Inanna — Queen of Heaven and Earth

Goddess Inanna was worshipped primarily in ancient Mesopotamia or Sumer. The daughter of the Moon-God Nanna and Goddess Ningal, she was described as the ‘mountain born.’ She was a warrior goddess. But her power encompassed far more than just winning in battles. She was one of the most worshipped and revered goddesses in the ancient Sumerian pantheon. She is described in contemporary literature as ‘greater than the great gods,’ as the ‘queen of heaven and earth.’ She was also the only deity in the pantheon that accommodated opposites and reflected both light and dark, terror and love, destructiveness and creativity. She is the goddess of war and at the same time the goddess of all kinds of love. From the love for one’s child to the erotic love for one’s partner are all within Inanna’s domain.

In her iconography, she is depicted as a lady with lions/lionesses at her feet. Her lion/lioness is the symbol of her unrestrainable power. She holds in her hand the Sumerian symbols of fertility, plenty and prosperity. She is also represented by an eight-pointed star. She is associated with the planet Venus and is named the Morning and Evening Star.

Terracotta Plaque depicting Inanna; southern Iraq (1800 and 1750 BC)

Terracotta Plaque depicting Inanna; southern Iraq (1800 and 1750 BC)

Inanna is unbound by the social rules of behaviour and she transcends our ideas of good and bad. She guides us to confront the fact that we are capable of both great good and great evil; that the capability for evil does not live outside of us, but in us. She is the unified manifestation of all that is pleasurable, beautiful, kind, loving, uplifting and bright with all that is painful, ugly, harsh, cruel, downgrading and dark.

Another ancient depiction of Inanna.

Another ancient depiction of Inanna.

‘Inanna’s presence draws us into the realm of the inner life. She is the guide who insists we face our shadowy contradictions, that we own who we really are in all our painful and wonderful complexity. As the goddess of paradox, she is the model of unity in multiplicity. Each of us reflects a bit of her discordance within ourselves. Each of us is burdened with the chore of gathering our many conflicting pieces together into a semblance of order and congruence.’ (Betty De Shong Meador, Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart, page 22)

Inanna was revered, loved, feared and worshipped for thousands of years in the ancient Sumer, that is, (roughly) modern-day Iraq. Of course, now her religion and worship are a thing of the past. But she still lives on and captures our imagination.

A Modern depiction of Inanna

A Modern depiction of Inanna

In these pages, I will attempt to unearth her myth and literature. I will journey to the heart of Inanna’s religion and try to understand the love her worshippers had for her. She is one of the most prominent manifestations of the divine feminine. And she shares many characteristics with the Indian Great Goddesses – she rides lions, just like the goddesses, Durga and Sheranvali; she is a paradox of light and dark, terror and love, just like the Indian goddesses Kali and Durga; and she is the ‘mountain born,’ just like the goddess Parvati. Sheranvali’s name literally means ‘the lion rider’ and Parvati’s name literally means ‘of the mountain.’ So I see Inanna as another facet of the universal divine feminine, the ancient creatress, the Primal Power. Here I will share my journey to her with you.

Goddess Vak — Queen of Heaven, Mother of Speech…

Rig Veda is the oldest of Hindu scriptures dated between 1700 and 1100 B.C. Here is a description of the goddess Vak (an aspect of Saraswati) as contained in the Rig Veda. Vak or Vac is pronounced with a long ‘a’ as the ‘a’ in the word ‘shark.’

Described in the Rig Veda, goddess Vak is one of the earliest identified divinities in the Hindu pantheon. She is the powerful and creative personification of ritual speech, the basis of cosmic-ritual order. Her name means “speech.”

‘She reveals herself through speech and is typically characterized by the various attributes and uses of speech. She is speech, and the mysteries and miracles of speech express her peculiar, numinous nature.’[1]

Artist: Poonam Mistry

Artist: Poonam Mistry

She is the great flood of Ritam or truth and she inspires the seekers’ fire to reach truth in all its forms. She enables one to perceive, understand, and then express in words the true nature of things. The goddess makes it possible for rishis – the learned seers and sages – to hear, grasp, and reveal the truths of existence, to devise, and create the hymns and rituals that express the reality of their visions. She bestows vision to the seers. She gives wisdom to the wise.

Vac is called the heavenly queen, the Queen of the gods (Rig Veda 8.89) – she overflows with sweetness (5.73.3) and gifts vital power to the creation (3.53.15). She gives us the amazing riches of language and thought. The harbinger of light and strength, she gives sustenance to all, in the heavenly and earthly realm. She is the Mother, who has given birth to things through naming them. She also is the giver of friends. She helps one establish oneself in the community of ‘friends’ through the beautiful gift of language to connect with others. The more benevolent she is on someone, the person will have better gift of speech and expression, inspiring more people to connect to her/him as friends (10.71).[2]

On one level, Mother Vak is sacred speech including the hymns and ritual chants. On another level she is also ordinary speech among ordinary people. She is far more than speech and includes the power of perceiving, grasping the nature of things, naming them, and expressing the perception with coherence and form. Her nature is subtle, eternal, imperishable, and above all incomprehensible.[3] Even though she helps us to comprehend all, she herself remains incomprehensible to our intelligence. She does not reveal herself totally to us. Finally, she is not only human speech; Vak Devi (goddess) also personifies the sounds of nature (including the ones from animate and inanimate sources) with which human speech is connected. She bestows sounds with meaning, from the sound of water to that of human speech.


[1] David R. Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (University of California Press, 1988) page 11

[2] Same as above, page 12

[3] Russill Paul, The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant (New World Library, 2004) page 70