, and the tiered dress worn by Sumerian goddesses. An eight-rayed star is near her, the image of the planet Venus. She carries a staff of intertwined serpents and stands on rests her foot upon lions. Shoots ending in buds spring from her right shoulder, indicating her nature as a Goddess of War and Fertility. Sometimes these buds and maces alternate with formalized images of the serpent that come from the Snake Goddesses of Neolithic times.
Inanna, Ininnin, Ninni(n)(a) - Sumerian goddess, who dating back to 3800 Before Common Era is described as the daughter of the Moon God Nanna and his beloved consort Ningal, twin sister of Utu, the Son God. Although some other sources say that Inanna is also either the daughter or consort of the Skyfather Anu, I agree with Gwendolyn Leick (1991, A Dictionary of Ancient Near Estern Mythology, Routledge, London and New York), who says
"it is not clear whether the title of Hierodule of An refers to An, the god and thereby implies an erotic relationship, or more generally to An as the Sky, " page 88.
It must be remembered that all Great Gods of Mesopotamia are either sons or daughters of Anu and Ki, the primeval Father and Mother. The second strong argument supporting the assumption the tradition that Inanna is in fact the daughter of Nanna, the Moon god, and His beloved wife Ningal comes from a long series of poems that belong to the Cycle of Inanna which state clearly beyond any doubht that Ningal is Inanna´s mother. Hierodule of An (or Heaven) may very well mean the cosmic character of the goddess, and this aspect of Hers is also emphasized in the Isin tradition, which calls Inanna the daughter of the moon god Nanna and Ningal, twin sister of Utu, the Sun God.
More recently though, Tzvi Abush (2000) has added that Inanna as the wife of Anu, the Skyfather, may be associated to the traits of an older tradition in which Inanna/Ishtar represents a variant of the earth: first as Ki (Earth), the wife of Anu, or Ereshkigal, whose name means "Mistress of the Great Earth", the goddess of the Underworld who is the wife of Anu in his bull form, Gugalana.
The etymology of Inanna´s name is doubtful; by the end of the third millennium Before Common Era it was taken to derive from nin-an-na, Lady of Heaven. The cuneiform sign with which Her name is usually written goes back to an archaic pictograph representing a rolled-up reed-stalk. It is found among the earliest written records from Uruk. The god-list of Fara mentions Inanna behind An and Enlil and before Enki. Towards the middle of the third millennium BCE, kings of the Kish-dynasties (Eannatum I, Lugalatarsi), as well as Lugalzaggesi of Uruk mention Inanna in their royal inscriptions. The earliest literary texts dedicated to Inanna are usually taken to date from the period of Agade, when Enheduanna, the daughter and king Sargon and high priestess scribe, composed some lengthy hymns in praise of the goddess. Since all the compositions ascribed to Enheduanna are only preserved on later Neo-Sumerian copies, the dating of the texts remain hypothetical. What seems to be very likely is that the tutelary Semitic deity of Sargon the Akkadian was made acceptable by the Sumerian population by a syncretism with the local Sumerian goddess of Love and Fertility, Inanna. Enheduanna´s hymns elaborate the goddess´s complex personality and her bid for divine power may well reflect the political rise of the Sargonid rulers (Hallo and van Dijk). Inanna´s epithets in these texts are nin-me-sar-ra, Lady of a Myriad Offices/Queen of all the Me, a title which makes Her the most influential of deities in the world of gods and humans.
During the Isin-Larsa period Inanna acquired a formidably complex character, extolled in lengthy hymns, myths, ritual invocations and courtly love poetry. Her planetary aspect as Venus was one important element at a time when astronomical observations were gaining in accuracy, and great attention was paid to the cyclical appearance and disappearance of this planet and its relative position to other stars and constellations. The syncretism with other city-goddesses, such as Ninisinna, the lady of Isin, made it politically advantageous to proclaim Inanna´s superior status in the pantheon to emphasize Her close links with the ruling Isin dynasty. It is difficult to link when Inanna was first linked with sexuality; certainly by the Sargonid period She was invoked in love incantations together with Ishara. During the Neo-Sumerian period, Her cult was well established and several rulers, such as Eannatum and Ur-Nammu refer to themselves as "beloved husbands of Ninnin". Her main cult centres was the Eanna at Uruk and She had important temples at Nippur, Lagash, Shuruppak, Zabalam and Ur. Regular monthly festivals were celebrated in Her nonor. Apart from several important mythic compositions, a large number of hymns and liturgical songs dedicated to the goddess were compiled in this period. The astral character of Inanna as the planet Venus is an important object of many these texts. In a self-laudatory hymn, Inanna claims to have received special prerogatives from Enlil "who put the sky cap on my head, the earth as sandals on my feet" - a poetic metaphor for Her cosmic dominance. A special category of Inanna´s songs are the compositions written for the Sacred Marriage rituals, in which the Queen of Heaven symbolically united HerSelf with the king to renew life and fertility in the land.
The most ancient epithet for Inanna is nun "princely", already appearing in the Uruk IV. It is attested in the offering registers and also later in Shuruppak, as in eg. The name dingir-Inana-gal-nun, the great Goddess Inana, princely. Offerings to Princely Inana consisted of various item, such as various quantities of grain, types of bread, bowls or jars, representing various kinds of foods or beverages measured with the standardized units of capacity. Animals appear rather rarely, and consist of sheep of various ages basically.
Astrologically, Inanna has been identified with the Morning and Evening Star, and according to Krystina Szarzynska (2000) the cult of astral deities in Mesopotamia stretches back into proto-Sumerian and even more ancient times. This author, who studied in depth the cult of Inanna in archaic texts from Uruk, says that Inanna´s symbol, the high pole made of reed stalks bound together, tapering upwards and rolled into a ring on the outside, is attested since, at least, the Uruk IV period. This symbol was often depicted in archaic glyphs and plastic arts, sometimes showing many details of its construction.
Offering records from the last part of the Uruk III period refer to Inanna in Her two epiphanies as the Morning and Evening Star, or more precisely: dingir-Inana-hud2, Morning Inana, and dingir-Inana-sig, Evening Inana. Typical list of offerings for Morning Inana seems to be less differentiated than the one for Princely Inana, and a typical list of offerings consists of sheep, various kinds of food, mostly prepared with grain or flour. These types of food were prepared by a person with a cultic function and signed by him or her.
It is important to stress that the astronomical aspect of Inanna is somewhat ambiguous. According to the evidence of seasonal festivals during the Ur III period, Inanna was primarily associated with the moon, as the daughter of Nanna, and the phases of the moon were celebrated in Her honor, while the heliacal settings of the planet Venus were marked by the festivals of Nanaya (also a daughter of Nanna and Ningal and sister of Utu) and Anunnitum (the name is an Akkadian compound of Inanna/Ishtar). The majority of Her literary texts seem to emphasize Her astral rather than the lunar interpretation of the goddess.
Much of the knowledge that we have of Mesopotamia is derived from inscribed clay tablets and fragments dating from 2000 to 1750 Before Common Era. Diane Wolkstein, a folklorist and storyteller, collaborated with Assyriologist Professor Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer by weaving many poems involving Inanna in an inspiring prose-poem entitled The Cycle of Inanna, which is published by Harper and Row as "Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: her stories and hymns from Sumer" ( Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, 1983, Harper and Row). Fundamentally, Krarmer´s and Wolkstein´s masterwork bring light to four stages in Inanna´s development and these are:
a) Being young and trying to find one´s own Inner Maturity, or Inanna, the Huluppu Tree and Gilgamesh;
b) The resourceful Sovereign who needs to prove herself worthy, or Inanna and Enki and the ME;
c) The Beloved and Lover united as one in the Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi;
d) The Shaman who conquers Rebirth in the Descent to the Underworld to ascend with the gifts of the Depths; and
e) A fifth stage as Inanna the Warrior Goddess, is explored in poems such as Inanna and Ebih and Loud Thundering Storm, and which shows the goddess in Her Heroic guise as the Champion of the land.
