Myths: Descent of Inanna

Gilgamesh and the Death of Gugalanna

1          Gilgamesh, with his blue black beard and strong arms was well known as a powerful warrior. He was the wise king of Uruk  and had long fought against criminals and evil men. He had also made a name for himself in wrestling and other contests of strength.

2          One day Gilgamesh’s mother, the goddess Ninsun , handed him his Axe of the Road  and told him to wash it in the river by the juniper trees. This was a task that he had carried out many times before, and one he had grown quite used to.

3          To do this he would need to row a boat down the river and through the marshes. When he was done he would take his axe and cut down several trees that grew there and bring them home. He brought with him his mother’s and his sister Pectur ‘s sheep that he intended to sheer.

4          The queen of heaven was residing in the Apsu and noticed the powerful lord of Uruk as he went. “I will have you Gilgamesh. You will be my man and I will never let you go. You will be mine to do with as I will. I won’t let you go to my temple, An’s cherished E-anna , and pass verdicts. I will not let you preside over the Gipar courts.”

5          As Gilgamesh went he heard Inanna’s longings. He was offered several favors by the powerful and influential queen of heaven. As he traveled he communed with his mother and told the goddess what he had heard.

6          “Do not let her gifts enter the house,” Ninsun advised. “Her tender touch would weaken your warrior’s arm.” Ninsun knew that the goddess of war would not help her son’s warrior nature if she was sleeping with him.

7          Gilgamesh listened to his mother and turned his attention to Inanna. “Great lady, you must not prevent me from carrying out my duties. I will go to the mountains and fill your holy pens with wild sheep and bulls, but I will not become your lover. I will even fill your treasury with silver and carnelian.”

8          Inanna snorted angrily. Her anger began to rise and the color drained away from her face until it looked like tamerisk. She was not used to being refused. She was particularly not used to being refused by the lord of her own favorite city.

9          Returning to An’s domain, the queen of heaven shed tears before the god of heaven. She hoped that An would come to the aid of his cherished goddess. She was like a favorite child to him.

10        “Why are you crying dear Inanna?” An asked of the weeping goddess.

11        “It is Gilgamesh, he’s a bull on the rampage in Uruk. All I wanted to do was give myself to him, ” Inanna pleaded invoking the city where An had a Ziggurat, and the city where An had given her the Eanna. “Look at me,” she pleaded, “I’m crying. All I ask is that you give me the bull of heaven to kill the lord of Uruk.”

12        “Gugalanna would have no food on earth. His food lies at the horizon where the sun rises.” An knew that the bull of heaven, An’s own divine canal inspector, would destroy the land. His hooves could be heard as thunder in the storms.

13        “Then I will scream until your realm falls down upon the earth.” At that, Inanna began to scream. Her scream was unlike the screams of any other creature. Her screams were terrifying. It covered the land like a blanket.

14        An was forced to comply to Inanna’s wishes if for no other reason than to calm her down. There was nothing that could be said to her to calm her down. She wanted what she wanted and no mere words could explain to her that she could not have it.

15        “I will give Gugalanna, the bull of heaven, to you as you wish,” he told her knowing that there would be problems.

16        Taking the reins of the bull of heaven, Inanna headed away from heaven and towards Uruk. She pulled him along insistently like an ox driver. Ereshkiga’s husband, Gugalanna, the divine canal inspector of An, was being treated like an unruly pet.

17        He consumed all of the water in the Engilua canal and stripped the countryside bare of grass. He consumed Uruk’s date palms and everything else that he could get a hold of. Nothing could quench his godly appetites.

18        The sheep of the goddess Ninsun, and those of Pectur broke free of their pens and ran in fear out into the countryside. Their fence had already been destroyed by Gugalanna in his rampaging.

19        Gilgamesh’s musician, Lugal Gabangal, having seen what Inanna had done, ran from the scene of devastation. He needed to tell the lord Gilgamesh of the trouble as quickly as he could. The king needed to know that his lands were being ravaged.

20        When he reached his lord, Lugal Gabangal found that he was drinking with his adviser Enkidu. He attempted to tell his lord, but his master did not hear immediately.

21        “My musician. Come join us. Get your lyre ready. I would love to hear a drinking song.”

22        “Drink!” replied the musician. “Drinking is your problem. That’s why you can’t keep your mind on something more important!”

23        “Fill my bronze goblet with beer and join us in revelry,” Gilgamesh urged.

24        “My lord Gilgamesh, you may eat, and you may drink, but that has nothing to do with me.”

25        “What is so important then?” Gilgamesh inquired of his musician.

26        “Inanna has brought the bull of heaven down to earth. He is drinking the water from the canals for miles and eating everything that grows in all of the city of Uruk.”

27        “You did well,” Gilgamesh stated becoming instantly more alert.

28        He ran from his chambers out into the countryside where the devastation was taking place. Enkidu followed only a moment behind him. His beautiful city was being destroyed and he needed to put a stop to it.

