To Stand in the Presence of the Ancients! – Enheduanna, Part 1 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Ishtar controlling a lion ca 2334-2154 BCE

To be in the presence of antiquities is powerful. They carry an energy which is palpable.  I found this to be true at the recent exhibit at the Morgan Library in Manhattan that ran from October 14, 2022 through February 19, 2023. 

Enheduanna is a fascinating woman who lived in the lands of Mesopotamia circa the 23rd century BCE. She was a priestess who was also a writer and chronicler of her times. She named herself in her writings making her the first known author of any written works in history. She was so influential that for centuries after her death, scribes learned their craft in scribal schools by reading and copying out her work. Scholars have referred to her as the Sumerian Shakespeare[1]

Her main temple was in Ur, the very city that hundreds of years later gave rise to the biblical priestess Sarah and her husband, Abraham. We can only image how much they had been influenced by her.

Enheduanna is also a complicated character. Her name is not a given one but a title meaning, “high priestess, ornament of heaven.” She was the daughter of Sargon, known as the first empire builder in history. Not much is known about Sargon as his capital city, Agade, has not been found. It is thought to be near the modern-day city of Baghdad. What is known is that he is, if not the first at least, one of the earlier warrior kings. He built his empire through the conquest of over 65 individual Sumerian city-states.

Enheduanna helped his efforts by working to unify the religious beliefs of the area. Scholars point to her as being the first to connect the agrarian Inanna of the Sumerians with the more warlike Ishtar of the Akkadians. Enheduanna lived in a time when women were integral to the life of their culture from financial pursuits to artist ones. This begs a question, did the two of them working together further a beautiful attempt to unite disparate city-states, a United (city) States of Mesopotamia? Or did they enshrine the rise of patriarchal structures which had already sprung roots by the time they came to power.  In her role, Enheduanna wrote 42 poems now called the Temple Hymns which were addressed to the various temples in the realm.

Her existence and her influence were not well known, if at all, until the 1920s when her original writings were first unearthed through excavations. Her words, written in cuneiform, were not translated into English until 1968. Lucky for us, they have been around long enough now that there are several translations of her works which also include the Exaltation of Inanna and a mythic story of Inanna and Ebih, a mountain god of the area.

As I read her story and look at the images from her time, I can’t help but wonder if we are seeing an important inflection point – the moments when the scales tipped in favor of the patriarchal systems. And I wonder if Enheduanna’s efforts to create a unified religion, among all the disparate city-states contributed to the permission structure that allowed a chiefdom to take so much power. Sargon called himself the Sharru-kin (“Rightful King”) This is the first time in recorded history this had been done. It’s not too farfetched to think that he can be seen as the king who began the codification of patriarchal norms.

Think of the knowledge treasure that is waiting to be found in Sargon’s capital city. In the meantime, we have Enheduanna’s writings as well as the images from the time. This was the heyday of Sumerian cylinder seals. They are remarkable in their artistry. Their images are small, maybe an inch long carved into a hard stone such as lapis lazuli, hematite, carnelian, calcite. Yet, the artists were able to sculpt intricate details and in the negative, so they were properly seen when rolled out.

One of the most well-known is the one at the front of this post. The weapons behind Ishtar’s shoulders indicate her martial focus. The eight-pointed star which represented Inanna/Ishtar and Venus is present as well.  There is an unmistakable celebration of feminine power here. But the power has become that of a martial nature. We see the image of women who have had to align themselves with the martial values of the time.

The following are several statues of women from the time and place. You can see from their stances that these women were of noble bearing. You can sense their power. I love these women. It feels like we are looking at women who lived pre-patriarchy or, more likely, at the very beginnings where women still valued as equal partners in society. I am so grateful that the Morgan Library’s exhibit curators included these and others into their exhibit. Photo credits are my own.


Ca 2400 BCE. Notice her elaborate dress. She once had inlaid eyes. This was found in a temple dedicated to the mother goddess, Nintu.

