Tag Archives: inanna

Gifts of the Goddess

Inanna, Queen of Heaven, painting by Judith Shaw

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, oil on canvas, 41″ x 30″

In the early 1990’s I discovered the compelling story of Inanna, the ancient Sumerian Goddess, translated and retold in the book, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Kramer.  I was inspired by Inanna’s story to create a series of paintings over several years time.

There are four main parts of Her story – The Huluppa Tree which explores creation and Inanna becoming Queen, Inanna and the God of Wisdom which shows how She brought the Gifts of Civilization to Her people, The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi, a sacred marriage and the Descent and Return of Inanna, the story of death and rebirth.

Read more about the Huluppa Tree and how Inanna brings the Gifts of Civilization in my recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog. 

Winter Solstice – A Time for Reflection

Persephone, painting by Judith ShawIn the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice, usually December 21,  heralds both the time of deepest darkness and the beginning of the return to light.  It is a liminal day offering a transformation from darkness to light.

In the mid-latitudes in the ten days after the winter solstice the hours of sunlight increase by only a few seconds up to a minute or so.  The world slows down allowing a time to relish the quiet of long nights and the inspiration of winter dreams.

One of the most well known stories about the transformative nature of this time of darkness is the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter, Earth Goddess of Grain had a daughter, Persephone.  Persephone lived in the golden glow of her Mother’s love and protection.

But like all youth she was compelled by curiosity and divine force to begin a journey of completion.  Persephone was walking in a meadow one day and she saw the beautiful narcissus flower – the flower of death. As she reached down to pick the flower, the earth split open, releasing Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. Hades then took Persephone, willingly or otherwise, in a Spiral Dance into the shadows of the underworld.

Read my full essay on Winter Solstice, Persephone and two other Goddesses in their dark aspect, Inanna and the Cailleach on the Feminism and Religion Blog. Click here.

Inanna and Her Gifts

Spring has arrived and my garden begins to emerge once more.  The world greens and blooms all around, reminding me that Mother Earth remains constant in Her desire to bless us with Her bountiful abundance. I am also reminded of Inanna and Her love for humanity.

Inanna in Her Boat of HeavenInanna, Goddess of Heaven and Earth, a Sumerian Goddess who encompasses all aspects of life, was greatly revered by the  people of Uruk as she brought them the gifts of civilization.

This part of her story begins when she visits her father, Enki, God of Wisdom.   As they share drinks and a meal, Inanna proceeds to drink Enki under the table.  Once he’s well into His cups He gives Her the sacred me, the gifts of civilization.   Inanna rejoices as she claims these gifts for Her people, gifts such as:
kingship, the divine queen priestess,
the art of the hero, the art of treachery,
the rejoicing of the heart, the art of lovemaking,
the craft of the builder, the perceptive ear,
fear, dismay,
the kindling of fire, the making of decisions.

Inanna gathered the me, which embrace all aspects of human civilization, the light and the dark, and set out for Uruk in Her Boat of Heaven.

Inanna and the Gifts 72

Read the conclusion to this part of Inanna’s story and my thoughts on two issues threatening the gifts of the Goddess, the Keystone pipeline and natural gas fracking on my post on the Feminism and Religion Blog.

May we gaze on the beauty of Inanna as She, in Her love for humanity, brings us the gifts of civilization.  May we understand the need to honor and protect Her, our Mother Earth, on whose well-being our well-being is dependent.  May our hearts and our minds be opened to a new way of being in which we leave behind the role of conquerors and once more claim our place as Her children and Her protectors.

The Power of Intention Revealed

Inanna in Her Garden, painting by Judith Shaw

Inanna in Her Garden, oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

Once again I am amazed by the truth of how our emotions together with our thoughts create our realities.  This truth was revealed last weekend while participating in an art market with the Santa Fe Artists Market.  Since it’s still winter and no one really wants to set up and display their work outside in the cold, SFAM had organized an indoor market for us: a two day show held in the Hilton Santa Fe.

But Mother Nature decided to remind us that the climate is changing.  She delivered a beautiful, sunny warm weekend.  Our visitor traffic was slow on Saturday and almost non-existent on Sunday, as locals and tourists were outside enjoying the day instead of seeking shelter from the cold by wandering in and out of shops and artists markets.

Many of us were doing pretty badly in terms of sales.  By 3pm on Sunday I and many others had basically covered costs; some not even that much.  There was not even one visitor in the room looking at work as I and two other artist colleagues sat together, talking about energy and the importance of keeping positive.  We made comments like, “We might not be doing well this weekend but we are putting out our intentions and it will come back to us at another time – maybe next week”.  Or “It’s important to remain positive and trust in the universe to provide”.  Then we went on to share methods we use for keeping a positive outlook, even in the face of adversity.

As we continued talking in this vein, a woman walked into the room and made a straight line for my booth.  I went over to engage with her, not really expecting anything much to happen.  She began asking me about one of my small paintings.  The painting, Inanna in Her Garden, is one of my many pieces on the Sumerian goddess, Inanna.  I told her a bit about Inanna’s story and the painting.  Without further ado, she said “I’ll take it.”.   You can imagine my surprise at this turn of events.

The ripple effect of that energy change spread out to others.  Within 10 or 15 minutes other artists in the room made sales. Perhaps when the day arrives that I move from surprise about the power of intention to complete trust, my life will flow more smoothly.

