The Rescue of Inanna

Inanna, the goddess of love from the Heavens, visits her twin sister Ereshkigal who rules the Underworld, only to be turned into a rotting corpse and hung on a nail on the wall. What happens next?
The Rescue of Inanna

Inanna, the goddess of love from the Heavens, visits her twin sister Ereshkigal who rules the Underworld, only to be turned into a rotting corpse and hung on a nail on the wall. What happens next?

When three days and three nights had passed and Inanna had not yet returned, Ninshubur began to get worried. Ninshubur, if you remember was Inanna’s faithful maid. Something had gone wrong, she knew, and remembered what the goddess had instructed her to do.

Wearing a single-piece garment like a beggar and beating a drum, Ninshubur began to lament the disappearance of her mistress. She made her rounds of the abodes of various gods seeking help. First she went to the ancient city of Nippur where Enlil, the God of the Air and father to all, dwelt. Enlil was Inanna’s grandfather, his son being the Moon God, Nanna.

But Enlil was not moved. “Why did that child of mine wish to go to the land of the Underworld when her place is here above? Those who go to the Dark realms must remain there!” He refused to help.

Next she approached the moon god.   “Father Nanna, your daughter is trapped in the Underworld! Do not let your silver be covered with dust of that world below, do not let your lapis lazuli be broken into pieces by the stone cutters of the dark realms. Do something! We have to save her,” cried Ninshubur.

But the Moon God too declined to help. “Inanna wanted to go to the Underworld. There are rules that have to be followed there. No one who goes there can hope to return. She will have to stay there from now on,” said the moon god.  

Ninshubur was not one to give up easily. Next she sought out another of the great gods, Enki, who was Inanna’s grandfather on her mother’s side. Travelling to his abode in the holy city of Eridu, she began her tearful narration of Inanna’s disappearance before Enki. “What has my child done? What has become of her? I’m grieved to hear of this,” said Enki who resolved to find a way to help.  

From the dirt underneath his fingernails he fashioned two creatures, neither male nor female, Kurgarra and Galatur. He gave the food of life to Kurgarra and the water of life to Galatur. “Now go at once to the Underworld and slip through the cracks of the gates like flies. You’ll reach the throne room of Ereshkigal who will be moaning loudly as if she’s about to give birth. Offer her comfort and she’ll be pleased. And

when she in turn wishes to give you a gift, ask for the corpse hanging on a hook on her wall.”

The two creatures made their way to the Underworld as flies and soon found themselves in the throne room. Ereshkigal lay there groaning and moaning.” Ooh... my inside!” moaned she. “Ooh... your inside,” echoed Kurgarra and Galatur. “Ahhh… my outside,” cried Ereshkigal. “Ahhh… your outside,” echoed the two. “Ohhh… my back,” screamed Ereshkigal. “Ohhh…your back,’’ repeated the creatures. “My poor heart! “she sighed.” Your poor heart!” sighed Kurgarra and Galatur. “Oooh, my belly,” cried Ereshkigal. “ Oooh, your belly,” echoed the two.

Ereshkigal stopped and regarded the two creatures. “Who are you that groan and moan and sigh with me, sharing my pain? Kind strangers, are you gods? Then you shall walk with me! Are you mortals? Then I shall offer you gifts. Shall I give you the water gift, the river of life? Or rather you have the grain gift, the fields in harvest?”

“We do not want it, thank you,” replied the creatures.

“Then tell me, what do you wish for?” asked the goddess. This was the moment they were waiting for. “If you must, give us that corpse that hangs by the nail on that wall!”

‘‘That corpse belongs to my sister Inanna,” said Ereshkigal.

“It does not matter if that corpse is a king or a queen, that is just what we want,” insisted Kurgarra and Galathur. 

Ereshkigal gave them the corpse and they sprinkled the water of life and grain of life they had with them. Inanna rose as good as new.

“Now leave at once before I change my mind,” ordered Ereshkigal for she believed that her sister had come there only to take over her kingdom.

As Inanna was about to ascend to the realm above, the Anunna, the judges of the Underworld, seized her. “You cannot leave this place! Nobody leaves this place without losing something. If you must leave, then provide another to take your place,” they said.

They let her go, but clinging to her were galla, demons of the Underworld. They would return with the substitute Inanna was to provide.

To be continued…

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