Learning More about Ereshkigal

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.

Hekate's Sickle Festival featuring Ereshkigal(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.



Back to Ereshkigal

It’s been a crazy week for me – dealing with jet lag and airline crud and having a pretty full schedule that didn’t allow for much down time.

I’ve said before that when I am sick and/or overtired, the first things to fall out of my routine are the things that are healthy. This week, I have noticed that my meditation practice has been suffering. There has been a lot more sleeping than meditating. And I’m mostly ok with that. I needed the sleep.

Now, though, as I am recovering, I definitely feel the need to recharge my meditation practice. I’ve been missing the connection time with my higher self and with Deity. That connection with Deity is really important right now as I prepare for Hekate’s Sickle Festival next month because I’ll be holding the energy of Ereshkigal.

Ereshkigal with InannaI’ve had a connection with Inanna for a very long time. As I’ve worked with different Greek goddesses over the past few years for Spring Mysteries Festival, I’ve been able to increase my connection with each of them by relating them to aspects of Inanna. I see the progression from one region of the Middle East through to the Mediterranean – the names of the goddesses may change, though their aspects and many of their myths stay remarkably similar.

Most of what I know of Ereshkigal is through the myth of the Descent of Inanna. Ereshkigal is often referred to as Inanna’s dark sister. To work with Her more closely, though, I need to develop a connection with Ereshkigal directly, and not through Inanna.

To do that, I’m going back to the source – Sumerian Mythology. Sumer was the cradle of civilization. It’s mythology, culture, and society had a large influence on the generations that followed. Even after the Akkadians (Babylonians) had conquered Sumer and it’s kings ruled no more, the Sumerian written language – cuneiform – was used for legal and religious texts.

I’m reading the works of Samuel Noah Kramer, who was one of the foremost experts in Sumerian history and language. I’m thoroughly enjoying learning about the cosmology of this ancient people who developed one of the first systems of writing. And as I am reading the stories, and fragments of stories, I’m starting to get a better picture of the world that Inanna fit into and the other deities that She interacted with.

And more importantly for this moment, I’m getting a fuller image of Ereshkigal. She’s not just the goddess of the dead and a hard task master. She’s had her loves and losses too. She can be scary, yes. And she’s so much more. I’m looking forward to deepening my relationship with the Queen of the Great Below.



Discovering my Patron God

Several years ago, I went to a workshop about finding your patron God and Goddess. One of the things that was touched on in the workshop was that if any mythology has intrigued or interested you for a long time, then chances are that the deity involved in that myth is one of your patrons.

I have worked with many different Goddesses over the years, and a couple of them stand out as ones I would call my patrons, like Inanna, and more recently Hecate and Athena. These are Goddesses that hold more than a passing interest for me, whose mythology I can see elements of in my life. They are the ones that I have felt a personal calling to work with (well, in Inanna’s case, I felt claimed by her…)

When it comes to the male aspects of deity, though, I haven’t ever felt that connection. There’s no one God that stands out for me in mythology.

In the workshop I went to, the instructor led a guided meditation to meet our patron God and Goddess. We visited the Goddess first, and it was Inanna who spoke to me there. I had already established a relationship with her, so I wasn’t surprised at that. However, when the meditation moved on to meet our patron God, she told me to stay where I was. I protested that I wanted to meet the God I was supposed to be working with, and she told me that I am meant to work with the Goddess, and to look to my consort for the God energy.

I was a little disappointed at first. And then I accepted it, since it was the Goddess who spoke to me more strongly. Also, as a woman, I could relate better to the female aspects of the Divine.

Fast forward to about a year ago. I started feeling out of balance. I started feeling like it was time for me to start working more with the God energy. Still, none of the Gods called to me. When I would think about different Gods – mostly Greek, since that’s where the Goddess energy I am working with is right now – there was no resonance. At best I’d get a “meh” feeling, if not an outright “NO”.

In one of my meditations, I asked Hecate why I couldn’t find my patron God. She told me that the Goddess chooses her consort. Meaning that I had to make the choice.  This may be a bit sacrilegious, but I couldn’t help feeling that none of them were up to my standards.

ThothJust last week I was doing an assignment for one of my classes at the Seminary. It was another guided meditation. In it, I met Thoth, the Egyptian God of wisdom and knowledge. As soon as I saw him in my meditation, it was like instant recognition, resonance, aha. I thought, finally, here is a God that can match me (and the Goddesses I work with).

I asked what took him so long to reveal himself, and he said I wasn’t ready before. Fair enough. I’ve never really felt a strong connection with Egyptian mythology. So I’m going to have to do a lot more research and study to learn more about him. Thankfully, Thoth is the right one to ask for help with that!

What Gods or Goddesses do you feel a connection with? Which ones would you like to learn more about?



Visiting Ereshkigal

I know, you’re probably wondering who or what exactly is Ereshkigal, unless you’re up on your Sumerian Mythology. 🙂

Ereshkigal is the Queen of the Underworld, who the goddess Inanna goes to visit in her most well known saga, the Descent of Inanna. Inanna decides she wants to visit Ereshkigal, to go where no human or god has ever returned from.  Inanna must lay down all of her adornments that identify her as the Queen of Heaven and Earth to enter the Underworld.

Once there, Ereshkigal hangs her on a peg, where she withers and dies. Inanna witnesses Ereshkigal’s misery and pain as she labors to give birth.

EreshkigalAfter three days, two tiny creatures arrive to rescue Inanna.  They moan and groan and sympathize with Ereshkigal, who is shocked – no one has done this before.  In gratitude, she offers them a gift.  They choose Inanna’s corpse, and bring her back to life.

There is more to the story, but this is where I was this last week: moaning and groaning and crying out in misery. Several events had combined to pull me off my normally positive center.  I felt stuck, trapped, and I couldn’t see a way out.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I just couldn’t bring myself to take the one action I knew would bring change because I don’t know for sure if it will bring a positive change.

For three days I quivered and cried, and wanted to shut myself away from society. My despair was so deep it even pulled my husband and children in briefly.

And then I remembered the lesson from the myth that has been speaking so loudly to me the past several months.  I sympathized with Ereshkigal.  I felt her pain to my very core. And I allowed myself to just be there. I scheduled some time off from work, and nurtured myself.  I took the time to actually figure out what had sent me to the Underworld, and began taking steps to clear up some incompletions.

I still have some more work to do, and I can feel that Underworld energy running below the surface. Just like Inanna needs Ereshkigal to be complete, I need my shadow to be complete. I am on my way back out, and I am starting to feel a lot better. I will keep investigating the mysteries of Ereshkigal and Inanna, because I know there is much more there for me to discover. And I know this is a cycle that will come around again.



PS. This quote helped me as well.  I have no idea who said it.

Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long.