‘When Ishtar went down to the Underworld’ by Ghada Gaylani


Location: Mesopotamia, by the main temple of Ishtar, the goddess of love, war, fertility, sex and other mysterious attributes

Time: A long time ago

Wind and Water gathered together. Ishtar was not to be found.

Wind settled down just above the swaying grass, “What next? Is Ishtar out of her mind?”

Water rippled and shrugged her shoulders, “She wants to do her own thing. She’s been working very hard lately. Look at the rising rate of the population. It can’t go on forever. She wants time out.”

“But can’t you see what’s happening to the land?” said Wind. “Whenever I show my face, dust devils swirl up and colour the sky red, the sand clogs up men’s eyes and blocks their noses. Animals stand around bewildered. Houses fill up with dirt and housewives curse me.”

“Yes, I know,” said Water. “I can’t keep up with providing enough to slake people’s thirst. Babies wither like the plants. Our land looks so desolate and parched. Ishtar should have known the gods won’t her allow to return. Going down to the underworld is not a joke. All the gods are against it. They’re fuming! I tried to shake a few drops of water on their foreheads to cool them down, but they wouldn’t relent.”

“I tried talking to Ishtar to make her change her mind,” said Wind, “but she dismissed me saying I was full of wind. Imagine, calling me full of wind! After that insult I slammed the door behind me.”

Water eddied and turned, a whirlpool coiled around itself. “She’s very headstrong and won’t listen to anyone. Do you remember the war last year? So many people were killed, just because she blew a kiss at a priest, distracting him from his animal sacrifice.”

“We must do something soon to put an end to all this nonsense.” Wind cracked and whistled and moaned, “The country will be destroyed if she is prevented from returning to this world.”

“What should we do?”

Wind shook the branches off the trees and blew the roofs off the houses. “We have to go to the gods and plead with them. Come with me.”

Water jetted and surged and rushed forth. “I’m ready. Let’s go and may the Great Creator be with us.”