Spring is the time of year that always puts me in mind of the many dead and resurrected deities who were featured in various seasonal myths around the world. This is a look at Inanna, but if you want more dead and resurrected gods and goddesses click HERE
Pantheon: Sumerian (The Babylonians called her Ishtar)
The Tale: Inanna the fertility goddess and queen of the heavens was looking to extend her reign to the land of the dead. She descended into the Netherworld, which was ruled over by her sister, the goddess Ereshkigal. Fighting on the death goddess’ own turf was foolish and Ereshkigal won the controntation and either nailed Inanna to a wall of her palace or impaled her on a stake, Vlad the Impaler style.
With Inanna thus imprisoned, vegetation died from the withering heat of summer, which could get even worse in that part of the world, where droughts could be so intense that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were the only bodies of water that would NOT get dried up. The usual drought cycle continued, with vegetation dying, then animals who lived off it dying, etc. In the case of Inanna her dominion over sexual fertility also added the angle that males and females of all species lost all interest in sex and reproduction as well.
The Savior: In this case it’s more of a substitute than a savior. Ereshkigal eventually decreed that Inanna could leave the Netherworld for part of the year if she could find a substitute to take her place for that part of the year. Inanna emerged from the land of the dead and learned that her lover, the shepherd and date (as in the fruit) god Dumuzi (called Tammuz by the Babylonians) had been unfaithful to her in her absence. In her anger she decreed that HE would be her substitute and so her sister’s demons dragged Dumuzi to the Netherworld.
Naturally when Inanna’s time in the Netherworld returned each year the heat of summer caused the “death” of nature, etc. Eventually Ereshkigal fell in love with Dumuzi as well, so she and Inanna reached a new agreement: Inanna would no longer have to stay in the Netherworld for part of the year if she would permit Dumuzi to become Ereshkigal’s lover during the part of the year that HE was imprisoned in the Netherworld. From then on the death of nature in summer was caused by Inanna’s grief over missing her lover Dumuzi when he was in the land of the dead with her sister.
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