Our assignment for class tonight was to write about a God or Goddess. Just a page on who they are and what not. I was going to do it on Innana. I really wanted to. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I did the assignment on another Goddess, but I can’t get Innana out of my head. I also noticed today that one of Innana’s symbols is the eight pointed star. If you look through my sketches from the past few months that I have posted on Facebook, guess what you will see? Yea, well, quite frankly, it is a little annoying. So, I am just going to write it out and see what happens.
Innana is Sumerian Goddess, dating back to at least 3000 BC, if not earlier. She is not a Goddess that I call upon very often. “Queen of the Heavens”, Innana is a Goddess of sexual love, independence, war and strong feminist qualities, which I get and respect a lot. I can see those things in myself, which does make an easy connection between us. But, the aspect of her that I really connect with is the story of Innana’s Descent into the Underworld.
My connection with this story is not about her reasoning for going. There are some who say that she was mad with power and wanted to steal the rule of the Underworld from her sister, Ereshkigal. There is another version that says she was trying to visit her sister to console her over the loss of her consort. Neither really matter to me. It is the Descent that is what really gets to me.
Innana dresses elaborately for the visit, with a turban, a wig, a lapis lazuli necklace, beads upon her breast, the 'pala dress' (the ladyship garment), mascara, pectoral, a golden ring on her hand, and carries with her a lapis lazuli measuring rod. These garments are perhaps each representations of how she is percieved or even how she may percieve herself. I equate each item as visible tokens of power, or even masks that are worn to appear as something we do not feel we are, even though it may be expected of us. These things, for her, were her Goddess Mask, a veil of Earthly power that perhaps hid something else, or even compensated for a lack of self. “I am these shiny things, not self.”
Whatever her reasoning, Innana’s rather fine and gaudy appearance starts to make Ereshkigal suspicious. So, she instructs the guards at each gate to require Innana to remove one thing, one token before she can pass. As she approaches each of seven gates, Innana is ordered to remove a token and give it to the guard until, after the seventh gate, she is brought naked before her sister, “Queen of the Underworld”.
Again, I am not as interested in the motivations behind all of this. The overlying story, whether it was jealously or sibling rivalry or whatever, is just a trapping, a token over what I see as the true story. And there are numerous interpretations of this story. Now, you get mine, well both of them.
The first is that Innana must shed all of her superficial tokens of shininess so that, in her nakedness, she can see who she truly is. Also, in letting each of these tokens go, she is letting go of the concept that these tokens help to define her in some way, letting go of their significance in her life, and seeing what is real and important. Removing them also removes that expectations that she allows others to place upon her. Naked, she can see what really lies beneath and figure out who she really is. Naked, she finds self.
The first lesson is two-fold. First, we take on tokens every day from people who want to, and we allow to, define us, be they words, titles, jewelry, hats or whatever we wish to call them. They are all superficial tokens that only build a veneer of what we think others want us to be, not our true selves. In Innana’s case, she had to shed all of her fine and shiny tokens to see her true self. Allow yourself to let go of the token and stand naked before the universe (figuratively. Not saying run amuk naked). See your real self, the one you hide away under the tokens of how we allow others to define us. Who are you?
My other theory is that the real story is the descent from light to darkness, and another aspect in the quest to find true self. Innana as Queen of the Heavens in all her shiny finery is a symbol of light and superficiality, something that is so consumed with its own awesome brightness that it loses who it really is. She covers herself with fine tokens because she thinks that this is what defines her, this is who she is, and even this is what makes her powerful and shine the brightest.
The other character is her sister, Ereshkigal, a dark goddess condemned to rule the Underworld as a working Queen who is never allowed to leave. There are some myths who have her as Innana’s twin sister, a mirror image of darkness to Innana’s light.
If we take this into consideration, it also becomes about accepting and embracing one’s mirror image, one’s darker self, so that we can become a fully integrated person. Darkness is just as much a necessity as light, as Death is to Life. It is part of who we truly are, all we do and if we choose to ignore it and refuse to allow it as part of our self, we live our lives out of balance. We cannot also know our true self unless we know and accept all of its parts, including our inner darkness. I am not saying that you have to allow it to run amuk. When we embrace both aspects of self, light and dark, we exist with our whole self in check. The light keeps the darkness from swallowing us and all of our goodness. The Dark keeps that light from blinding us to who our true self is.
The actual myth of Innana’s descent ends with her sister turning her into a rotting corpse, being rescued with by a God who took pity on her, and then her sending her boyfriend to the underworld for six months each year to suffer for not mourning her loss. Not a pretty story really, but Innana tends to be sort of a young, selfish Goddess, much like a teenager, so a lot of her stories sound like this.
Again, this part doesn’t matter to me either. The external story was not where I found the messages I needed. It was really the lessons I saw in the descent and how I viewed the two women as two halves of self.
So, when I call upon Innana, I call for clarity and balance of Self. Am I allowing myself to slip too far into the darkness? Am I being who I know my true self to be, or am I allowing others to define me and tag me with their tokens? Sometimes, it isn’t the whole myth we find what we need in but in the bits and pieces that really resonnate with what we are truly seeking.