The Vegetation Gods of Antiquity Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein The next part of the Inanna myth sets a pattern seen over and over in religions throughout the ancient world involving the ritual death of a god, usually male, in the fall and his resurrection in the spring, or sometimes at the winter Solstice, with his resurrection three days later.  It is in many cultures associated with the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage of the god-king with the goddess-queen; as noted above, the portion of the poem which celebrates the fecund union of Inanna and Dumuzi represents this sacred marriage. (For more information on the vegetation gods of the ancient world, see Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, first published in 1890 and republished in many editions since.) In order to be allowed to return to the upper world, Inanna must provide a proxy to take her place in the underworld.  The spirits that are sent with her to claim a victim first suggest Ninshubur, but Inanna demurs because Ninshubur has been responsible for her resurrection via Father Enki.  The spirits next suggest her two sons, who meet her on the road; but they obviously have really missed her, as they are in mourning wearing sackcloth and ashes.  Finally, Inanna reaches the palace, where she finds her husband, the shepherd king Dumuzi (who exists under the name of Tammuz in later myths, as Inanna becomes Ishtar); Dumuzi is carrying on business as usual at the palace, and Inanna, upset that he isn’t mourning for her, designates him as her proxy. The rest of the story unfolds in the succeeding poems.  Dumuzi runs away, but he is finally caught and taken to the underworld.  His sister offers to take his place, however, and eventually Inanna relents and allows brother and sister to share the role of proxy, each for six months of the year.  Thus the stage was set for the recurring ritual marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi, carried out each spring in Mesopotamian religion, in which the king of the land mated with the high priestess of the goddess.  This pattern of death and resurrection of the god/king was repeated over and over in the ancient world, from culture to culture.  In many of the cultures, the ritual marriage took place in the spring.  And in the fall, in various cultures, there is certainly the possibility that a proxy of the king was sacrificed so that the land could be fructified with his blood. We will have occasion several times in the course of the class to see again the patterns both of the sacred marriage and of a god’s sacrifice being associated with the fructification of the earth. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily