Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The call of Inanna and the first named author in history

Inanna
daughter of the Moon
silken bud unfolding

riding out on your wild blue bull
through the Gate of Wonder.

I am riffing on a version of "Inanna and Ebih",  written by the high priestess of the Moon God at Ur around 2300 bce. The literal translation is in Betty De Shong Meador's brilliant Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart.
    I was excited to learn that Meador was called to the great Sumerian goddess Inanna by a dream . She dreamed she saw two fellow Jungian analysts – conservative, by-the-book types - being buried. Strange sticks with loops at the top were planted in the earth around their graves.
      At the time, Inanna was unknown to her and she made no association between the dream and the goddess.  Long after, in one of Erich Neumann’s books, she found a picture of the looped poles like the ones in her dream. She read that they are symbols of Inanna and the earliest way of writing her name in pictographs. They are reed posts. They may represent door posts, or the props for a curtain. In pictographs (see photo), reed pieces hanging down from the rings, sometimes look like women's hair, or ribbons.
     Why would doorposts made from reeds be a symbol for the Queen of Earth and Heaven? Doorposts of this kind could denote the passage to the storehouse,the place of fertility and abundance that are the gifts of the goddess in her beneficent mode. Doorposts could also denote the passage between the worlds. Inanna herself passed through a series of doorways in her famous Descent to the Underworld. So the reed doorposts - in a country with little timber or stone - could be the Mesopotamian version of the pylon gate in Egypt or the dolmen arch in Celtic lands.
     There is further significance in the reeds. In ancient Mesopotamia, dream incubation took place in reed huts.You would step between reed doorposts to dream with intention, maybe to dream yourself into a close encounter with the goddess herself. The marshes of southern Mesopotamia, full of reeds, offered a liminal dreamy landscape. Legend has it that Sargon of Akkad, the father of the priestess who wrote poems and hymns of Inanna was abandoned in a reed basket, sealed with pitch, on a river,  to be found by the gardener who raised him.  A baby from the reeds, long before Moses.
      Meador waxes poetic about the reed posts of Inanna as “insurgent flags”. In her words, “Inanna’s symbol standing tall on the graves was an image of strength and courage from a culture outside of and alien to patriarchal thinking... Inanna’s tall reed standards stand like insurgent flags amid the bastion of traditional beliefs that restrict women.” The meet-up between the old dream and new research into the mythic cycle of Inanna led the Jungian analyst to make a huge new leap in her work and understanding, into Goddess realms. "This new perspective propelled me onto my future path.” 
       As Meador studied the texts, she found Inanna's wild call for her chosen lover to plow her field. The goddess calls for Dumuzi, who is both the "wild bull" and the plowman:

My field needs hoeing
Dumuzi, I call you
It is you I want for prince. 

     Inanna is many, a great goddess who refuses all boundaries and limitations. For Meador, she is the Sumerian “personification of the whole of reality”. 

You wear the robes
of the old, old gods. 

     Meador discovered a soul friend in ancient Mesopotamia. She happens to be the first named author in all of human history. Her name is Enheduanna. The "en" in her name means "high priestess". She was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad and high priestess of the moon god Nanna. She was also a poet of the first rank, and the most passionate of her poems were devoted to presenting Inanna in all her faces. She composed 42 temple hymns that have survived  and the "Exaltation of Inanna"(Nin-Me-Sar-Ra) infused with her passion for the goddess.
     It is really absurd that Enheduanna is relatively unknown. She is the first named author in world literature. She is a great poet. She is advancing a whole theology and philosophy that promotes the great Goddess as the one beyond the many. She writes with searing passion and eloquence about the many aspects of the self. The goddess she praises – in all her dark and light – is within her, and within the whole of nature and the whole cosmic order. Both contain multitudes.
     Meador writes that “in Enheduanna’s writing, we witness that moment when an individual is selected out of the mass of humanity into a new consciousness of self-definition and self-worth...Enheduanna begins to understand emotion as the graze of the goddess’ hand across a person’s soul. Image and emotion become the language of the goddess to the particular individual.”
    Called to the goddess and the ancient poet through the doorway of a dream. Goddesses and dead poets can make that happen. I know about this.


Quotes here are from Betty De Shong Meador, Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna. Published by University of Texas Press.

2 comments:

Layla said...

Thank you for your research and scholarship that bring such valuable ideas and works to our attention. Thank you also for the opportunity to act out my dream at last weekend's workshop. It was/in a powerful step forward in my process. I'm glad you are in the worlds doing this work!
Regards and blessings, Layla

Ayne Shore said...

And more synchronicity, Robert. I have been doing an Alchemical Art process and our current series is on the feminine. We have been using the poetry of Enheduanna to further explore Innana. I decided to do the dream series with you as a result of my work with my mentor, who is leading this art class. The world is getting increasingly smaller and infinitely more connected!