Monday, August 3, 2015

Literature begins in dreams of the Goddess

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth

The raw sexuality of her call to her lover is wild and shocking.  He plunges into her like a wild bull. When they couple, he is the green life of all growing things and she is the Queen of Heaven. He is Dumuzi and she is Inanna.
     But she is called to go down into the dark places and travel a terrifying path of ordeal and initiation. When she returns, transformed, to the surface world, she finds that her man has forgotten her and is playing king of all he surveys. Her angry curse sucks the light out of his day. 
     Now Dumuzi dreams that everything turns against him. Trees are uprooted, his hearth fire is doused, his drinking cup is thrown down, his shepherd’s crook is taken away. A fierce raptor seizes a lamb from his sheepfold, and he knows that something fearsome and unforgiving is coming for him.

The churn lies silent; no milk is poured.
The cup lies shattered; Dumuzi is no more.
The sheepfold is given to the winds.

Death is coming for him, and his only hope lies in the love and feminine wisdom of his younger sister, Geshtinanna. She is a reader, “a tablet-knowing scribe” who knows the meaning of words and of dreams.
     She tells him, “Your demons are coming for you.” She helps him hide, but in the end he cannot escape his demons. 

Dumuzi fettered by demons

He is overpowered by them and carried in the talons of a raptor down to the realm of Inanna’s dark double, the Queen of the Underworld, and into his own cycle of death and rebirth. Grieving, both Inanna and his constant sister, drumming like shamans, will seek him in the lower world. And they will make a deal by which Geshtinanna will take her brother’s place in the Underworld for half the year, giving him time up top with the goddess in her sunnier disposition. But that is a later story in the cycle of Inanna.
     The Dream of Dumuzi is the oldest recorded dream. It was written in Sumer nearly five thousand years ago, scored with marks on baked clay that look like the tracks of a very thoughtful sandpiper. It was almost certainly written by a woman, who authored a magnificent cycle of hymns to Inanna. We know her name: Enheduanna. The first recorded author is a high priestess and poet devoted to Inanna. The first dream analyst is a female shaman who becomes a goddess.
     Geshtinanna becomes the goddess of dream divination (and of wine). Her consort, who is depicted with serpents shooting up from his shoulders, has an awkward-looking name, Ningishzida, which is worth inspecting closely. Chastely translated by previous generations of scholars as “Lord of the Upright Tree,” it actually means “Lord of the Erect Phallus”. Those Mesopotamians knew a thing or two about sexual arousal in dreams and how real magic rides on sexual energy.
     The Dream of Dumuzi, unclothed in its beauty and terror in a modern translation by Diane Wolkstein, is great writing, and it takes us where great writers do not fear to go: into the inner chambers of the heart, into the demon-haunted mind, into the mysteries of death and rebirth. Thanks to its survival, we can say without hesitation that one of the first uses of writing was to record dreams,  and that one of the great things that emerged from dreaming with the Goddess, at least five thousand years ago, was literature.
     That statement may be strengthened by current scholarly investigation, inspired by Marija Gimbutas, into a possible "language of the Goddess" expressed through a visual code in inscriptions in south-eastern Europe, which may prove to be a form of writing even older than that of Sumer, developed by matrifocal societies.

Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

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