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Inanna

Inanna/Ishtar was easily the most popular goddess during Mesopotamian times.  Her home city was Uruk but her worship spread quite far.  She is quite popular among neo-pagans but it seems that she has largely been misunderstood in regards to her aspects.  Many pagans these days view her as a fertility goddess but, really, she isn’t.  She is a goddess of love (both sexual and emotional) and war.  She has no children and certain hymns/stories even suggest or outright say that she is sterile.  Ninhursaga is the closest to being a fertility goddess and was often even called “mother” by many Sumerians.  Many people believe that the “Sacred Marriage” is a fertility rite, but that is simply not supported by the facts.  The Sacred Marriage hymn talks about Dumuzi and Inanna sleeping together while the rest of the people celebrate in her honor.  It makes no mention of her becoming fertile.  However, it’s meant to ensure that he can be fertile, but never with her.  Considering other works, such as her descent into the underworld, it’s more likely that this rite is about Inanna making his kingship official.  After this, she must “set him free”, in order to actually marry and have children and do his duty as king.  So, after the rite, their relationship ends.

One of the biggest myths where Inanna/Ishtar is involved is the Epic of Gilgames.  Ishtar asks Gilgames to become her lover, which he refuses.  This pisses her off and she responds by sending the Bull of Heaven to kill him.  However, Gilgames and his companion, Enkidu, kill the Bull of Heaven.

There is also the story of her descent, which is easily the most popular of her myths.  For whatever reason, Inanna descends into the underworld.  Some versions say it is because she wishes to grieve with her sister, Ereshkigal, over the death of the Bull of Heaven.  Some say it was because she simply heard the “call” to do so.  Some say it’s because she wished to steal Ereshkigals knowledge, her mysteries over death and rebirth.  I think it’s likely a mix of these.  The exact reason behind her travelling doesn’t matter so much as what happened while she was there though.  Once she arrived at the first gate, she was told that she could enter but that she had to follow the ancient “laws” which forced her to strip herself of a piece of her power (represented by clothing) as she passed each gate.  Once she arrived, Ereshkigal sent upon her 60 disease, killing her.  After the waters of life were sprinkled over her, she did come back to life.  While this is an important story, it can be a bit misleading.  The Mesopotamians didn’t believe in reincarnation.  They believed that when you died, you went to the underworld, which was just a generally bleak place.  There were some things that you could do to make it a bit better, but it wasn’t really possible for it to be enjoyable, but I’ll get into that in a later post.  So, while Ishtar is brought back to life in this story, that’s not the belief about our human spirits.

Ishtar (I call her by this name because it is simply how she presented herself to me) is actually my personal goddess, so I’ve dedicated myself to her and like to do a re-dedication each year.  This ritual, which I am going to share with you, is adapted from a traditional hymn titled “The Holy Priestess of Heaven”.  I will explain the specifics of the ritual as I go.  I apologize if I forget to explain something!

Dedication to Inanna/Ishtar

You should bathe and be nude for the ritual, or garbed very simply.  Dressing up for the ritual is inappropriate as we must appear humble before the gods.  Also, before starting the ritual, you must wash the feet of the statue or whatever you’re using to represent Ishtar.  In ancient times it was expected for a host to bathe the feet of their guests, it is a show of hospitality.  You are inviting the gods into your home and it is expected.  To not do so is -extremely- disrespectful.  After this is done, you may begin to address the god.

I say, “Hail!” to the Holy One who appears in the heavens!                                                                               I say, “Hail!” to the Holy Priestess of Heaven!                                                                                                 I say, “Hail!” to Ishtar, Great Lady of Heaven!

Holy Torch!  You fill the sky with light!                                                                                                            You brighten the day at dawn!

I say, “Hail!” to Ishtar, Great Lady of Heaven!

Awesome Lady of the Annuna Gods!  Crowned with great horns, You fill the heavens and earth with light!

I say, “Hail!” to Ishtar, First Daughter of the Moon!

Mighty, majestic and radiant.                                                                                                                  You shine brilliantly in the evening,                                                                                                               You brighten the day at dawn,                                                                                                                       You stand in the heavens like the sun and moon,                                                                                           Your wonders are known both above and below,                                                                                             To the greatness of the Holy Priestess of Heaven,                                                                                          To you, Ishtar, I sing!                                                                                                                                   To you, Ishtar, I dedicate myself!

Queen of Heaven, I dedicate to you this statue, to stand for you in a place of worship.  Please accept these offerings and be sated.  I dedicate this statue (second, smaller, statue or smaller candle) to your altar, to represent me, your humble priestess, so that I might worship Your Greatness at all times.

This is when I would dip my fingers into the beer and rub it over the statues lips, or anoint whatever object you’re using.  The statue or item you use is meant to act as a vessel for the god and should be treated with as much care and respect as would be given to the actual god.  The second statue is meant to actually represent you.  It is meant to stand in as you, for when you aren’t directly worshiping at the altar, as a symbol of eternal worship.  This would be the time to dedicate any other items or religious symbols to the altar and the god.  Don’t be afraid to get creative with your offerings and what you say, so long as you stay respectful and humble.

I dedicate myself and this altar to you, Great Lady of Heaven.

__________End_____________

So, “Anunna” essentially refers to the major deities.  Many of the major gods are often depicted as wearing a horned-cap which is basically a display of their superiority.  A god that wears such a cap is very important.

If you’re interested in creating an altar in Ishtar’s honor, there are many symbols that you might like to include.  Her animal is the lion, often depicted with one on each side of her.  Her most common symbol is an eight pointed star.  The sign post is another one of her symbols, though not as popular. (hard to explain, will try and include pictures in a future post for reference but it is the symbol used to represent the name “Inanna”)  There is also the concept of a sukkal, which is basically a servant to a god.  However, while a servant, these sukkals often have greater power than the god they serve.  Inanna’s sukkal is named Ninshubur and it would be appropriate to also have a statue or something to represent her, as she is a sort of guardian to Inanna.

There is so much that I could say and share about this wondrous goddess, but I will save some of it for my future posts.  I think next time I will talk about Enki, the god that possibly loves humanity more than any other god.

-Myths From Mesopotamia – translated by Stephanie Dalley                                                                           -Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green                           -Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Major Gods

 

The Epic of Creation

The Enuma Elish, as it is often called, was written as early as 1936 BC, though the exact date is unknown.  It is possible that it may not have ever been an “official” piece of sacred literature.  It was originally written across seven tablets and we have been able to decipher enough of it to understand the general idea of the story.  The Mesopotamian people believed that we, the human race, were created in order to essentially care for the gods needs and desires.  Because of this, ones beliefs on creation don’t really matter when it comes to worshiping the gods.  So, I think it’s up to the individual to decide what they think in regards to the creation epic.  I don’t believe that creation happened literally the way the Enuma Elish depicts, but I do believe it gives us an insight on the personalities of the gods and it is therefor a valuable source.  It also introduces you to the idea of the Me (pronounced “may”), which are essentially the godly powers that allow civilization to exist/run properly.  I’ll be getting into that concept in my next entry.  I’ll leave you with a link to a translation of the Enuma Elish.

http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/Enuma_Elish.html

Other Sources

-Myths From Mesopotamia – translated by Stephanie Dalley                                                                           -Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Epics and Creative Works

 

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Introduction to the major gods of Sumer.

For the sake of keeping things as simple as possible, I will use the Sumerian names of the gods throughout my blog as much as possible.

I thought a basic introduction to some of the major gods would be a good starting point.  Generally, I will try to avoid discussing the genealogy of the gods because it changed often and there are varying accounts on who married who and who birthed who.  I’ve found it’s not a significant issue so I simply don’t worry about it.  These are the gods which are the most predominant in my personal practice and the ones I found to be the most important to the Sumerians.

An:  His name means “heaven” and he is considered ruler of the gods and rules the uppermost levels of heaven.

Enlil:  A god of air/winds.  He was often referred to as the “king of populated lands”.  Despite being a widely worshiped god in ancient Meso., little information is know about him.

Enki:  The god of fresh water, wisdom and magic.  He has been a friend to mankind since our creation.  He sent the seven sages to us, who taught us the ways of civilization.

Inanna: Goddess of love, passion and war.

Ninhursag:  A mother goddess of fertility.  She is often depicted as a mid-wife as well.

Dumuzi:  A shepherd god who also rules over vegetation.

Ereshkigal: Goddess of the underworld.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Major Gods

 

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About the Author

I am a twenty-five year old woman and have been a practicing witch and pagan since I was thirteen, though I began studying the two long before that.  I started out simply with an interest in ancient mythology, though that interest quickly grew to become a fascination with ancient culture in general.  It wasn’t until I was around thirteen years old that I realized that these ancient practices and beliefs still existed, in a sense.  This was when I began to study modern witchcraft traditions, specifically ones which incorporated pagan beliefs and practices.  I began practicing witchcraft shortly after and it wasn’t long before I stumbled across Wicca.  For a few years, I really thought it was the religion for me.  Once I turned eighteen and started looking for a coven (I was specifically interested in joining the Gardnerian tradition), I had a few experiences which turned me away from Wicca altogether.  However, it was during my search for a coven that I began getting…signs.  As time went on it became clear that it was Ishtar that was reaching out to me.  At first, I was reluctant.  I was still grappling with the confused feelings from choosing to give up on becoming Wiccan.  I was twenty years old when I finally accepted what Ishtar wanted from me and I dedicated myself to her.  I realize now that this was always where I was meant to be.  Over the past five years I have been working to create a coherent religion based around the ancient Mesopotamian culture, their gods, beliefs and practices and it is this tradition that I hope to share with you.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in About the Author

 
 
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