29        “Gugalanna!” Gilgamesh taunted. “Yes, I’m talking to you. I am going to cut you into pieces for the butcher. I am going to feed the entire countryside with your carcass. Your horns are going to be turned into oil flasks for Inanna’s temple.” The bull bellowed in rage at Gilgamesh’s words. Who was this mortal to threaten him?

30        Inanna watched from the tops of the city’s walls as Gilgamesh taunted her bull. She may have been treating him badly, but Inanna counted the bull as her friend. She cared for him the way a master cares for his servants.

31        Gilgamesh took the bull’s head in his powerful arms while Enkidu circled around behind the great beast. The people of Uruk were prepared with ropes to take the beast down when their heroes had stopped it. They were quickly covered with the dust that the bull kicked up.

32        “Strike him now Gilgamesh,” Enkidu called when he had taken hold of the bull’s tail. “Your mother the goddess Ninsun outdid herself when she took to having children, and your nurse maid made you strong when she suckled you and your little sister Pectur! Don’t be afraid of this warrior. He has no strength. Take your Axe of the Road and strike him down.”

33        Gilgamesh struck the god down with his enchanted Axe. The bull of heaven reared up from the strike and over balanced. The blow was so powerful that he spattered the head of the creature all over the countryside where blood came down like rain.

34        “I have killed the bull of heaven, and I will now destroy you.” As he beheld the carnage, Gilgamesh was angered at the cause. Events beyond his control had caused him to kill a majestic god to defend his city. He took his knife in hand and cut the hind leg off of the bull and flung it at the queen of heaven. As it impacted the wall, the ramparts were destroyed, but Inanna was only angered.

35        When he was done, he did what he said he would with the body. The poor and starving of Kullab  and the greater Uruk area were fed with the meat of the bull. Meanwhile Pectur, Gilgamesh’s little sister, took it upon herself to rebuild the countryside. She brought the cattle and sheep back to the countryside and repaired much of the damage that the bull of heaven had wrought.

Dumuzi and Geshtin-anna Part 1  

1          “Let’s go to Inanna’s lap.” The demon called the small demon spoke to one called the large demon.

2          Deciding that this was a good idea, the pair of destructive forces entered Unug and grabbed Inanna. They had decided to encourage her to go down to the underworldwith them, and they knew exactly how to tempt her to do it.

3          “You’ve always wanted the realm of Ereshkigal. If you sit on both the throne of heaven and the throne of the underworld just think of the power that you will have.”

4          The great goddess Inanna was tempted but she was not convinced. Ereshkigal had just lost her husband and it had been partially her fault. Inanna could be self centered at times, but she was not stupid. She was a warrior and she knew that attempting something like that would be difficult.

5          “Go to the underworld, but do not wear any of your fine clothes as that would be inappropriate.” They advised her of the proper behavior in the underworld as though one proper act could cancel out an improper one.

Descent of Inanna Part 1

1          Inanna’s friend the Bull of Heaven had died. Gilgamesh had killed him and had desecrated his powerful body. Inanna had been the one who had demanded that he be sent after Gilgamesh. His funeral would be soon.

2          From her place in heaven Inanna set her attentions to the underworld. She would not only have to abandon heaven the realm of An, but she would also have to abandon earth the realm of Ki.

3          Before Entering the underworld Inanna the queen of heaven would need to set her house in order on earth. She abandoned her offices of rulership and ladyship. She abandoned all of the places that she held dear, such as the place of sanctuary in the city of Unug, the house of cultivated land in Bad-tibira, and the house of Shara in Adab.

4          Collecting her seven divine powers Inanna continued on her way. She held the lapis lazuli rod and cord that were symbols of her office. She was dressed in all the fine things that were her due.

5          She wore a turban for travel in the open country. Upon her head she placed a wig to enhance her hair. She donned a necklace of lapis lazuli beads. On her breasts she placed a matched pair of egg shaped beads. She wore a dress to show off her godly aura that was the garment of ladyship. She wore an alluring mascara around her eyes. Over her chest she placed an elegant pectoral pendant that would invite men to come to her. She wore a ring of gold on her hand.

6          At her side was her minister Ninshubur. This god gave her good advice and served as an intermediary between her and those who wished to gain an audience with the great goddess.

7          “Listen closely my minister Ninshubur. I am going to give you careful instructions that must be followed carefully. I am going to the land of Kur today. You must go to the ruin mounds and lament my absence. Beat drums for me in the sanctuary, and go to each of the houses of the gods. Lacerate yourself in mourning for me.”

8          “Go in order to E-kur and lament before Enlil. If Enlil the god of the winds will not help then you should go to Urim to Nanna. If the moon god will not help, then go to Enki in his city in Eridug. Plead before each of them, and ask each of them not to let anyone kill their young kinswoman who they love in the underworld. Doing this would be like letting their precious metal be alloyed with the dirt of the underworld, letting their lapis lazuli be split on the masons stone, or letting their precious boxwood be chopped by the carpenter. Lord Enki the wise knows about plants and waters that revive life. He will be the one who will restore my life.”

9          Ninshubur agreed to do each of these things. He was intensely loyal as all ministers must be. Even his name identified himself as a servant among the gods.

10        “Go now. Remember everything I have told you.”

11        Inanna finally reached Ganzer, the palace where the underworld met the world of the living. Before her was the gate of Neti. The first of the gates of the underworld.

12        “Open up Neti. I am alone and I would like to enter this realm.” Inanna banged on the door and yelled at the gate keeper. She pushed against the door as a demonstration of her awesome strength.

13        “State your name.” Demanded Neti to assert his authority.

14        “I am Inanna of the East.”

15        “If you are Inanna of the East, then why have you traveled to the border of Kur, the land of no return? What is in your heart that you should place your feet on this one way road?”

16        “As you well know Gilgamesh has slain Gugalana, the bull of heaven. He was the husband of Ereshkigal and he was my friend. I am here to oversee his funeral. I am here to give water and beer to the dead.”

17        “Why should I believe you?”

18        “Listen here gate keeper, open the gates for me! If you do not open them I will break them down. I will smash the door and destroy the latch. I will crush the door frame and ruin the hinges.” To drive home the importance of her threat Inanna added, “I will go into the underworld and build an army of the dead. They will enter the land of the living in greater numbers than the living and they will take their nourishment from the living.”

19        “Don’t break the doors down. Stay here and I will inform my mistress Ereshkigal.” Neti, door man of the first and most important of the seven gates of the underworld, responded to the goddess of war.

20        Returning to the palace of Ereshkigal deep within the underworld. Namtar, Ereshkigal’s minister let him pass to give his message. He crossed the great courtyard and approached the throne room of his mistress.

21        “My lady, your kinsman Inanna queen of the east is outside the gate at the palace of Ganzer. She is the one who disturbs the waters of the Apsu in Enki’s presence. She wishes to come into the underworld, and she is demanding admittance. She is dressed elegantly and has with her the seven divine powers of her office. She abandoned her place of sanctuary to come here.”

22        Biting her lip in concentration she considered the words of Neti. Inanna had been the goddess who had commanded that her husband be sent against Gilgamesh in the first place, and Ereshkigal had not forgiven her. In the eyes of the queen of the underworld Inanna did not have the right to even attend the funeral.

23        “Let her through, but bolt each of the doors before and after she comes through,” instructed the vindictive widow. “At each gate take an item of her fine clothing from her. It is improper for her to be dressed in such finery in the land of the dead.”

24        Heading back to his post Neti secured each of the seven doors. With the preparations made Neti opened the gate to Inanna on Ereshkigal’s orders. “Come and enter.”

25        Stepping through the doorway Inanna was shocked when the gate was closed and secured behind her. Neti forcefully took Inanna’s rod and cord.

26        “What is the meaning of this?” Demanded Inanna of her attacker.

27        “Quiet! This is according to the custom of the underworld. You must not raise your voice against the rules of the underworld.” Inanna had broken two different rules. She had raised her voice and she had taken fine clothes into the underworld.

28        At the second gate she was again assaulted by the gate keeper. The door that she entered was only open long enough for Inanna to go through it. This time the gate keeper removed some of her jewelry. Again Inanna was outraged at the transgression against her.

29        With each passing gate another thing was taken from her. Finally at the seventh gate her clothes were taken from her. She stood naked and powerless before the land of the dead. Inanna crouched down after her cloths had been taken away.

30        Inanna of the east was no wilting flower to shy away from danger simply because she wore no clothing. She boldly entered the underworld, and headed straight for Ereshkigal’s home. None of the dead rose a finger to stop her. She entered into the city of Urugal.

Dumuzi‘s Dream Part 1

1          In the land of the living Dumuzi the shepherd lay down to sleep. He was offered a special dream while he slept, but it was not a dream that he wanted to have. In the morning Dumuzi woke up with such terror that when he awoke he ran out into the countryside with his shepherds stick on his shoulder to scream out the torment of what he had seen.

2          “Grieve for me countryside. Let the marshes cry out and let the crabs and the frogs in the river lament. My mother Durtur  will call for me, but she will not know I am dead. If she has not found out then let her and my sister know what has happened.”

3          Rubbing his eyes Dumuzi realized that the vision he had seen had been a dream. He realized that he had been sleeping. He requested that his sister Geshtin-anna  be brought to him. His sister was wise in the way of dreams and might be able to help.

4          “I had a dream,” Dumuzi told his sister. “In this dream there were reeds reaching out for me. One reed was shaking its head at me and another was being separated from me. Over my head I saw a forest of tall trees rising up and closing in on me.”

5          Dumuzi continued relating how he saw water being poured over his holy coals. He saw his sacred cup being taken down from its peg and his shepherd’s crook was missing.

