Who Was Inanna and Why Was She Important?

Art © Carly Dugmore

The Story of Inanna

Inanna, often hailed as the "Lady of Heaven," holds a revered place in Sumerian mythology. This Goddess celebrated as the "Great Lady of Love and War," was widely worshipped across Mesopotamia, especially in Uruk, where a magnificent temple stood in her honor. As her fame spread with the expansion of the Babylonian Empire, Inanna's tale continued to inspire and intrigue.

Who was Inanna?

Inanna was not just a deity in the ancient Sumerian religion; she was an embodiment of complexity and power. She reigned as the goddess of fertility, love, war, and justice. Her worshippers believed she protected them, especially in Uruk. Her attributes extended beyond the mundane, encompassing wisdom and a strong sense of justice. However, Inanna was also known for her pride, ambition, and unpredictable nature.

Inanna's Descent into the Underworld

One of the most captivating myths about Inanna is her descent into the underworld. Why did she venture into such a perilous realm? The reasons vary, from attending her brother-in-law's funeral to rescuing a lover. Yet, this journey is often viewed as a test of fate and symbolizes the human’s journey into their shadows (which are often made of our own creation).

In the famous Sumerian poem, "The Descent of Inanna," we see her journey from the heavens to the underworld. Dressed regally and carrying her scepter, the rod of power, she demands entrance at the underworld's gates. The gatekeeper, Neti, challenges her, but Inanna insists on entering.

As she passes through the seven gates of the underworld, she is stripped of her royal garments, an act symbolizing her gradual loss of power and identity. Upon reaching the throne room of Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Dead and Inanna’s sister, she is sentenced to death and hung on a hook as a lifeless corpse.

This grim fate does not end her story. After three days, her loyal servant Ninshubur seeks help from the god Enki, who sends two genderless beings to rescue Inanna. These beings sympathize with Ereshkigal's pains, and in gratitude, she allows them to take Inanna's body. Revived by the food and water of life, Inanna is given a chance to return to the earth, but with a condition: someone must take her place in the underworld.

In a twist of fate, Inanna finds her lover Dumuzi adorned in splendor, showing no signs of mourning her death. Angered, she decrees that he should take her place. Dumuzi's sister, Geshtinanna, in a selfless act, offers to share this burden, leading to their cyclical journey between life and death, a myth explaining the changing seasons.

What does Inanna's Descent into the Underworld mean?

Inanna's story is more than a myth; it's a tale of power, sacrifice, alignment, and the ever-constant cycle of life and death. Various interpretations of Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld all highlight the courage required to confront and embrace our shadow selves.

Despite being a powerful Goddess of Heaven, Inanna had not yet faced or accepted her darker aspect. Her sister in the Underworld can be seen to represent this shadow self, the Dark Goddess, illustrating how Inanna encountered this part of herself with vulnerability, trust, and openness. Her metaphorical death was essential for achieving peace and alignment within, allowing her to be reborn as a more potent, harmonious being, fully aware and in control of her darker side.

This tale serves as a reminder for us all to recognize, confront, and embrace our inner Dark Goddesses. The Dark Feminine, though intimidating, exists to benefit us, aiding in establishing the boundaries essential in our lives.

Should you wish to learn more about working with the Divine & Sacred Feminine energies, and deepen your sacred practice, I invite you to join The Sacred Spiral Priestess Journey. This year-long program is inspired by the Wheel of The Year, directions, and elements, and spirals through the sacred feminine aspect of each season and the Goddess archetype connected to it. If this sparks your interest, you can join the waitlist.


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