This article uses the ancient Sumerian myths of the goddess Inanna to illustrate a necessary intrapsychic path of development within women. In the story of Inanna’s descent into the realm of her sister, Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld, Inanna is killed. Although Inanna begins this journey with an intention of support as Ereshkigal is mourning the loss of her consort, the meeting of the sisters leads to Inanna’s demise. It is a story of power, destruction, and resurrection. The article illustrates the work that women need to do both within and amongst themselves. It defines the need for gender equality in order to create an archetypal transformation accompanying balanced social change. The conclusion is that as women learn to listen to and feel the natural world, they will be guided to balance the archetypal expressions of power and beauty— thereby becoming instruments for global transformation.
The earth is an expression of consciousness. There is life in every grain of sand, as well as within mountains, soil, water, and all other manifestations of nature (Thompson, 1988). We are cells of Her body, composed of spirit and form, resulting from a union of heaven and earth—a dance of power and beauty.
This article discusses the role of women in global transformation while emphasizing our need to consciously connect with nature in order to experience a deepened sense of feminine power and beauty. Although women easily respond to ideals of beauty, goodness, kindness, and similar qualities—for the most part we have little, if any, knowledge of the expression of feminine power. It is not an easy task to recognize this quality, given that our model for power has been a masculine one. Sumerian goddess stories, especially the myth of Inanna’s descent into the underworld realm of her sister, Ereshkigal, are used to illuminate and illustrate the purpose of this article.
Women have been relegated to inferior positions for far too long, due to the great deception initiated by erroneous religious teachings and supported by cultural expectations. This imbalance has led all of life to the brink of destruction. A healthy, egalitarian future is dependent upon the emergence of the feminine and the balancing of gender (Mijares, Rafea, Falik, & Schipper, 2007). Women need to prepare themselves for this change. We must free every atom of our beings from six-thousand years (Kramer, 1991; Ehrenberg, 1983) of patriarchal suppression and lies. According to research by anthropologists and others, it is speculated that the rise of surplus agriculture, along with learning how to store it, by its very nature contributed to the rise of social inequality. It also began with invasions by the Aryans, Indo-Europeans, especially influencing India, Iran, and the Middle East. These agricultural, cultural changes represented a shift to patriarchal structures (Gardner, 1991; