The Myths of Inanna Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein 4 - “The Descent of Inanna” This piece is the central core of the Inanna poems. There are many levels at which the poem may operate, all of which seem to have a certain amount of validity. For example, it has been suggested that the planet Venus, for which Inanna is the physical embodiment, disappeared from the sky at certain times in its progress across the sky. Inanna also says she is going to the underworld to celebrate the funeral rites of her brother-in-law, the Bull of Heaven. That Bull is the constellation we know as Taurus, and it also dropped below the horizon for a few months each year. So Inanna's trip to the underworld may initially have been conceived as a way of explaining the disappearance of these two celestial events. In this interpretation of the poem, Ninshubur may be the planet Mercury; the seven gatekeepers may be a reference to the seven heavens or cycles of the planets of the ancient world. However, it operates with a certain amount of archetypal and psychological truth as well. Inanna has now experienced two of the three archetypes of the female, for she has been shown in "The Huluppu Tree" story as a young and innocent virgin, and in "Inanna and the God of Wisdom," still as a maiden, but one who is beginning to test the possibilities of her own power. Then, in "The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi," Inanna became a sexual woman, and as we learn later in this piece, she is a mother of two sons. In this poem, she makes her descent and becomes crone/wise woman, for the experience of death and return (or rebirth) always bestows wisdom and an increase of power. A visit to the underworld, which is the theme of much literature in the ancient and Medieval worlds, is always an "ego death." (See "Inanna and Ego Death.") Inanna prepares herself to go to the underworld by putting on emblems of her power and covering her chakras with some items of clothing, etc. (See information on the Chakras.) She also asks her servant Ninshubur to go to the father gods for help if she does not return in three days. As she goes down into the underworld, she must remove one of the items of clothing or emblems of power at each gate; she then enters Ereshkigal's throne room naked and alone. And this, of course, is how any person enters the dimension of death, because, "You can't take it with you!" Inanna is judged, killed, and hung on the wall like a piece of rotting meat. When she isn't back in three days, Ninshubur goes to the father gods for help. The first two say they have no way of helping, but Father Enki, who himself once made a trip to the underworld, knows what to do—he takes dirt from under his fingernails and makes two little creatures, a kurgara and a galatur, and gives to them the water of life and the food of life. Then he sends them to Ereshkigal, saying to them: "She will be like a woman in labor; so whatever she says, repeat it back to her, and when she asks what you want, tell her you want the body of Inanna, then bring Inanna back to life. Ereshkigal is indeed in travail, as if she were trying to give birth. The little creatures enter her room like flies on the wall, but when she moans, "Oh, my back," they repeat, "Oh, your back," and when she groans, "Oh, my belly," they repeat, "Oh, your belly." And at some point, Ereshkigal realizes she is finally being heard. (This is very like the modern school of psychotherapy of Carl Rogers, who suggests repeating back to a client what that client says as a means of allowing the client to get clarity on what he or she is feeling. In essence, the person realizes he or she is being heard, and that in itself is often enough to effect healing.) Ereshkigal offers the little creatures a gift, and they ask for the body of Inanna, which they then reanimate with the food and water of life. But Inanna cannot leave the underworld without designating someone to take her place. The creatures of the underworld whom Ereshkigal sends with her suggest she designate Ninshubur, but Inanna declines, saying she cannot spare Ninshubur, who has mourned for her in sackcloth and ashes. Then they meet two of Inanna's sons, who are also mourning for Inanna in sackcloth and ashes, and in each case the creatures suggest Inanna could sacrifice one of them, but Inanna says she can't. Finally, they come to the place where Dumuzi sits on his throne. He is not wearing sackcloth; he is in his regal robes and his crown, acting as if Inanna hasn't even been away. Inanna fixes him with her eye and says: "Take him!" The rest of the poems in this cycle concern Dumuzi's attempts to run away, his prophetic dream of doom, his betrayal by a friend, his capture and death, the mourning of the women who are close to  him, and his reprieve for half the year by his sister. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily