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The Descent of Inanna

Page history last edited by William Patrick Wend 13 years, 4 months ago

From The Great Above to the Great Below

Translated by Samuel Kramer


  • Inanna descends to hell on her own
  • Naming in first stanza (she, the goddess, Inanna, My Lady, Inanna, She) similiar to Bhagavad Gita


  • The Descent of Inanna is a Sumerian myth that tells the story of a Goddess’s descent to the underworld.

  • She takes with her the seven me, each symbolizing a different aspect of civilization, dons her crown, beads, robe, and other assortments and heads out with her faithful servant.

  • Inanna tells her servant, Ninshubur, to sound a drum and dress as a beggar, to emplore her Fathers not to let their daughter die.

  • When she comes upon the gates of the Underworld, she is greeted by the gatekeeper, who questions her arrival.

  • Inanna explains that she wished to speak to Ereshikigal, Queen of the Underworld and her older sister, and tell her that her husband has died.

  • When the gatekeeper, Neti, approaches the Queen, he tells her of the Goddess at the gate and the Queen is enraged.

  • She orders her gatekeeper to lock all seven gates, only opening then a crack to let Inanna through if she sheds one piece of her garments.

  • By the time she reaches the seventh gate, Inanna is left stripped bare, bowed low before the Queen.

  • The Annuna, who were judges of the Underworld, passed judgment on her and the Queen fastened her with the eye of death.

  • Inanna was turned into a pile of rotting flesh, and hung on a wall a hook.

  • After three days and nights Inanna’s faithful servant Ninshubur sounded the drum and informed her fathers.

  • Both Enil and Nanna refuse to help, but Eridu morns for his daughter and takes dirt from underneath his fingernail.




  • A Me is, in Sumerian mythology, one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, morals, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods

  • Inanna essentially confronts the darker side of herself as she descends into the underworld, and she is stripped bare of her power and learns humility.

  • Some parts of this story have a sense of familiarity; the bible for example, particularly when 3 days and nights is mentioned.

  • Others ancient myths have similar themed stories of upper-world deities and heroes descending into the Netherworld for reason or another: Orpheus and Eurydice, Odysseus, and Dante (Dante’s Inferno) are just a few.

  • The concept of entering the Underworld is used in many different cultures and religions. Some included are Japanese, Finnish, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. 



Inanna abandoned heaven and earth, her office of holy priests, and her temples in the holy cities to go down to the underworld. For protection, she gathered the seven me which symbolized her femininity in the form of earthly possessions. When she arrives at the gate, she meets the gatekeeper, Neti who tells Queen Ereshkigal that Inanna has arrived. The Queen of the underworld is not at all pleased about the presence of her visitor and orders the gatekeeper to let her in through the seven gates. Unlike Inanna, Ereshkigal is the opposite: unloving, full of rage and very judgmental. Ereshkigal wanted Inanna to enter bowed low, humiliatedEach time Inanna enters a gate, she is stripped of her royal garments:

1st gate – removal of crown

2nd gate – removal of lapis beads

3rd gate – removal of double strands on her neck

4th gate – removal of breastplate called “Come man, come.”

5th gate – gold ring

6th gate –measuring rod

7th gate – garment of ladyship

Each garment represented her power, royalty, honor, and sexual allure/prowess. She was stripped of her pride, earthly attributes and her role as queen and woman.


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