 Ca 2500 BCE Her eyes were originally inlaid.
Ca 2600-2450 BCE, found in a temple of Inanna. The inlaid eye which still exists is made of lapis lazuli and shell. You can image the power when both eyes were so set.
Ca 2400 BCE, even though the inlays of her eyes and eyebrows have been lost, you can see her expression of quiet power, maybe even joy.  

In part 2 tomorrow I will talk more about the changeover to patriarchy. In the meantime, I invite you, especially, to pay attention to their hand position. All the female statues in this exhibit have the same one, although the height they hold them on their bodies is different; in front of the breasts, underneath, or at the solar plexus. When I first went to the exhibit, I was so taken with this hand position that I brought it back to my spirit group. We have experimented with using it as a meditative mudra (hand position). We have all found it to be very powerful as a type of battery energy focused on our hands. Some who do Reiki or other hands-on healing in the group have begun using it as a way to energize them before working.

To copy this hand position, place your left hand in front of you with palm up and thumb separated from the other four fingers. Then place your right hand over your left intertwining thumbs. Settle into the position. Make sure your hands are comfortable (not stressed or squished together) with a space between your palms. I recommend practice holding your hands in different places against your body. You can try different chants while holding this ancient mudra as well to see what effects are possible.  

My book, my autobiography titled Desperately Seeking Persephone will be released on May 19th. It is available now at a discounted pre-order price. It can be ordered here. The cylinder seal I used on the cover is from this exhibit. Tomorrow I will discuss why I used it.

[1] “I am Enheduanna” by Amanda Foreman, She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia ca 3400-2000 BC edited by Sidney Babcock and Erhan Tamur, pg. 30 (This is the official exhibit book from the Morgan Library exhibit. You can see some more of this exhibit at this link.)

Author: Janet Rudolph

Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written four books: When Moses Was a Shaman (soon to be available in Spanish), When Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), One Gods. and my autobiography, Desperately Seeking Persephone.

26 thoughts on “To Stand in the Presence of the Ancients! – Enheduanna, Part 1 by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

  1. Thanks for these wonderful pictures, Janet. The energy in these statues feels strong and benign. I tried the hand position in the breasts/heart chakra position and experienced a circle of warmth that loosened some tension in the shoulders I woke up with this morning. How amazing to discover what appears to be healing wisdom from these ancient women. I will definitely experiment with this on a daily basis. Look forward to tomorrow’s installment and will be ordering your book from UK Amazon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Iona. I agree with you about the energy of these statues. There has been so much knowledge from the ancients that has been lost. It’s like a spiritual archaeology to uncover what we can.

      I’ve had that same experience with this mudra with it relaxing areas of my body.

      And thanks for your support re: my book. I am very grateful.


  2. First of all I am reading that book of yours as soon as I can get it on Kindle (bad eyes need enlarged type)…. AS usual the scholarship and scope of your post blows me away. Some of this early ‘her story’ I didn’t know about before reading this post; as a learner nothing could please me more. Now to the images – the first hit me in my gut – what I saw first was that this goddess had tamed the lion – one way to perceive this image is that Ishtar as goddess has her instincts well under her control – Instinct is raw power – but unleashed it becomes destructive – cats strike in the dark – and we all know that ‘cat woman’ can be incredibly cruel – the image as a whole speaks to the bird goddess with wings outstretched – one arm attached to her lion whose power she needs as long as it is working with the rest of her. Is that a staff in her other hand? The fact that whatever it is is pointed towards the earth seems important….. there’s so much I can read into this image (and for all women it may be different) that I kept going back to it – at least until I saw the others – wow – so different – Madonna -like with eyes wide open – Seeing – and the hands – oh the clasped hands fascinate me. First I thought prayer but the position seems to indicate much more – and I am not surprised that you took it to your group (oh I’d like to belong there). Thank you as a dyslexic for the specific directions as to how to position those hands with an open space in the center…I need to experiment with this myself – overall the cosmic influence is incredibly powerful – there’s so much here I’d be writing until tomorrow if kept on! Can’t wait to read second part to find out why you chose this image – and will go back now to re read this one. Many many thanks per usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sara for your careful look and assessment of these images. One thing I have learned is that with good spiritual stories, images and symbols, there is not one explanation. There isn’t one way to look at it that is “correct” and another that is “wrong.” There are layers and depths of meaning that come out in surprising ways.

