Inanna, Queen of Heaven: From Girl to Woman to Goddess

18 Dec

I have been reading stories, texts, and analyses on Inanna for a few years now. I have been trying to write something where I can share everything I digested, but it has been hard. I was talking to a wise friend of mine one day, complaining that how as an Assyrian woman caught between two cultures (Assyrian and American) I was equally conditioned by, I did not have a proper role model. She suggested I look into my history for one, my very ancient history. This first led me to Queen Shamiram, also known by her Greek name as Semiramis, and by her ancient name Simmu-Ramat, meaning “my high name”.  In bringing her to life by reading about her, I myself was brought to life. This woman of the Fertile Crescent had enthralled me with her tales of bravery, strength, intellectual cunning, and reigning ability.

I was quite satisfied with Shamiram, but I was led to someone else. Ishtar was the road I was led down, and I did not know then that this road would be one that never ended.

The oldest known deity, borne of the first civilization on Earth, Sumer, where her name was Inanna. Worshipped for thousands of years by all. It is even said that Solomon of the Old Testament had a temple for her.

I found stories about her, myths written as poems of devotion, and I soon came to see that they were instructions for life. But not before being in awe of her as a result of the feats she accomplished and fearlessness she displayed.

This was a woman. Powerful, fearless, worshipped, praised, conquering, daring, creating, blessing, cursing, avenging, destroying, restoring, and resurrecting.

And it is now time for her story to be told.

I have decided to write this in the simplest way possible, to counteract out the over-complicated way she has been written about many times.

Inanna, was the first known deity in the world. She comes from Sumer, in Mesopotamia “the Cradle of Civilization”.  You see, back then, there was an equal emphasis on both the female and male aspects of divinity.

Then, one “day”, there was a mass rejection of the Goddess, and it happened all over the world, and the first place this happened was in Sumer. The myths and stories changed, and in them the male god was rejecting, ridiculing, and even raping the Goddess. This happened to Inanna in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is revered as a very important myth, also from Mesopotamia.

The stories of Inanna are very important to us, and they are revered by scholars and experts as great milestones for the advancement of human consciousness.

There are many stories about her, however I will discuss the major ones. Perhaps the Epic of Gilgamesh was not intended as a hero story as was thought by scholars, perhaps it was not even about Gilgamesh, perhaps it was about Inanna. It was about her, by her NOT being in it – meaning: it was telling us what our life would be without her (without goddess as well as without the feminine aspects of being that include art, love, and compassion) in it – lost and in disaray like Gilgamesh, always fighting, mourning, wandering, and dying. I will return to the Epic of Gilgamesh lastly, but first:

***INANNA AND SHUKALETUDA***  No one knew about this story. I found it by accident. The Inanna afficianados I know didn’t know about it either. That’s because it was never published in the books written by Sumerologists, in the heyday of Sumerology, not even by THE Inanna expert himself, Samuel Noah Kramer. It was probably considered too taboo and inappropriate, which in reality tells of its importance. Inanna is raped by Shukaletuda. But this story is so refreshing, because she does not remain a victim. She quickly becomes avenger and by being the avenger she is the bringer of justice. Shukaletuda becomes terrified of her. He runs and hides in terror, knowing that he will be found and killed. Inanna does not go after him however, until she gets permission from her father Enki. We live in a world where attacks happen all the time, all kinds, on women as well as men. We are told to go to therapy, to write about our feelings, or to confront our attacker if we can. But Inanna’s way of coping is so much more primal. And it is primal in a way that we still relate to and connect with it. She does not hide, she does not become depressed, she does not blame others for allowing it to happen, she takes it as an opportunity to go into battle, to reclaim herself from her attacker. I am not suggesting that those who have been attacked or victimize in any way to do the same thing, but I am suggesting that we implement our rage more, which is even what psychologists suggest. Think about how you can utilize your rage to become more whole, to reclaim yourself from all that you feel has taken parts of you, or taken all of you. Rage is a voice, and it rights wrongs. Think about how your rage can bring about justice to your life, as well as to others’.

http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/myths/texts/inanna/shukaletuda.htm

**INANNA AND ENKI** The story of Inanna and the ME recovered from Enki, resembles a bit the story of Lot and his daughter of the Old Testament, where she, in order to repopulate the world, gets her father drunk and seduces him so that she can become pregnant.

http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.3.1#

 

***INANNA’S DESCENT***

This story was extremely important, so much so that it was reenacted in religious plays for a few thousand years. It was the first story humankind heard about – resurrection – life after death. This story gave us the concept of rebirth and spiritual immortality.

http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/myths/texts/inanna/ts94.htm#part4 

 

***THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH***  The Epic of Gilgamesh is known as one of the most earliest works of literature. It is praised as being an important poem for its description of the human condition, with all its questions, anger, and sadness over  mortality. But, perhaps it is yet another Inanna story, and it is a story about her by her not being in it. To me, her absence dominates the story, as much as her presence does in other ones. I believe it is about what happens as a result of our rejection of both the Feminine as well as feminine aspects of life. Gilgamesh becomes lost and confused and miserable and with great sorrow both over the death of his best friend, as well as with the reality of his own immortality.

