It’s been a very busy week. I’ve pretty much completed my costume for Ereshkigal for Hekate’s Sickle Festival. In my spare moments, I’ve been reading up on Sumerian history and mythology, as well as Greek history and mythology because I start teaching the Intro to Greek Mythology course at the Wiccan Seminary this week.
(Quick plug – you can still register for Hekate’s Sickle Festival, either for the whole weekend, or for one of the days. Click here and use code HSF09 to receive 10% off. You can also enroll for classes at the Seminary by clicking here.)
I’ve been reading a very interesting web comic about Sumerian myths called the Dingir Comic, Adventure of the Gods. It really confirms my thoughts that Greek myth and deities are definitely related to Sumerian.
Sumer, in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is the cradle of civilization. It is where people shifted from being hunter-gatherer nomads to farmers and craftsman. It is where the first written language developed. And so the Gods of Sumer are the first ones we have stories about.
Ereshkigal’s story is very similar to Persephone’s story. Or more accurately, Persephone’s story is very similar to Ereshkigal’s.
Ereshkigal was a beautiful young Goddess. Some say she was the child of Enlil and Ninlil (and therefore an aunt to Inanna), while others say she was a child of Ningal and Nanna (which would make her Inanna’s elder sister).
She was kidnapped by the dragon Kur and taken to the Netherworld. Like most underworld locations, once you go there you can never return. Enki, the god of wisdom was able to travel there and help defeat Kur. Enki then turned Kur into a throne for Ereshkigal.
Rather than being depressed about being banished from her early home in the heavens, Ereshkigal asserted her will over the Great Below and made it into her own kingdom. She was the only one who could make and enforce the laws of Irkalla, the land of the dead.
Eventually, it did get lonely. She could send her minister up to gatherings in heaven, but she could not go herself. Once, Nergal, the god of pestilence and war, disrespected her minister. As punishment, he had to go and spend several days in the Great Below and make his apologies. Though he was advised not to enjoy Ereshkigal’s hospitality, they ended up having a passionate love affair. Nergal left before his stay was supposed to be up, and ended up coming back out of love.
Many people find Ereshkigal to be frightening, and as a Goddess who is in complete control of herself and her realm I can see how that could be intimidating.
“The ways of the underworld are not your ways. The ways of the underworld are perfect and not to be questioned.”
Ereshkigal challenges us to be more fully who we are, including facing the parts that are below the surface, in the shadows, and that is not generally an easy or pleasant task. And yet examining and accepting those parts of us can help us grow. Seeing more depth in Ereshkigal’s archetype has certainly helped me to relate to her better.