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(I'm just jotting down a few notes here - I hope I can do a more detailed summary of the book later on.)

Kramer points out that there are multiple, conflicting versions of the courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi.

Discussing the Descent, Kramer remarks, "For it would seem that not satisifed with being queen of the 'Great Above' only, she aspires to be queen of the 'Great Below' as well. She therefore... decks herself out in all of her rich finery and tempting jewels; and holding on tightly to the sacred emblems of her powers and prerogatives, she is all set to descend..." This description made me wonder why Inanna doesn't bring weapons, if Her plan is to take over the underworld - is she planning to argue or bully Her sister into giving up the throne? If She could smash the gates and enter anyway, why try for a diplomatic approach, with the excuse of attending Her brother-in-law's funeral?

If Inanna's intention was to conquer the underworld, that explains the lack of sympathy on the part of Enlil and Nanna when Inanna's vizier goes to them for help after Inanna has been gone for three days and three nights (or seven months, or seven years, seven months, and seven days, depending on the version!)

Here's something I wondered about... if the Queen of the Underworld is giving birth, which would explain the internal pains with which Enki's emissaries sympathise, who is she giving birth to? (She was originally Ninlil, Enlil's wife, and followed him to the underworld where he had been banished after raping her.)

Now this is interesting: Inanna is never presented as a mother goddess, but She does have sons, who are mentioned in the Descent - Shara and Lulal are both in mourning for Her, while Her husband Dumuzi neglects this duty.

The galla, the demons who accompany Inanna as She searches for a substitute for Herself, cannot be propitiated - completely inhuman, they "eat no food, drink no water, drink not libated water, accept not mollifying gifts, sate not with pleasure the lap of the wife, kiss not children, the sweet".

Mourning for the dead Dumuzi, the poet says the god "no longer competes among the lads of his city... no longer wields his sword among the kurgarra of his city". Kramer footnotes: "The kurgarra were part of the Inanna cult personnel who entertained the goddess by duelling with knives and swords."

Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sacred Marriage Rite: Aspects of Faith, Myth, and Ritual in Ancient Sumer. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1969.
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Sumerian literature has its roots in an oral tradition. It doesn't use rhyme or meter, but repetition, parallelisms, similes, and epithets.

In the early 3rd millennium BCE, An was head of the pantheon, and the tutelary deity of Uruk. Enlil of Nippur took over around 2500 BCE, probably reflecting Uruk losing its position as the dominant city-state. (Enki of Eridu may have tried and failed to take over from Enlil.) It's not known how Inanna took over from An as tutelary deity of Uruk. When the pantheon was being systematized around 2500 BCE, She became not just goddess of love, but goddess of war and the planet Venus.

Kramer ponders why the death of Dumuzi, the shepherd-god, affects plant life as well as animal life. He speculates there might be an undiscovered parallel story about the death of Enkimdu, the vegetation god who was Dumuzi's rival for the love of Inanna; or perhaps Dumuzi's identification with the king, "who was the 'farmer' as well as the 'shepherd' of his people", meant that "the languishing of all life, plant and animal, was attributed to him."
Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sacred Marriage Rite: Aspects of Faith, Myth, and Ritual in Ancient Sumer. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1969.
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The Sumerians' cosmology became "the basic creed and dogma of the entire Near East". The sea that surrounds the universe has existed since the beginning of time; from the sea came "a vaulted heaven superimposed over a flat earth and united with it", with the atmosphere separating them. The heavenly bodies were made from the atmosphere, after which life and the human race came into existence. The gods were in charge of every aspect of the universe and ran it according to plans and the me, "a set of universal and unchangeable rules and laws".

The four main gods, in charge of heaven, earth, air, and sea, were An, Ki, Enlil, and Enki. "Their creating techniques consisted in the use of the divine word: all the creating deity had to do was to lay his plans, utter the word, and pronounce the name."

Human beings were created for just one purpose: feeding and sheltering the gods. Human life is uncertain and insecure, but better than the dreary underworld. "The proper course for a Sumerian Job was not to argue and complain but to plead and wail, to lament and confess his inevitable sins and failings to his special personal gods, his 'good angel' as it were, through whom he would find his salvation."

"The centre of the cult was the temple, its priests, priestesses, singers, musicians, eunuchs, castrates, and hierodules. Here sacrifices of animal and vegetable fats, and libations of water, beer, and wine, were offered daily." There were also "new moon feasts and other monthly celebrations", as well as the most important ritual, the New Year celebration.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sacred Marriage Rite: Aspects of Faith, Myth, and Ritual in Ancient Sumer. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1969.
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I'm reading an article from ReVision about "female demons and the demonic female" - the dualistic projection of all things dark and evil onto women. It's sloppy, but it makes one point I found fascinating.

First, the sloppy stuff. The landmark book Inanna: Queen and Heaven of Earth by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer includes a translation of an episode from a longer epic, GilgameŇ°, Enkidu and the nether world, which W&K have titled Inanna and the Huluppu-Tree.