      I really like your explanation of instincts as raw power and what that can mean to control or not. I’ve seen lessons in that regard involving horses but it would make sense for lions as well. I, in particular, am drawn to cat energy. I resonate strongly with it.

      And as to kindle, it will be available. I will check to see why its not up already as I believe it should be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There can never be just one explantation because there are two sides to each symbolic representation – I think our alignments to a particular creature – real or imagined supports our beliefs/ or feelings about them. Many women are cat women… powerful energy here – but it must be used with restraint – I used to have cats but they maimed and killed too many birds – today domestic cats are the second major killer of birds – we’ve lost three billion songbirds… and I can’t deal with the fact that cats torment – ‘play’ with their prey – so you see the personal alignment is based on experience… glad the book will be available on kindle! Yippee!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Love your cats reference Sara and the point that make. I guess it’s when things get out of balance that alignments suffer. Many years ago, I traveled to Cuba with the Audubon society. The population of feral cats was burgeoning at the time and threatening the birds. This is a particular problem because parts of Cuba are major migration routes for the birds. I don’t know what solutions, if any, they arrived at. We can love cats and not want them around eating and killing birds and their eggs.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes of course we can love our cate… my beloved vet has a few but he insists they must be contained – cats are the number 2 killer of songbirds – for that reason alone – I am reluctant to think about owning a cat – hah – like dogs they own us. The last cat I had slowly murdered a cardinal baby – as a Rehab person I tried to save this fledgling and lost…. but it something to me… it took a year but I finally found a good home for this animal and have never regretted it – this cat was a stray and was used to be ing outdoors and so I allowed Zoe to roam – the worst part of this is that she knew something had gone terribly wrong between us and we both lived with that for a whole year – wouldn’t wish this on anyone…at this point the only ‘solution’ is keeping cats contained – there billion birds and so many more going extinct – but is this a solution? Not really – like you I just don’t know what to do – we are so out of balance.


    2. Oh and you asked about the object Ishtar is holding. Here is what it says in the Morgan Library’s book about it: [it is a] “sickle ax with a fenestrated blade that she wields.”

      I am not sure what to make of that other than a continuation of her use of weapons.

      And I also wanted to comment on your noting her wings. Birds and wings have long been symbols of divinity, even in the bible. In contrast to the weapons aspect there is comforting element to them. Here is one:
      Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,
      and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
      Exodus 19:4

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Weapons – for what? Self protection or to inflict violence? Yes, am well aware that birds are associated with divinity – I think the eagle is a patriarchal symbol – for Native peoples who are peacemakers it is different – but for the culture at large the eagle is a symbol of power – not spiritual power but power over – have you noted the culture’s attraction to all the sky predators? Hawks, eagles etc…. the earth birds like geese, quail doves, grouse, cranes and turkeys are ignored considered pests by many and of course because they create peacemaking coveys they are hunted with a vengeance….. around here I have about 40 turkeys who in 4 days will be shot down in the spring hunt – hunt is obscene in this context – any idiot could shoot a turkey. And they do arguing it’s wild meat –


        1. As you point out, Sara, so out of balance. It is such a great sadness. Interesting point about the eagle. Today it has become a patriarchal symbol. Did the Romans also use it as a signpost of battle? Either way, I believe it was a co-opted symbol. Look at all the beautiful symbols that were treated as such. There used to be a beautiful symbol of the 4 directions in motion with feet at the end of the directional lines. Nazis used it as their symbol and now it can no longer be used without that association. ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) morphed into Isis, the name of the Egyptian Great Goddess.

