Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld

Tablet depicting Sumerian Goddess Inanna
He clawed feet is an ancient way to depict the fact she visited the Underworld.

“From the great heaven she set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven Inanna set her mind on the great below. My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. Inanna abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld.”


Thus begins one of the most famous Sumerian myths of all time, with one of the most famous introductory passages of all time.

The new novel I am working on is a retelling of the Inanna myth. Inanna was a Sumerian goddess of fertility, love, and war. Venus is her star. As she descends to the Underworld, ostensibly to find either power or knowledge (the poem is open to interpretation), she has to divest herself of her garments. This is probably a metaphor for divesting herself of certain earthy illusions, but it can play either way.

Anyway, as you might suspect, descending to the Underworld is a really bad idea on her part, and it doesn’t work out the way she thinks. When she does not return, her loyal servant, Ninshubur, goes in after her.

In ancient times Venus was considered to be the Star of Inanna
Venus is the Star of Inanna

I became aware of the Inanna myth a year or so back. I immediately thought it would be a nice framework for a story. At the time I was thinking about writing a Great Depression novel. I wanted to examine the hobo culture at the time. Personally, I don’t buy into the romanticization of that period. Frank Capra’s idealistic portrayals aside, I don’t think it was a heroic lifestyle at all. I believe it was brutal, hard, dehumanizing, and violent.

That’s the novel I am going to write, anyway. Or attempt to write.

There are many translations of the Inanna poem online and you can find them rather easily. The problem with the translations is the language itself is so ancient you can read many things into it. Which, for a writer, isn’t all that bad.

Thus, Inanna. This is the project I am working on now and will be blogging about, including aspects of the hobo culture and their lifestyle. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out. 🙂

Another depiction. Again notice the Star of Inanna (Venus) in the sky.
Another depiction of Inanna
The ordinary people above Inanna are the people of Earth. The creatures below are those of the Underworld.

9 Replies to “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld”

  1. Hmm. Now you’re in my territory–goddess myths. Combined with hobo culture? That should be very interesting, cousin. Good luck.

  2. There are people in the Dallas area who call themselves Sumerians. It is a branch of neopaganism. The word is they are more into “hedonism” than the average pagan or Wiccan, who by contrast are more into nature.

    Thank you,
    Joel Lowry

    (This message has been sent via iPhone; possibly using a voice recognition application [Siri]. Therefore, this message may contain numerous and unusual errors.)

  3. Good Luck with the book. I’m currently writing a rock Opera on her descent with a modern parallel. Anyone who has spent 5 mins in a dementia unit would recognise Ereskhigals realm !
    Would love to chat about ideas etc?

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