Tag Archives: spiritual journey

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.

New Year Intentions

It’s hard to believe that it’s a new year and a new decade!    On one hand it seems like just yesterday we were beginning 2009 and then on the other hand so much has happened that it seems like long ago.  Time is a strange concept for sure.

First I want to send everyone positive intentions for a year full of love, harmony, prosperity and adventure.   We certainly face many challenges right now, but we each can choose how we react to whatever situation we find ourselves in.  May we all find the strength to choose love over fear.

It’s my intention to pay more attention to my blog this year.  In addition to longer reflections on art related topics I plan to post “An Artist’s Musings” – something like an online sketchbook/journal.

Plus I invite you to join me on a painting journey, which for me is a spiritual journey.   As my process almost always becomes a courtship between control and letting go, I’ll share it with you by posting images of paintings in progress.  On this journey you’ll discover that there are no mistakes; that painting, like life, unfolds magically as we open ourselves to the flow of the source.

And so here’s my first of
An Artist’s Musing

The sun shines in my mind’s eye
The ever present pattern of glowing interlocking circles
The Seed of Life becomes
the Flower of Life

The Joy of Spring

Tomorrow, March 20, is the first day of spring! I am always so happy when spring arrives. With the arrival of spring, I feel what humans have felt since the beginning of time; the joy of rebirth and a sense of awe and wonder at the return of the light.

Spring, of course, follows winter. The winter solstice, usually December 21, is the point in our earthly seasons when the sun is at it’s lowest point in the southern sky. It remains stationary for 3 more days. The nights are long and we huddle around the fires praying for the return of the light. At this time throughout the northern hemisphere, celebrations abound as we come together to reassure ourselves that life will renew again. Then on December 25 the sun begins its slow movement north, slowly giving us longer days and more light. Winter is a time for us to go inward, to deepen and to experience the mystery of the underworld. The seeds we plant germinate.

After that long season of internal work we get our reward. At the Spring Equinox we experience the resurrection, the rebirth of the light and joy bursts forth from our hearts. Flowers are starting to bloom, birds are back and singing their songs, and gentle breezes caress our souls. I even saw my first butterfly of the season today!

Garden of Light 2

Garden of Light 2

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?