Any attempt to describe such a powerful image of the Divine Feminine is from the start incomplete. Nevertheless, a genuine effort will be made to present a wholer picture of Inanna/Ishtar in the light of cuneiform texts available to us, and my views on the Mystery of Inanna, with Whom I have worked longed and deeply (praise Her be!). Mistakes, of course, are my own. We start with the Cycle of Inanna.
The first part of the Cycle of Inanna is called The Hulupu Tree, and in it we have a delightful account of a young woman´s, a goddess in fact, coming of age in Mesopotamia. The myth starts by focusing first on the very first days of creation, "when everything needed was brought into being, when everything needed was properly nourished", and then proceeds to establish the divine hierarchy of gods and goddesses in Mesopotamia before introducing the young goddess Inanna herself. Of Her, we first hear that She is a young woman who feared the word of the Skyfather An and walked in the fear of the Air God Enlil.
Looking at the gods and goddesses of Sumer, we will see that Inanna belongs to the younger generation of deities, thus representing the qualities that bring civilisation and order to humankind, i.e. Utu the Sun as Enlightenment and Justice, Marduk Sovereignty, etc. The Skyfather Anu and the Air God Enlil, on the other hand, represent the second and older generation of gods, of which Heaven, Air and Earth (Elemental powers) are formed. Inanna, as the future goddess of Love and War, needs first to conquer these elemental powers for herself. This is the reason why She walked in the fear of the Word of the Sky God Anu because she still does not trust her own mind, and she needed the clarity and discernment of the Air God Enlil.
One day, Inanna is walking by the river banks of the Euphrates when she finds a tree, the Hulupu Tree, and the young goddess plucks the tree and plants it in Her garden. The Tree, how can it help Inanna to grow and conquer her Inner Maturity and Sovereignty? Trees are cosmic beings, with their roots in the Underworld, trunk in the Middleworld and branches reaching out to the skies and the Otherworld. These are the powers that Inanna has to conquer to become her own person. The Tree is also the proto Caballistic Tree of Life, because we have now sources to prove that the origins of the Caballa are in Mesopotamia
As Inanna starts then to look after the Huluppu Tree, or the prototype for the Tree of Knowledge, She starts to know herSelf, and self-knowledge makes one reach out for outer and inner empowerment. This is why the young goddess starts wondering when she is going to have her throne (or Inner Sovereignty) and bed, which at this stage can be seen as the Inner Marriage of the Soul, trust that She can love freely and be loved likewise because she knows the greatest Lover of all lies within her very heart. Notice that Inanna does not mention to a Consort: She first wants a bed and a throne, which may be seen as the desire to conquer confidence in her own power to captivate and reign sovereign. The process is not easy though, because the years passed, first five, then 10 years and the tree grows thick, a serpent makes its nest in the roots of the huluppu tree, the ferocious Anzu bird makes a nest for his young on the branches of the tree, and the dark maid Lillith builds her home in the trunk, but Inanna still wept because She still did not have her lovely bed and throne of power.
What happens here is very simple. Self-knowledge and self-empowerment cannot be obtained only in the Inner Worlds: they have to be acted out, realised in the Outer Worlds. Inanna wanted a bed and throne, but to get them she should get out into the world and find/deserve them, instead of wasting time asking herself 'when' the throne and bed would come to her. In this context, the serpent can be seen as Kundalini, Deep Magic and Energy Inanna still did not know how to handle. Birds are symbols of Otherworld wisdom, the Knowledge and Knowing of the Heights Above, but they can bring confusion if they bicker, are large or threatening. The Anzu bird has the wings of the eagle and the face of a lion. Eagles have sharp vision, whereas lions are the kings of the animal kingdom in the Middleworld. In another Sumerian myth, Anzu steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil, the Air God, and Ninurta, the God of War is called upon to retrieve the tablets. Thus, the Anzu bird means the powers of Air, vision, discernment and discrimination which Inanna has yet to conquer. Lillith, on the other hand, symbolise Raw Female Power, the Cave Woman who couldn't be dragged by the hair, another aspect of feminine power and assertiveness in the world Inanna had to conquer by her own choices and doing. What we have here are the fears and insecurites of a young goddess in search for her womanhood and queenship.
