Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. Goddess of love. Morning and evening star. the daughter of the God Nanna, the moon god and The Moon Goddess, Ningal.

Inanna, the original goddess. Inanna comes from Sumerian myth.

The most current and, IMHO the better of most translations is by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. titled: Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer. ($14.00 cover price, avail from or any other bookstore, ISBN:0-06-090854-8)

Inanna reappears throughout history as Aphrodite, Venus, Mary, Cleopatra, Juanita, and Bill Gates (ok, not really bill gates...) Among many others. Infact there can be drawn a link between Inanna and almost every Goddess in any sumerian influenced culture.

This book is about birth, wisdom, death, and rebirth. When compared to traditional western christian ideology Inanna encompasses a very erotic and passionate myth. The hymns of Inanna range from sex to death to stealing knowledge from the gods. Inanna is claimed to be responsible for the seasons, the rise and set of the sun, and almost every other natural event that takes place on earth. Indeed it can be said, Inanna is Mother Earth.

Definitely worth a read. I recently started to read it again after finding a considerable amount of refrences to Inanna in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, hence the Juanita thing. (ok, the raft is the underworld, hiro is dimuzi, rife is bill gates. That leaves Y.T. or Juanita to be Inanna... you decide)


"...clothed with love, feathered with seduction, a goddess of joy."

The Mesopotamians made their home in the fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers a thousand years before the birth of Christ. They began mankind's long transition from an agrarian society to a more urbanized lifestyle. The seeds of many of humanity's greatest accomplishments were planted during the height of their civilization, including writing, art, monumental architecture, and new political forms.

The city of Akkad was located to the north of the Fertile Crescent, while Sumer was located to the south, at the delta of this river system. Early attempt to unify the various city-states of Sumer and Akkad were made, resulting in a merging of the scattered gods and goddesses worshipped at that time into one pantheon. The goddess Inanna brought together the older Fertility goddess, and the more commanding, powerful goddess of Love.

Inanna, also known as Ishtar, was possibly the most influential goddess of the ancient world. She was worshipped by the people of Sumer and Akkad as the queen of Heaven and Earth, and as the goddess of Love and the Morning Star. Though she was the patron and protector of the city of Uruk, Inanna was revered and worshipped throughout the Mesopotamian valley. The story of her life, from early adolescence to godhood, was carved on a series of cuneform tablets by the people of ancient Mesopotamia. It is a familiar tale, similar to that of many of the moon goddesses throughout history. Inanna progresses from a headstrong, daring, and sexually potent young woman to a strong, motherly figure who revels in her feminine powers. Finally Inanna matures into a wise, aged goddess who faces death in the underworld. It is the timeless tale of a strong woman, maturing in an often chaotic world. The story of Inanna remains a powerful and compelling one today. 

Three of her stories are told below, chosen from various stages of her life. They are based on an excellent translation by Diane Wolkstein, a well-known folklorist, and Samuel Kramer, one of the world's greatest experts on the ancient Sumerians. Each story includes my short summary, followed by the abridged Sumerian verses.

The Huluppu-Tree

Inanna's story begins when she is young, and possesses no power beyond that of her own will. She finds a huluppu-tree] floating in the Euphrates river, and decides to bring it to Uruk, where she is living. She plants it in her garden, and cares for it as the years pass.

A woman who walked in fear of the word of the Sky God, An,
Who walked in fear of the Air God, Enlil,
Plucked the tree from the river and spoke:
"I shall bring this tree to Uruk.
I shall plant this tree in my holy garden."

Inanna cared for the tree with her hand.
She settled the earth around the tree with her foot.
She wondered:
"How long will it be until I have a shining throne to sit upon?
How long will it be until I have a shining bed to lie upon?"

After this time, however, the tree is threatened by three beings; a serpent 'who could not be charmed,' an Anzu-bird, and the goddess Lilith. Inanna calls upon her brothers for help. She goes first to Utu, the Sun god, and tells him the story of finding and caring for the tree, only to have it invaded by a series of rather persistent creatures. Utu refuses Inanna, and she goes next to Gilgamesh, the shepherd-king of Uruk. After hearing her tale, he agrees to help her rid her tree of the three creatures, and they set out together. Gilgamesh battles the serpent, Anzu-bird, and Lilith, and succeeds in driving them from the huluppu-tree.

