The concept of personal God(dess) combined with the political/religious dimension in Enheduanna's cycle of hymns to the Goddess Inanna.

(Essay from Enhuduanna's Writings by Michelle Hart. Enjoy!)

Ishtar (Cylinder Seal)

It is widely accepted that Enheduanna's "religious" hymns were politically motivated to support the imperialistic ambitions of her father, King Sargon, who's unparalleled control of Sumer and Akkad had known no predecessor and that her installation by Sargon as en-priestess of Nanna at Ur was also a political strategy (1) . Yet, while a political creation of her father's, Enheduanna, emerged as an accomplished writer and to her credit still remains the first known author of all literature. As an example of late, third millenium Sumerian poetry, her cycle of three hymns to the goddess Inanna reveals a sophisticated literary style which interweaves the concept of the personal god(dess) into the political/religious dimension.

Jacobsen differentiates between third and second millenium phases of Mesopotamian religion by identifying "the concept of the [gods as] ruler[s] and the hope of security against enemies" in the third millenium and the concept of the personal god in the second millenium who is called upon to influence "the fortunes of the individual [which] increase in importance until they rival those of communal economy and security." (2) If we adopt these classifications, Enheduanna's cycle displays a shift from the third to second millennium phases. The first hymn, in-nin-me-hus-a, The Myth of Inanna and Ebih, (3) focusses entirely on Inanna as a ruler goddess, venerating her victory over Mt. Ebih. The shift then begins with the second hymn, in-nin-sa-gur-ra, Stout-Hearted Lady, in which Enheduanna introduces herself briefly but the "principal theme is Inanna's omnipresent and omnipotent role in human affairs" (4). By the third hymn, nin-me-sar-ra, The Exaltation of Inanna, special attention is given to Enheduanna's banishment from Ur, in addition to the theme of Inanna's divine supremacy, such that Enheduanna's personal relationship to Inanna has assumed equal importance with Inanna's ruler aspect. A comparative analysis of the three hymns with regard to this development emphasisizing the concept of personal god will form the basis of this paper.

There is no evidence of personal god in Inanna & Ebih as Enheduanna is almost invisible. She reveals her presence only once in the entire poem by speaking in the first person while remaining a nameless narrator: "Moi aussi je veux célébrer à souhait la reine des batailles, la grande fille de Sin" (5). Rather it is Inanna who speaks for herself and this she does for fifty per cent of the composition: l. 26-51, 64-111, 154-166, 168-181. In fact, she is the one to introduce the main argument of the poem- that Mt. Ebih has not shown her the proper respect and that she will teach it to fear her:

"Puisqu'il n'a point baisé la terre devant moi,
Ni, de sa barbe, devant moi, balayé la poussière,
Je vais porter la main sur ce pays provocateur:
Je lui apprendrai à me craindre!" (6)

This hymn may be an allusion to a historical event commemorating one of Sargon's triumphs over a northern region that refused to relinquish its independance.(7) It would have then served as both political and religious propaganda, promoting the unequivocal domination of Sargon's empire and personal goddess, Inanna. Inanna is portrayed as an unrelenting, warring devastatrix, characteristic of third millenium ruler metaphors:

"J'y porterai la guerre, j'y susciterai des combats,
Je tirerai (?) les flèches de mon carquois,
Je ferai défiler, en une longue salve, les pierres de ma fronde,
Je pousserai contre lui mon épée" (8)

The marriage of politics and religion is further underlined, when after she has successfully overtaken Ebih she installs a throne and a temple and sets up rituals unique to her cult:

" Aussi ai-je élevé un temple, où j'ai inauguré de grandes choses:
Je m'y suis érigé un tròne inébranlable!
J'y ai donné aux cinèdes poignard et épée,
Tambourin et tambour aux invertis,
J'y ai changé la personnalité des travestis!" (9)

The following is Jacobsen's definition of personal religion:

"[a] religious attitude in which the religious individual sees himself as
standing in close personal relationship to the divine, expecting help and
guidance in his personal life and personal affairs, expecting divine anger and punishment if he sins, but also profoundly trusting to divine compassion, forgiveness, and love for him if he sincerely repents." (10)

