[NB] Women in the Sumerian Deadlands

Just a couple quotes. These relate to two earlier posts, one on the Sumerian diasporas and their legacy in occult thought and another discussing the way in which this material has helped illumine my own spiritual experience.

These are both from Dina Katz’s The Image of the Netherworld in Sumerian Sources. I have made some changes to her transliteration of names to avoid using special characters.

The first one relates to the figure of the mourning mother.

“Yet, the characterization of Ereshkigal by the typical expression for motherhood is odd because there is no fertility in the netherworld. On the other hand, if Ereshkigal’s epithet ‘mother of Ninazu’ is related to the other expression, ‘the birth-giving mother,’ we may infer that both correspond to an image of Ninazu as a young dying god….represent[ing] a memory of Ereshkigal as a mourning mother who followed her son into the netherworld.” (387)

For me, this is difficult to disentangle from still older dead mothers, the images of which have had a major influence on the emergence of mid- to late twentieth century neopaganism.

The second relates to the figure of the mourning sister-wife:

“Ninazimua and Geshtinanna [Dumuzi’s sister, who alternates with him in the netherworld] appear as two names for the same deity in the inscriptions of Gudea from Lagash—the wife of Ningishzida….[and] appears to be ‘the exalted scribe of arali.'” (397)

As Katz notes, the arali is a name for the plains where Dumuzi tended his sheep, but it becomes a synonym for the netherworld itself. The role of scribe is prestigious—literacy is a precious treasure in Sumer and scribal expertise the province of the few.

I find it interesting that the scribe is female, because that parallels some of the Valis-Gbadu sympathies I have noted earlier.

In both cases, the ritual mourning is the province of women, whose devotion secures them a special place in the hierarchy of the netherworld. They compose its core, defining an especial affinity between women and the dead in this material.

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6 thoughts on “[NB] Women in the Sumerian Deadlands

  1. Pingback: [NB] Mothers of the Nahua Netherworld | Disrupt & Repair

  2. Pingback: [NB] Sumerian Diasporas Continued | Disrupt & Repair

  3. Pingback: [NB] Inanna, Ereshkigal, and the Land Under the Mountain | Disrupt & Repair

  4. Pingback: Dumuzi | Disrupt & Repair

  5. Pingback: [NB] “A Most Extraordinary Myth” | Disrupt & Repair

  6. Pingback: American Babylon | Disrupt & Repair

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