Gilgamesh fastened his armor of fifty minas around his chest.
The fifty minas weighed as little to him as fifty feathers.
He lifted his bronze ax, the ax of the road,
Weighing seven talents and seven minas, to his shoulder.
He entered Inanna's holy garden.

Gilgamesh struck the serpent who could not be charmed.
The Anzu-bird flew with his young to the mountains;
And Lilith smashed her home and fled to the wild, uninhabited places.
Gilgamesh then loosened the roots of the huluppu-tree;
And the sons of the city, who accompanied him, cut off the branches.

Afterward Gilgamesh carves a throne for Inanna, using the trunk of the huluppu-tree. This is the first story of Inanna, and she has begun the long process of evolving from a mildly helpless young girl into a powerful, grown woman. She comes away from the whole incident a little stronger, a little wiser, and richer by one throne.

Inanna and the God of Wisdom

Inanna is still young, but she is beginning to realize her potential and seek greater power. She decides to visit Enki, her father and the god of Wisdom, at his shrine in Eridu. Enki's servant, Isimud, welcomes Inanna as an equal per Enki's instructions, and then she and her father get drunk together in the Abzu (Enki's shrine in Eridu). Intoxicated, Enki begins offering Inanna gifts such as the throne of kingship, truth, and the art of lovemaking; known as the me. The me, though never directly defined, seem to include control or understanding of every facet of life, and abilities far beyond those any mortal possesses.

Enki, swaying with drink, toasted Inanna:
"In the name of my power! In the name of my holy shrine!
To my daughter Inanna I shall give
The high priesthood! Godship!
The noble, enduring crown! The throne of kingship!"

Inanna replied:
"I take them!"

Enki raised his cup and toasted Inanna a second time:
"In the name of my power! In the name of my holy shrine!
To my daughter Inanna I shall give
Descent into the underworld! Ascent from the underworld!
The art of lovemaking! The kissing of the phallus!"

Inanna replied:
"I take them!"

(This continues for quite awhile, followed by three pages of Inanna acknowledging, one by one, the fourteen me that her father has given her).

Once he's sober, however, Enki realizes that he has been tricked and robbed by his own daughter. Angered, he sends his servants after the Boat of Heaven to retrieve the me. Inanna, with the help of her servant Ninshubur, manages to prevail against the creatures that her father had sent. She continues on her way back to Uruk, only to have Enki again send his servants after her. She and Ninshubur face the fifty uru-giants, the fifty labama-monsters, the sound-piercing kugalgal, and the enunun. No dice. Despite Enki's best efforts, Inanna and Ninshubur arrive safely in Uruk, still in posession of the fourteen me.

Isimud spoke to Inanna:
"My king has said:
'Let Inanna proceed to Uruk;
Bring the Boat of Heaven with the holy me back to Eridu.'"

Inanna cried:
"My father has changed his word to me!
He has violated his pledge - broken his promise!
Deceitfully my father spoke to me!
Deceitfully he cried:
'In the name of my power! In the name of my holy shrine!'
Deceitfully he sent you to me!"

Scarcely had Inanna spoken these words
When the wild-haired enkum-creatures {seize|seized] the Boat of Heaven.

Inanna called to her servant Ninshubur, saying:
"Come, Ninshubar, once you were Queen of the East;
Now you are the faithful servant of the holy shrine of Uruk.
Water has not touched your hand,
Water has not touched your foot.
My sukkal who gives me wise advice,
My warrior who fights by my side,
Save the Boat of Heaven with the holy me!"

Finally, as Inanna is announcing the me, Enki appears on the scene. All things considered, he handles the situation well; Inanna is allowed to keep the me, and the alliance between the people of Eridu and the people of Uruk is renewed and strengthened. Inanna has come into her own; she has the worship and adoration of all Uruk along with, of course, the holy me. As an added bonus, she also has a powerful new alliance with the god of Wisdom, whom she had just finished robbing blind.