6          Dumuzi had died and the spirits were upset. In his absence a lilitu owl demon had swooped down to take one of his sheep. A falcon killed a sparrow on his reed fence. All manner of hauntings disturbed his flock. The order of the universe had been disturbed.

7          “Don’t tell me anymore,” his sister answered him. “Your dream isn’t favorable. The reeds coming up for you are those who have bad intentions for you. The reed shaking its head is your mother, and the one who was separated from you is me.” Dumuzi could not have been more terrified at what he heard from his sister.

8          “The tall trees,” she continued, “in the forest rising up all around you are sinister men catching you within their walls. Your sheep will live in a house of silence. I know this from the waters being poured over your holy coals. From the Owl demon I also know that there will be thieves who will steal your sheep after you have gone. Some of the rest speaks of how those around you will mourn you in your passing. I for one will lacerate myself to mourn your passing.”

9          Dumuzi had not spent more than a moment in thought before he made a decision that he could act on. “Sister, I want you to go to the ruins, but I do not want you to go there as you might normally. Lacerate yourself as a mourner might. When you see the demons that are hated by men get rope from the nearby river barge and bind them in such a way that no man may know how to untie it.”

Descent of Inanna Part 2

31        Inanna, as one of the great seven, was still more powerful than Ereshkigal. She demanded that Ereshkigal stand up from her throne. Once the queen of the underworld had stood up Inanna placed herself upon the throne of Ereshkigal.

32        She intended to take the realm of the underworld for her own, but the seven judges of the underworld had witnessed what she had done. They rendered their decision against the queen of heaven. They looked at her with a look of death, they shouted at her angrily speaking of the guilt that she should feel for her actions. Inanna had removed herself from the place where she belonged and had attempted to take a place where she didn’t belong.

33        Namtar  came up to Inanna and carried out the judgment against the goddess Inanna. She had broken the most sacred laws of hospitality and had stolen from her host. Namtar turned Inanna into a corpse and placed her on a hook for his mistress. His mistress then fashioned a water skin out of the flesh.

34        Three days passed and Inanna’s minister Ninshubur had grown concerned. The funeral of the bull of heaven came and went. Had things gone according to plan Inanna would have come back by now.

35        In the time that Inanna had been gone, domesticated animals did not mate. Men didn’t seek out prostitutes. Romantic couples slept in their own room. throughout civilization nobody sought out intercourse. Inanna’s power was gone from the land.

36        Remembering the instructions of his mistress, Ninshubur lamented Inanna’s passing in each of the ruins that she had indicated. Ninshubur beat a drum in mourning in each of her sanctuaries. He even lacerated herself to show his sadness at the passing of her mistress.

37        Ninshubur headed off to E-kur, the house of Enlil. He was dressed in a single piece of clothing as though he were impoverished. Ninshubur entered the house of Enlil and lamented.

38        “Great Enlil, don’t let the underworld kill your precious Inanna. Don’t let your precious metal be fused with grave soil. Don’t let your valuable Lapis Lasuli be smashed under the mason’s stone. Don’t let your boxwood be chopped by the carpenter.”

39        Rather than drawing Enlil’s sympathy, Enlil grew angry. “Inanna wanted power. She went to Enki and gained power in heaven. Her thirst was not quenched though. She thirsted for even more power. When she set her eyes on the great below she was attempting to grab too much. Her frivolous greed was one step too far. She bullied her way into the underworld and now she has to stay there.”

40        Enlil was the lord of the gods. He might not have been the eldest, but he was responsible for maintaining the integrity of all of the realms. Inanna had threatened the integrity of the underworld, and she had transgressed against the hospitality of Ereshkigal. What was more, she used the death of her friend as a ploy to gain power.

41        Ninshubur left because Enlil would not help Inanna. His next hope would be to go to the temple of Nanna, Inanna’s own father, in Urim. He sought out the E-mud-kura and then sought out the house of Nanna.

42        “Nanna, father of my mistress, don’t let the underworld keep your daughter. Don’t let the soil of the underworld be mixed with your precious metal. Don’t let your lapis lazuli be crushed on the mason stone. Don’t let the carpenter chop up your valuable box wood.” As before Ninshubur pleaded as he was instructed before one of the seven great gods.

43        The words of Ninshubur were not news to Nanna. The moon god knew what had happened in the underworld and did not approve. Nanna cared for Inanna and her brother Utu, but he knew that there were some things that he could not let his daughter get away with.

44        He knew that Inanna was a goddess of war, but there were some crimes that could not be forgiven so easily. She had attempted to force Ereshkigal from her throne and rule it by force and by trickery.

45        “My daughter wanted to rule in heaven and she managed it. She demanded that An give her the bull of heaven to smite Gilgamesh, and she got it. When she set her hungry gaze upon the throne of the underworld she went too far. The seven have the power to decree fate, they should not combine that power with the power over the underworld as well. When someone goes to the underworld, who expects to come back?”

