The Descent of Inanna, Part One

Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, above and below, held the 14 gifts of Enki, the God of Wisdom and Water, in her hands. The me held the gifts of infinite wisdom, truth, lovemaking (which made her blush), and “the kiss of the phallus”, among other things. She let the phallus one pass, thinking that perhaps Enki wasn’t the right person to question about those sorts of things.

The best gift, though, was the ability to come and go from the underworld, the realm of depth and shadow. Those me she clutched close to her heart, not wishing to let go of so important a privilege. How much she could learn! The things she could tell to her friends, her husband. Her sister, Ereshkigal, had been taken there as a child and hadn’t come back; made Queen of the Underworld, Ereshkigal was little more than a slight memory in Inanna’s mind.

The other me amused Inanna for a bit, but the ones of the Underworld were like magnets to her curiosity. There had to be something else to the world, other than the one above. She could go and come back. If it was frightening, then no harm was done; she could be back at her home in no time. The gate, or kur, of the Underworld was always near, seeming to follow her wherever she went, lingering in the distance.
Her mind made up, Inanna leapt from her chair and called for her maids.

It was a joyous day of chatter and laughing, for Inanna was full of cheer and good humor. She would wear her best clothing, be anointed with the finest oils, and bring good company to her sister, Ereshkigal. Perhaps she would hear news of his passing, as well. It would be a worthwhile visit.
Of course, the Queen couldn’t be seen in shambles, so she chose her finest accoutrements from her vast collection of beautiful things.

Firstly, her lovely crown of gold was placed on her head.
Second, the lapis beads that made her skin glow.
Third, a brooch of state studded with many glistening stones.
Fourth, a gold bracelet that shone like the sun for her wrist.
Fifth, a gorgeous purple robe of silk and gold to drape on her body.
Sixth, a lovely breastplate of silver and gold.
And last, a lapis line and reel, tools of abundance.

She fondly looked at her handmaidens, all of them lovely and gracious. However, she would bring only her gentle and most wise companion, Ninshubur, with her on this visit.

Along the way, however, Inanna felt a slight misgiving. She stopped and turned to her servant. “Ninshubur, if you do not see me in three risings of the sun, I implore you to go and find help for me. There may be trouble. Here, remember this list, and don’t hesitate to ask them for assistance.”

Inanna saw the great, cavernous kur and shuddered slightly. Not the most cheerful of places, but not every place could be like her realm. She shrugged and once again dismissed her misgivings. With a gentle yet stern look upon her face, Inanna approached the guard and ordered him to announce her credentials to the Queen Ereshkigal. The me pulsed in her hand, demanding that her wishes be honored.

Upon the guard’s arrival, Ereshkigal demanded to know who had come to her realm with such things as the me. He replied, “I do not know, your Highness. I can tell you that she is as a giant, shining and draped in splendor fit for the Gods. In her hands are the me of entrance and exit to Your realm of the Underworld. Her demands are couched in gentility, and she does not present a displeasing air.”
Ereshkigal smiled coldly. Inanna. How pleasant, and how tardy she was! After a moment of thought, Ereshkigal said, “By all means, let her enter. However, at each of the seven gates, she must drop some of her artifice. Such a visitor must be made to know that they are humble and beholden to me in my realm, no matter what charms she believes she holds.”

Inanna looked up to see the guard returning to the gate. Her heart dropped, then quickened.
“The Queen will see you, Your Highness. Right this way.” He opened the gate, and she started forward.
“Hold! How am I to get through in this little opening?” she said, motioning at the slight crack he had made for her to pass through. “I’m slender, but not emaciated! Should I thank you for the flattery?”
He shook his head solemnly. “The Queen does not want her gates wide for all and sundry. Relax, Your Highness. It is Her way.”

With a sigh, Inanna nodded. “Well enough.” Her head almost hit the low edge of the gate.

“You will have to remove the crown.”
Grimacing, she handed him her lovely crown. “Do not tarnish it.”

At the next gate, the close, protruding bars snagged her beads of lapis lazuli. “Oh! They will break!” With a look of consternation, she handed the jewwelled ropes to the guard.

The third gate, made of a curtain of web, stuck to her and wound around her lovely brooch. Without a word, Inanna unpinned it and handed it to the guard’s keeping.

The fourth gate loomed up ahead. It was more than high enough, but so narrow! Inanna handed over the lovely breastplate, remarking that perhaps she should have brought a basket with her for the guard’s ease!

The fifth gate had hooks around the door, which hooked her bracelet most cruelly. She slipped it from her wrist.

The sixth gate moved and wouldn’t stay in one shape. What it did do was block her lapis line and reel, no matter how Inanna tried to maneuver through. Reluctantly, she handed it to the guard. There was one gate left, and only one thing left in her possession!

The seventh gate was the oddest of all, a door full of howling winds that blew her robe around her ankles with every step she took. This would never do; it would hardly be the acceptable to trip in front of the guard! With a deep breath, Inanna pulled the silken robe over her head and handed it to the guard. She didn’t dare look at the guard’s face, her embarassment was so great. There was no good reason to be stripped so bare before all and sundry, other than the desire to see nothing less than her total debasement. This wouldn’t do; she would walk with her head held high, seemingly unfazed by her nudity.


Ereshkigal was not as she remembered her. This Ereshkigal was swarthy, with long, dark tangled curls and pale, waxen skin. Her body was different, as well; it was plain that she was made for more fleshly pursuits rather than pure, chaste ones.

The biggest differance, though, lay in her eyes. They were hot, so very hot. Inanna couldn’t decide if she was more afraid of the passion in this woman’s eyes, or of the rage.

“Sister,” the lady said, walking slowly towards Inanna. “What brings you to my Underworld, through the kur, and into my prescence?”

Inanna stuttered, at a loss, the charms that fell so easily from her mouth completely frozen in her throat. What would she say? That she was just here for a family visit? It sounded so cheap and transparent, and Inanna felt a wave of shame that she even created the excuse in the first place. Honesty will save me, she thought to herself. I will show my nobility by admitting to my curiosity.

Feigning a bright smile, Inanna said, “My sister, I had the opportunity to come and see you. I have heard that you chose to stay here, and I was overcome with the desire to-”

“What? Gawk? Stare?”

“Well, no, I really don’t think…”

“See how far and dark it is down here, how utterly without redemption my world is?”

“I…now see here, Ereshkigal…”

“YOU see here, Inanna!” the dark queen barked as her patience finally broke. “You didn’t know better, and you still don’t know! Those me that you held are worthless, worthless!”

A tendril of fear crept up Inanna’s dusky skin, and the chill raised bumps. “What could you mean by that?”

Ereshkigal replied, “You have been expected here, Inanna. You are so pure, so clean, so untouched by what soils me to the core. Verily, you are as a springtime virgin in this place; your trappings have no place here, they mean nothing to me. You have met uncertainty coming through those gates, and you meet fear now.”

“I, ah, ummm…”

“There is nothing for you to say with your willfully ignorant purity. The Underworld has followed you. I have followed you, all this time, while you chose to look past me and pretend that nothing was there. Inanna, your separation from the reality of my existence enabled you to take those me and proceed thusly. You act as if you are taking a turn around the garden, protected by a parasol from the burning sun. The reality is that you have put the same faith in those trinkets that you held, and I can assure you that they wll do you no good.”

Never had such words been said to Inanna, and she reeled from the shock of each one. When would the blows end? Never before had stared such rage and judgement in the eye. Inanna’s world was full of beauty, clean and fresh all the time. Now, however, she saw the truth of her sister’s words, and the truth of the spectacle that she so wanted to see.

The throne room was damp, the walls rising in a natural, craggy curve over their heads to meet in the center. It was unceasingly gray and cool in the room, with little light to recommend it. Two thrones sat in the back made of cold black marble; one, she knew, had belonged to Ereshkigal’s husband, but he was now dead. The thrones would be hard and unyielding to the flesh, and thoroughly unpleasant. There were courtiers, silent and watchful, angular and lovely. Inanna could not comprehend a life so drastically unlike her own.

“Ereshkigal! How can one live like this?” Inanna cried out, stricken to the core. “It is like being surrounded by death.”

“No, no. It is all emotion stripped to its base level. I am fear, anger, pride, jealousy, violation. And I am arousal, lust, sin, and animal carnality. I would have no existence without you. I am the darkness that balances your goodness, the death and transformation that combats birth and peace. Inanna, dear Inanna…it comes down to this:

“The sweetest Heaven is always chased by the darkest Hell.

“And as people are accepted by you with no reservation or malice, people are judged by me with all prejudice and reserve. You, too, Inanna, must be judged.”

This was too much! “And who will judge me, Ereshkigal? The marble slabs that you call thrones? I see no one here in judge’s robes, no lawyers!”

Turning away from the naked woman, Ereshkigal sighed. “No, you wouldn’t, Inanna. The Anunna, the judges of the Underworld, do not make themselves known to those who do not even believe in them. However, I have heard them. They have passed thier verdict.” She settled into the throne with a sigh, as if the stiff surface had yielded with the softness of down. “They have found you guilty.”

“Oh! Now you have violated all that is fair and right between sisters! I cannot imagine-”

Then Inanna saw something she had never seen before, and never hoped to see again. Those eyes, Ereshkigal’s, shaded by heavy lids and so hard to interpret, had changed. They were flat, black, and endless; they were everything and nothing, and they held judgements and conclusions that Inanna knew she could not ever face. Her bare feet spun on the grey rock floor, but got no further than a half step away.

No sound escaped Inanna’s lips as she dropped to the floor, cold and lifeless as stone, eyes wide open in a final look of absolute horror.


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~ by isiskali on November 28, 2006.

One Response to “The Descent of Inanna, Part One”

  1. I love how you have written out the myth of Innana. I am very much looking forward to Part Two.

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