Inanna’s Return and Bread and Waters of Life By Deanne Quarrie

Most of us know the story of Inanna’s descent into the Underworld to visit with her sister Erishkigal. The reason for her visit is that Erishkigal’s husband has died.  Inanna was a childhood friend of his, and she will visit to pay her respects.  As she travels to meet her sister, Inanna must pass through seven gates where she is asked to to remove and part with aspects of herself before she approaches Ereshkigal.

Upon Inann’s arrival, her sister, who is angry because she believes that her husband loved Inanna, hangs Inanna from a meat hook to die.

While Inanna was in the Underworld, Ninshubur waited three days for Her to return, and when she did not she thought all was lost and began to mourn for her. She visited the temple of Enki who agreed to help her. Enki knows the nature of the underworld and its rule by a jealous, anguished Erishkigal.  As a god he has the power to create and ease hardship. From the dirt under his fingernails, he creates the kurgarra and galatur, instinctual, asexual creatures endowed with the artistic and empathic talent of being professional mourners, capable of mirroring the lonely queen’s emotions.  These little creatures represent the attitude necessary to draw a blessing from the dark goddess. He commands them to go to the Underworld where they find Erishkigal in the throes of agony and reeling from the misery she has caused. When she moans, they moan with her, appeasing her anguish by the echo of their concern, affirming her in her suffering.  Enki has understood that complaining is one voice of the dark goddess, a way of expressing life, valid and deep in the feminine soul.

When she sees their sympathy she offers them a gift. They are to ask only for the corpse of Inanna and, having received it, are to resurrect her with the bread and water of life.  They perform the task of bringing Inanna back to life, reviving Her with the gift of the bread and water of life. But as they prepare to leave the Anunna stop them and tells them she may not leave unless someone comes in her place.  Inanna agrees to find someone and is allowed to leave.

She returns to Dumuzi, her new husband, only to find him enjoying himself, drinking, feasting and making music in her absence. Enraged, Inanna decides Dumuzi should be the one to take her place in the Underworld.  She directs the Anunna to seize him, which they do. Dumuzi desperately pleads with Inanna to relent, but she turns her back on him. He then appeals to Utu, but he too forsakes him. The Anunna carry Dumuzi away.

Inanna’s descent into the Underworld is the Sumerian mythology to explain the Dark Times and the absence of the Goddess.  It is at Imbolc (the beginning of Spring – our Ground Hog Day) that Inanna is given the bread and water of life.  This is the promise of returning life, the first stirring of the Bright Goddess’s return to us. She has not yet returned to her Temple, nor has she chosen Demuzi to be Her replacement.   She is alive – and returning.  It will be at the coming Spring Equinox that Demuzi will be taken to the Underworld.

Hail Inanna!  Blessed Be the Gift of the Bread and Waters of Life!


Information gathered  from:
Retrieved at Inanna, an Opera of Ancient Sumer
Retrieved at Library of Halexandria
Perera, Sylvia Brinton, Descent to the Goddess, Inner City Books, Toronto, Canada 1981

Deanne Quarrie is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of four books.  She is an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College, teaching classes on the Ogham, Ritual Creation, Ethics for Neopagan Clergy, Exploring Sensory Awareness, energetic Boundaries, and many other classes of the uses of magic.  She is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, as well as The Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition where she mentors women who wish to serve as priestesses.  The Blue Roebuck



Categories: General, Goddess

Tags: , , ,

8 replies

  1. Thank you for this article. Do you have a similar pervious one you might direct me to for the Autumn Equinox please? I am in the Southern Hemisphere and feeling the shift of the seasons, I would love to read a reflection of this in the underworld journey right now…


  2. Thank you, Deanne, for sharing the myths of Inanna! And what an incredible, other world adventure! Psychologically it seems there was a profound need for these type myths in ancient times. The Hymn to Demeter also centers on that same journey to the underworld. But it’s not only an ancient fascination, even in our own time, we have probably all read, growing up, the story of that descent down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The question is why? Why have we been dreaming these sorts of dreams for millennia?

    Just to note the full text of the Hymn to Demeter (Greek & English), with citations from some fascinating, feminist commentary is online here:


    • I wrote a song that answers your question, Sarah:
      “Old Crone of mystery, I must let go.
      Great Crone of ecstascy, help me let go.
      Transform me, old Hag, so that I will let go.
      Cast open the door for me, I’m letting go.
      Rebirth, rebirth, death, and rebirth.”


  3. Brava, my friend. It’s good to be reminded–especially on a bright, sunny, warm day–of the Dark Goddess and why Her work is as important as any of the brighter goddesses. Ya gotta love the kurgarra and galatur. I think they were early psychologists. Useful folks.


  4. Hi Deanne —

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading Inanna’s myths and poetry, and I’ve never come across this version. I never heard that Ereshkigal’s husband had died or that Ereshkigal was jealous of his relationship with Inanna. What is the source of this version?


    • I wish I could give you the source… I am friends with folks who practice their spiritual path using myths from ancient Sumer. This story was presented to me in ritual format a few years ago.


  5. I just went back to Kramer and Wolkstein on Inanna. They say the reason Inanna descended was because “she put her ear to the great below,” the implication being that she heard her sister crying. No other reason. I wonder: what is your method regarding using myths that come from patriarchal cultures. Kramer and Wolkstein’s versions of the Inanna stories have elements that come from patriarchal warlike cultures with kings as rulers. For me patrarchal Goddess myths are problematic, what is your stance on that?


    • I am afraid I cannot go to my bookshelf and retrieve the references as all of my possessions (including all of my books) are in a storage facility far away. However, I did find this reference online that will hopefully help.

      Because of my older sister, Ereshkigal
      Her husband, Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, has died
      I have come to witness the funeral rites
      (Wolkstein and Kramer, 55).

      As far as patriarchal Goddess myths, my only hope is that I can look beyond what was written and look for deeper meaning. But even the patriarchal messages help us in our understanding. Sadly, most of what we have available to us today came from patriarchal times and patriarchal writers and so we must dig for the truth.


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