          Some symbols we can reclaim. Others are just too fraught with history.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I couldn’t agree with you more Janet… around here we have so many eagles that people are obsessed with – people invested in violence of one kind or another – it’s almost impossible not to see that the eagle has a dark side and symbolizes the hell we are living through – and yes it was co -opted by those who thrive on power – here in the US and down through history ( yes the Romans and Greeks used it too) – once the eagle was was a manifestation of Great Spirit but only Native peoples have access to this side of eagle now.. As a bird lover I am also acutely aware of how much effort we put into saving predator birds in general while hunting the geese, the ducks, the turkeys, grouse, quail who live in harmonious groups … every time I put a picture geese on my little daily meditation I get derogatory responses… Worshiping our predators is patriarchy in action. We could care less about the ‘game’ animals who are hunted without mercy…. excellent remark about the Nazi symbol – I’m struck by my medicine wheel that has cranes surrounding the whole circle whose FEET are embedded in the ground. Cranes, are of course another prey species – hunted down each spring and fall as migration occurs. Agreed, some symbols we might be able to reclaim but the eagle no, not at least in my opinion..


  3. one more question – does the first image have feet? The other three have well sculpted feet – Earth goddesses with a seer’s ability? The element of air dominates the first image – earthen exudes from the other three who do their work with their hands (not menial – healing work)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Sara, all the sculptures where the feet are not damaged and/or are still able to be seen are barefoot. I went into the Morgan Library book to see if others are as well. I love your take on it about their connection to the earth and the work they may have been doing. Thank you for that insight.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this great info Janet,
    I first learned about Inanna in the early 1990’s from a translation and re-telling of her myth and songs by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Kramer. Inanna held me enthralled for many years as I attempted to paint parts of her story. But I never heard of Enheduanna before, so thanks for your research on this one. Her story illustrates the importance of women and the power
    they held in our ancient past.

    I look forward to reading your 2nd part about the change to patriarchy. I’m reading a very good book right now (and very long) – “The Dawn of Everything – A New History of Humanity” by David Graeber (anthropologist) and David Wengrow (archeologist) which looks at pre-history with new eyes and questions the accepted wisdom of how the march of history brought us to where we are today. In particular they question the Neolithic Revolution as not being a revolution at all but something that took thousands of years to take hold with many societies trying it out and then abandoning agriculture to return to the freer lifestyle of hunting and gathering. Anyway their ideas have opened up new ways of seeing the beginnings of patriarchy for me so I do look forward to what you have to say on the subject too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Judith, “The Dawn of Everything,” That must indeed be very long. It does sound very interesting. I will have to add it to my reading list. “Neolithic Revolution” . . . hmmm . . . sounds like a lot to delve into there. I do love writings and explanations that examine cultures with “new eyes.” Thank you for that.

    I love Diane Wolkstein and her work, esp with Samuel Kramer. Very special, they elucidated so much that had been hidden.


  6. Great photos! I wish I had seen this exhibit. There was also one in Paris that I regret that I missed. Have you been to exhibits at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), affiliated with NY University, which is my very favourite museum? It’s only two rooms, but it often has goddess exhibits. Also, have you connected with the Cuyamungue Institute, which has weekly sessions on embodying the postures of ancient sculptures?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. That is just what I love about the FAR community. The sharing of resources and energy. I just bookmarked both sites. That Cuymungue Institute looks so fabulous. Until this Enheduanna exhibit, I never would have thought to emulate a posture and now its feels like “well duh” of course. The ancients knew what they were doing. I will certainly check it out in more detail.

      And ISAW, tomorrow, April 20th at 1:00 NY time they have a lecture involving Enheduanna. Here is the link if anyone can make it:
      Enheduanna is certainly having a surge of energy surrounding her.

      I registered and hope I can arrange my day so I can make it.

      The Morgan Library also has some wonderful exhibits. It could also be your favorites one if you check it out. Also not a huge museum.

      Again thanks.


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