The goddess Ishtar is one of the most important
characters in Mesopotamian mythology. In the myth known as
Ishtar’s Descent to the Great Below she decides to leave her
realm of Heaven and Earth and go down to the Great Below ruled
by her sister Ereshkigal.
Ishtar has to go through the seven gates of the
Great Below. At each gate has to give up one of the symbols of
her seven cosmic powers. When Ereshkigal sees Ishtar she has her
killed and hung up from a nail in the wall like a water-skin.
With Ishtar dead in the Great Below all renewal
of life on Earth stops.
The god of wisdom, Ea, sends a creature to the
Great Below who tricks Ereshkigal into letting Ishtar come back
to life. But Ishtar can only leave the Great Below if somebody
else takes her place.
In the end Ishtar’s place in the Great Below is
taken by her husband Dumuzi and his sister Geshtinanna. They
will take turns to spend six months of each year in the Great
That is how and why the seasons change, year
Click thumbnails to view photos:
Iraqi elders at the British
Janette Yacoub reads
Ishtar’s Descent in Babylonian
Badia Obaid tells
Ishtar’s Descent in Arabic
This ZIPANG Day Out
was featured on the BBC World Service in a TV news
report by Kifah Arif broadcast on 8th July 2010. Click
here for the Arabic version of
the broadcast or
for an English version. (Please note: BBC videos do not
play for users outside the UK.)