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Inanna's Decent

The following excerpt is taken from "Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns From Sumer" by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. Harper & Rowe, Publishers.

From the Great Above she opened her ears to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ears to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below.

My lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
She abandoned her office of holy priestess to descend to the underworld.

In Uruk she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Badtibira she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Zabalam she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Nippur she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Kish she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Akkad she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.

She gathered together the seven me.
She took them into her hands.
With the me in her possession, she prepared herself:

She placed the sugurra, the crown of the steppe, on her head.
She arranged the dark locks of hair across her forehead.
She tied the small lapis beads around her neck,
Let the double strand of beads fall to her breast,
And wrapped the royal robe around her body.

She daubed her eyes with the ointment called "let him come, let him come"
Bound the breastplate called "come, man, come" around her chest,

Slipped the gold ring over her wrist,
And took the lapis measuring rod and line in her hand.

Inanna set out for the underworld.
Ninshubur, her faithful servant, went with her.

Inanna spoke to her, saying:
Ninshubur, my constant support,
My sukkal who gives me wise advice,
My warrior who fights by my side,
I am descending to the kur, to the underworld,
If I do not return,
Set up a lament for me by the ruins.
Beat the drum for me in the assembly places.
Circle the houses of the gods.
Tear at your eyes, at your mouth, at your thighs.
Dress yourself in a single garment like a beggar.
Go to Nippur, to the temple of Enlil.
When you enter his holy shrine cry out

''O father Enlil, 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 stone worker.

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.

If Enlil will not help you,
Go to Ur, to the temple of Nanna.
Weep before father Nanna.

If Nanna will not help you,
Go to Eridu, to the temple of Enki.
Weep before father Enki.

Father Enki, the god of wisdom, knows the food of life,
He knows the water of life;
He knows the secrets.
Surely he will not let me die.

Inanna continued on her way to the underworld.
Then she stopped and said:
Go now Ninshubur-
Do not forget the words I have commanded you.

When Inanna arrived at the outer gates of the underworld,
She knocked loudly.
She cried in a fierce voice:
Open the door gatekeeper!
Open the door Neti!
I alone would enter!

Neti, the chief gatekeeper of the kur, asked:
Who are you?

She answered:
I am Inanna, Queen of Heaven,
On my way to the East.

Neti said:
If you are truly Inanna, Queen of Heaven,
On your way to the East,
Why has your heart led you on the road
From which no traveler returns?

Inanna answered:
Because... of my older sister, Ereshkigal,
Her husband, Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, has died.
I have come to witness the funeral rites.
Let the beer of his funeral rites be poured into the cup.
Let it be done.

Neti spoke:
Stay here Inanna, I will speak to my queen.
I will give her your message

Neti, the chief gatekeeper of the kur
Entered the palace of Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld, and said:
My queen, a maid
As tall as heaven,
As wide as the Earth,
As strong as the foundations of the city wall,

Waits outside the palace gates.
She has gathered together the seven me.
She has taken them into her hands
With the me in her possession, she has prepared herself:
On her head she wears the shugurra, the crown of the steppe.
Across her forehead her dark locks of hair are carefully arranged.
Around her neck she wears the small lapis beads.
At her breast she wears the double strand of beads.
Her body is wrapped with the royal robe.
Her eyes are dabbed with the ointment called, "let him come, let him come."
Around her chest she wears the breastplate called "come, man, come."
On her wrist she wears the gold ring.
In her hand she carries the lapis measuring rod and line.

When Ereshkigal heard this,
She slapped her thigh and bit her lip.
She took the matter into her heart and dwelt on it.

Then she spoke:
Come Neti, my chief gatekeeper of the kur,
Heed my words:
Bolt the seven gates of the underworld.
Then, one by one, open each gate a crack.
Let Inanna enter.
As she enters, remove her royal garments.
Let the holy priestess of heaven enter bowed low.

Neti heeded the words of his queen.
He bolted the seven gates of the underworld.
Then he opened the outer gate.

He said to the maid:Come Inanna, enter.

When she entered the first gate,
From her head, the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, was removed.

Inanna asked:What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.

When she entered the second gate,
From her neck the small lapis beads were removed.

