Inanna

November 3rd, 2007 by sabrina

I’ve always gotten confused with Inanna and Ishtar—are they the same, just two different names, or are they actually two different Goddesses who were combined into one?  From my research, it looks like they were two different Goddesses.  Inanna was worshipped by the Sumerian people in the south of Mesopotamia, and Ishtar was worshipped by the Akkadians in the north.  When Sargon the Great of Akkad conquered Sumeria in the 2300s B.C.E., he appointed his daughter Enheduanna as high priestess.  She remained in this post for over 40 years, and used her influence to carry out Sargon’s policy of integrating Sumeria with Akkad by integrating their greatest Goddess, Inanna, with the great Goddess of Akkad, Ishtar.  Ishtar seems to be kind of a diminished form of Inanna—her myths are the same but shorter, and she is a little more shallow.  I’ve seen it argued that this is the influence of patriarchy, lessening the strength of the Goddess, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Inanna is the Sumerian Goddess of love, war, and fertility. She is the daughter of the moon God Nanna and Ningal, Goddess of dreams. Interestingly, as a love and fertility Goddess, Inanna is never identified as a mother; she is the original sex Goddess, focussed on pleasure rather than procreation. As such, she is also the patron Goddess of prostitutes.

Inanna was also a kingmaker—the man she chose to be her husband would be king. She was courted by two men, the shepherd Dumuzi and the farmer Enkidu. These two men were representative of the two predominant ways of life in Sumeria—nomadic animal herders and settled farmers. Inanna at first goes with the conventional choice, the farmer, until Dumuzi comes to her and tells her of his qualities. She then accepts him, and Dumuzi becomes king to Inanna’s queen.

Unfortunately for Dumuzi, Inanna has a somewhat fickle nature. In one myth, Inanna descends to the underworld to visit her sister Ereshkigal, Goddess of the underworld, after the death of her husband. Ereshkigal fears that Inanna is coming to take over the underworld, and she puts her through tests as she approaches. At each of the seven gates of the underworld, Inanna has to take off a piece of clothing, until she finally arrives, naked, at the throne of Ereshkigal. Even in this humble state, Ereshkigal suspects her sister of treachery, and strikes her dead. Inanna’s body is then hung from a hook behind Ereshkigal’s throne.

Inanna had the foresight to instruct her servant to seek help if she had not returned in three days. The servant enlisted the help of the God Enki, who sends two creatures to the underworld with the water and food of life to restore Inanna. However, no one is allowed to leave the underworld without someone taking their place. Inanna’s servant told her that Dumuzi had not mourned for her when she was missing, as her servants had, and Inanna chose him to take her place. Dumuzi’s sister, Geshtinanna, was devastated by the loss of her brother, and her grief touched Inanna’s heart. She agreed to allow Geshtinanna to share Dumuzi’s place in the underworld, with each of them staying there for six months at a time.

Inanna’s name means “Queen of Heaven”, and is also seen as Inana, Innin, Innini, Inninna, Ninanna (queen of the sky), Nin-me-sar-ra (lady of myriad offices), Ninsianna (personification of the planet Venus), Nin-edin (lady of Edin), Usunzianna (exalted cow of heaven), and Nu-ugiganna (hierodule of heaven). Epithets for her include Destroyer of Foreign Lands, Foremost in Battle, Heroic Champion, Holy Priestess of Heaven, Honored Counsellor, Lady of Uruk and Nineveh, Lover and Beloved United as One, Mistress of Heaven, Morning and Evening Star, Ornament of Heaven, Protectress of Harlots, Queen Moon, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Queen of the Universe, and Supreme Among the Heavenly Gods.

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