The article's author, Elinor Gaden, posits that the split between good and bad woman, virgin and whore, has already begun with this very ancient story. The "dark maid Lilith" makes her home in a tree that Inanna hopes to use for furniture, and Gilgamesh has to drive her off. Gaden says Gilgamesh smashes Lilith's home; but the text clearly states that Lilith destroys her own home and flees the threat, just as the Anzu-bird flies away. Gaden doesn't mention the other creatures also infesting the tree, a snake and a bird - surprising, since according to Marija Gumbutas, these are symbols of the controversial original Mother Goddess, and Gaden could've used them to bolster her argument.

But the real trick the author has missed is the obvious one: the complex nature of Inanna herself, who's so much more than a damsel in distress. If earlier religion should be less dualistic than later religion, then the complicated mix of love and violence in Inanna's character is surely a clue to the change. Gaden argues, rightly, that the modern Goddess movement has neglected the "dark" side of the Goddess; I think that she's missed a terrific chance to show an alternative.

Gadon, Elinor W. Revisioning the Female Demon. ReVision 20.3 (Winter 1998): 30(1).
Wolkstein, Diane and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer. Harper and Row, New York, 1983.
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As you can probably tell, I'm juggling multiple research interests at the moment. :-) I've just finished reading Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer's personable and enjoyable autobiography, In The World of Sumer. Here are a few notes:-

- The Sumerian version of The Epic of Gilgamesh and the later Assyrian version share the same basic outline, but differ greatly in the details. The gifts offered by Inanna/Ishtar are different; Gilgamesh's Sumerian speech rejecting Her is longer and lacks the mythical allusions.

- Inanna crops up in various Sumerian texts, including Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta and Enmerkar and Ensukushsiranna, in which kings are rivals for Her approval and sexual favours. More examples ) (Note that Kramer uses slightly different titles than the ETCSL.)

- "Not surprisingly, Inanna, the most [passionate of lovers] in Sumerian myth, was also the most [fervent hater]: she sent her overreaching husband to hell; pursued the gardener Shukalletuda relentlessly and put him to death; and to avenge an insult she sought the destruction of an entire city. In the hymnal literature this goddess who could be sweet and loving on occasion is often depicted as a venomous, thundering, tempestuous deity who brings destruction and desolation in her wake." (p 207) *whistle*

- Kramer is very gracious throughout the book, but is firmly unimpressed with Diane Wolkstein's chapter interpreting the material in Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth ("a hodge-podge of pseudo-metaphysics, Jungian psychology, kabbalistic occultism, sexual symbolism, far-fetched midrashic interpretations, and superficial analogies") and says it was added without his approval. He also mentions the undergrads who would drift away from his courses when they failed to provide "the profound cosmic insights of the ancients".

Footnote on pronouns )

Kramer, Samuel Noah. In the World of Sumer: an Autobiography. Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1998.
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Some Mesopotamian snippets from Mythologies of the Ancient World, edited by Samuel Noah Kramer.

When the book was written in 1961, no Sumerian creation myths had been found - only much later Babylonian stories of creation. (I think this is still pretty much true.) However, various texts describing the organisation of the universe, and the creation of people, have been found. One of these stories involves the rape of the goddess Ninlil by the chief god, Enlil. Unlike Greek mythology, rape is taken very seriously in Sumerian myth: despite his status, Enlil is banished to the Nether World for his crime. Similarly, Inanna relentlessly pursues and slays Shukallituda for raping her while she slept. Does this bear any relation to rape law, or to the status of women, in those two societies?

One story, in which the clever god Enki's organises the world, concludes with a complaint from Inanna that she's been shortchanged in the handing out of mes (pronounced "mays" - divine offices, insignia, powers). Enki responds by listing the mes which Inanna has been given. I think this must prefigure the story of Inanna getting Enki drunk and pinching all the mes!

In another Enki story, he eats plants created with enormous effort by the goddess Ninhursag, who curses him and then leaves - Kramer suggests so that she can't change her mind about the curse. I don't know whether there's any connection, but there was an Egyptian festival celebrating the return of the Eye of Ra, who would angrily leave the other gods, and eventually be coaxed back - more on this shortly. (Based on the Enki and Ninhursag story, Kramer explains the etymology which may have resulted in Eve being created from Adam's rib.)

The Babylonian Enuma Elish was written not to explain the creation of the world, but to glorify Babylon and its patron deity Marduk - a huge chunk of the epic is just a recital of all his names and titles. No goddesses take part in creation in the epic, but there are fragments of other creation stories in which they do: for example, one in which Marduk is assisted in creating humanity by the mother goddess Aruru (aka Ninmah, Nintu, or Ninhursag to the Sumerians). In another, Aruru (this time named Mami) asks Enki for advice on creating humanity to do the gods' work, and he suggests creating them by mixing clay with the blood and flesh of a slain deity (similar to Enuma Elish).

There are also myths in which a courageous god (eg Marduk) slays a monster after other gods' collective nerve fails, as in Enuma Elish; including one with a sea monster called Labbu, which I think was aka Leviathan (I'll investigate further).

Kramer, Samuel Noah. "Mythology of Sumer and Akkad". In Mythologies of the Ancient World. Samuel Noah Kramer (ed). Doubleday NY 1961.


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