At this workshop, the new
ZIPANG storyteller Ann Gilmartin told the Sumerian
story of Inana’s Descent into the Underworld. Inana, the
goddess of love and fertility, decides to visit the underworld
Land of the Dead which is ruled by her sister Ereshkigal. She
puts on her crown, necklace, broach, gown and special anklets.
All the symbols of her power. She leaves her loyal companion
Ninshuba at the gate of the underworld to tell the gods if she
does not return.
Ereshkigal’s gate-keeper takes Inana through the
seven gates of the underworld. At each gate he removes one of
her symbols of power. ”This is the way of the underworld,” he
tells her. Inana enters Ereshkigal’s throne-room bowed low and
naked. Ereshkigal is furious that Inana has ventured into her
realm. She looks at her with the eye of death. Inana dies and
her body is hung from a hook on the wall.
Without Inana there is no fertility in the Land
of the Living. Ninshuba tells the gods that Inana has not
returned from the Land of the Dead. Enki, the god of fresh water
and wisdom, scrapes dirt from under his finger-nails and from it
creates two strange little flying creatures. They fly through
the cracks in the gates of the underworld and enter Ereshkigal’s
throne-room. She is moaning and groaning like a woman in
child-birth. They sympathise with her, as Enki told them to.
Comforted by their concern, Ereshkigal asks the two strange
little flying creatures what she can give them. “Give us our
Queen who hangs from that peg,” they say.
Inana’s corpse is lifted off the hook and
revived by the food and water of life brought by the two strange
little flying creatures. But it’s not over yet. The judges of
the underworld rule that Inana cannot leave the underworld
without sending another god to take her place…