Then one day, as a bird started to sing at the coming of the dawn, Inanna turned to Utu, her twin brother and asks for help with the bird, the serpent and the dark maid. It is therefore clear that Inanna finally decides to get out of her shell and reach out for help. In modern terms, these can be family and friends, one's peer groups. Because growth and self-knowledge is an interactive process. One learns about oneself by connection with life and people in a cycle and wheel that never ends. Inanna turns to her brother, her companion and friend for help, as sibblings still do in our high tech times. So She tells Utu, her brother and Sun God, the whole story of the tree, but Utu refused to help his sister.
Now, why wouldn´t a brother help a sister? The reason might very well lie in the foundations of Sumerian Religion, whose whose core concept is the Sacred Marriage of Heaven and Earth, Utu could not actually help Inanna. He was a god like herself, and in Sumer we have the Union of Opposites or Complementarity:
GODDESS TO MAN and GOD TO WOMAN
The Inner Teacher in the Mysteries is in general the countersexual image, the muse and goddess for men, the daimon or god self /inspirer for women. This ancient truth is made clear by Utu´s refusal to help his sister. He was a god, her equal. She should initiate and be initiated by a young man of valor and courage. Now, having said that, what sort of man could help Inanna to come to terms with her own feminine power? Who was probably the partner of the priestess-to-be in this coming of age ritual for the young? Only the hero of Uruk, the one who had conquered deeds in the world, but was probably still quite a caveman in terms of courting ladies and pleasing goddesses. Gilgamesh is the hero of the Epic that bears his name, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the most important literary work of Ancient Mesopotamia, and a dimly historical figure. We say dimly historical figure because his name appears in the Sumerian Kings List, as the son of another famous ruler, Lugalbanda, and the goddess Ninsun. The Epic was told in 12 tablets, and although Inanna/Ishtar is portrayed as Gilgamesh´s main opponent, the grey eminence behind Gilgamesh´s fall from grace, this part of the myth of Inanna shows that the hero of Uruk was once a close friend to the young goddess. It is importnat to point out that whenever we are talking of Mesopotamian sources, everything that is Sumerian in origin, is of a much earlier date, so in Sumerian texts, Inanna and Gilgamesh were once good friends before they became opponents. So Gilgamesh, the hero of Uruk, stands by Inanna, and together with the young warriors of Uruk, he strikes the serpent who could not be charmed, made Lillith flee to the wild, uninhabited places, loosening the roots of the huluppu tree. From the trunk of the tree, Gilgamesh carved a throne and a bed for Inanna, and the young goddess in gratitude fashioned a rod and a ring of power from the roots and branches of the tree for Gilgamesh.
What is clear is that Gilgamesh makes the throne and bed from the trunk, the part of the tree that represents the Middleworld powers that he conquered himself as a hero in the world. And Inanna gives him the root (grounding) and crown (kingship) in return.
It is important to point out that in this myth the young Gilgamesh was the Goddess´ chosen and best friend, and that he received from her symbols of kingship, which should be read as initiation by the young high priestess of the land. The Huluppu Tree is also the first part of the 12th Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a tablet of Sumerian origin, which puzzles many scholars, because it tells of the Huluppu Tree and then of Gilgamesh´s loss of his symbols of kingship and Enkidu´s descent to the Underworld to retrieve them. My interpretation of the riddle embedded in the 12th Tablet is the following: Gilgamesh helps Inanna and is initiated by her in his young days, and then he loses to the underworld the symbols of kingship he had received from the goddess, thus having to undergo the trials of his Quest for Life Everlasting he could not find within himself anymore, having lost his innocence to vanity and selfish all-oneness. The journey Gilgamesh undertakes from Tablet 1 to 11 is explained by the 12th Tablet, whose first part is exactly the first part of the myth of Inanna, or the Huluppu Tree.
Summing up what we saw about Inanna and her symbols as illustrated in this part of Her myth, the Tree of Knowledge, her relationship to her own peer group represented by Gilgamesh and Utu, we can see that there is a much deeper meaning embedded in these verses. That knowledge, inner maturity and empowerment are gifts to be realised and shared in the world. As the tree was planted for the people of Uruk and Gilgamesh opened up the way for other others to come after him. As important as it was in the past, the peer group is the great initiator of youth in its own rites in its own time, space and event. This old age truth is still valid in our days, and will be forever more.