This close personal relationship is evidenced when Enheduanna speaks directly to Inanna and identifies herself by name in Stout-Hearted Lady: "I am Enheduanna, the en-Priestess of Nanna." (11) Unfortunately, the text breaks off afterwards for approximately twenty five lines in which Enheduanna may have revealed more of her personal relationship to Inanna. The text picks up with:

"I am yours! It will always be so!
May your heart cool off for me,
May your understanding... compassion...
I have experienced your great punishment" (12)

Here, elements of personal religion such as punishment for sin and trust in divine compassion are illustrated. An act of repentance is described soon afterwards:

"My Lady, I will proclaim your greatness in all lands and your glory!
Your 'way' and great deeds I will always praise!" (13)

Enheduanna also elaborates on the theme of Inanna's wrath : "...her wrath makes (people) tremble, "her wrath (is) ..., a devastating flood which no one can withstand" (14). Thus, by including the anger that Inanna has toward her, "...may your heart cool off for me" (15) Enheduanna juxtaposes divine wrath with personal wrath and bridges the gap between all-powerful deity and personal goddess. Nonetheless, the poem emphasizes Inanna's supremacy among the gods as evidenced by her possession of all the me's, divine attributes or powers- the ultimate sign of divine authority:

"the queen (performing) great deeds,
who gathers (for herself) the me's of heaven and earth,
she rivals the great An"16

In fact, the me's, are listed from lines 115-172. They range from the particular to the larger scheme of building a civilization :

" To build a house, to build a woman's chamber, to have implements,
to kiss the lips of a small child are yours, Inanna,
To give the crown, the chair and the scepter of kingship is yours, Inanna"17

Yet by the end of the poem Enheduanna writes:

"An and Enlil have in the entire universe determined for you a great destiny,
They have bestowed upon you the Lady-ship over the gu'enna,
You determine the destiny for the princely Ladies"18

It is surprising that in all of the universe, Inanna must determine the fate of princesses, namely, Enheduanna:

"Mistress, you are great, you are important,
Inanna you are great, you are important,
My Lady, your greatness is manifest,
May your heart for my sake 'return to its place'!19

Thus, Inanna's expansive ruler aspect has been narrowed to tending to the personal needs of Enheduanna and, concomittantly, Enheduanna's significance has been elevated-- especially when compared to her near insignificance in Inanna & Ebih. According to Jacobsen, this is charateristic of the penitent communicating with her20 personal god. "The penitent becomes so centrally important in the universe that he can monopolize God's attention, can involve God deeply and emotionally in anger, compassion, love for him."21

This theme is far more explicit in Exaltation of Inanna, in which she indulges in her personal plight- banishment from the temple- which she "not only [presumes] to matter, but matter supremely. [It] swell[s] to fill the whole picture"22:

"Verily I had entered my holy giparu at your behest,
I, the high priestess, I, Enheduanna!
I carried the ritual basket, I intoned the acclaim.
(But now) I am placed in the lepers' ward,
I, even I, can no longer live with you!"23

And yet, considerable emphasis is still given, as in Inanna & Ebih and Stout-Hearted Lady, to Inanna's ascent to the top of the pantheon as exemplified by the incipit (the first line and title of the poem) which reads: "nin-me-sar-ra" or "Lady of all the me's". In addition, however, Enheduanna manages to interweave herself into this theme by taking the following steps. She first appeals to Nanna to free her from the usurper, Lugalanne:

"What is he to me, oh Suen, this Lugalanne!
Say thus to An: "May An release me!"
Say but to An "Now!" and An will release me."24

However, he abandons her:

"As for me, my Nanna takes no heed of me.
He has verily given me over to destruction in murderous straits....
(Me) who once sat triumphant he has driven out of the sanctuary."25

Next, she lists Inanna's me's stating emphatically that she is not reciting those of Nanna:

"That one has not recited as a "Known! Be it known! of Nanna,
that one has recited as a "'Tis thine!":
That you are lofty as Heaven be it known! (An-)
That you are broad as the earth- be it known!
That you devastate the rebellious land- be it known!"26

Enheduanna mirrors Nanna's inability to help her with Inanna's superiority over Nanna:

"That one has not recited (this) of Nanna, that one has recited it as a "'Tis Thine!" "
(That,) oh my lady has made you great, you alone are exalted!
Oh my lady beloved of An, I have verily recounted your fury!"27

Enheduanna succeeds at elevating her personal experience to the level of divine matters while reinforces the theme of Inanna's supremacy.

Enheduanna employs different metaphors and techniques which underscore personal religion. According to Jacobsen, "the 'metaphor' under which the personal god was seen [was]... the image of the parent".28 Inanna, however, is typically not endowed with divine motherhood and Enheduanna describes her relationship to Inanna as filial, only once:

"(Only) on account of your captive spouse, on account of your captive child,
Your rage is increased, your heart unassuaged."29

However, the parental relationship is implied with Enheduanna's appeals for Inanna's "protection and intercession"30 against Lugalanne: "Oh my divine impetuous wild cow, drive out this man, capture this man!"31

A literary technique in which Enheduanna chooses to identify herself in similar terms to Inanna brings her ever closer to her goddess. She indicates their shared affilitation with the high-priesthood and with beauty first, with regard to Inanna:

"Righteous woman clothed in radiance, beloved of Heaven and Earth,
Hierodule of An (you) of all the great ornaments,
Enamored of the appropriate tiara, suitable for the high priest-hood"32

With regard to herself, she then recounts separately the loss of her crown and of her beauty: "He stripped me of the crown, appropriate for the high priesthood."33 "My mellifluous mouth is cast into confusion. My choicest features are turned to dust."34 This technique reaches a climax at the end of the poem when Enheduanna seems to merge with Inanna and it is unclear who is "sumptuously attired" or if both of them are, we do not know who is who:

"The day was favorable for her, she was clothed sumptuously,
She was garbed in womanly beauty.
Like the light of the rising moon, how she was sumptuously attired!"35

Perhaps this poem would be better named "The Exaltation of Enheduanna"!

One final approach to evaluating the theme of personal god(dess) in this poem is to compare it to the neo-Sumerian letter-prayer- a method of individual prayer to one's personal god. The stylistic similarities established by Hallo consist of "(1) complaint (2) petitions(3) protests and (4) persuasion to reinforce the appeal." 36 The complaint was mentioned above: "(But now) I am placed in the lepers' ward, I, even I can no longer live with you!" The petition(s) concern asking Inanna to intercede on her behalf: "Oh, my divine impetuous wild cow, drive out this man." The protests are characterized by Enheduanna's arguing her cultic piety and high priestly rank:

"Verily I entered my holy giparu at your behest,
I, the high priestess, I, Enheduanna!
I carried the ritual basket, I intoned the acclaim."

To further elucidate, the following citation illustrates all three of these categories, each identified in italics:

"I may no longer reveal the pronouncements of Ningal to man (complaint)
(Yet) I am the brilliant high priestess of Nanna, (protest)
Oh my queen beloved of An, may your heart take pity on me!"37 (petition)

The fourth category, persuasive tactics or acts of repentance, are the most emphasized by Enheduanna. First, she begins by reciting the me's described above and which she refers to several times:

"Sustenance of the multitudes, I have verily recited your sacred song!
True goddess, fit for the me's, it is exalting to acclaim you.
Merciful one, brilliantly righteous woman, I have verily recited your me's for you!"38

Next, she offers a prayer or a lamentation:

"Surely she will assuage her heartfelt rage for me.
Let me, Enheduanna, recite a prayer to her.
Let me give free vent to my tears like sweet drink for the holy Inanna!"39

Later, she attempts to soften Inanna's heart by appropriately setting up a ritual that evokes the sacred marriage rite:

"One has heaped up the coals (in the censer), prepared the lustration
The nuptial chamber awaits you, let your heart be appeased!