Then Enki spoke to Inanna, saying:
"In the name of my power! In the name of my holy shrine!
Let the me you have taken with you remain in the holy shrine
of your city.
Let the high priest spend his days at the holy shrine in song.
Let the citizens of your city prosper.
Let the children of Uruk rejoice.
The people of Uruk are allies of the people of Eridu.
Let the city of Uruk be restored to its great place."

The Descent of Inanna

Inanna, in a later story, decides to descend to the underworld. She is going to comfort her sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the underworld, and to witness the funeral rites of Gugalanna (the aforementioned husband). Inanna has reached the apogee of her power. She faces death as much because it is the next step in the slow cycle of life, as because of a familial duty. During her descent, she is stripped of everything she possesses, and finally allowed, 'naked and bowed low,' to see Ereshkigal. Her sister, blinded by grief, doesn't recognize Inanna, and kills her on the spot. This is the first truly 'dark' story in Inanna's life, reflecting a growing maturity and loss of childhood purity. Even the language, the word choice, reflects this change; the Inanna of this story is much older, has seen far more, than the Inanna who so innocently cared for the huluppu-tree.

Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.
Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgement against her.

Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.

She struck her.

Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.

Before she left for Ereshkigal's domain, however, Inanna had given her old servant Ninshubur very specific instructions. After three days, Ninshubur was to set up a lament for Inanna, tear at herself, and travel to Inanna's fathers for help (Inexplicably, Inanna has three 'fathers.' Two of them are actually her grandfathers, however). She hangs in the underworld for the three days, and then Ninshubur begins her rounds. She visits the Air god Enlil first, and is immediately denied. Then she goes to Nanna, the Moon god, where she receives the same response. Finally she travels to Enki's shrine, and without hesitation he agrees to help.

Ninshubur went to Eridu and the temple of Enki.
When she entered the holy shrine,
She cried out:
"O Father Enki, do not let your daughter
Be put to death in the underworld.
Do not let your bright silver
Be covered with the dust of the underworld.
Do not let your precious lapis
Be broken into stone for the stoneworker.
Do not let your fragrant boxwood
Be cut into wood for the woodworker.
Do not let the holy priestess of heaven
Be put to death in the underworld."

Father Enki said:
"What has happened?
What has my daughter done?
Inanna! Queen of All the Lands! Holy Priestess of Heaven!
What has happened?
I am troubled. I am grieved."

Enki makes creative use of the dirt under his fingernails to fashion two creatures, a kurgarra and a galatur. He gives them, respectively, the food of life and the water of life, and then sends them into the underworld with very specific instructions. They are small enough to fit through the gates of the underworld, and they approach Ereshkigal directly. She is still grieving for her husband, moaning and wailing alone in her throne room. The kurgarra and the galatur mimic her moans, and she interprets this as sympathy. Pleased and grateful, she offers the two creatures a gift. As Enki had directed them, they ask for the body hanging on the wall. Ereshkigal agrees, and they leave with Inanna.

She (Ereshkigal) groaned:
Oh! Oh! My belly!"

They (the kurgarra and the galatur) groaned:
"Oh! Oh! Your belly!"

She sighed:
"Ah! Ah! My heart!"

They sighed:
"Ah! Ah! Your heart!"

Ereshkigal stopped.
She looked at them.
She asked:
"Who are you,
Moaning - groaning - sighing with me?
If you are gods, I will bless you.
If you are mortals, I will give you a gift.
I will give you the water-gift, the river in its fullness."

The kurgarra and galatur answered:
"We do not wish it."

Ereshkigal said:
"Speak then! What do you wish?"

They answered:
"We wish only the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall."

The corpse was given to them.

The kurgarra sprinkled the food of life on the corpse.
The galatur sprinkled the water of life on the corpse.
Inanna arose....

Inanna dies and is resurrected, passing through to another phase of her life. After this story, she leaves behind any semblance of childhood, along with many of the pretensions she had previously. She has passed through death, and come out the other side stronger than ever before. Inanna's tale, continuing well beyond her descent into the underworld, remains an inspiration, as well as a powerfully evocative story today.


WOLKSTEIN, Diane and Samuel Kramer. (1983) Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth. New York. Harper & Row, Publishers.
SITCHIN. (1995), pg. 167.
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