An interpretation of the story of Inanna and Ereshkigal

Two weeks ago I heard again the story of Inanna’s descent into the realm of her sister Ereshkigal. In order to reach Ereshkigal’s place, Inanna must pass through seven gates, and at each one the gatekeeper demands she relinquish a precious, symbolic object:

During her descent, Inanna lost in order: crown (queenship?), precious necklace (charisma, glamour?), two oval stones (birthing ability or femaleness?), breastplate “Come, man, come” (sexual allure), gold ring (her seal, her signature?), rod and measuring line (authority), and “garment of ladyship” (robe of deity). Everything that signified her status and identity disappeared.

Ereshkigal kills the naked Inanna and hangs her body on a peg. However, before starting her journey, Inanna asked her associate, Ninshubur, to send help to find her if she did not return after three days. Ninshubur sends two small creatures who are not human and therefore can sneak through the seven gates. The creatures find Ereshkigal moaning and they sit with her in her pain. No one has ever offered Ereshkigal compassion before, and she wants to reward them for their help. They ask for the body of Inanna, which they revive by sprinkling it with water and plant matter, and Inanna returns to her former place as Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Inanna and Ereshkigal are sisters; they are two in one, a double entity. Inanna’s “descent” to Ereshkigal’s realm represents the journey to an unknown or denied side of the self. The structure and supports of the former personality are stripped away; one comes naked into the presence of the unknown. And in order to incorporate the new knowledge, the old self must, in some metaphorical way, die.

This metaphorical death is emotionally painful, perhaps in direct relationship to the value of the knowledge gained, or to the strength with which it was previously denied.

Inanna is able to incorporate Ereshkigal’s knowledge because of the empathy the two nonhuman creatures gave Ereshkigal on Inanna’s behalf, and which no one had ever offered her before.

Angry people are suffering people, and they need compassion, which they rarely get.

Inanna comes back to life after Ninshubur’s creatures sprinkle her with water and plant matter.

Revival and renewal are found through contact and connection with nature.


~ by rebel13 on November 26, 2009.

Speak to me.

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