Thursday, January 7, 2016

Inanna at the breakfast table

The plot thickens, the veil of mystery flutters and closes and opens. The night before I posted my blog piece titled "A Dream Doorway to Inanna", a male friend dreamed that he saw me having to deal with a skeptic in a group. Dream Robert revealed he was wearing a jeweled necklace with something resembling a "letter opener", studded with lapis lazuli, hanging down from it. Using this power tool, Dream Robert invoked a goddess. She appeared, raging at the ignorance and stupidity of humans. Her rage brought skyscrapers tumbling down. When my friend sent his report, I remarked, "That sounds like Inanna in her take-no-prisoners mode." He did not know about Inanna, which makes it all the more interesting that - as I study the original sources again - it seems that the placement of the jewels in Dream Robert's outfit strongly resembles the placement of jewels on Inanna's outfit as she dresses to visit her dark sister. I'm now guessing that the "letter opener" studded with lapis lazuli may be Inanna's lapis measuring stick, which is in her hand as she begins her descent to the Underworld, or one her other rods and wands of power. Lapis lazuli has great significance in the Inanna story; it was believed to supports powers of seership and to light the way to the afterlife.  
We dream of Inanna, and maybe she dreams of us, whether we call her goddess or archetype. Once, when I was leading a retreat in the foothills of the Cascades, Inanna took possession of the breakfast table where our group was gathered for coffee, waffles and dreams.    "How is your dream recall?" I asked the first person to join me at the table.    She proceeded to recount a dream in which she is traveling through a dusty landscape to the home of a tarot reader. Instead of spreading the cards, the tarot reader shows her two fish tanks, each containing elaborate dioramas. At the center of each is a statuette of a goddess. The dreamer recognizes the goddess forms: Isis and Inanna. The tarot reader tells her she must choose one. She chooses Inanna. Immediately a great tornado whips up,swirling everything around her. She wakes excited and curious to know mor eabout the power and the attributes of the goddess she chose.     We started talking about Inanna and the great cycle of poems composed in her name in ancient Sumer. I spoke of the terrifying praise-poems in which Inanna goes forth into battle, with a flashing carnelian at her throat and the mace of a warrior raised in her hand, with the force of a tornado. I mentioned that in my carry-on bag for this trip there just happened to be a copy of the beautiful versions of the Inanna poems composed by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.     We were joined by a psychologist who had made a close study of the myths of Inanna and spoke about the story of the Descent of the Goddess as the model for a woman's journey to the depths to meet and integrate her Shadow side. She reminded us that one of the mysteries in this mythic cycle is that we are not given a clear reason why Inanna chose to make her descent to the darkest level of the Underworld, the realm of her dark sister, Ereshkigal, tobe hung in a meathook. We do know that she did this of her own volition. It was a choice she made freely.     We had now been joined by many other dreamers, all eager to take part in the weave of mythic associations that was taking place over the waffles and coffee. One woman shared that she was in the midst of a ritual journey through the Descent of Inanna organized by a women's group and unfolding over many days. She had made the descent, through visualization and ritual, through the seven gates of Inanna's descent, at each of which she was required to give up an aspect of her power and protection. As she made this mythic journey, she realized that it evoked many of her personal life dramas and passages - for example, losing a job and leaving a home - which now assumed even deeper resonance.    I confessed that Inanna, in full warrior mode, makes me, as a mere man, a little nervous. At that moment, a woman named Moon took the place at the table that someone had just left free. I smiled. Inanna is the daughter of Nanna, the Sumerian Moon god, and I am a very lunar man. We were at a mythic edge - with all the juice that brings - that was also a family situation.
We see again how dreams are only personal myths; they are swing doors between our world and the world of gods, archetypes and others. I am thinking again about my friend's dream of me invoking a goddess with a power tool that looked like a letter opener. In front of me now, as I write, is the letter opener I use every day. It has the form of the caduceus, twin serpents wrapped around a staff and here surmounted by wings. The earliest form of the caduceus was in Mesopotamia. It seems to have been one of the many forms of the staff or wand of power of Inanna. It turns up all over the world map later on, including as the want of Hermes and Mercury and Hermanubis. But it seems to begin with Inanna. Perhaps, without knowing it, I have been reaching to her every time I open mail.
That turns my mind to a famous statement from Jewish tradition, that a dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is left unopened. We do better than interpret dreams, in our Active Dreaming practice. We engage with the dream world, we enter it at will, and we bring gifts from it into waking life. We are ready to act in the understanding that our dreams may be a nightly field of interaction with greater powers, and that those powers - even of often camouflaged - are at play in our ordinary world. I look at the letter opener again. Inanna's people in ancients times did not have paper or parchment or papyrus. They recorded dreams on clay tablets that were then baked, making them strong and durable enough for us to read of Inanna's Descent to the Underworld and the Dream of Dumuzi more than 5,000 years later. They had an interesting expression in Sumerian for dreams that defy understanding. Such dreams are inside "a closed archive basket of the gods" - that is to say, a basket of dream reports written in cuneiform with a read stylus on those tablets of baked clay." Sometimes the gods open the archive basket and give us a myth to live by, even in our modern lives.

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