46        Departing for Enki’s center of worship in Eridu, Ninshubur was again disappointed by his failure. He took heart in the fact that Inanna did not think that they would help. His hope was tied into the faith that Inanna would be right about Enki, and that the god of wisdom would help his mistress.

47        Arriving in the holy city of Eridu, Ninshubur entered the house of Enki . As before he lamented the death of his mistress. He likened the death to the wasting of fine metal, to the shattering of the precious blue stone, and to the chopping of rare and useful wood.

48        “What has she done now? I worry about her.” Contemplating the dire predicament of Inanna, Enki set his mind to freeing the woman.

49        Enki picked the dry clay that had collected under his fingernail and constructed a matched pair of votive statues. The first one was called Gala-Turra, and the second one was called Kur-Garra . The first of the two was a priest of lamentation who was young and unassuming. The second, Kur-Garra, was a master of burial ceremonies, and was a larger individual. To Kur-Garra he gave a life giving plant, and to Gala-turra he gave the water of life.

50        “Go and travel to the underworld. Fly through the gates like flies and travel through the hinges like phantoms.” Enki instructed his creations. “You will find Ereshkigal in mourning. When you see her give her comfort.”

51        The two mourners glided past Ganzer, through the seven gates, and into the underworld. They reached the city of Urugal without being challenged. They could have been ghosts, except that ghosts were barred from the underworld and condemned to walk the earth unless granted passage through the gates.

52        “My heart,” cried Ereshkigal in anguish when the pair came upon the fearsome lady.

53        “You are troubled my lady? You mentioned your heart.” They spoke soothing words to her and gave her comfort.

54        Ereshkigal took comfort in the words of Enki’s creations. They gave her comfort when nobody else would. Her husband had died, and instead of receiving sympathy she received an invader after her throne.

55        Ereshkigal wanted to know more about the only people to have sympathy for her loss. “Who are you? If you are gods I will walk with you. If you are humans then may you have a favorable destiny.”

56        “Do you swear to this by heaven and earth?”

57        “I do,” she replied without hesitation. “I can give you a river and all its water to drink. Perhaps a field and all its grain. What do you want?”

58        “All we want is a little drink,” Kur-Garra pointed towards the water skin that Ereshkigal had fashioned out of the dead form of Inanna. “We would like to drink it from that piece of beaten flesh that you have hanging on that hook.”

59        “I take it that the corpse is your queen.” Ereshkigal assumed that the pair was from Inanna’s city of Uruk.

57        “It doesn’t matter if that corpse was our king, it is what we want.”

58        “What she did to me hurt, but not compared to what you have just given to me. Take it.”

59        The shining Ereskigal got up from her throne and reached far above the heads of the mourners and took Inanna’s abused corpse from the hook. The pair gave Inanna the food and water of life. Inanna returned to life.

60        “Get her out of my presence before I regret my decision.” Hurriedly the two votive statues did as they were advised.

61        It was not Ereshkigal though that barred Inanna’s return to the living world. The Anuna would not let Inanna escape from the underworld unchecked. They stood in her way as she attempted to escape from the land of Kur. “Nobody ascends to the world of the living without losing something. If Inanna wants to return to the land of the living then let her provide a substitute.”

62        Pieces of the underworld detached themselves and flanked Inanna as she exited the underworld. In front of her was a galla demon with a scepter even though he was not a minister. Behind her, in the place where a proper escort would have been, was a galla demon with a mace. All around her were large demons and small demons.

63        The Galla demons were a frightening force. These were the bailiffs of the underworld. They had no need of food or drink. They had no loves, and they had no offspring. They enjoyed nothing and held nothing but their duty sacred.

64        They would take a woman from her husband, and a son from a father. They would even take an infant from the breast of a wet nurse. They could not be bribed. Galla demons only cared about maintaining the laws of the underworld.

65        As Inanna exited from the palace of Ganzer at the entrance to the underworld Ninshubur threw himself at Inanna’s feet. He was clothed in a single filthy garment and was mourning Inanna.

66        “Inanna, you are free to go back to your city of Uruk. We will take this one.”

67        “You cannot have this one. This is my minister, and my spokesman. It is because of him that I am even able to emerge from the underworld at all. He lamented my passing and pleaded to the great gods that I might be restored. It was his weeping before Enki that allowed me to return to life. How could I let you have him? Let us instead travel to Umma.”

68        From Ganzer the demons traveled through the mortal realm to the holy city of Umma. They traveled to Ceg-Kurcaga to the place where Shara the hero of An lived. Shara was more than just a warrior though, he had a taste for the finer things and was a perfect complement to Inanna. If the queen of heaven, un-mother-like as she was, could be described as having a son this could quite possibly be who he would be.

69        Seeing the return of his mistress the great Shara threw himself at Inanna’s feet in his own city. At her feet she saw how he had dressed him in mourning as her minister had. This god had truly missed her and was not simply pretending.

