Myths and Legends

The Goddess Inanna

Inanna was the most important Sumerian female deity. She represented the force of sexual reproduction and was the daughter of the moon god Nanna.

 

Although she is regarded as a virgin, Inanna is a goddess responsible for sexual love, procreation, and fertility. She gave herself to the first mythological king of Sumer, Dumuzi. She was worshiped from the third millennium B.C. and was still worshiped in the 6th century as a goddess driving a 7-lion chariot. According to one story, Inanna tricked the god of culture, Enki, who was worshipped in the city of Eridu, into giving her the Mes. The Mes were documents/tablets which were blueprints to civilization. They represented everything from truth to weaving to prostitution, granting power over, or possibly existence to, all the aspects of civilization (both positive and negative). Inanna traveled to Enki's city Eridu, and by getting him drunk, she got him to give her hundreds of Mes, which she took to her city of Uruk. Later, when sober, Enki sent mighty Abgallu to stop her boat as it sailed the Euphrates and retrieve his gifts, but she escaped. This story may represent the historic transfer of power from Eridu to Uruk.

 

Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning "house of heaven" or "house of An" in Uruk was the greatest of these, where sacred prostitution was a common practice. The god of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox. According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival.

 

Inanna's symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions — even then a symbol of power — and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses.

 

Kemo D. 7

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