Inanna asked:What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,

They may not be questioned.

When she entered the third gate,
From her breast the double strand of beads were removed.

Inanna asked: What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.

When she entered the fourth gate,
From her breast the breastplate called "come, man, come" was removed.

Inanna asked:What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.

When she entered the fifth gate,
From her wrist the gold ring was removed.

Inanna asked:What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.

When she entered the sixth gate,
From her hand the lapis measuring rod and line was removed.

Inanna asked:What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.

When she entered the seventh gate,
From her body the royal robe was removed.

Inanna asked:What is this?

She was told:
Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.

Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.

Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started from her throne.

The Anunna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgment 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.

When, after three days and three nights, Inanna had not returned,
Ninshubur set up a lament for her by the ruins.
She beat the drum for her in the assembly places.
She circled the houses of the gods.
She tore at her eyes; she tore at her mouth; she tore at her thighs.
She dressed herself in a single garment like a beggar.

Alone she set out for Nippur and the temple of Enlil.

When she entered the holy shrine she cried out:
'O father Enlil, 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
Do not let the holy priestess of heaven
be put to death in the underworld.

Father Enlil answered angrily:
My daughter craved the Great Above.
Inanna craved the Great Below.
She who receives the me of the underworld does not return.
She who goes to the Dark City stays there.

Father Enlil would not help.

Ninshubur went to Ur and the temple of Nanna.

When she entered the holy shrine, she cried out:
'O father Enlil, 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 Nanna answered angrily:
My daughter craved the Great Above.
Inanna craved the Great Below.

She who receives the me of the underworld does not return.
She who goes to the Dark City stays there.

Father Nanna would not help.

Ninshubur went to Eridu and the temple of Enki.

When she entered the holy shrine, she cried out:
'O father Enlil, 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.

From under his fingernails Father Enki brought forth dirt.
He fashioned the dirt into a kurgarra, a creature neither male nor female.

From under the fingernails of his other hand he brought forth dirt.
He fashioned the dirt into a galatur, a creature neither male nor female.

He gave the food of life to the kurgarra.
He gave the water of life to the galatur.

Enki spoke to the kurgarra and galatur, saying:
Go to the underworld
Enter the door like flies.

Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld is moaning
With the cries of a woman about to give birth.
No linen is spread over her body.
Her breasts are uncovered.
Her hair swirls about her head like leeks.

When she cries "Oh! Oh! My inside!"
Cry also "Oh! Oh! Your inside!"

When she cries "Oh! Oh! My outside!"
Cry also "Oh! Oh! Your outside!"

The queen will be pleased.

She will offer you a gift.
Ask her only for the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall.
One of you will sprinkle the food of life on it.
The other will sprinkle the water of life.
Inanna will arise.

The kurgarra and the galatur heeded Enki's words.

They set out for the underworld.
Like flies, they slipped through the cracks of the gates.
They entered the throne room of the Queen of the Underworld.

No Linen was spread over her body.
Her breasts were uncovered.
Her hair swirled around her like leeks.

Ereshkigal was moaning:
Oh! Oh! My inside!

They moaned:
Oh! Oh! Your inside!

She moaned:
Ohhh! Oh! My outside!

They moaned:
Ohhh! Oh! Your outside!

She groaned:
Oh! Oh! My belly!

They groaned:
Oh! Oh! Your belly!

She groaned:
Oh! Ohhh! My back!

They groaned:
Oh! Ohhh! Your back!

She sighed:
Ah! Ah! My heart!

They sighed:
Ah! Ah! Your heart!

She sighed:
Ah! Ahhh! My liver!

They sighed:
Ah! Ahhh! Your liver!

Ereshkigal stopped.

She looked at them.

She asked:
Who are you
Moaning-groaning-sighing at 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:
I will give you the grain-gift, the fields in harvest.

The kurgarra and galatur said:
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.

Ereshkigal said:
The corpse belongs to Inanna.

They said:
Whether it belongs to our queen,
Whether it belongs to our king,
That is what we wish.

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 rose...

Inanna was about to ascend from the underworld
When the Annuna, the judges of the underworld, seized her.

