Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld

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Inanna/Astarte/Ishtar Inanna/Astarte/Ishtar

The most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia was Inanna (also known as Ištar).  Monotheistic religions have a way of leaving out women (or making them ancillary characters like Mary). Polytheistic religions often divide their goddesses into fertility goddesses (like Aphrodite) versus power goddesses like Athena or Artemis.  Inanna reflects no such omission or dichotomy: as Queen of Heaven, she was both the goddess of sex and the goddess of war.   In fact, saying that she was the most prominent female deity of the Babylonian/Akkadian/Sumerian pantheon might be unfair:  arguably she was the most prominent god of any sort in that pantheon.

Inanna as depicted by an ancient Mesopotamian scroll seal Inanna as depicted by an ancient Mesopotamian scroll seal

Worship of Inanna seems to have begun in the city state Uruk around 6000 years ago.   Her sacred symbols were the eight pointed star and the lioness.  She is especially affiliated with the planet Venus (which, obviously, was…

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Sumerian Double Helix Snake God

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Ningishzida (middle figure) bringing Adapa of Eridu to Anu (on throne at right)

Ningishzida was a Mesopotamian deity, worshiped in the city of Gishbanda which lay near Ur in the orchards of the Fertile Crescent.  It seems that he was originally a tree god (the name Ningishzida means “lord of the sacred/giving tree” in Sumerian, the first known written language), but he became associated with fertility, the underworld, and the healing force of nature. I wish I could tell you more about Ningishzida, but, remember how I mentioned Sumerian was the first known language?  Surviving texts concerning Ningishzida are ancient.  The texts were baked into clay tablets and these have become smashed and broken.  When translated they look like this (roll over the links along the left side for source identification and click any of the “GI” links for English translations). There is beauty, nature, the underworld, and magic. …

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