Inanna, goddess of ancient Sumer

 Inanna, Ancient Goddess of Sumer

Inanna, Queen of Heaven, tricked her father Enki (the God of Wisdom) into giving her his instruments for civilizing mankind. These tools included the valuable Tablets of Destiny.  Enki tried to get them back, but with no success.  Inanna was now all powerful, but she felt very lonely. 

Soon the beautiful Inanna had two suitors—a farmer named Enkidu and a shepherd named Dumuzi.  They both lavished gifts upon her, but the delicate, soft woolens from Dumuzi tipped the scales in his favor.


Inanna decided to visit the Underworld to see her sister Eriskegal whose husband, the God of Death, had recently abandoned her. Inanna felt for her sister's loss, but did not look forward to the trip because the sisters had never gotten along. She wisely informed her most trusted servant that if she did not return within three days, he should appeal to the highest deities to rescue her.

When Inanna arrived at the first gate of the Underworld, the gatekeeper demanded her crown.  At each of the six gates she reached as she descended further into the Underworld she was required to give up another piece of her attire. 

At the seventh gate she stood naked and vulnerable in front of her sister.  Eriskegal was furious that her sister had never visited her before and impulsively killed Inanna on the spot, hanging her corpse on the wall behind her throne. 

When Inanna did not return, her servant appealed to Enki, who fashioned two tiny creatures from the dirt beneath his fingernails.  He sent them into the Underworld carrying the Food and Water of Life. 



Inanna & Eriskegal

The creatures soon came upon Eriskegal, who was deep in grief, mourning the loss of her beloved husband. They were quick to acknowledge her pain and to comfort her with kind words. 

Eriskegal was so touched by their concern that she offered to give them anything they wanted. They asked for the corpse on the wall and soon they were feeding the lifeless Inanna the Food and Water of Life.  Revitalized, Inanna requested that she be allowed to return to the world.  Eriskegal consented, but only on the condition that someone return to take Inanna’s place.

7 Seals of Inanna

Inanna ascended through the seven gates, collecting all of her possessions as she went. Her crown once again upon her head, she returned home to find that in her absence her beloved Dumuzi had usurped her throne.  In a fit of rage, she sent him to take her place in the land of the dead.

       After cooling off a bit, Inanna decided perhaps she had been a bit rash and went to get him back.  Since she now realized that Inanna’s visit had been to express compassion to her, Eriskegal agreed to let Dumuzi return home—but for only half of each year.  Each year Inanna must descend again into the Underworld to resurrect her consort and to renew her vitality. Given new life by his consort, Dumuzi returned to earth as the God of Vegetation.  Fortunately he was allowed to return to earth each spring in time to insure the fertility of the land.

At each gate Inanna was required to shed a piece of her identity—a possession that symbolized an important role or relationship in her life, a part of her identity, the face she showed to others. One of the important lessons of the goddess Inanna is that, if we are to remain in touch with our true selves, we must divest ourselves of our attachments to the "outer world" and travel inward.

The goddess Inanna represents the many facets of being a woman and the myriad of roles they play. She is a powerful example of a courageous mode of being that is unafraid to face the changes that are required during the course of a woman’s life.  As one who courageously traveled into the dark places of the soul, she can be our guide in times of tribulation.


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