The Story of Ereshkigal, Inanna’s Older Sister

ereshkigal drawing by judith shaw

Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld

In the Sumerian pantheon, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld is Inanna’s older sister.  Inanna is the Queen of Heaven and Earth but she does not know the underworld.  Without this knowledge she remains immature.  “From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below”.  Thus begins Inanna’s  journey into a deeper life with the knowledge of death and rebirth.

Ereshkigal was given the Underworld for her domain.  Here she eats clay and drinks dirty water.  She has no loving mother, father, brother or sister.  She has no friends or companions.   She longs only for her own sexual satisfaction.  She is unloving, unloved, abandoned, instinctual and full of rage and loneliness.

Ereshkigal can be seen as the other neglected side of Inanna, the side which feels all those feelings of worthlessness and abandonment.

Inanna's Descent, painting by Judith jShaw

Inanna’s Descent

She becomes enraged when she hears that Inanna, clothed in light and glory, wants to enter the underworld.  Ereshkigal commands her gatekeeper to remove her royal garmets as she passes through the seven gates in route to her Underworld Kingdom.  She wishes for Inanna to experience the rejection and loneliness which she lives with daily.

Naked and Bowed Low, drawing by Judith Shaw

Inanna enters the underworld “naked and bowed low”. The Annuna perceived her neglected parts, her shadow side.

“The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her,
They passed judgment against her.”

“Ereshkigal fastened the eye of death on Inanna.
“Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.” *

Ultimately, with the help of her spiritual servent, Ninshubur and her mother’s father, Enki, God of Wisdom, Inanna is rescued.  Though Ereshkigal ordered Inanna’s death she now moans in anguish, as she has killed the other part of herself.  Creatures created by Enki sympathize with Ereshkigal’s pain.
Now that Ereshkigal is comforted by others, she has released part of her pain.  As she grows spiritually, she is now able to release Inanna.

Inanna is reborn.  But no one leaves the underworld unmarked.  Inanna must

Inanna's Return, painting by Judith Shaw

Inanna’s Return

choose someone to replace her in the Underworld.  The connection between Ereshkigal of the Great Below, the unconscious, and Inanna, of the Great Above, the conscious, has been established and must be maintained.  Inanna must never again forget that part of herself which is Ereshkigal.

The ancient Sumerian story of Ereshkigal and Inanna illustrates the importance of owning all sides of ourselves – the light and the dark.   On this day of the winter solstice when the hours of light are the shortest and the hours of dark the longest, reflection and meditation on this story may help us integrate and understand our own inner pain and feelings of abandonment. Here, in the dark of winter, lay the seeds of our transformation into greater depth and understanding.

* Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.

From Inanna to Persephone – Two Tales of Transformation

When I was younger I thought transformation only happened once.  Upon my first visit to the Underworld of Transformation, I remember walking that terrain as if in a daze.  Where in the world was I and why was the landscape so desolate? Then I remembered the teachings of the Goddess and Her descent into the Underworld.

At that time I was in the midst of deep and sometimes painful changes. This was also when I discovered the Sumerian story of Inanna and learned of Her descent into the Underworld.

inanna enters the underworld

Naked and Bowed Low, oil pastel on paper

Inanna heard the call of the Underworld, which was ruled by Her sister, Erishgikal.  She passed through the seven gates and entered Her sister’s realm, naked and bowed low.

Inanna, unlike Persephone, took that journey only once.  She descended, died to her old self and was reborn;  end of story.  So I naturally thought that was the way it would be for me. Perhaps in those early days of the patriarchy it only took one time to get it right.

Surrounded by Her Love, pastel on paper

Well, times change, right?  Consider Persephone, a legendary Greek maiden, who descended into the Underworld every year for 6 months.   Bless her heart… she keeps going back in a continual cycle of death and rebirth.  The story opens with Persephone, daughter of the Goddess Demeter, as an innocent young woman, who lived in the golden glow of her Mother’s love and protection.

But like all youth she was compelled to explore.  Persephone was walking in a meadow one day and she saw the beautiful narcissus flower. As she reached down to pick the flower, the earth split open, and Hades, the Lord of the Underworld emerged.  Hades then took Persephone, willingly or otherwise, in a Spiral Dance into the shadows of the underworld.  Here she  learned the power of transformation; from death to rebirth, from dark to light, lost to found, chaos to clarity, fear to transcendence.

But, what I didn’t understand about Inanna’s experience is that even though she returned to Her Realm of the living, she did have to send someone in her place.  The process of transformation is cyclical and ongoing for everyone.

Times continue to change and we now seem to be in transformation hyper-drive.  Sometimes it feels as if the old ways, the old structures are melting down around us at lightening speed.

I resist the season’s turn to winter with every step into autumn. I mourn the waning light and fear the approaching darkness.  But once the winter solstice arrives, I relish the quiet of the long nights and the inspirations of winter dreams.  The winter season is the perfect time to explore the terrain of transformation.  The hours of sunlight are short; the dark and the cold are prominent.  We are forced by nature to snuggle into ourselves and uncover the diamonds hiding in the  dark coal.

Both Persephone and Inanna  guides us during the winter season to look inside, to contemplate in stillness and to seek inner peace.  They both teach us what it’s so hard to see; the loss of what is outmoded is in our best interest; we must die to be reborn.

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?