What is Inanna's Descent into the Underworld?

Inanna's underworld-like image

Inanna is the goddess of sexual love and warfare in Mesopotamian myths and is considered the most important goddess throughout the entire Babylonian era.

What is the story of "Inanna's Descent into the Underworld," in which Inanna plays a leading role?

Let us tell you the story in a nutshell!

Inanna Goes to the Underworld

One day, Inanna, who was on earth, decided to go to the underworld.

In the Underworld, there was Inanna's sister, Ereshkigal, the goddess of the Underworld.

However, the sisters do not get along very well.

Inanna said to her faithful follower, Ninshuburu:

Inanna image

I don't know what will happen to me if I go to the underworld because of that fiery sister of hers. If anything should happen to me, please ask for help from Mr. Enlil or Mr. Shin or any other strong god around Enki.

Ninshubur image

I understand. Please be careful on your way.

Inanna thus departed for the underworld.

Ereshkigal is angry at Inanna's visit

Ereshkigal image

What? Why is Inanna descending to the Underworld!

As Inanna had intended, Ereshkigal, the goddess of the underworld and Inanna's sister, was not pleased with Inanna's visit.

There are seven gates to the underworld, and Inanna had to take off one item of clothing each time she passed through one of the gates.

When she passed through all seven gates, she was completely naked.

Naked, Inanna was judged by the gods for having descended into the underworld without permission and was sentenced to death.

Ereshkigal image

Die, Inanna!

Inanna died when her sister Ereshkigal turned her death stare on Inanna.

Ninshuburu calls on the gods for help

Ninshubur image

Lady Inanna has not returned. This must definitely be something wrong!

Ninshuburu did as she was first told and went to ask the gods with power to help Inanna.

However, Enlil and Shin refused this request.

Enki, the last resort, created Kulgalla (weeping woman) and Galatul (lamenting priest) out of his own nail polish, and said

Enki image

Take the food of life and the water of life to Ereshkigal. And you will get Inanna's corpse as a reward for offering these things. Sprinkle these two things on Inanna's corpse and she will come back to life.

Hearing Enki's command, Kulgalla and Galatul did as he said, and Inanna was indeed restored to life.

Inanna looking for a substitute

Thanks to Kulgalla and Galatul, Inanna was restored to life, but there was one problem.

The gods of the underworld had asked Inanna to send someone to take her place if she was to be brought back to life.

Inanna was possessed by a spirit named Galula.

Inanna image

Now, I'm at a loss. Who should I take as my substitute?

Inanna first went to Ninshuburu.

Ninshubur image

Dear Inanna! You have come back to life!

Despite her mourning, Ninshubul was happy that Inanna had come back to life.

Galula image

You want to take her as your substitute?

Galula tried to take Ninshuburu with her, but Inanna held her back.

Inanna image

Wait. She worked so hard to bring me back to life. She can't take my place.

After that, Inanna met various gods, but they all thought that Inanna was dead and were in mourning, and they were happy to see Inanna revived.

Inanna image

Finally, I'm in trouble. I can't take someone else's place.

Inanna was in trouble.

Dumuzid image

Hey, isn't that Inanna?

That's when I met Dumuzid, Inanna's husband.

Dumuzid did not look like he was in mourning, but was dressed up if anything.

When Inanna saw her husband's appearance, she was furious.

Inanna image

Even though I'm dead, what's the usual! All right, He'll take my place.

Inanna thus chose her husband Dumuzid as a substitute to bring her back to life.

Dumuzid, run away!

When Inanna tells her husband Dumuzid was going to the underworld, he ran away anyway.

Dumuzid image

Sister! Help me!

He went to his sister Gestinanna for help, but she found him.

In the end, Dumuzid and his sister Gestinanna took turns descending to the underworld for six months at a time.

We also have an article detailing Inanna's sister Ereshkigal, who appeared here.

Please also see this page if you would like to know more.

You can also read about other Mesopotamian mythological deities in our other articles.

What are the characteristics of the gods in Mesopotamian mythology?

Please read them together if you like.

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