And finally, she offers the ritualistic recitation and singing of this song (preferably in public):40

"I have given birth, oh exalted lady, (to this song) for you.
That which I recited to you at (mid)night
May the singer repeat it to you at noon!"41

All of this effort, ultimately succeeds in swaying Inanna:

"The first lady, the reliance of the throne room,
Has accepted her offerings
Inanna's heart has been restored"42

As the only point of contrast, a resolution is not inherent to the structure of a letter prayer which can be seen as a private request . A hymn, however, is intended for public recital and, therefore, this "happy ending" would have have served as positive reinforcement that earnest repentance leads to the "appeasement" of Inanna's heart. The similarities with letter-prayer are uncanny and may be an indication of the latter's origins. As a theological tool, Exaltation of Inanna outlined a model of successful personal prayer with no apparent conflict to Inanna's status as chief deity. One could further speculate that Enheduanna, commissioned by Sargon or Naram Sin, sought to propagate Inanna's supremacy among the greater gods as well as among the personal gods- aiming at a 'super-supremacy', so to speak. Hegemony of prayer, both public and private, would serve as a religious counterpart to hegemony of empire.

Analysis of the theme of personal god in Enheduanna's cycle of hymns reveals a very clear theological progression from the simple, straightforward presentation of Inanna as a third millenium ruler goddess, in Inanna & Ebih, to a more complex presentation of Inanna as both ruler goddess and personal goddess in Exaltation of Inanna. The level of complexity is enhanced in the latter, by a substantial inclusion of the details of Enheduanna's plight which lend dramatic tension and inrigue to the poem. Enehduanna's personality breathes life into the flat, predictable, iconic third millenium depictions of Inanna, achieving a feeling of closeness to the goddess. This may have been a Sargonic strategy to popularize and spread the cult of Inanna. In any case, it is highly effective from a literary perspective and as the culmination of Enheduanna's oeuvre, it is no wonder that :

"For [...]her speaking [Exaltation of Inanna] to the Hierodule [,Enheduanna]
was exalted[!]"43


1) Hallo & Van Dijk, Exaltation of Inanna, 1968, p.9. I will not elaborate on the exact political consequences of Enheduanna's writings nor will I try to prove which historical events she may be referring to. The focus of this paper is on the use of metaphor to elucidate the concept of personal god and the political/religious dimension.

2) Jacobsen, Treasures of Darkness, 1976, p.21

3) This ordering of the hymns with Inanna and Ebih as first does not reflect the order found in Mark Cohen's publication of the literary catalogue AUAM 73.2402 where it is listed as second. He does not know if the catalogue's order is significant [Literary Texts From The Andrews University Archaeological Museum, RA 70, 1976-77, p. 131-132] so I will retain the order offered by Hallo [Exaltation of Inanna, 1968, p.3] as it supports my argument.

4) Sjoberg, "in-nin-sa-gur-ra A Hymn to the Goddess Inanna by the en-priestess Enheduanna", Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie #65, 1974, p.163

5) Jean Bottéro, "Victoire d'Inanna sur l'Ebih" , Lorsque les dieux faisaient l'homme, l. 23, p.220. *** In case it is proper to offer an english translation here is my own and it is rough: "Me, too, I'd like to celebrate the good wishes of the queen of battle, the eldest daughter of Sin".

6) Ibid, l.29-35, p.220.

"Since it [Ebih] didn't kiss the ground in front of me,
Nor did it sweep the dust before me with it's beard,
I will lay my hand on this instigating country:
I will teach it to fear me!"

7) Ibid., p.220

8) Ibid., l. 98-102, p.223

"I'll bring war [to Ebih], I'll instigate combat,
I'll draw arrows from my quiver,
I'll unleash the rocks from my sling in a long salute,
I'll impale it [Ebih] with my sword"

9) Ibid., l.172-176, p.225

"Also, I erected a temple,
Where I inaugurated important events:
I set up an unshakeable throne!
I gave out dagger and sword to...(?),
Tambourine and drum to homosexuals(?),
I changed men into women!"

10) opcit, Jacobsen, p.147

11) opcit., Sjoberg, l. 219, p.199

12) Ibid, l. 246-7 & 250, p.199

13) ibid, l. 254-5, p.201

More footnotes to be input.... This is a paper I wrote for a class on the History of Mesopotamina Religion

Old notes on Ninmessara:

Enheduanna then proceeds to describe Inanna's violent nature appropriate of a Goddess of War as in the previous poems.