70        “Now you may proceed to your city. This one will well serve as your replacement.” stated the galla demons.

71        “Shara is my singer, my manicurist, and my hairdresser. He makes me happy, I couldn’t turn him over to you. Let us turn instead to Bad-tibira to see what we can find in the house of cultivated land.

72        The city of Bad-tibira was Lulal ‘s city. Lulal was normally a sweet man and his name brought to mind a tongue of pure honey. As with his counterpart in Umma, he had been in mourning. He was not as overflowing with sweetness as he might have been.

73        When he threw himself at Inanna’s feet in rejoice Inanna remembered the things that she liked about him. As with Shara, she loved this man almost as though he were her son. “The radiant Lulal follows me loyally. How could I give him to you? Let’s continue on. Let us go on to the great apple tree that’s in the plain of Kulaba.”

74        Inanna led them to where the wealthy shepherd Dumuzi sat beneath the tree. He was clothed in fine robes and sat comfortably enjoying the shade from his place on a throne. It was obvious that he did not mourn the loss of his dear wife.

75        Seeing the demons, Dumuzi offered to play the flute for them, but they would not be bribed even by the songs of the gods. The fact that he was attempting to save his own life rather than to rejoice at return of Inanna was bitter.

76        “How much longer are you going to continue on embarrassing yourself?” Inanna asked and handed her husband over to the demons to take away.

77        Dumuzi turned his head upward and pleaded for the help of Utu the sun god. He had a good friendship with Inanna’s brother and he needed his help. “Utu, you are my brother in law. I brought milk to the house of your mother Ningal. I am in the clutches demons. If you change me into snakes I can escape. I am pleading for your help.”

78        Utu listened to Dumuzi and transformed him into a number of snakes. Slithering through the grasp of the demons, Dumuzi escaped. The demons gave chase, but Dumuzi was more agile.

Dumuzi‘s Dream Part 2

10        “The demons are coming for you brother!” Dumuzi’s sister cried in warning. “Hide in the grass,” she advised.

11        “Don’t tell them where I am.” Dumuzi hid in the grass and pleaded for his sister not to reveal his presence to the Galla demons. He huddled in the ditches of Arali  and hid amongst the junipers.

12        “If I reveal your location to those demons then may your dog eat me. The big black lordly mastiff sheepdog.” Having mentioned that fearsome dog she thought of something, “Go to the house of your friend. When you are there be sure to give instructions regarding that dog of yours.”

13        “My friend, of course!” Dumuzi leapt from his hiding place and sought out a better one at the house of his friend.

14        The ones coming after Dumuzi were ceaseless in their pursuit. They were incapable of caring for the pleasures of the world of the living. These were the Galla, and several of them pursued Dumuzi. One was called the little demon, one was called the big demon, one was the wise demon, one was strangely called the lively demon, and there were others.

15        As one they spoke almost mater-of-factly. “We have seen this since the most ancient times. The sister will not reveal his whereabouts. Let us go instead to his friend who will be hiding him.”

Dumuzi and Geshtin-anna Part 2

6          As they searched for Dumuzi the small demon decided to talk to the large demon. “We galla demons have no parents or siblings. When the gods placed man on earth weren’t you there surrounding him like a reed curtain?”

7          The large demon silently agreed with his smaller companion. Though he hadn’t spoken a word the small demon continued to talk about how great and ancient the demons were.

8          “We are never forced to be kind, and we don’t have to distinguish between good and evil.” Though they were talking, or the small one was at least, they didn’t stop searching. “Moreover, we are good at our jobs.”

9          The large one looked at him as if to ask him to explain. To him they weren’t good at their jobs, they simply were. They existed and that was enough.

10        “Who, without his family, has ever escaped from us? Can you think of one?” That gave the small one an idea. “This one will go to his family. Let us ignore his friends and in laws and keep an eye out instead on Geshtin-anna’s house. This one will return.”

Dumuzi’s Dream Part 3

16        When the group of demons got to the place where Dumuzi had been heading they attempted to bribe him with a rivers worth of water and a field’s worth of grain. The friend accepted these bribes and told the Galla demons where his friend was hiding. “He ducked his head into the short grass but I don’t know where exactly. Look somewhere in the ditches of Arali.”

17        The demons were dedicated to the hunt and they found Dumuzi after some time searching. Dumuzi was tearful when he was apprehended. He was pleased with his sister, but angry with his friend. “My sister saved my life, and my friend betrayed it. If my sister should somehow leave a child in the street may someone have sympathy, but if this happens to a child in the care of my friend then I wish for none to do this.”

18        Surrounding him they drained the water away from the reeds near him. One demon prepared a net, another prepared a rope. With practiced efficiency they bound him up as if he were little more than a hunting prize.

19        Again the wealthy lord Dumuzi turned his head up towards Utu his brother and pleaded. “Dear brother in law. Change me once more, but this time transform me into a gazelle that I might escape to Ku-birec.”

