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.

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Images of Her 3

‘The simplest and most profound meaning of the image of the Goddess is the legitimacy and goodness of female power, the female body, and female will. The image of the Goddess is transformative because the image of God as male has been deeply internalized in western culture.’ — Carol P. Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess: finding meaning in feminist spirituality, page 8.

Artist: Alexi Francis

Artist: Alexi Francis

 

 

Ganga – the Purest One

In Sanskrit literature, Ganga has been portrayed in her most magnificent form. She has 108 names in Sanskrit including Jahnavi and Bhagirathi. She is also described as flowing in three streams and hence referred to as Tripathaga (one that moves in three paths) or Trisrota (one that has three streams).[1] She is an extraordinary beauty, but she is also powerful and unpredictable. She is independent minded and does not always move within the traditional boundaries of behaviour. She is the giver of life and at the same time taker of life. Her benevolence can change the lives of millions of people for the good, while her contempt can turn into a population’s worst nightmare.

Artist: Eric Zener

Artist: Eric Zener

One of her very well-known Sanskrit hymns says –

O Divine Ganga, the One revered by the gods,

The Saviour of the three worlds by your liquid restless touch.

The Immaculate One who resides on the head of Shiva,

Let my mind dwell on your lotus-like feet.

O Bhagirathi, the One who bestows happiness,

The power of your holy waters is exalted by the wise,

Your glory and grace is not fully within the grasp of my limited intelligence,

Protect me, Merciful Mother, from my own ignorance. (My own translation)

Ganga’s touch is experienced by the devotee like the touch of a divine Mother – loving, graceful and life-giving. By washing away everything that is harmful (spiritually and physically), she gives the ultimate gift to her children – the ultimate comfort of knowing one is taken care for, that one’s mistakes, and misdeeds have been forgiven.

She was also immortalised in the collection of poems named ‘Ganga Lahari’ (Waves of Ganga) written by a seventeenth century poet, Jagannatha. I have found the English translation of only one of his verses –

‘I come to you as a child to his mother.

I come as an orphan to you, moist with love.

I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest.

I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all.

I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician.

I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine.

Do with me whatever you will.’


[1] Ashok Chandra Shukla and Vandana Asthana, Ganga: A Water Marvel (Ashish Publishing House, 1995) page 44

Images of Her 2

When we make our images, they reflect both the deep past of our souls and the future we want to create. The goddess’s images — they are everywhere, in everywoman, in the crowds and loneliness of our planet…….. let us give shape to our dreams and recognise her image around us.

Image

Artist: Danny O’Connor

Images of Her 1

‘The symbol of Goddess has much to offer women who are struggling to be rid of the “powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations” of devaluation of female power, denigration of the female body, distrust of female will, and denial of the women’s bonds and heritage that have been engendered by patriarchal religion. As women struggle to create a new culture in which women’s power, bodies, will, and bonds are celebrated, it is natural that the Goddess would reemerge as symbol of the newfound beauty, strength, and power of women.’ — Carol P. Christ

Artist: Catalina Lira

Artist: Catalina Lira

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For more artworks by Catalina Lira, visit http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/catalina-lira.html

She stirs… in us…

The goddess stirs…. she stirs in us. The primal power, the divine feminine, the ancient creatress, the great mother — she has various epithets. She has different forms and attributes in different cultures in different times. She has been loved, worshipped, revered, feared and cherished in various ways for many thousands of years. The earliest archaeological evidence of goddess worship has been unearthed and dated as far back as 29,000 B.C.

Until about 2000 years back, worship of the divine feminine was part of most cultures in the world. From South Asia to Middle East, from Africa to Europe, from the Americas to the Far East — the religion of the goddess existed and thrived. She existed alongside male gods who were depicted as her son, father or consort or brother. Under polytheistic religious structure, there was not much trouble in the co-existence of multiple mythologies, in the co-existence of multiple divinities, in the co-existence of competing spiritualities without strife.

Detail from ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Boticelli

Detail from ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Boticelli

But in the last couple of thousand years, the worship of the feminine principle has been despised, demonised and discredited, her worshippers have been attacked, injured, slaughtered and her religion has almost been wiped out from the face of the earth.

But not everywhere.

She has thrived in some cultures and her religion has kept pace with changing times. What we commonly call Hinduism, or more accurately, Sanatan Dharma, alive in South Asia, provided the perfect platform where the worship of the goddess could thrive and grow without interruption, without fear. Here the feminine divinities have co-existed with their male counterparts for ages until the modern times. They are depicted in mythology and religion as immeasurably powerful, primally creative, and definitively imperishable. They indeed are the personification of power itself, not power in the narrow patriarchal sense, but in the broad sense of power to create, to sustain, and to withdraw the whole universe; the power to become all and nothing at the same time.

When we look at the history of the worship of the divine feminine all over the world — when we discover the rich mythologies that sustained the symbolic realms of our foreparents, when we read hymns written by our ancestors about the Goddess, the Mother, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Primal Power. the Mountain Mother, the Lady of Largest Heart, the Mother of Speech, the Source of All Knowledge — we realise how much of it have been lost; how much of the spiritual wisdom about the power of the goddess and the coexistence of the feminine and masculine divine principles, accumulated by our foreparents and protected in their hearts, have been lost on us.

Artist: Anna Dittman

Artist: Anna Dittman*

Her religion in the ancient forms survive in very few places in the modern world. India and Nepal are two of the most prominent among them. The traditions of the goddess lives unbroken in the hearts, homes, culture, mythology and temples of the people in these parts of the world.

Devi (goddess) Durga, as worshipped in today’s India

Devi (goddess) Durga, as worshipped in today’s India

In most places where the goddess lived, like the Middle and Near East, the Americas and most of Europe, her touch had been wiped away. But even in the loss, among the blurry clouds of forgetting, memories of Her have survived. And once again we can hear her stirring. She is waking again – waking to the calls of her children.

The Lady of Avalon worshipped in the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in the United Kingdom

The Lady of Avalon worshipped in the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in the United Kingdom**

These pages are a tribute to all the forms she has ever taken to reach us and touch our lives. From Durga to Kali, to Anat and Inanna, from Frejya to Isis, from Cybele to Diana – let us know her and hear her voice. In these pages I will bring to you my experience of the life-long love of one of the most ancient forms of the goddess known to us. I will also document my journey to know more about the goddesses whose voices were silenced by violence and the ones who are rising again.

I hope these pages will become a resource for all current worshippers of the goddess to know more about her other forms and for those who are searching for her, to arrive at her love.

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* For more beautiful images by Anna Dittman, please visit http://escume.deviantart.com/

** For more information about the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in the UK, visit  http://goddesstemple.co.uk/