[NB] Inanna, Ereshkigal, and the Land Under the Mountain

I want to make a note of one excerpt from Inanna’s Descent that Dina Katz retranslates. At this point, Inanna has been stripped and stands before Ereshkigal:

“She (Inanna) raised her sister from her throne
And took a seat in her (Ereshkigal’s) throne.
The Anunna, the seven judges, rendered a decision against her.
They looked at her (Inanna), the look of death.
They spoke against her, a speech of wrath.
They shout at her, a shout of guilt.
The ailing woman (Inanna) turned into a corpse.
The corpse was hung on a nail.”
The Image of the Netherworld in Sumerian Sources (261)

Katz admits that it is ambiguous as to whether Inanna forces Ereshkigal from her seat, but that the grammar of the original text makes it a possible interpretation, and gives to us a sense of why Inanna is punished. Up to this point in her descent, Inanna has followed the rules of the netherworld, but here she violates them and is punished by the highest gods for it.

Katz notes that the Anunna (i.e., the Anunna-ki) have an ambiguous relationship to the netherworld. Earlier texts identify the Anunna as a single group, while later ones differentiate between the Anunna of the heavens and the “Anunna of the sacred mound,” the kur to which the dead go.

Katz favors reading the Anunna of the descent as the Anunna of the heavens, intervening because Inanna has so crassly violated her sister’s divine rights. But at later points in Sumerian history, it may be that folks read this as referring to the Anunna unique to the netherworld, the Anunna who lived inside the mountain of the dead.

I find this idea suggestive, especially when I turn to Katz’s work on the incantations to deal with evil demons:

“They the galla, they the galla
The galla, who know no shame, seven are they.
Heirs of equal status are they, of one mother they are.
They are messengers of Ereshkigal.”
—Ibid. (342; emphasis mine)

Which suggests a netherworld organized in sympathy with the heavens, with the children of Ereshkigal having power within it in a manner akin to the Anunna above. When Inanna takes the seat of the netherworld she is naked and who holds the seven powers she gave up to appear before Ereshkigal? The galla, her children.

Which makes the story, in part, about the refusal of the netherworld to operate according to the principles of the living, a refusal accept the magian dictates of heaven’s daughter.

Which illuminates this injunction / exorcism:

“Evil udug—to your steppe!
Evil alla—to your steppe!
Evil spirit—to your steppe!
Evil galla—to your steppe!
Take your leather bag.
Take your food offering.
Your place is not in the East,
Your place is not in the West.
Your food is the food of the spirits.
Your drinking water is the drinking water of the spirits.
As for the man, son of his god,
You will not stand with him in the corner,
You will not sit with him at the side,
You may not roam inside the city.
Go to your darkness, at the base of the netherworld/mountain.”
—Ibid. (344)

Because if Inanna may not rule in the netherworld, nor may the children of the netherworld exert themselves upon the living, who are the children of the gods in heaven. The heavens are associated with the movement of the sun and it is precisely the axis of the sun’s movement (east-west) that are invoked against the netherworld spirits.

4 thoughts on “[NB] Inanna, Ereshkigal, and the Land Under the Mountain

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