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The Heavenly Mistress. Goddess of Love and the Morningstar. Her name is Inanna, though her worshippers occasionally refer to her as Ishtar and Astarte in texts, even though these two are somewhat different gods. She is one of the oldest goddesses in the Mesopotamian, and is said to rival the goddess Astarte for rulership of heaven.
Carl Black.

Inanna is the Sumerian goddess of love, war, conflict, fertility and conquest that represents the Morning Star and the planet Venus. Her Babylonian counterpart is Ishtar.

Overview

She was known as the "Queen of Heaven" and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star. She is the daughter of the moon god Suen or Enki and her husband was the god Dumuzid and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur. Inanna appears in more myths than any other Sumerian deity. Liker Ishtar, she is a great mother goddess known for her sexual desires.

Inanna was worshiped in Sumer at least as early as the Uruk period, but she had little cult prior to the conquest of Sargon of Akkad. During the post-Sargonic era, she became one of the most widely venerated deities in the Sumerian pantheon, with temples across Mesopotamia. The cult of Inanna, which may have been associated with a variety of sexual rites, was continued by the East Semitic-speaking people who succeeded and absorbed the Sumerians in the region. She was especially beloved by the Assyrians, who elevated her to become the highest deity in their pantheon, ranking above their own national god Ashur.

Since Inanna embodies the traits of independence, self-determination and strength in an otherwise patriarchal Sumerian pantheon, she has become the subject of feminist theory. Indeed, in one analysis of "Inanna and the huluppu tree", the author points out how she was implicitly "tamed and controlled", even "demoted", implying her prior importance as a female role model.

Appearance

Personality

Powers & Abilities

As a goddess, Inanna possessed the conventional superhuman physical attributes of a Mesopotamina goddess. She could cause intense emotions in others, and her Lifestone could mystically bestow good fortune and immortality upon mortals

History

Origins

The Enki establishes of the cosmic organization of the universe. Inanna comes to Enki and complains that he has assigned a domain and special powers to all of the other gods except for her. She declares that she has been treated unfairly. Enki responds by telling her that she already has a domain and that he does not need to assign her one.

The myth of "Inanna and the Huluppu Tree",  centers around a young Inanna, not yet stable in her power. It begins with a huluppu tree, which Kramer identifies as possibly a willow, growing on the banks of the river Euphrates. Inanna moves the tree to her garden in Uruk with the intention to carve it into a throne once it is fully grown. The tree grows and matures, but the serpent "who knows no charm," the Anzû-bird, and Lilitu, the Sumerian forerunner to the Lilith of Jewish folklore, all take up residence within the tree, causing Inanna to cry with sorrow. The hero Gilgamesh, who, in this story, is portrayed as her brother, comes along and slays the serpent, causing the Anzû-bird and Lilitu to flee. Gilgamesh's companions chop down the tree and carve its wood into a bed and a throne, which they give to Inanna, who fashions a pikku and a mikku (probably a drum and drumsticks respectively, although the exact identifications are uncertain), which she gives to Gilgamesh as a reward for his heroism.

The Sumerian hymn Inanna and Utu contains an etiological myth describing how Inanna became the goddess of sex. At the beginning of the hymn, Inanna knows nothing of sex, so she begs her brother Utu to take her to Kur (the Sumerian Underworld), so that she may taste the fruit of a tree that grows there, which will reveal to her all the secrets of sex. Utu complies and, in Kur, Inanna tastes the fruit and becomes knowledgeable.

The poem Inanna Prefers the Farmer  begins with a rather playful conversation between Inanna and Utu, who incrementally reveals to her that it is time for her to marry. She is courted by a farmer named Enkimdu and a shepherd named Dumuzid. At first, Inanna prefers the farmer, but Utu and Dumuzid gradually persuade her that Dumuzid is the better choice for a husband, arguing that, for every gift the farmer can give to her, the shepherd can give her something even better. In the end, Inanna marries Dumuzid. The shepherd and the farmer reconcile their differences, offering each other gifts.

Conquests and patronage

Inanna and Enki is a lengthy poem written in Sumerian, which may date to the Third Dynasty of Ur; it tells the story of how Inanna stole the sacred mes from Enki, the god of water and human culture. In ancient Sumerian mythology, the mes were sacred powers or properties belonging the gods that allowed human civilization to exist Each me embodied one specific aspect of human culture. These aspects were very diverse and the mes listed in the poem include abstract concepts such as Truth, Victory, and Counsel, technologies such as writing and weaving, and also social constructs such as law, priestly offices, kingship, and prostitution. The mes were believed to grant power over all the aspects of civilization, both positive and negative.

In the myth, Inanna travels from her own city of Uruk to Enki's city of Eridu, where she visits his temple, the E-Abzu. Inanna is greeted by Enki's sukkal, Isimud, who offers her food and drink. Inanna starts up a drinking competition with Enki. Then, once Enki is thoroughly intoxicated, Inanna persuades him to give her the mes. Inanna flees from Eridu in the Boat of Heaven, taking the mes back with her to Uruk. Enki wakes up to discover that the mes are gone and asks Isimud what has happened to them. Isimud replies that Enki has given all of them to Inanna. Enki becomes infuriated and sends multiple sets of fierce monsters after Inanna to take back the mes before she reaches the city of Uruk. Inanna's sukkal Ninshubur fends off all of the monsters that Enki sends after them. Through Ninshubur's aid, Inanna successfully manages to take the mes back with her to the city of Uruk. After Inanna escapes, Enki reconciles with her and bids her a positive farewell. It is possible that this legend may represent a historic transfer of power from the city of Eridu to the city of Uruk. It is also possible that this legend may be a symbolic representation of Inanna's maturity and her readiness to become the Queen of Heaven.

The poem Inanna Takes Command of Heaven is an extremely fragmentary, but important, account of Inanna's conquest of the Eanna temple in Uruk. It begins with a conversation between Inanna and her brother Utu in which Inanna laments that the Eanna temple is not within their domain and resolves to claim it as her own. The text becomes increasingly fragmentary at this point in the narrative, but appears to describe her difficult passage through a marshland to reach the temple while a fisherman instructs her on which route is best to take. Ultimately, Inanna reaches her father An, who is shocked by her arrogance, but nevertheless concedes that she has succeeded and that the temple is now her domain. The text ends with a hymn expounding Inanna's greatness. This myth may represent an eclipse in the authority of the priests of An in Uruk and a transfer of power to the priests of Inanna.

Inanna briefly appears at the beginning and end of the epic poem Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta. The epic deals with a rivalry between the cities of Uruk and Aratta. Enmerkar, the king of Uruk, wishes to adorn his city with jewels and precious metals, but cannot do so because such minerals are only found in Aratta and, since trade does not yet exist, the resources are not available to him. Inanna, who is the patron goddess of both cities, appears to Enmerkar at the beginning of the poem and tells him that she favors Uruk over Aratta. She instructs Enmerkar to send a messenger to the lord of Aratta to ask for the resources Uruk needs.The majority of the epic revolves around a great contest between the two kings over Inanna's favor. Inanna reappears at the end of the poem to resolve the conflict by telling Enmerkar to establish trade between his city and Aratta.

Justice myths

Inanna and her brother Utu were regarded as the dispensers of divine justice, a role which Inanna exemplifies in several of her myths. Inanna and Ebih , otherwise known as Goddess of the Fearsome Divine Powers, is a poem written by the Akkadian poet Enheduanna describing Inanna's confrontation with Mount Ebih, a mountain in the Zagros mountain range. The poem begins with an introductory hymn praising Inanna. The goddess journeys all over the entire world, until she comes across Mount Ebih and becomes infuriated by its glorious might and natural beauty, considering its very existence as an outright affront to her own authority. She rails at Mount Ebih, shouting:

Inanna petitions to An, the Sumerian god of the heavens, to allow her to destroy Mount Ebih. An warns Inanna not to attack the mountain, but she ignores his warning and proceeds to attack and destroy Mount Ebih regardless. In the conclusion of the myth, she explains to Mount Ebih why she attacked it. In Sumerian poetry, the phrase "destroyer of Kur" is occasionally used as one of Inanna's epithets.

The poem Inanna and Shukaletuda begins with a hymn to Inanna, praising her as the planet Venus. It then introduces Shukaletuda, a gardener who is terrible at his job and partially blind. All of his plants die, except for one poplar tree. Shukaletuda prays to the gods for guidance in his work. To his surprise, the goddess Inanna sees his one poplar tree and decides to rest under the shade of its branches. Shukaletuda removes her clothes and rapes Inanna while she sleeps. When the goddess wakes up and realizes she has been violated, she becomes furious and determines to bring her attacker to justice. In a fit of rage, Inanna unleashes horrible plagues upon the Earth, turning water into blood. Shukaletuda, terrified for his life, pleads his father for advice on how to escape Inanna's wrath. His father tells him to hide in the city, amongst the hordes of people, where he will hopefully blend in. Inanna searches the mountains of the East for her attacker, but is not able to find him. She then releases a series of storms and closes all roads to the city, but is still unable to find Shukaletuda, so she asks Enki to help her find him, threatening to leave her temple in Uruk if he does not. Enki consents and allows Inanna to "fly across the sky like a rainbow". Inanna finally locates Shukaletuda, who vainly attempts to invent excuses for his crime against her. Inanna rejects these excuses and kills him. 

