The Descent of Inanna

See The Descent of Inanna for the text of the play written by Madronna Holden and  produced by the Eugene Chamber Theater. Thank you for respecting the fact that this material is under copyright protection and may not be produced in any form without permission.

Here is the summary of the story from Madronna Holden’s essay “Light Who Loves her Sister Darkness”, published in Parabola:

The people of the city of Uruk take Inanna, Queen of light, for their monarch, accepting her gifts of agriculture, irrigation, astronomy, and mathematics.  Inanna revels in her glory. She proclaims her power, wisdom and sexuality and establishes Dumuzi as king of Uruk by selecting him as her consort. At the same time, her people banish Inanna’s elder sister Ereshkigal, the earth goddess responsible for fertility of the grain, into the unmentionable Underworld, the Dark City.

In time, they also capture and kill Ereshkigal’s consort, the Bull of Heaven, who was responsible for thunderstorms that bring rain and  then fertility to the grain that feeds the people of Sumeria. Ereshkigals cries of mourning at the death of her mate reach Inanna, who resolves to travel to the underworld to attend the wake of the Bull of Heaven and to be reunited with her sister. Before her journey, however, she asks her trusted companion, Ninshubur to seek help for her if she does not return in three days.

At each of the Gate of the Underworld, Inanna must divest herself of some aspect of her glory. Finally after passing the seventh gate, she is taken into Ereshkigals inner chamber. But Ereshkigal is driven by fury, rage and grief at her abandonment and is maddened by Inanna’s glory in the Upper World. She wreaks her revenge by slaying Inanna and hanging her corpse on a peg in the underworld.

Hearing no word for three days, Ninshubur travels to the sacred temple to plead Inanna’s case. She is rebuffed twice and told that no one returns from Ereshkigals Dark City. Finally Ninshubur supplicates the God of Wisdom, Enki, who fashioned tiny spirits to slip under the doors of the Underworld. The wisdom spirits meet Ereshkigal and express their compassion for her anger, her agony, and her rage, crying with her instead of judging her.

When Ereshkigal finds she is not alone in her suffering her heart softens and she offers a boon to those who cried with her. They request the release of Inanna, the queen of heaven. She grants them this boon according to the Laws of the Underworld, which balances the living and the dead, the light and the dark, by claiming a death in return for those it releases to life. Then Inanna is reborn and the sisters of light and dark, are re-united. Inanna takes to herself the dark, powerful, and knowing eye of Ereshkigal. And the once-reviled Ereshkigal receives her rightful homage with the title: “Holy Ereshkigal” and the proclamation, “great is your renown”.


Here is some of my other poetry on this site.

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