They said:
No one ascends from the underworld unmarked.
If Inanna wishes to return from the underworld,
She must provide someone in her place.

As Inanna ascended from the underworld,
The galla, the demons of the underworld, clung to her side.

The galla were demons who know no food, who know no drink,
Who eat no offerings, who drink no libation,
Who accept no gifts.
They enjoy no lovemaking.
They have no sweet children to kiss.

They tear the wife from the husband's arms,
They tear the child from the father's knees,
They steal the bride from her marriage home.
The demons clung to Inanna.

The small galla who accompanied Inanna
Were like reeds the size of low picket fences.

The large galla who accompanied Inanna
Were like reeds the size of high picket fences.

The one who walked in front of Inanna was not a minister,
Yet he carried a scepter.

The one who walked behind her was not a warrior,
Yet he carried a mace.

Ninshubur, dressed in soiled sackcloth,
Waited outside the palace gates.
When she saw Inanna
Surrounded by the galla,
She threw herself in the dust at Inanna's feet.

The galla said:
Walk on Inanna
We will take Ninshubur in your place.

Inanna cried:
No! Ninshubur is my constant support.

She is my sukkal who gives me wise advice
She is my warrior who fights by my side.
She did not forget my words.
She set up a lament for me by the ruins.
She beat a drum for me at the assembly places.
She circled the houses of the gods.
She tore at her eyes, at her mouth, at her thighs.
She dressed herself in a single garment like a beggar.
Alone, she set out for Nippur and the temple of Enlil.
She went to Ur and the temple of Nanna.
She went to Eridu and the temple of Enki.
Because of her, my life was saved.
I will never give Ninshubur to you.

The galla said:
Walk on Inanna,
We will accompany you to Umma.

In Umma, at the holy shrine,
Shara, the son of Inanna, was dressed in a soiled sackcloth.

When he saw Inanna
Surrounded by the galla,
He threw himself in the dust at her feet.

The galla said:
Walk on to your city, Inanna,
We will take Shara in your place.

Inanna cried:
No! Not Shara!
He is my son who sings hymns to me.
He is my son who cuts my nails and smoothes my hair.
I will never give Shara to you.

The galla said:
Walk on Inanna,
We will accompany you to Badtibira.

In Badtibira, at the holy shrine,
Lulal, the son of Inanna, was dressed in soiled sackcloth.
When he saw Inanna
Surrounded by galla,
He threw himself in the dust at her feet.

The galla said:
Walk on to your city, Inanna,
We will take Lulal in your place.

Inanna cried:
Not Lula! He is my son.
He is a leader among men.
He is my right arm. He is my left arm
I will never give Lula to you.

The galla said:
Walk on to your city, Inanna.
We will go with you to the big apple tree in Uruk.

In Uruk by the big apple tree,
Dumuzi, the husband of Inanna, was dressed in his shining me-garments.
He sat on his magnificent throne; [he did not move]

The galla seized him by his thighs.
They poured milk out of his seven churns.
They broke the reed pipe which the shepherd was playing.

Inanna fastened on Dumuzi the eye of death.
She spoke against him the word of wrath.
She uttered against him the cry of guilt:
Take him! Take Dumuzi away!

The galla, who know no food, who know no drink,
Who eat no offerings, who drink no libations,
Who accept no gifts, seized Dumuzi.

They made him stand up; they made him sit down.
They beat the husband of Inanna.
They gashed him with axes.
Dumuzi let out a wail.

He raised his hands to heaven to Utu, the God of Justice, and beseeched him:

'O Utu, you are my brother-in-law,
I am the husband of your sister.
I brought cream to your mother's house,
I brought milk to Ningal's house.
I am the one who carried food to the holy shrine.
I am the one who brought wedding gifts to Uruk.
I am the one who danced on the holy knees, the knees of Inanna.

Utu, you who are a just god, a merciful god,
Change my hands into the hands of a snake.
Change my feet into the feet of a snake.
Let me escape from my demons;
Do not let them hold me.

The merciful Utu accepted Dumuzi's tears.
He changed the hands of Dumuzi into snake hands.
He changed the feet of Dumuzi into snake feet.
Dumuzi escaped from his demons.

They could not hold him...



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