The Descent of Inanna

Modified from the Babylonian text The Descent of Ishtar

  1. To the land of no return, the land of darkness,
  2. Inanna, the daughter of Nanna directed her thought,
  3. Directed her thought, Inanna, the daughter of Nanna,
  4. To the house of shadows, the dwelling, of the Underworld,
  5. To the house without exit for him who enters therein,
  6. To the road, whence there is no turning,
  7. To the house without light for him who enters therein,
  8. The place where dust is their nourishment, clay their food.
  9. They have no light, in darkness they dwell.
  10. Clothed like birds, with wings as garments,
  11. Over door and bolt, dust has gathered.
  12. Inanna on arriving at the gate of the land of no return,
  13. To the gatekeeper thus addressed herself:
  14. “Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
  15. Open thy gate that I may enter!
  16. If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
  17. I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
  18. I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
  19. I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
  20. And the dead will outnumber the living.”
  21. The gatekeeper opened his mouth and spoke,
  22. Spoke to the lady Inanna:
  23. “Desist, O lady, do not destroy it.
  24. I will go and announce thy name to my queen Ereshkigal.”
  25. The gatekeeper entered and spoke to Ereshkigal:
  26. “Ho! here is thy sister, Inanna …
  27. Hostility of the great powers …”
  28. When Ereshkigal heard this,
  29. As when one hews down a tamarisk she trembled,
  30. As when one cuts a reed, she shook:
  31. “What has moved her mind what has stirred her heart?
  32. Ho there, does this one wish to dwell with me?
  33. To eat clay as food, to drink dust as wine?
  34. I weep for the men who have left their wives.
  35. I weep for the wives torn from the embrace of their husbands;
  36. For the little ones cut off before their time.
  37. Go, gatekeeper, open thy gate for her,
  38. Deal with her according to the ancient decree.”
  39. The gatekeeper went and opened his gate to her:
  40. “Enter, O lady, let Cuthah greet thee.
  41. Let the palace of the land of no return rejoice at thy presence!”
  42. He bade her enter the first gate, which he opened wide, and took the large crown off her head:
  43. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the large crown off my head?”
  44. “Enter, O lady, such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  45. The second gate he bade her enter, opening it wide, and removed her earrings:
  46. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove my earrings?”
  47. “Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  48. The third gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed her necklace:
  49. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove my necklace? “
  50. “Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  51. The fourth gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed the ornaments
  52. of her breast:
  53. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the ornaments of my breast? “
  54. “Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  55. The fifth gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed the girdle of her
  56. body studded with birthstones:
  57. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the girdle of my body, studded with birth-stones?”
  58. “Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  59. The sixth gate, he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed the spangles off
  60. her hands and feet:
  61. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the spangles off my hands and feet?”
  62. “Enter, O lady, for thus are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  63. The seventh gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed her loin-cloth:
  64. “Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove my loin-cloth ?”
  65. “Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
  66. Now when Inanna had gone down into the land of no return,
  67. Ereshkigal saw her and was angered at her presence.
  68. Inanna, without reflection, threw herself at her in a rage.
  69. Ereshkigal opened her mouth and spoke,
  70. To Neti, her messenger, she addressed herself:
  71. “Go Neti, imprison her in my palace.
  72. Send against her sixty disease, to punish Inanna.
  73. Eye-disease against her eyes,
  74. Disease of the side against her side,
  75. Foot-disease against her foot,
  76. Heart-disease against her heart,
  77. Head-disease against her head,
  78. Against her whole being, against her entire body.”
  79. After the lady Inanna had gone down into the land of no return,
  80. The bull did not mount the cow, the ass approached not the she-ass,
  81. To the maid in the street, no man drew near
  82. The man slept in his apartment,
  83. The maid slept by herself.
  84. The countenance of Ninshubur, the messenger of the great gods, fell, her face was troubled.
  85. In mourning garb she was clothed, in soiled garments clad.
  86. Utu, the sun-god, brother of Inanna, went to Nanna, the moon-god, his father, weeping,
  87. In the presence of Enki, the King, he went with flowing tears:
  88. “Inanna has descended into the earth and has not come up. The bull does not mount the cow, the ass does not approach the she-ass.
  89. The man does not approach the maid in the street,
  90. The man sleeps in his apartment,
  91. The maid sleeps by herself.”
  92. Enki, in the wisdom of his heart, formed a being,
  93. He formed gala-tura and kur-jara, the genderless.
  94. Go, gala-tura and kur-jara
  95. , to the land of no return direct thy face!
  96. The seven gates of the land without return be opened before thee,
  97. May Ereshkigal at sight of thee rejoice!
  98. After her heart has been assuaged, her liver quieted,
  99. Invoke against her the name of the great gods,
  100. Raise thy head direct thy attention to the khalziku skin:
  101. “Come, lady, let them give me the khalziku skin, that I may drink water out of it.”
  102. When Ereshkigal heard this, she struck her side, bit her finger:
  103. “Thou hast expressed a wish that can not be granted.
  104. Go, gala-tura and kur-jara
  105. , I curse thee with a great curse,
  106. The sweepings of the gutters of the city be thy food,
  107. The drains of the city be thy drink,
  108. The shadow of the wall be thy abode,
  109. The thresholds be thy dwelling-place;
  110. Drunkard and sot strike thy cheek!”
  111. Ereshkigal opened her mouth and spoke,
  112. To Neti, her messenger, she addressed herself:
  113. “Go, Neti, knock at the strong palace,
  114. Strike the threshold of precious stones,
  115. Bring out the dingir, seat them on golden thrones.
  116. Sprinkle Inanna with the waters of life and take her out of my presence.”
  117. Neti went, knocked at the strong palace,
  118. Tapped on the threshold of precious stones.
  119. He brought out the dingir and placed them on golden thrones,
  120. He sprinkled Inanna with the waters of life and took hold of her.
  121. Through the first gate he led her out and returned to her her loin-cloth.
  122. Through the second gate he led her out and returned to her the spangles of her
  123. hands and feet.
  124. Through the third gate he led her out and returned to her the girdle of her body, studded with birth-stones.
  125. Through the fourth gate he led her out and returned to her the ornaments of her breast.
  126. Through the fifth gate he led her out and returned to her her necklace.
  127. Through the sixth gate he led her out and returned her earrings.
  128. Through the seventh gate he led her out and returned to her the large crown for her head.