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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A great book came my way a few years ago, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer.  It was a translation of poetry and hymns from ancient times.  They had been written in clay, and re-written, and those original texts were found with enough repetition and they were obviously intact enough to be accurately  translated into modern languages.

When I learned originally about cuneiform tablets, (in the 50s or 60s) I was told they all were just inventory of goods, so many skeins of wool, or bottles of oil.  Weren't you also?  Well, many apparently were written about something much more important to people.  The things that they believed in, and worshiped.

So rather than say these are stories that are myths...let's give respect to the people who wrote them, who lived with them, and who worshiped a goddesses named Inanna.  When you look at an entire civilization you must consider that the spiritual life of these people has as much credence as the one that we now live with, and we must not erase the inherent validity of it as the religion of that civilization.

It existed 2000 years before the Christian era, and many hundreds of years before the Judaic stories were compiled into a text that a lot of people follow in their religion today. And the religion of Inanna was written in clay by those who worshiped her, 4000 years ago.

This translation, and interpretation by a story teller, was published by Harper & Row in 1983.  Samuel Kramer is a Sumerian scholar who had a long history of working with texts and finding correct English translations. Diane Wolkstein met him in her search for a easily told story about a goddess in 1979, and they decided to work together producing this text of stories that are understandable in English.  They also added some great art from actual Sumerian cylinder seals and terracotta sculptures.

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth

See the queen's wings, and her bare feet resting on 2 rams, her hairstyle and perhaps even earrings.  On the cover of the book are many more symbols that belonged to Inanna.

There are extensive notes following the actual well as photographs of some of the original tablets from which the translations were taken.  Of course international politics played a hand in the production of the book, which hampered the work of the authors.   This all is documented in the section following the actual text of the hymns and stories.

But the wonder of stories show best as a queen's life, from how she achieved power, how she chose her mate, and how she dealt with death.  These stories are a foundation for many other events with goddesses; for instance going into the underworld and dealing with her sister is a direct antecedent of the Greek story of Persephone and Demeter many centuries later.  The poetry is amazingly beautiful, having rhythm that has lived through its repetition and simplicity.  Agricultural images are timeless in telling how people and animals and plants live together.

I recently had to bring out this book when reading (for the first time) Merlin Stone's Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, A Treasury of Goddess and Heroine Lore from Around the World.  That's because Stone left Inanna pretty much out of her book, published in 1979.  She mentions that Ishtar may have similar roots to Inanna, but it is Ishtar's story that Stone includes in her book, published those 4 years earlier.  I enjoy that Stone is giving a thumbnail description of so many goddesses, and am learning many things.  I hope they are still somewhat accurate.

And this brings me to the very active goddess studies that are happening these days, in 2012.  Scholars are updating the histories all the time.  I admit I'm not a scholar, but I make some efforts to learn.  If you know better than what I'm writing here, just let me know!


B. Rogers, Alchemy of Clay said...

I may not be an archeologist, but I learned long ago, go to the source for the most accurate information. That's what the Inanna book offered me. Texts written by Sumerians.

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