The Giving of the Sacred Measures, or Inanna and Enki is a wondrous account of a young woman/goddess conquering her own space in the world by her choices and deeds, or the making of a young sovereign and queen. Also, rarely in world myth and religion a young goddess is portrayed with so much wit, resourcefulness and courage, and the interplay of female and male forces so rich. The myth starts when Inanna places the crown of the steppe on her head and then seeks out confirmation of her queenship in the treefold (Green World), in the sheepfold (the Animal World) to rejoice in her wondrous vulva. Having rejoiced in HerSelf, She immediately decides to visit Enki, the god of Wisdom in Eridu "to say a prayer to Him of the sweet waters".
This is one of the most alchemical beginnings I've seen in a myth. There is a deep mystery in Inanna rejoicing in HerSelf: we are all we need to start, continue and finish anything we desire, we are the process and the goal, gem and stone as one. Nevertheless, self-realisation cannot be an empty act of ego inflation, and Inanna knows it well, because she seeks acknowledgement of her powers in Nature and things and people of Nature so that her True Nature can be confirmed. Whoever and whatever we may think we are must be manifested in the world and must be realised/reflected in all worlds. And then She decides to search for Wisdom.
Clearly, beauty and vitality is not enough for Inanna. She knows that Real Beauty is not based on outer standards or appearances, and so decides to pay Her compliments to Wisdom, which is Inner Beauty one learns to see and experience in everything there is, knowledge Without transformed in knowing Within. This is a Process, a Quest and search for Wholeness nobody else but ourselves can undertake. Thus Inanna sets out by herself alone. Notice, too, the young goddess wants to honor and bless the God of Wisdom. She sees herself as his equal from the start, although she belongs to the younger generation of gods and goddesses of Sumer.
When Enki, the Lord of Wisdom, who all sees and hears, learns that the young goddess wants to honor and bless him as his equal, He turns to his faithful vizier Isimud and tells him to treat the young goddess like "an equal" and that Inanna should be given food and drink and be greeted at the holy table of heaven. The first interplay of male and female energies is therefore one of youthful arrogance on Inanna´s part and amused condescendence on Enki´s side.
Enki meets Inanna and both start toasting with the bronze cups of Mother Urash, and with the them filled to overflowing, they drank more beer, toasted and challenged each other. High with drink and joy, Enki did mellow and becomes the effusive host, perhaps also influenced by the bronze vessels of Urash, the Earth Mother, and another epithet for Ninhursag-Ki.
Nevertheless, there is a deeper meaning involved in 'drinking from the vessels of the Earth Mother', and the key is in the understanding of the dual aspect of Enki as the Lord of Wisdom and the Deep Waters. As the God of Wisdom, Enki knows that power must be shared and as the King of Eridu he knows that the best way to raise the younger generation of gods and goddesses is to encourage their initiative and independence. This is the reason why he treats Inanna as his 'equal' upon arrival. Then, by drinking from the generous cup of the Earth Mother, his Beloved, he has the inspiration to give the young queen of Uruk what she needs to rule wisely the land. He offers Her the Me, the Sacred Measures of Heaven and Earth, the justified laws of the land, such as High Priesthood, Godship, the noble enduring crown, the throne of kingship, truth, descent into the Underworld, ascent from the Underworld, lovemaking, the kissing of the phallus, and finally, the most important of all Me, or the Making of Decisions.
Inanna thus accepts the Me, and itemises them all, acknowledging the powers in full awareness of what they represent. She accepts them by taking full responsibility of the power sshe has just been given. The deep meaning embedded in this part of the myth is that only to possess a gift is not enough. We must accept and work on it. otherwise the gift is potential only, and anything that exist only in potential, without being realised, could very well be non-existent.