I will link you to a condensed version of this tale, which was by the way, identical to Homer and the Illiad and was written a long time before it. I will also summarize it for you, because as I mentioned we will only be looking at it to see its importance to Inanna.

Gilgamesh is a powerful and loved king. No one is stronger than him. One day he meets a “wild savage” of a man named Enkidu. Enkidu becomes civilized by spending some sort of time with a woman. Some believe that woman is Inanna, but it might not be. Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best friends, going on adventures together, and they even end up slaying a huge beast by the name of Humbaba together. The gods are not happy that this beast has been slayed, so Enkidu dies as punishment. Gilgamesh completely falls apart, he is lost now without his friend. He sets out on another quest, this time to find a plant that will give him immortality, because not only is he devastated over the death of Enkidu, but he has also understood that he too will one day die. He goes to see a man who has been given immortality by the gods as reward for being pious, he is an older version of Noah of the Old Testament, and he has been living in the mountains ever since he survived the flood.

This man’s name is Utnapishtim, and he tells Gilgamesh what he needs to do to get the plant that will give him immortality. Gilgamesh follows his instruction, and swims to the bottom of a lake to retrieve this plant, but when he gets there, the plant is not there, instead there is a snake, and it seems to have taken the plant already. The End.

You should be wondering by now where how Inanna plays into all of this, as she was not even mentioned. You see, at the beginning of the story, when Gilgamesh is feeling very bold because he’s got his sidekick with him, Inanna comes out and asks him if he would like to be her lover. Gilgamesh rejects and insults Inanna in the most vile way, partly citing the doom all her past lovers met. Inanna is enfuriated, and she asks her father Enki to send her a Bull from Heaven. Enki grants this request, and the Bull of Heaven is fierce, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay him and throw his limbs at her. And that is all we hear of Inanna in the Epic of Gilgamesh, save for the woman who civilizes Enkidu, and a mysterious woman Gilgamesh meets at a tavern when he is on his quest for immortality, but it is not certain that they are her.

In very old times, people first worshipped the Goddess, or they worshipped God as male AND female, but when the rise of patriarchy happened, centuries ago, the Goddess aspect of Divinity was completely rejected. All the stories were changed to show the Goddess as a harlot, or as a wife of God. So, she was either beneath him in a degraded way, or beneath him in a servile way.

Many people believe that the Epic of Gilgamesh is just another one of these instances; just another story written demonstrating the shift of the role of the goddess in mass consciousness by her being rejected in the story. I however, have a different theory. I think that even the Epic of Gilgamesh is another Inanna tale, where she is Hero. She is rejected in the beginning and her Bull of Heaven is slain, but the story does not have a happy ending for Gilgamesh. He is left wandering the earth, and when he finally goes where he is to go to get what he wants, he sees a snake instead. The snake is one of the ultimate symbols of Inanna, and of the Goddess in general.

So there you have it, that is my theory, and here’s the Epic of Gilgamesh:  http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gilgamesh/

Inanna is very abstract as a figure, so I will describe her in abstract ways. I will use random words and concepts she is associated with so you can have an idea as to what she is about:

War

Sex

Death

Descension

Ascension

Resurrectiom

Praise

Glory

Sacred prostitution

Beer

First

Goddess

Non-maternal

Fertile

 

This post is a work in progress, Iwill be changing, fixing, and adding things as I see fit. Your comments are welcome.

The reason I have tagged other goddesses is because so many, if not all, come from Inanna. Inanna became Ishtar, then Astarte then Venus…and so on. There is a hint of Inanna in all the female deities, and this makes sense because she was the first.

Note: I have just learned that the Wikipedia page for Inanna has been updated and now has the story of Shukaletuda. Please visit this page and all others if you wish to get a fuller understanding of Inanna, and I of course suggest you do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inanna

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3 Responses to “Inanna, Queen of Heaven: From Girl to Woman to Goddess”

  1. E.K. Carmel January 29, 2012 at 12:12 #

    I just found this post as I was doing a search of Sumer and really enjoyed it. I’ve been interested in Inanna for a couple years, since I started informally researching Mesopotamia in general. I’ve read quite a bit of what is on the gatewaystobabylon site, too, as well reading Kramer and Jacobsen. I sometimes wonder what if religion had continued on its female-centric (or even just -inclusive) basis? History would have been very different.

    • ritatherandom February 4, 2012 at 12:12 #

      Hello, EK! Thank you so much for the comment and for the kindness! I am very pleased that you enjoyed this post!

      As I mentioned in the post, it needs a bit of tweaking and fixing but I wanted to publish it regardless of its imperfections because if I waited until it was “perfect” no one would ever see it 🙂

      Even though Kramer never got around to writing on all of the Inanna texts, (for which I do not blame him, as there were many) he is still my favorite Inannite. I always sensed he had a deep passionate fervor for her that underlaid his very scholarly way of writing.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for subscribing!!!

      Rita

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    […] would like to  read about this one if you’re reading about Saraswati, please see this post https://ritatherandom.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/inanna-queen-of-heaven-from-girl-to-woman-to-goddess/ GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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