Ereshkigal Queen Of The Underworld  

Posted by Stella Clark

Ereshkigal Queen Of The Underworld Image
The Sumarian Goddess, Ereshkigal, ruler of the Underworld, is the sister of Innana, the Queen of Heaven. Originally a sky Goddess, Ereshkigal was kidnapped by the dragon, Kur, who carried her off into the Underworld and enthroned her as its Queen. Soon thereafter, the son of Enlil, Nergal, a Sun diety, forces his way into the Underworld and threatens to destroy Her reign unless she becomes his wife.

Perhaps the best known myth of Ereshkigal is that of the story of Innana's descent into Her realm. According to the tale, Inanna descends into the Underworld in the hopes of stealing Ereshkigal's power. To get there, Inanna must pass through the seven gates of the Underworld but would not be allowed to pass through unless she removed an article of clothing at each of the gates. So, by the time She arrived at Ereshkal's inner palace, She was naked and weakened, but determined to that She was going to complete her undertaking. There came a point when Ereshkigal rose from Her throne, and Inanna immediately rushed to take her place. As punishment for her actions, Ereshkal's counselors sentence Her to death for Her actions and hang Her corpse on a hook.

But Innana, ever thoughtful, had instructed her messenger, Ninshubur, before Her journey that if She did not return within three days and three nights, he should seek help for that would mean She had not survived Her journey. At first he sought help from the gods, Enlil and Nanna, but they refused believing that Inanna deserved to die for Her ambition. He than approached Enki, the Lord of Wisdom, for assistance. Enki was willing to help and created two creatures, the Kurarru and the Kalaturru, from the dirt under his fingernails and then instructed them to carry the food and water of life to Inanna in order to revive Her. Their mission was a success, but the counselors demanded that Inanna find a substitute to put in her place if She was allowed to leave. When She agreed, She was accompanied from the Underworld by a legion of demons to make sure she chose a replacement.

Innana adamently refused to allow the demons to take anyone who had mourned Her during Her confinement. So, when Innana came upon Her husand, Dumuzi, and found him adorned in a magnificent robe instead of mourning clothing, She knew he was the one. She told the demons to take him as Her substitute. The wily Dumuzi quickly used his own magic to change himself into a reptile and thus escaped to his sister, Gestinanna who took pity on him and agreed to take his position in the underworld for half the year, while he would spend the other half the year in the underworld.

The goddesses Innana and Ershkigal are actually one and the same, two facets of the human psyche, the cycle of the year in its full seasonal round. The division of light and darkness is a primary one, and, thus, all that is ruled by light and growth, the summer, is a facet Innana. On the other hand, Ershkigal is the transformer; She represents the winter when everything around us decays, rots, but the potential remains from the growth of the season of Harvest and is readied for rebirth in the Spring. Ereshkigal is feared because She is intense, powerful and favors none. She is both the source of vitality and life and as such, She is the enemy of all those who seek to perpetuate themselves in an avoidance of change. Both order and organization oppose the natural cycles of decay; as a result, we tend to characterize Ereshkigal as chaotic and negative because it is She who understands the fundamental truth of all cycles.

From Ershkigal we all can learn about the value of life, the secrets of happiness, and how to release our anger in an effective manner. We should also reenact Innana's descent into the Underworld so we can meet the Dark Goddess Herself, but if we chose to do so, we should not fear the trials She may make us face for they will help us to grow. Although She may make us gaze into the darkest pits of our psyche, we will return as different persons for once we have faced our darkest self and acknowledged it as part of us, then and only then can we be truly free. When we do not consciously the dark feminine in ourselves, we place ourselves on dangerous ground.

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