• Heather Mills Messner

Goddess Profile: Inanna/Dissent/Descent


This edition of Aífe features Inanna (Ishtar), the Sumerian goddess of love and war. Discontent with staying where she is and what she rules over, she travels down to the netherworld. Before her descent, she adorns herself with seven lapis lazuli decrees, including a crown, a breastplate, and a necklace. Her sister and hated enemy is the ruler of the netherworld. Once there, the guide strips her of all the decrees, and her sister kills her, hanging her corpse on a nail. Inanna’s faithful minister convinces one of the other gods to provide him with the Food and Water of Life to revive Inanna. Once revived, Innana is flanked by two demons who seek someone to take her place in the netherworld. She returns to her throne only to find her husband, still in his finery—not in sackcloth and ashes to properly grieve for Inanna. Enraged by the lack of respect, she tells the demons to seize him, and they carey him to the netherworld.

Have illuminated heavens ever been contentious enough for me? Have sun-ravaged confines of earth-bound ruling ever been enough for me? How much sweeter is dissent in the world beneath, and I am so compelled to demand the great above and to demand the great below. The bravado-wrought path has been made clear to me, when love and war become the same thing, when loveless men respond only to wine-dark wrath, when lapis lazuli decrees become me, when lions prey for my appeal. How much sweeter is dissent in the nether world, a brittle longing, a cool dark exhumation— and to demand the great above, to demand the great below.

Excerpt and infromation from Samuel Noah Kramer, “Inanna’s Descent to the Nether World” from Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 1951.


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