Inanna: from the Myths of Ancient Sumer was translated by Kim Echlin and illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber, and published in 2003. I am not even sure where I got this book – somehow I connect it to my friend Rebecca, and think she may have had it as a textbook once upon a time.
Since I love all the Goddesses, and Inanna is one of the oldest, and one of the first written about, she may have thought Inanna would like a home with me. These stories are 4,000 years old – and were written down, clearly, at the very beginning of the patriarchy in that part of the world.
Otherwise, she would have been married or tied in some way to the king or another god or her brother, and would have no doubt born a son. But Inanna is almost totally independent, free, and in her behavior is so strong willed that it is clear she has no constraints on that independence – as the patriarchy would have levied on her if these stories had been written much later.
That she is listed as having a brother, Gilgamesh (he has his own epic with his name on it), who is two-thirds god and one-third man, does indicate that the patriarchy has begun its work on demoting and demoralizing women. But they hadn’t gotten very far when this daughter of the moon couple, and great-granddaughter of heaven and the mother of heaven and earth, was born.
Her first self-initiated act is to rescue the huluppu tree, which a storm ripped out of the earth and tossed into the river. She planted the tree in her own garden, to carve her shining throne and her bed from when it was grown. Then a snake moved into the roots, a bird raised her young in the branches and Lilith moved into the trunk – what effrontery! Inanna (in another hint of early patriarchy) went crying to her brother Gilgamesh, to get her tree back.
She next encounters Enki, chief god, and bests him in a drinking match – recounted in another post – and acquires all of Enki’s power. Then still very young, she is married to Dumuzi, a shepherd who goes all out to win her, works to make her happy – and then leaves her when he is sated.
in most of the poem, however, Inanna is totally self-directed, even when she leaves to go to the Underworld to see her sister Erishkigal, and is left for dead, naked and hung from a hook. At her request, made before she left, Enki sends magical creatures to her rescue. Once alive again, she must name a replacement to stay in the Underworld. After searching, and refusing to send those who have mourned her and helped her, Inanna names Dumuzi, now sitting on her throne, to go in her place.
The Inanna who returns to the world is a totally whole and complete woman, full of power and joy. She becomes a creator. She sings a new song, a praise song, and creates Reed-marsh woman and then Reed-marsh man. “She puts new names in place. Inanna shines over her people. They sing her radiance. They sing her beauty and her song.”
A much more positive story and much happier ending than almost any story out of the patriarchy.
Note: Most of this post was written in February, 2015. Then in July of 2015, I picked up Inanna again, and wrote another and totally different post about Her. Both are, of course, true. : >