Inanna’s Descent and Return – an ancient story of transformation

Continuing my musings on transformation, I’ve been thinking of all of the art that has been created over the ages by all of the different artists. Much has lost it’s meaning to us, but some continues to speak to the human experience. Some are so much a part of us that we forget their was a time when they didn’t exist. A saying like “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, or a painting like “The Mona Lisa”, seem to be part of who we are. They are the timeless works of art that transforms us and at the same time express our transformations. As the eons roll on, we live our lives going through many individual and cultural transformations. Every moment the cells of our bodies are dying and being reborn. In this world of opposites, transformation is constant. The universe is constantly creating itself anew through the process of birth and death and rebirth. Stars live billions of years and butterflies live a few days. Matter, which is formed from energy, dies, but energy lives and is reborn into new matter.

The many cycles of death and rebirth are played out in the mythical realm of archetypes. This realm is a visually rich field of symbols from which to draw inspiration for art. I was and continue to be intrigued by the Sumerian Goddess, Inanna. One of the things that I love about the Inanna story is that she is the Goddess who encompasses all of the transformations of a woman’s experience. Unlike the later Goddesses who are fragmented, Inanna guides us through all aspects of our lives; daughter, maiden, lover, mother, queen, holy priestess. Inanna’s underworld sojourn is courageous and triumphant. Hearing the call of the Underworld, hearing Her Sister’s cries, Inanna voluntarily descends into the Underworld, the world of death and dissolution.

The two paintings posted here are part of my Inanna series. The first one, “Inanna Descending” depicts the beginning point of Her descent into the Underworld.

No one can enter the realm of the Underworld dressed in their worldly attire. This paintings shows Her at the first of seven gates through which

Inanna's Descent

Inanna's Descent

She must pass. At each gate the gatekeeper removes part of Her clothing. Finally, naked and bowed low She enters the throne room of Erishgikal, Her sister, Queen of the Underworld. Erishgikal passes judgement on Her, decrees She must die.

But Inanna is rescued and She is allowed to return to Her life in Sumer. The second painting, “Inanna’s Return” shows the first moment that She emerges from the Underworld. But no one returns unscathed from the Underworld. She is accompanied by the Galla. They are with Inanna to find Her replacement, someone to take Her place in the Underworld,. In order to transform, to reach the next level in our development, we must let go of something. Something must die to make way for the new.

Inanna's Return

Inanna's Return

In this world of dualities we are only aware of the light because of the darkness. Have you had an experience with the “dark night of the soul”? What jewels of light have been the result of that experience?


2 responses to “Inanna’s Descent and Return – an ancient story of transformation

  1. Judith ~ your paintings are sooooo original & writing so in depth ~ “Dark Nite of Soul” ~ have had a few ~ both involving death of spouses ~ You see at 23 i was widowed with a young son& then again at 48 & again at 56 ~ So what can I say ~ I go back to Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet ~ I have known joy and sorrow & thus I am a strong woman ~ who still loves life ~ Need to research Iannon a bit more~ she has certainly been with me & your painting speaks tome in many ways! Hugs and namaste, Carol

  2. Hi Carol, Thanks so much for sharing some of your journey. What a great quote from Gibran to use as a guide. There’s a great book, “Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth” which is a retelling of her story in modern English. Your spirit dolls are so beautiful and really focus on the light.

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