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Thread: Descent of Ishtar/Inanna

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    The Descent of Ishtar/Inanna

    Hi all!
    I read the post about Tana,and was reminded of this version.
    This is a canonical text from Ashur dating around 1100 BCE.It has also been found in excavations at Nineveh and Ashurbanipal.Canonical texts are religious in nature,this one was written down many times over many years and is a copy of a much older document.We know it's a copy because,in the original it skips from Sumerian to Akkadian cuneiform and back again.Akkadian was still in use but Sumerian was a "dead" language like Latin today.Many scholars believe it may have originally been written by Enheduanna,the daughter of King Sargon.Sargon was an Akkadian who conquered ancient Sumeria around 2300 BCE.His daughter,Enheduanna whose name means "priestess,ornament of the Sky God," was made High Priestess of the Moon God Sin at Ur and of the Goddess Inanna at Uruk.She took her job very seriously and produced an amazing amount of writings.In this story the names of Inanna and Ishtar go back and forth.Inanna was more of a fertility,mother,and love Goddess and was native to Sumeria whereas Ishtar was much more warlike and imported from Akkad.So Enheduanna is changing the worship,bringing Ishtar in.Enheduanna is also the first human writer we know by name,the earliest signed works are by her.So a woman was the first known writer!Her father ruled 56 years and she lived after him and advised his successor who was her nephew or son or both.His name was Naram-Sin.
    Well,enough background already!Here's the story.I'm using Ishtar mostly as I copied this by hand.I got it from a college history class on the Ancient near east.

    The Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld

    To the Land of no Return
    the realm of Ereshkigal
    Ishtar,the daughter of Sin,set her mind
    Yea,the daughter of Sin set her mind
    To the dark house,the abode of Irkalla(Ereshkigal)
    To the house which none leave who have entered it
    To the road from which there is no way back
    To the house wherein the dwellers are bereft of light
    Where dust is there fare and clay their food
    (Where)they see no light,residing in darkness
    (Where)they are clothed like birds with wings for garments
    (And where)over door and bolt is spread dust
    When Ishtar reached the gate of The Land of no Return
    She said(these)words to the gatekeeper
    "O gatekeeper open thy gate
    Open thy gate,that I may enter!
    If thou openest not the gate so that I can not enter
    I will smash the door,I will shatter the bolt
    I will smash the doorpost,I will move the doors
    I will raise up the dead,eating the living
    So that the dead will outnumber the living."

    The gatekeeper opened his mouth to speak
    Saying to exalted Ishtar
    "Stop my lady,do not throw it(the door)down!
    I will go to announce thy name to Queen Ereshkigal:
    Behold,thy sister Ishtar is waiting at the gate
    She who upholds the great festivals
    Who stirs up the deep,before Ea,the King!"

    When Ereshkigal heard this
    Her face turned pale like a cut down tamarisk,
    While her lips turned blue like a bruised kuninu reed
    "What drove her hear to me?
    What impelled her spirit hither?
    Lo,should I drink water with the Anunnaki?(Note*Anunnaki were assembly of Gods)
    Should I eat clay for bread,drink muddied water for beer?
    Should I bemoan the men who left their wives behind?
    Should I bemoan the maidens who were wrenched from the laps
    of their lovers?
    (Or)should I bemoan the tender little (one)who was sent off before his time?
    (*Note-She'd have cause to weep if Ishtar liberated all the occupants of the Netherworld)
    Go,gatekeeper,open the gate for her
    Treat her in accordance with the ancient rules!"
    Forth went the gatekeeper to open the door for her
    "Enter my lady,that Cutha may rejoice over thee
    (Cutha is a name for Netherworld)
    That the palace of The Land of no Return may be glad at thy presence"
    When the First door he had made her enter,
    He stripped and took away the great crown of her head
    "Why,o gatekeeper,didst thou take the great crown off my head?"
    "Enter my Lady,thus are the rules of The Mistress of the Netherworld."

    (Ishtar passes through Seven gates of the Netherworld,at each of them the gatekeeper removes an ornament.At second gate,he takes the pendants on her ears,at the 3rd,the chains round her neck.The 4th,ornaments on her breasts.5th-The girdle of birthstones at her hips.6th-The clasps round her hands and feet.7th-the breech cloth on her body.Each time,same question and same answer)
    As soon as Ishtar had descended
    to the land of No Return
    Ereshkigal saw her and was enraged at her presence
    Ishtar,unreasoning,flew at her
    Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak
    Saying these words to Namtar,her vizier;
    "Go Nimtar,lock her up in my palace!
    Release against her,against Ishtar
    The 60 miseries
    Misery of the eyes against her eyes
    Misery of the sides against her sides
    Misery of the feet against her feet
    Misery of the head against her head
    Against every part of her
    Against her whole body!"