20        Utu looked down from his chariot in the sky where he served as patron god of the sun, and took pity. He transformed Dumuzi into a gazelle and showed him mercy. In this form Dumuzi was able to escape.

21        The demons immediately sought him out but they did not immediately find him. They did however find him. They knew to seek him out in the Ku-birec. They caught up to him and again bound him.

22        Once more Dumuzi sought aid in his brother in law, and once more his request was granted. Dumuzi escaped in the form of a snake and sought out the house of the old woman Belili .

23        “Old woman!” Dumuzi pleaded. “I am not just an ordinary man. I am the husband of a goddess. Would you give me water and flour please. I am hungry and thirsty.” Belili did as she was asked. In so doing she gave Dumuzi hospitality within her house.

24        After a time she took her leave of the house and was seen by the demons. They saw that she was looking frightened and remembered that Dumuzi had been seeking her help. They spoke amongst themselves and decided that if she was not looking for Dumuzi she was hiding him, and they decided that she was too frightened to be looking for him.

25        Coming to the home of the old woman they once again apprehended their most elusive prey. Their capture was not long last, because Utu’s sympathy had not run out. When Dumuzi once again asked for help he was changed into a gazelle. This time he wanted to head to his sister’s sheep fold.

26        Dumuzi reached the fold of his sister and his sister was lacerating herself in mourning. Her anguished wailing could be heard throughout the land.

27        As one they observed that Dumuzi’s sister was screaming in a frightened way. The demons decided to invade the sheepfold and the cow pen. Dumuzi had come back to this flock of sheep and that was the obvious hiding place.

Dumuzi and Geshtin-anna Part 3

11        Back at the home of Geshtin-anna the large demon and the small demon were observing Dumuzi’s sister. She was barely finished with her lament when the pair descended upon her and began interrogating her.

12        “Where is your brother?” Demanded the small one, but the sister of the shepherd god didn’t answer.

13        She would not betray her brother as others might. The demons tortured her with afflictions of the skin. The demons scratched her with their torturous claws. The demons even attempted to flay some of the skin on her back side, but she would not speak to them. Pouring tar into her lap did nothing to loosen her tongue.

14        The large demon and the small demon decided to wait for him in the sheep fold. Eventually Dumuzi entered to find the pair. They had sharpened copper axes and they smashed everything that they could.

Dumuzi’s Dream Part 4

28        The large demon set fire to the latching bolt. The small demon set fire to the shepherd’s crook. The wise demon went among the fold of sheep and located Dumuzi’s holy churn and removed its cover. The lively demon entered after the wise demon and tore down Dumuzi’s drinking cup.

29        When the other demons entered, they saw the destruction. The churns were on their side. The drinking cup was on its side. Dumuzi lay in the center of the disaster a dead man. The galla demons had not given up and had finally gotten their prize. The terror had reached the herd of sheep and it was haunted. All of the terrible things that Dumuzi had seen in his dream had come to pass. Death was inescapable at times even for the gods.

30        Dumuzi’s corpse was wrapped in red cloth and anointed with sweet oils. The wealthy shepherd had met his end. There would be temple attendants and singers attending the beloved lord. Even Inanna, who had turned her husband over to them, would mourn him.

Descent of Inanna Part 3

79        Inanna wept bitter tears. Her husband betrayed her and she had betrayed him in return. She entered an ail house where she attempted to drown her sorrows in amongst the sorrows of others. Around her she saw many happy wives with their husbands. “Where is my husband? Where is there happiness for me?”

80        As she drank a small unassuming fly came into the room. It proposed an offer to Inanna. As a goddess Inanna had the power to listen to and grant requests. As one of the seven great gods she had more power than most.

81        “If I show you where your husband is what can I expect from you as a reward?” Asked the fly.

82        “In the beer houses may the bronze vases overflow for you. You will live as wealthy man as though you were the son of a wise man,” decreed Inanna.

83        Shedding tears, Inanna came to where her husband had been hiding and turned him over to the demons of the underworld. “You will not be gone from the world forever. Your sister Geshtin-anna has agreed to spend half the year in the land of the dead to replace you in accordance with the laws of the underworld. Give praise to Ereshkigal for this concession.”

Inana and Bilulu

1          With Dumuzi gone Inanna was heartbroken. It was true that he had not mourned her, but the reverse was certainly not true. She missed her husband deeply. She lamented loudly and passionately. Her tortured cries could be heard in the desert. Her cries reached the house of Arali, and the city of Bad-tibira. Her cries even made it out to the flock of sheep that once belonged to Dumuzi.

2          She remembered mournfully how his eyes were always kind and how his mouth always offered her fair words. She remembered how his kisses were sweet as date candy. As she did this she cried mournfully at this terrible thing that had happened.

