Goddess of the Month - Inanna


WHO IS INANNA?

Lady Inanna of the Stars by Tinnekke Bebout
Lady Inanna of the Stars by Tinnekke Bebout from DreamWeaver Gallery

Inanna I have written of before. I come back to Her again for many reasons, not least of which is the mystic journey which She offers us. Inanna's origins are indeed ancient, and it is She of Whom the oldest songs were written. Yet Her ancient origins do not make Her irrelevant to modern womyn. She is vital and vibrant, and She has so much to teach us.

The Descent of Inanna

The Descent of Inanna is one of the world's oldest tales, but the Descent is also a mystical Journey for those brave enough to face it. As Dr. Honora Finkelstein notes in her works on the myth cycle of Inanna, "A visit to the underworld, which is the theme of much literature in the ancient and Medieval worlds, is always an "ego death.""(1) The ego death is a central idea in the traditions of cultures that accepted the mystical as part of life. Vision quests and other similar experiences undertaken by those undergoing shamanic training are in the same vein as the Descent of Inanna. The Descent experience can also be a wake-up call from the Goddess if one is open to the lessons She offers you. Whether undertaken purposefully as part of Priestess training or experienced as part of a life-lesson, it strips the one who goes through it bare of illusions and masks and gets to the heart of what is true and real. It forces the one undergoing it to see without blinders or pretensions. It is not for the faint of heart, but I believe it is something we all need at one time or another.

In the Descent cycle, Inanna is first garbed in all Her glory. She wears Her finest jewels, her robe of Queenship. In some interpretations, Her raiment is said to cover Her seven chakras. As She ventures past each Gate, She is gradually stripped bare and told not to question why. "She was told, "Quiet, Inanna, The ways of the Netherworld are perfect. They may not be questioned."" - The Descent of Inanna, trans J. Bell 2004. When Inanna arrives in the realm of Her Sister and Dark Twin, Ereshkigal, She is bare of all masks; all outward signs of prestige or power are gone. She is as She was at birth. Naked. Alone in Herself. It is at this most vulnerable moment that She is seized and hung on a wall like meat for three days. It is at this time that Inanna undergoes the ego death. In some versions Ereshkigal flays Inanna's naked body and scorns Her with harsh words. At the end of this ordeal, depending on the version you find, She is either released through the good offices of Her dearest handmaiden Ninshubur who beseeched each of the Gods for assistance only to be scorned until Inanna's grandfather Enki gave her assistance or through Ereshkigal simply relenting if another would take Her place. While I love this story and both endings have historical roots in various tellings from both Sumer and Babylon, to me the release is achieved when Ereshkigal succeeds in bringing Inanna out of Herself and into a new awareness. The Ego Death itself is the release.

Inanna by Hrana Janto
Inanna by Hrana Janto from Goddess Gallery by Hrana Janto

In the cycle of the Sacred Calendar of the Mystai of the Moon, we honor various Goddesses on the full and new moons. The January Full Moon is dedicated to Inanna. This year we did honor to Inanna by going with Her on this Journey. This was accomplished through a guided meditation that took a few hours to complete. It was planned but not scripted using only the knowledge of the Guiding Priestess of the Descent of Inanna as a framework to allow a transformational experience to occur. I can say without reservation that the guided meditation we did was an amazing experience for all who participated. We used my personal version of the ending as the final part since it is most harmonious with the concept of the Journey as a mystical one.

The Journey of Inanna by Tinnekke Bebout created after Inanna Moon 2011

From Her home in the starry heavens,
Inanna determined to tread the Paths of the Underworld.
In Her palace of countless stars,
Inanna prepared Herself for the Journey.

"I will seek the Realm of Ereshkigal,
My Dark Twin, My Other Self"
said Inanna to her Handmaid Ninshubur,
Beloved and Wise Counsel to the Goddess.

"Mistress," beseeched Ninshubur,
"Tread not the Paths of the Underworld,
"Seek not the Realm of Your Dark Twin,
"Lest You never return from the Journey."

"Fear Not," replied Inanna with a gentle caress,
"O Beloved and Dear One, for the Paths will yield
"and I will return stronger than before.
"Am I not Queen of Earth and Sky? None are there who can resist Me."