The text of the poem Inanna and Bilulu , discovered at Nippur, is badly mutilated and scholars have interpreted it in a number of different ways. The beginning of the poem is mostly destroyed, but seems to be a lament. The intelligible part of the poem describes Inanna pining after her husband Dumuzid, who is in the steppe watching his flocks. Inanna sets out to find him. After this, a large portion of the text is missing. When the story resumes, Inanna is being told that Dumuzid has been murdered. Inanna discovers that the old bandit woman Bilulu and her son Girgire are responsible. She travels along the road to Edenlila and stops at an inn, where she finds the two murderers. Inanna stands on top of a stool and transforms Bilulu into "the waterskin that men carry in the desert", forcing her to pour the funerary libations for Dumuzid.

Descend into the Underworld

In Sumerian Religion, the Kur was conceived of as a dark, dreary cavern located deep underground; life there was envisioned as "a shadowy version of life on earth". It was ruled by Inanna's sister, the goddess Ereshkigal. Before leaving, Inanna instructs her minister and servant Ninshubur to plead with the deities Enlil, Nanna, Anu, and Enki to rescue her if she does not return after three days. The laws of the underworld dictate that, with the exception of appointed messengers, those who enter it may never leave. Inanna dresses elaborately for the visit; she wears a turban, wig, lapis lazuli necklace, beads upon her breast, the 'pala dress' (the ladyship garment), mascara, a pectoral, and golden ring, and holds a lapis lazuli measuring rod. Each garment is a representation of a powerful me she possesses.

Inanna pounds on the gates of the underworld, demanding to be let in. The gatekeeper Neti asks her why she has come and Inanna replies that she wishes to attend the funeral rites of Gugalanna, the "husband of my elder sister Ereshkigal". Neti reports this to Ereshkigal, who tells him: "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." Perhaps Inanna's garments, unsuitable for a funeral, along with Inanna's haughty behavior, make Ereshkigal suspicious. Following Ereshkigal's instructions, Neti tells Inanna she may enter the first gate of the underworld, but she must hand over her lapis lazuli measuring rod. She asks why, and is told, "It is just the ways of the underworld." She obliges and passes through. Inanna passes through a total of seven gates, at each one removing a piece of clothing or jewelry she had been wearing at the start of her journey, thus stripping her of her power. When she arrives in front of her sister, she is naked:

Three days and three nights pass, and Ninshubur, following instructions, goes to the temples of Enlil, Nanna, An, and Enki, and pleads with each of them to rescue Inanna. The first three deities refuse, saying Inanna's fate is her own fault, but Enki is deeply troubled and agrees to help. He creates two sexless figures named gala-tura and the kur-jara from the dirt under the fingernails of two of his fingers. He instructs them to appease Ereshkigal and, when she asks them what they want, ask for the corpse of Inanna, which they must sprinkle with the food and water of life. When they come before Ereshkigal, she is in agony like a woman giving birth. She offers them whatever they want, including life-giving rivers of water and fields of grain, if they can relieve her, but they refuse all of her offers and ask only for Inanna's corpse. The gala-tura and the kur-jara sprinkle Inanna's corpse with the food and water of life and revive her. Galla demons sent by Ereshkigal follow Inanna out of the underworld, insisting that someone else must be taken to the underworld as Inanna's replacement. They first come upon Ninshubur and attempt to take her, but Inanna stops them, insisting that Ninshubur is her loyal servant and that she had rightfully mourned for her while she was in the underworld. They next come upon Shara, Inanna's beautician, who is still in mourning. The demons attempt to take him, but Inanna insists that they may not, because he had also mourned for her. The third person they come upon is Lulal, who is also in mourning. The demons try to take him, but Inanna stops them once again.

Ancient Sumerian cylinder seal impression showing Dumuzid being tortured in the underworld by the galla demons

Finally, they come upon Dumuzid, Inanna's husband. Despite Inanna's fate, and in contrast to the other individuals who were properly mourning her, Dumuzid is lavishly clothed and resting beneath a tree, or upon her throne, entertained by slave-girls. Inanna, displeased, decrees that the galla shall take him. The galla then drag Dumuzid down to the underworld. Another text known as Dumuzid's Dream describes Dumuzid's repeated attempts to evade capture by the galla demons, an effort in which he is aided by the sun-god Utu.