3          The lonely goddess Inanna of the east went to her mother Ningal for comfort. She paced back and forth before her mother and prayed respectfully to the goddess who was her mother. She laid one hand atop the other and her clothing, if none knew better, gave the impression that Ningal was the greater of the two goddesses.

4          “Mother, I want your permission to go to the sheepfold. I have seen the light of my father Nana, lord of the moon shining in a princely way.”

5          With her mother’s permission Inanna went to the flock of sheep. She went purposefully to the flock of sheep that once belonged to her husband. She was an able bodied girl and few would contemplate getting in her way.

6          The sheep of Dumuzi had been badly neglected in Dumuzi’s absence. Geshtin-anna did her best, but she could not hope to compete with the wealthy shepherd god Dumuzi in shepherding.

7          “Powerful Inanna!” cried Geshtin-anna. “The sheep of my master Dumuzi have gone to the desert, that is to say that they have certainly died.”

8          “What happened?” asked Inanna with her warrior blades close at hand.

9          “Some stranger has been returning beside my masters sheep.”

10        At this Inanna crafted a chant to sing to her husband. The chant stirred Inanna’s heart and readied her for battle. Her husband’s flock had been violated and she was going to avenge them in the name of her husband.

11        Inanna was more than a goddess of passionate love. She was a goddess of passionate war. She descended upon Gir-Gire, the son of the old woman Belili like a lioness. She came upon the prospering intelligent man with no warning as he was adding Dumuzi’s flock to his own.

12        As he was loading his stolen grain he was talking to Shirru  of the haunted desert. This bandit who nobody would claim was speaking freely to Gir-Gire. The two were business associates.

13        Rage filled Inanna. Her husband had not been dead for long at all. Belili had not only been one of the first to know, she had been one of the few to grant her husband hospitality when he needed it. The fact that she had failed to keep her husband safe only fueled her hatred.

14        She would put to rest Dumuzi’s grave site. She would calm the spirits that haunted his flock. Inanna’s weapons were drawn in anger against Belili in her place in the haunted desert.

15        To one such as Inanna the battle was not worth mentioning. The victory, and the vengeance was all that mattered. The old lady, her son, and the desert dweller were all dead and Inanna had no remorse.

16        Inanna entered the bar and took a seat. As one of the seven who decree fate she took a special interest in the ones she had killed. She drank from the red beer of Ninkasi herself and considered the fates of those who had angered her.

17        “Get away from me. I have killed you. I will also destroy your name.” she said to the old lady. “I want your flesh to be used as a skin for cool water in the desert.” As she spoke the destiny that she had asked for was fulfilled. Belili is not her true name, it is merely the name that she has been called.

18        She thought about the old lady and her son. “The both of you will haunt the desert and protect it.” The two would become a minor god and goddess of the desert.

19        Finally her attention came to Shirru. She contemplated the barbarian. He did not know the ways of the city so was barely worth notice, but he had angered her. “You will walk the desert and keep track of flour. Whenever water or flour is spilled in offering in the desert you will offer it to my husband Dumuzi.”

20        Each of them was condemned to walk the earth. None of the three could enter the land of Kur, the underworld. They had not been offered a decent burial and their souls had been condemned by order of the seven to haunt the desert for as long as the desert should last. As Inanna had decreed Dumuzi was given offering from the haunted desert and this is where he rose again from the grave, and where his sister Geshtin-anna entered the underworld.

That was Epic

While not technically an epic, this is a rather convoluted series of myths. Generally when people look into the descent of Inanna they read just the descent. In the central myth Inanna goes down to the underworld, dies for some reason, and is brought back to life. Once back alive she sees Dumuzi and gives him over to the Galla.

Imagine if you picked some book you had never read before, flipped to some chapter in the middle and pretended it was the entire book. This is what you end up doing when you only focus on the descent itself and ignore the rest of the surrounding myths.

Inanna: Master Strategist or Spoiled Princess?

Her actions clearly show her to be a spoiled princess, but her actions are also a clear power grab for the underworld. Ignoring for the moment the final outcome of the invasion, Inanna’s actions are either a calculated and well engineered attempt to take Ereshkigal’s throne, or an incredibly lucky series of events leading a greedy goddess to the brink of immense power.

What if the answer were something else entirely? Inanna is one of seven who decree fate. She can not only look into the future to a limited extent, but she can manipulate destiny. She might be ruled by her emotions in the moment, but at the same time powerful enough to play the long game.

This isn’t actually an Inanna myth.

OK, she is the central character for the most part, but if you look at the direct translation the central myth, the actual descent, is dedicated to Ereshkigal. Think about that for a moment and it will put the entire myth in a different light. Inanna set her eyes upon the underworld and barely made it home, Enki saved Inanna by giving compassion to Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld didn’t fight the goddess of war and still won, and the final inscription was to her.

Ereshkigal is not one of the seven who decree fate, but she is the mother of the god of fate and death. Inanna, Ninhursag, and Ki are all powerful goddesses, but Ereshkigal might just be the single most powerful female figure in any mythology.