In Her pride, Inanna heeded not the words
Of Her Beloved and Wise Handmaid.
In Her pride, Inanna made Herself ready
With jewels and dazzling raiments.

In Her hands, did Inanna gather the seven wands of office
That all would know Her as Lady of the Seven Sacred Cities
On Her head, did Inanna place the seven-stepped crown
That none should forget Her station

Most carefully did Inanna arrange Her dark hair
The locks silken and curling across Her forehead
Each strand in its right place
So that all who saw would admire their beauty

Many strands of lapis beads did Inanna tie
As a choker to enhance Her graceful neck
And a long double strand did Inanna add
To hang over Her proud breasts

Upon Her wrists did Inanna slip
Countless golden bangles, shining in the sun
Her finest gown of linen white did Inanna wear
The thousand pleats which flow like water

Upon Her back did Inanna place
Her Queenly robe of cloth of gold
Most carefully did Inanna rouge
Her lips and line Her eyes in kohl

Until all eyes were dazzled by Her presence and the sun did hide Her face
Thus prepared did Inanna forward step to begin Her journey
To the Dark Realm of Her Sister and twin,
Ereshkigal, Dread Lady of the Underworld

Through the forest did Inanna walk
Amongst trees blooming with fragrant blossoms
Along cool waters did Inanna walk
With birdsong filling Her ears

Then at last did Inanna find the Gate, strong and dark was it
Bound in iron and flanked by guards keeping careful watch
Boldly did Inanna step forward to the Gate
And boldy did Inanna knock upon that Iron Gate

"Who are you?" called a voice, challenging and brave
"Who are you?" repeated the voice, demanding answer swift.
"I am Inanna," did She reply, Her voice firm and sure
"Let me in, Gatekeeper Neti, for my Sister I would seek."

"The way beyond is darksome fierce, and fraught with many dangers
"Lay aside Your pride, Starry Queen, if upon these Paths You tread,"
Advised wise Neti to Inanna as She waited at the Gate
"Take off Your crown of seven steps and leave it in my care"
So Inanna removed Her brilliant crown and left it at his feet
The Gate was opened and through She passed with Neti as Her Guide
Forward did he lead Her past seven iron towers
To the Cavern of Deep Seeking, the Beginning of Her road

Then Neti spoke to Inanna fair with words of gentle warning,
"Here lies the Path to that which You seek, the Land of Your Sister Dark
"Through six more Gates must You pass before You reach your End
"Go neither right nor left as You venture on; always forward leads Your road"

Into the cavern cool and dark did Inanna go
Using Her hands to find Her way, with Her steps sure and true
Though the road was filled with temptations and dangers beyond number
Always forward did She go, remembering Neti's words.

At each Gate was She challenged and through each Gate She passed
Though stripped of raiment piece by piece until She alone remained
Clad in Beauty and in Wisdom did She finish Her Journey
But still Her pride remained

When She reached Her Sister's Court, roughly was She seized
The Dread Queen's guards placed Inanna high upon a hook
And like dead meat She hung, helpless, powerless, without hope
And Grim Ereshkigal did hold Inanna in Her stony gaze

With mocking words and cruel hard lash did the Dread Queen lay Her bare
For three long days and three endless nights did Inanna suffer death
And all Her power, all Her glory meant nothing in this place
Here Ereshkigal was Supreme, Who meant to try Her sorely

And in that time of despair did Inanna finally reach
The Place of Inner Truth whose treasures all should seek
And as She cried Her Truth for any who would hear
She learned the lesson of Her Self and was transformed, Resolute and Pure

Joyfully did Ereshkigal remove Her from that wall
And bathe Inanna in sweet waters and cover Her in roses
Embracing Her and kissing Her, Ereshkigal dried Her gently
And placed Her in a gown of the softest stuff

"O My Sister!" The Dread Queen cried with tears of happy pride
"You have found Yourself at last and found Your Inner Truth."
"Return home now, My Darling One, and forget not what You learned."
And with those words the Gates sprung open and Inanna again was free.

(1)Finkelstein, Dr. Honora M The Myths of Inanna from Her lecture series. http://www.new-wisdom.org/cultural_history1/04- mesopotamia/myths_of_inanna.htm
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