I Will Raise the Dead to Feed on the Living: Inanna/Ishtar in the Underworld, Pt. 2

We left Inanna/Ishtar banging on the gates of the Underworld, where the Goddess made an undeniable, zombie-apocalypse threat:

Gatekeeper, Lo! open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,

I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.

I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living.

Now, as I promised at the end of part one of this post, it’s time to move on: human meat-hooks and demonic abduction are all about to present themselves as we continue to follow Inanna/Ishtar down, into the Underworld…

*

We can’t be entirely sure what Inanna wanted from the Underworld; what do know is that Her sister, Ereshkigal was its Queen, whose husband had recently died.

Sibling rivalry happens.

Inanna was wearing Her finest clothing, which was definitely considered uncouth.

You’re not supposed to show off when someone is mourning…

She would, of course, have known this.

Apparently, She just didn’t care.

*

The Gatekeeper, Neti, had instructions from Inanna’s sister, Queen Ereshkigal.

He was to let Her through each of the seven gates that led into Kur, the Underworld.

However, at each gate, he was to make the Goddess remove one piece of clothing.

Gate by gate, Inanna shed Her clothing; by the seventh gate, She had even surrendered Her rod of lapis lazuli, which was a source of magical power, or Mes.

She was naked.

And She was pissed…

*

She physically attacked Her sister, the Queen of the Underworld.

Meanwhile, above, the other Gods were growing restless…

Inanna, who is cognate with Venus/Aphrodite, is the Goddess of sexuality; after She went on Her journey…

No one could get it on.

Life was barren, and the Gods were not pleased.

*

Ereshkigal wasted no time with Inanna, and in some ways, one can understand Her frustration; after all, Her husband had just died, and Inanna’s visit seemed like a vanity tour.

But at this point, Ershkigal’s rage does seem a little exaggerated:

She had Her sister inflicted with sixty – yes, sixty – different maladies.

Imagine being infected with every experimental bio-weapon on the planet.

These acts were sanctioned by the seven judges of the Underworld.

Even after Inanna died from exposure to the Underworld’s multitude of diseases, Ershkergal wasn’t done…

She had Inanna hung on a meat-hook; a dead corpse, on display.

Above, the other Gods realized that now it wasn’t just the Earth that was barren, it was spreading to the Heavens.

Cosmic impotence.

Cosmic death.

Someone had to act.

*

Inanna’s favorite servant, the maiden Ninshubur, had followed her lady’s instructions: she had waited three days before going to the Gods. Ultimately, it was Ea/Enki who heard her pleas; He constructed a Messenger to retrieve the Goddess.

Ershkigal wailed on seeing the Messenger – She offered the Gods anything else but Her sister’s flayed body, but the Messenger was clear: She was required to hand over the Water of Life as well as the body of Inanna. Bitterly, Ershkigal complied.

The Messenger took the body off of the meat-hook, and sprinkled the corpse with the Water of Life. Revived, Inanna and Her new companion left through each of the seven gates.

At every gate, She was returned one of her garments, including Her rod, which amplified Her mes.

However, Ershkigal wasn’t done yet…

*

There are many love poems about Inanna and Dumuzid, or Tammuz, a Mesopotamian God in His right. However, the primary Sumerian version of this particular tale doesn’t have a happy ending…

*

When Inanna passed the final gate, something followed Her.

It was a host of demons, called the Galla.

And they had only one mission: to take someone back into the Underworld, to fill Inanna’s vacancy.

*

They came for Ninshubar, Inanna’s maiden. However, Inanna pointed out that she was still mourning for Her, and therefore was faithful, and beyond reproach.

They tried to take Inanna’s beautician, but likewise, they found him mourning, and therefore, did not drag him away.

They came across a third friend of Inannas, but he too was bereft, weeping for his dead friend, and Inanna successfully pleaded for his soul.

Then they found Dumuzid, Inanna’s lover.

Hell hath no fury as a Goddess scorned…

*

As with all of these myths, there are variants; I’m going with my favorite.

Inanna finds Her companion sitting on Her throne, surrounded by slave-girls, drinking wine and eating fruit.

And dressed, much like Inanna before Her descent, in the finest of clothing.

Not exactly a picture of grief.

“You can have that one.” – I imagine that’s what Inanna said, though I bet it sounded better in Sumerian.

And with that, Dumuzid ended up in the Underworld, taken away by the Galla demons to suffer eternal punishment, all at Ershkigal’s Gallas’ sadistic whims…

dumuzi_aux_enfers
Dumuzid being tortured by the Galla demons in the Underworld, British Museum, Public Domain

*

And the takeaway?

Love your mate…

Especially when there’s a chance they might come back from the dead, with demons in tow…

 

 

2 thoughts on “I Will Raise the Dead to Feed on the Living: Inanna/Ishtar in the Underworld, Pt. 2

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