    After Lady Ishtar had descended
    to the Land of No return
    The bull springs not upon the cow
    The ass impregnates not the jenny
    In the street the man impregnates not the maiden
    The man lay in his own chamber
    The maiden lay on her side
    The countenance of Papsukkal
    The vizier of the Great Gods
    was fallen,his face was clouded
    He was clad in mourning,long hair he wore
    Forth went Papsukkal,before Sin,his father,weeping
    His tears flowing before Ea,the King
    "Ishtar has gone down to the Netherworld
    She has not come up
    Since Ishtar has gone down to the land of No return
    The bull springs not upon the cow
    The ass impregnates not the jenny
    In the streets,the man impregnates not the maiden
    The man lay down in his(own)chamber
    The maiden lay down on her side"
    Ea,in his wise heart conceived an image
    And created Asushunamir,a eunuch:
    "Up Asushunamir,set thy face to the gate
    of The Land of No return
    The 7 gates of The Land of No return
    Shall be opened for thee.
    Ereshkigal shall see thee
    And rejoice at thy presence.
    When her heart is calmed,her mood is happy.
    Let her utter the oath of the Great Gods
    Then lift up thy head
    Paying mind to the life-water bag
    'Pray Lady,let them give me the life-water bag
    That water thereof I may drink' "
    (Note*The scheme evidently succeeds,as Ereshkigal,distracted by the beauty of Asushunamir,[meaning his appearance is brilliant]doesn't recover until too late)

    As soon as Ereshkigal heard this
    She smote her thigh,bit her finger
    "Thou didst request of me a thing
    That should not be requested
    Come,Asushunamir,I will curse thee with a mighty curse!
    The food of the city's plows(dirt)shall be thy food
    The sewers of the city shall be thy drink
    The shadow of the wall shall be thy station
    The threshold shall be thy habitation
    The besotted and the thirsty shall smite thy cheek!"

    Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak
    "Ea,Namtar,knock at Egalgina
    (Note*Egalgina is the palace of justice)
    Adorn the threshold with coral stone
    Bring forth the Annunaki and seat(them)
    on thrones of gold
    Sprinkle Ishtar with the water of life
    And take her from my presence!"
    Forth went Namtar,knocked at Egalgina
    Adorned the thresholds with coral stone,
    Brought for the Annunake
    Seated(them)on thrones of gold
    Sprinkled Ishtar with the water of life
    And took her from her presence
    When through the 1st gate he made her go out
    He returned the breechcloth for her body
    (As Ishtar passes through each of the 7 gates,her ornaments are returned one by one)
    "If she does not give thee her ransom price,bring her back!"
    (Note*The conclusion of the myth,and its' allusions,particularly to Tammuz,are obscure)

    "As for Tammuz,the lover of her youth
    Wash him with pure water
    Anoint him with sweet oil
    Clothe him with a red garment,
    Let him play on a flute of lapis
    Let courtesans turn his mood."
    When Belili(apparently Ishtar) had.......her jewelry
    And her lap was filled with eye stones(beads?)
    On hearing the sound of her brother
    Belili struck the jewelry on
    So that the eye stones filled her chamber
    "My only brother,bring no harm to me!
    On the day when Tammuz welcomes me
    When with him the lapis flute and the carnelian ring welcome Me
    When with him the wailing men
    And the wailing women welcome Me
    May the dead rise,and smell the incense."

    This is all there is in the writings

    Last edited by BrightStar; February 22nd, 2001 at 04:52 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    near Tacoma, WA
    I remember reading this a while ago.
    Enheduanna (Who was Inanna's priestess) was cool, you know she is the worlds first named authors? Even cooler if you ask me.

    I found a site with Mesopotamian (or what was their language...?) hymns and text along with translations.

    For example here is part of the "Inanna's descent to the nether world"
    1an gal-ta ki gal-ce3 jectug2-ga-ni na-an-/gub\
    2dijir an gal-ta ki gal-ce3 jectug2-ga-ni na-an-[gub]
    3dinana an gal-[ta ki gal-ce3] jectug2-ga-ni na-an-[gub]
    4nin-ju10 an mu-un-cub ki mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-e-a-ed3
    5dinana an mu-un-cub ki mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-e-a-ed3
    6nam-en mu-un-cub nam-lagar mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-e-a-ed3
    7unugki-ga e2-an-na mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-e-a-ed3
    8bad3-/tibira\ki-a e2-muc3-kalam-ma mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-[e-a]-ed3
    9zabalamki-a gi-gun5ki-na mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-e-a-ed3
    10adabki-a e2-car2-ra mu-un-cub kur-ra ba-e-a-ed3
    Here is the site-- it's a MUST for anyone wanting to use the native language for hymns and such. Here is SO much here-- hymns, letters, songs, prayers, history!
    "Composite" is the ancient language, and is shown like above
    "Translation" is the English verison

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