The Sacred Measures or ME received by Inanna are the following:
1) The first grouping centers on the priestess/priesthood and the rituals involved in serving the gods, the king/queen and the temple, in the true sense that the attributes of civilisation were derived and inspired by the gods and made available to the people through temple and palace. It is also clear that for the Sumerians kingship/queenship and priest/esshood were one and the same, that both brought and ensured the establishment of cosmic order and progress on earth. Fundamentally, it is implied that to serve the gods and the land is also to serve the people who are the land and embody the gods within themselves - high priesthood, godship, the noble enduring crown, the throne of kingship, the noble sceptre, the staff, the holy measuring rod and line, the high throne, the shepherdship, kingship, the princess priestess, the divine queen priestess, the incantation priest, the noble priest, the libation priest, truth, descent into the Underworld, ascent from the Underworld, and the performance of mourning rites, the holy tavern, the holy shrine, the holy priestess of heaven, the holy purification rites;
2) The second grouping means the justified exercise of power, in the political and private spheres, thus involving the art of the hero, the dagger and the sword, the black garment, the colourful garment, the loosening of the hair, the binding of the hair, the standard, the quiver, the art of lovemaking, the kissing of the phallus, the art of speeding, the forthright speech, the slanderous speech, the adorning speech, the art of power, the art of treachery, the art of straigthforwardness, and the plundering of cities, the rebellious land, deceit, the kindling of strife, travel, the bitter-toothed lion;
3) The third grouping refers to the arts and crafts: the resounding musical instrument, the art of song, the art of the elder, the crafts of the woodworker, of the copper worker, of the scribe, of the smith, of the leather-maker, of the builder, of the reed-worker, the feeding pen, the heaping of coals, the sheepfold, the art of kindness
4) The fourth grouping covers emotions and the personal sphere, and thus we have the measures of the setting of lamentations, the rejoicing of the heart, the secure dwelling place, the perceptive ear (which also means empathy and wisdom), the power of attention, consternation, dismay, the weary arm, the assembled family, procreation, and heart-soothing.
5) The last grouping include only two measures, but they are the most important, because without them the other Sacred Measures cannot be executed to perfection: the giving of judgements and the making of decisions.
(Source is Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories, and Hymns from Sumer. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1983).
Clearly, from the above mentioned measures, we can assume that the Sumerians seem to have been a very pragamatic nation. The mes include the so-called 'good' powers and 'not so good ones' as well. This is another important teaching embedded in this part of the myth. For we are taught to go beyond the dualistic view of power as good and evil. Powers are in fact neutral in themselves. It is up to us to use them wisely. Too much kindness may become weakness, too much zeal to apply justice may become injustice. Thus, the measures include powers such as the performing of mourning rites, the art of strife and the rebellious land, as well as the gifts of priestesshood, lovemaking and crafts, to name just a few.
The last measure or ME given to Inanna was the Making of Decisions. Thus Inanna decides that she wants to keep the measures, and so departs prudently. Without the making of decisions, the other mes are meaningless. It is the Will, the Strength and Spiritual Power to make things be that perceives, believes and takes action.
The following morning Enki looks about his temple and realises the Sacred Measures are not there any longer. He calls upon his vizier Isimud, who reports that Enki himself has given the measures to Inanna. Immediately Enki tells Isimud to take some demons with him to bring back Inanna, Her boat of Heaven and the Sacred Measures back to Eridu. If under the effect of the drink served in the cups of Mother Urash, another title for the Earth Mother, Enki could be generous, now his other side surfaces, the side of the Father and Powerful Shaman. Throughout world mythology wherever there is a great treasure, there are dragons, monsters and emons to guard that treasure. This means simply that the Mysteries or Spiritual Treasures offer abundance and riches, but only to those capable of both winning and protecting them. Inanna now has to prove herself worty of the treasures she was given. This is one of the deepest teachings embedded in 'The Giving of the Sacred Measures': we are gatekeepers and gateways to everything we receive. Indeed, we serve our initiations initiating others who approach us and Dare to Know, Will and Keep the Silence of Becoming. Inanna will be now challenged to see whether she is fit to guard and pass on the ME.