In the Sumerian poem The Return of Dumuzid, which begins where The Dream of Dumuzid ends, Dumuzid's sister Geshtinanna laments continually for days and nights over Dumuzid's death, joined by Inanna, who has apparently experienced a change of heart, and Sirtur, Dumuzid's mother. The three goddesses mourn continually until a fly reveals to Inanna the location of her husband. Together, Inanna and Geshtinanna go to the place where the fly has told them they will find Dumuzid. They find him there and Inanna decrees that, from that point onwards, Dumuzid will spend half of the year with her sister Ereshkigal in the underworld and the other half of the year in Heaven with her, while his sister Geshtinanna takes his place in the underworld.

Myths and Legends

Many of her myths involve her taking over the domains of other deities. She was believed to have stolen the mes, which represented all positive and negative aspects of civilization, from Enki, the god of wisdom. She was also believed to have taken over the Eanna temple from An, the god of the sky. Alongside her twin brother Utu, Inanna was the enforcer of divine justice; she destroyed Mount Ebih for having challenged her authority, unleashed her fury upon the gardener Shukaletuda after he raped her in her sleep, and tracked down the bandit woman Bilulu and killed her in divine retribution for having murdered Dumuzid. In the standard Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Inanna asks Gilgamesh to become her consort. When he refuses, she unleashes the Bull of Heaven, resulting in the death of Enkidu and Gilgamesh's subsequent grapple with his mortality.

Inanna's most famous myth is the story of her descent into and return from Kur, the ancient Sumerian Underworld, a myth in which she attempts to conquer the domain of her older sister Ereshkigal, the queen of the Underworld, but is instead deemed guilty of hubris by the seven judges of the Underworld and struck dead. Three days later, Ninshubur pleads with all the gods to bring Inanna back, but all of them refuse her except Enki, who sends two sexless beings to rescue Inanna. They escort Inanna out of the Underworld, but the galla, the guardians of the Underworld, drag her husband Dumuzid down to the Underworld as her replacement. Dumuzid is eventually permitted to return to heaven for half the year while his sister Geshtinanna remains in the Underworld for the other half, resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

Since Inanna embodies the traits of independence, self-determination and strength in an otherwise patriarchal Sumerian pantheon, she has become the subject of feminist theory. Indeed, in one analysis of "Inanna and the huluppu tree", the author points out how she was implicitly "tamed and controlled", even "demoted", implying her prior importance as a female role model.

Symbols

Inanna's most common symbol was the eight-pointed star, though the exact number of points sometimes varies. Six-pointed stars also occur frequently, but their symbolic meaning is unknown. Inanna's other symbol is a rosette. She was associated with lions — even then a symbol of power — and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).

Worship

The Sumerians worshipped Inanna as the goddess of both warfare and sexuality. Unlike other gods, whose roles were static and whose domains were limited, the stories of Inanna describe her as moving from conquest to conquest. She was portrayed as young and impetuous, constantly striving for more power than she had been allotted.

Although she was worshipped as the goddess of love, Inanna was not the goddess of marriage. A description of her from one of her hymns declares, "When the servants let the flocks loose, and when cattle and sheep are returned to cow-pen and sheepfold, then, my lady, like the nameless poor, you wear only a single garment. The pearls of a prostitute are placed around your neck, and you are likely to snatch a man from the tavern." In Inanna's Descent to the Underworld, Inanna treats her lover Dumuzid in a very capricious manner. This aspect of Inanna's personality is emphasized in the later standard Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh in which Gilgamesh points out Inanna's infamous ill-treatment of her lovers.

Inanna was also worshipped as one of the Sumerian war deities. One of her hymns declares: "She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals." Battle itself was occasionally referred to as the "Dance of Inanna".

Quotes

Rise like the sun over my holy breast! You are the jewel of my throat! Praise be to you, Enmerkar, the son of Utu!
Inanna in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.
Divinity and imminent demise have given me clarity... I've got no reason to be afraid any more. And what can you do when you're not afraid of anything? Anything you want. Anyone you want. I can be whoever I want to be. I can be whoever I am.
Inanna.

Gallery

Trivia

  • Like Ishtar, Innana is the personification of the planet Venus.
  • Her name is the second name in an energy chant sometimes used in Wicca: "Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna."
  • It has also been suggested that Innana has an ancient non-Sumerian origin, related to the Hurrian Goddess Hannahannah.
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