17. Devastatrix of the lands, you are lent wings by the storm.
18. Beloved of Enlil, you fly about in the nation.

28. In the guise of a charging storm you charge.
29. With a roaring storm you roar.

Enheduanna addresses what happens to those, eg. Mount Ebih, who do not defer to Inanna.

43. In the mountain where homage is withheld from you
vegetation is accursed.
44. Its grand entrance you have reduced to ashes.
45. Blood rises in its rivers for you, its people have nought to drink.

Enheduanna then describes what Inanna, in her role as Love Goddess, has inflicted upon the city of Uruk.

51. Over the city which has not declared "The land is yours,"
54. (You) have verily removed your foot from out of its byre
55. Its woman no longer speaks of love with her husband.
56. At night they no longer have intercourse.
57. She no longer reveals to him her inmost treasures.

Enheduanna now states her plea to Inanna:

66. Verily I had entered my holy giparu at your behest,
67. I, the high priestess, I Enheduanna!
68. I carried the ritual basket, I intoned the acclaim (?ahulap)
69. (But now) I am placed in the leper's ward,
I even I, can no longer live with you!
72. My mellifluous mouth is cast into confusion.
73. My choicest features are turned to dust.
74. What is he to me, oh Suen, this Lugalanne!
75. Say thus to An: "May An release me!"
77. This woman will carry off the manhood of Lugalanne.

Enheduanna tells us that Inanna asked her to be a high priestess and live in the holy cloister, giparu. She mentions some of the duties of the high priestess: carrying the ritual basket, intoning the ahulap, which is sometimes translated as a sacred incantation (Goodnick, 1987). A discussion about Enheduanna's role as high priestess is forthcoming.

Then she refers to a historical event when Lugalanne, siezed control from Sargon, her father, and she was banished from her temple. As a result of losing her connection to Inanna, Enheduanna mourns that she lost her beauty. For further discussion about the Goddess of Love and her sacred servant or "sacred prostitute", see Corbett's excellent book,
"The Sacred Prostitute Archetype".

Enheduanna mentions Inanna's anger toward her as in the previous poem:

80. Surely she will assuage her heartfelt rage for me.
81. Let me, Enheduanna, recite a prayer to her.
82. Let me give free vent to my tears like sweet drink
for the holy Inanna!

Enheduanna pleads with Inanna to help her because Nanna refuses to.

100. As for me, my Nanna takes no heed of me.
101. He has verily given me over to destruction in
murderous straits.
104. (Me) who once sat triumphant he has driven
out of the sanctuary

109. Most precious lady, beloved of An,
110. Your holy heart is lofty, may it be assuaged on my behalf!

Enheduanna laments that in this state of unrest, she is unable to perform her role as high priestess:

118. My hands are no longer folded on the ritual couch,
119. I may no longer reveal the pronouncements of Ningal to man.
120. Yet I am the brilliant high priestess of Nanna,
121. Oh my queen beloved of An, may your heart take pity on me!

The "ritual couch" alludes to the sacred marriage rite in which she receives
Ningal's premonitions and then shares them with the one who is requesting
the information. Further discussion about the sacred marriage rite is in progress.

Finally, at the end of the poem, Enheduanna has been restored to her position.

143. The first lady, the reliance of the throne room,
144. Has accepted her offerings
145. Inanna's heart has been restored
146. The day was favorable for her, she was clothed sumptuously,
she was garbed in womanly beauty.
151. For that her (Enheduanna's) speaking to the Hierodule was exalted,
152. Praise be (to) the devastrix of the lands, endowed with me's from An,
153. (To) my lady wrapped in beauty, (to) Inanna!

Her beauty has also been restored, thanks to Inanna's intervention. However, it is interesting that the lines are blurred as to whether Enheduanna is speaking of herself, of Inanna, or of both of them- as though they have somehow merged. Throughout these hymns, she speaks highly of herself eg. line 120: "I am the brilliant high priestess of Nanna"; line 104: "(Me) who once sat triumphant". She knows she is important and powerful and like Inanna, she is not shy about expressing it. And so perhaps, she mirrors Inanna's rise in the pantheon, and raises herself to a higher level: from priestess to goddess.


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