Isimud does as he is told, but Inanna refuses to give the Measures back to Enki. Thus a cosmic battle between the young goddess and the wiser god starts. Six times Enki sends creatures of more fearsome power to test Inanna, six times Inanna helped by Her faitful vizier Ninshubur sends the creatures back to Enki without the measures. Why is Ninshubur effective against Enki´s demons? There is a clue to Ninshubur's nature in Inanna's cryptical lines to Ninshubur, i.e.
'Water has not touched your hand / Water has not touched your foot.'
Enki, the lord of Sweet Waters and Magic, cannot touch Ninshubur, because she was never touched by water, that is, Ninshubur is probably pure spirit. She therefore relates to Inanna in her aspect of Queen of the East and Morning Star. Thus, Inanna's heavenly powers are summoned to defeat the crafty watery power of Enki. As Ninshubur overpowers each of Enki's magic creatures, the Boat of Heaven nears Uruk. There is insufficient information available to differentiate among the monsters sent by Enki, but it is likely that there is a progression of power, each creature being larger, more powerful and treacherous.
Now, what happens when a hero or heroine defeats a magical monster? Guided by the Highest Will in the heroine and hero, she or he acquire the power of the beaten monster. My own experience says that magical monsters of Guardians of Thresholds, who are imortal, WANT TO BE DEFEATED, BUT JUST BY THE WORTHY. Therefore, by defeating Enki's magic creatures, Inanna acquires their corresponding shamanic powers.
Inanna, Ninshubur and the Measures approach Uruk and both decide that the day they arrive is going to be of celebration and joy, like the Cup that Overflows with Joy for the people. Inanna shares and empowers, very much like Isis, who also says she is the Great Magician, Patroness of Arts and Crafts, and in the end gloriously acknowledges her own people by saying: 'Hail to you, Egypt, who nourish me!'
Meanwhile in Eridu, Enki is told by Isimud that Inanna is now very close to Uruk. Enki´s reply is not angry, but an exclamation of joy and wonder: " 'Go! The lady aroused wondes there/ The Queen has aroused wondes at the White Quay".
Graciously, Enki acknowledges, he does not concede, that Inanna made it, that the arrived safely with the MES at Uruk. He does not sound at all angry or disappointed with the fact that all his monsters were defeated and that Inanna is the winner by her own right. Indeed, Enki sounds delighted instead, for his words are 'the Queen has aroused wonders at the White Quay/Inanna has aroused wonders'. And although the myth does not say it explicitly, Enki ruthes to join Inanna in Uruk.
Upon arrival in Uruk, the holy measures are unloaded, and as they are unloaded, announced and presented to the people of Sumer, more ME appear, and these too are presented to the people of Uruk. The unexpected MES centered on the feminine attributes. And the beginning of the story repeats itself in the end, in a perfect circle and cycle. At the start of the 'Giving of the Sacred Measures', Inanna rejoiced in her raw feminine vitality and wondrous vulva. En route and in battle her power was tested, and joining forces with more spiritual resources Inanna emerged as a fuller goddess. From physical strength and vitality to heroine and queen. And this is too given to the people of Uruk. Enki is now also present at the White Quay and declares that in the Name of His power and holy shrine, the Me should remain with Inanna in Uruk and that Uruk and Eridu are allies, Uruk being restored to its great place.
It is my view that this part of the myth refers to historical facts mentioned earlier, when in 4,000 Before Common Era there was a shift of religious power from Eridu to Uruk, where priests and priestesses shared religious and temporal power. The root and ground for equality, and without acknowledgement of the other's holiness and wholeness no Sacred Marriage can take place.
Gender balancing is also about being in Harmony with the Lover Within and manifesting the Beloved without. It is about being in harmony with oneself and strive to see this harmony around us. It is a deep Sense of Self that is not Inflated, the realisation that we are all ears of corn, grains of sand and DNAs of becoming, equal yet very much unique.
Finally, it is my desire that gender balance be restored independent of sexual preferences!
Ancient Wine and Wine Storage Educational Resources:
Wine Cellar - Archaeologists discover ancient Canaanite wine cellar
Wine Storage - Custom wooden wine racks for wine storage
Wine Maturation - Proper wine storage and maturation
Ancient Wine - The ancient origins of viniculture
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