Gold trail

On the trail of eternity

Inanna, Sumerian goddess of love (summary)

King and queen with branch (stele of Ur-Nammu)

By on 16 April 2020

King and Queen with the Crown of the Earth

Goddess Inanna and her heroic king
(royal couple, edited. Original s. stele of Ur-Nammu.)

The Traditions of Inanna - Summary


The mythology of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, describes strong, self-determined femininity. As a goddess, Inanna has all three areas of womanhood and thus attained wholeness.

This makes her a role model for every woman.

[S. Inanna - Goddess and strong woman; Female Wholeness - the Goddess, White / Red / Black and The Feminine Way / the Way of the Woman.]

Here is the direct access to the first episodes of the mythology around Inanna (with interpretations and retelling as a modern story):
Prologue, Part I: In the First Days (the Sumerian creation story)
The Tree of the Goddess in the Garden of Eden (Episode 1)

Basis for later traditions

The tales of Inanna contain weighty symbols and archetypes that have been incorporated into later traditions, especially the Jewish story of Paradise and the Fall.

The symbols and archetypes:


Now for a summary of the mythology surrounding Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love.

Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love

Opening credits: the creation of life

The little tree and the river

From the stormy meeting of father and mother, life was born. Represented in mythology by a small tree that plants itself on the banks of the Euphrates. But soon it is uprooted because the whirling south wind tugs at its branches and roots, so that it falls into the river and is carried away.

[S. In the first days (Prologue I); The Father and the God of Air (Prologue II) and Sumer: Creation and Fall - Detailed Interpretation.]

The Garden and the Tree of the Goddess in Eden

The little tree in the river

The story of Inanna begins with a young woman walking along the banks of the Euphrates. There she discovers a small tree, which floats uprooted in the river. She takes it out of the river and brings it to her garden in Eden. Now we also learn the name of the woman: Inanna (= The goddess who descends from heaven).

The planting of the tree in Inanna's garden

Inanna then plants the little tree in her garden. She also has big plans for it: when it grows up, she will have her shiny throne and bed made from its wood.

[S. Inanna's Tree in the Garden of Eden (Episode 1).]

A lot of time passes ... five years, ten years ... But then problems arise:

The tree - occupied by alien beings!

Power corrupts young life

Then a snake that could not be tamed made its nest in the roots of the tree,
and the AnZu bird placed its brood in the branches of the tree,
and the dark maiden Lilith built her house in its trunk.

The young woman who loved to laugh cried.
And how Inanna cried!

(But they did not want to leave the tree.)

Drive and robbery

Inanna's tree is occupied by dark beings of power.

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree
  • The snake symbolises the drive that rules in matter and in the body.
  • AnZu is the great Above (An means divine or spiritual). In the realm of the spirit, therefore, a great bird has taken up residence, namely the lion eagle, which unites the two most dangerous predators of earth and air. In the spirit, therefore, predation and power reign instead of love. 
  • In the trunk of the tree, symbol of life and the soul, Lilith (Lil-Itu = air, dark) is still mentioned. The name is associated with the god of air. His name is EnLil and he is unscrupulous, because he takes where and what he wants and because he can. Possibly that's why he doesn't shrink from the innocence of his daughter ... (s. Lilith: destroyed and disturbing femininity).

The felling of the tree

Gilgamesh, the strong hero

Inanna seeks help and finds it at last in her cousin Gilgamesh. The great hero of Uruk enters her garden in his armour, which weighs over 200 kilos. And with his bronze battle axe, which weighs about 30 kilos, he unceremoniously cuts down the tree and strikes off the head of the snake. The lion eagle flies off into the mountains with its young and Lilith flees to a desolate place.

The goddess Inanna and Gilgamesh, her hero king

Thus Inanna gets her throne and bed from the trunk of the tree and Gilgamesh gets pukku and mikku (staff and ring) from the branches and twigs. This is the sign that he is Inanna's chosen king.

(But as king of Uruk, Gilgamesh brings much suffering to the maidens and mothers of Uruk because he misuses "pukku").

Inanna and the ME, the forces of wisdom

A drinking contest between Inanna and the father

The next episode begins with the young goddess cheering her miracle-working vulva and then setting off for Eridu. She wants to address a prayer to the father, the god of wisdom. He, EnKi, the god of the earth, foresees her coming and commands his sukkal Isimud to receive and entertain Inanna in a princely manner. Inanna and EnKi drink a lot of beer together - and more and more beer. While intoxicated, EnKi grants Inanna the 77 ME, which are all the powers of wisdom.

The powers of wisdom in the sky boat

Inanna quickly packs them into her "sky boat" and pushes off from the quay (the sky boat is the crescent moon when the moon is waxing and symbolises the virginal aspect of the goddess). EnKi has barely sobered up when he is horrified to discover the disappearance of the ME. Isimud has to explain to him what has happened: "My father gave them all to his daughter Inanna!

Battle for the Me

EnKi then sends Isimud after Inanna. He is to retrieve the ME with the help of the Enkum monsters. So Inanna's boat is attacked. But she does not want to admit defeat and calls her Sukkal. Ninshubur, the strong warrior who was once the Queen of the East, successfully defends the boat and the monsters are flung back to Eridu.

A flood for the sky boat and the ME in Uruk

On the advice of Ninshubur, Inanna, who is the city deity of Uruk, floods the streets of the city and sails the sky boat to her sanctuary. Here the powers of wisdom are unloaded and presented to all the people in solemn triumph.

Father EnKi shows himself to be a good loser and also comes to the celebrations. He congratulates the young goddess on her victory and decides that the ME may now stay in Uruk forever.

Sumerian text from Wolkenstein-Kramer, Inanna

Marriage of the goddess: the cultivator or the shepherd?

Inanna and the Shepherd

Now the time has finally come for Inanna to marry. Two very different men vie for her favour: the shepherd and the farmer.
Inanna follows the advice of her brother Utu, the sun god, and chooses the shepherd Dumuzi. As her chosen hero-king, he is also the god of the grain's power to grow. He is Enki's "son of life" (Sumerian ZI = life; DU/DUM = son).

Inanna and the path through the underworld

"Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below".

Many years have now passed and Inanna now has mother two grown-up children. But she has perceived something ... it is time. Therefore, by her own decision, she sets off into the underworld, into the realm of shadows and death.

The Seven Gates of the Underworld

To get to the goddess of the underworld, she has to pass through seven gates. The gatekeeper has been instructed to raise the gates just a little so that Inanna has to bend down. And at each gate he takes away one of her divine and regalia, her crown, her necklace, her golden breastplate, her royal mantle ...

The ruler of the underworld and the eye of death

After passing through the seven gates, Inanna stands naked and deeply bowed before EreshKiGal, the ruler of the underworld. She is accused and the eye of death kills her. Then her body is hung on a hook on the wall.

Salvation through EnKi, the Father and God of Wisdom

Ninshubur seeks help

But Inanna would not be a goddess if she had not taken precautions. She has instructed her companion Ninshubur to fetch help in case she does not return on the third day. So Ninshubur sets off. However, the gods Nanna (the moon god) and EnLil (the god of air) reject her and say: "No one returns from the underworld!

Enki, the Father and God of Wisdom

But Enki, the father, is seized by great grief for Inanna. He knows the ruler of the underworld, the great mother, and knows that she is in labour like a woman in childbirth.

So he digs out some dirt from under his fingernails and creates two tiny beings from it, small enough to slip through the gates of the underworld. They reach EreshKiGal and - following Enki's instructions - join in her lamentations. This is how they win her favour and any wish. They now ask for Inanna's body and sprinkle it with bread and water of life.

Inanna stands up again.

Angry Inanna: the demons of the underworld

Inanna only wants to leave the underworld, but the judges of the underworld demand that she provide a replacement for herself because she has broken the law of impossible return. To find one, the Galla, the demons of the underworld, attach themselves to Inanna's side.  

The faithful spared

Back on earth, Inanna and the Galla meet Ninshubur (who had rescued Inanna's skyboat) and fetched help. Still worried and grieving for Inanna, she has wrapped herself in sackcloth and ashes and throws herself at her feet as she looks on. The Galla want to pounce on her, but Inanna fights back: "No! She saved me!". The same goes for the two children Lulal and Shara. Inanna stands up for them too.

The faithless husband of the gods on the throne

"We will go with you to the big tree", say the Galla. There under the tree sits Dumuzi, the shepherd on the throne, princely dressed in the splendid robes of the ME. He does not rise at Inanna's appearance, whereupon Inanna turns the eye of death on him. Now the Galla fall upon him and thrash him.

The Shepherd in the Desert 

Dumuzi flees in terror. He prays to the sun god, Inanna's brother, to turn him into a snake. His prayer is answered. And so Dumuzi escapes. But the Galla are hot on his heels. Again and again Dumuzi escapes and again and again they find him. The last time they find him is in the sheep pen of his little sister Geshtinanna, the goddess of the vine, where they attack him. Now there is no escape. The Galla seize Dumuzi. The shepherd is no more.

Mourning and reconciliation

But the goddess of the vine mourns him. When Inanna sees her grief, her heart softens. Together they search for Dumuzi and find him weeping in the ditches of Arali. Inanna is now reconciled, but her spouse is not spared from making the journey through the underworld as well. Geshtinanna begs Inanna to share her brother's fate with him. Inanna agrees.

So a good solution has been found: The god of grain goes to the underworld for half a year in autumn and the goddess of the vine in spring.

Now Inanna sings a song of praise in honour of EreshKiGal, who is her grandmother and the Great Mother, ruler of the underworld.

Holy Wedding

We continue with:

Interpretations and retelling of the mythology surrounding Inanna:
In the early days (the Sumerian creation story, prologue, part I)
The Garden of the Goddess in Eden (episode 1).

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.


Subscribe to newsletter

We respect your email privacy

Subscribe to newsletter

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Goldspur will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.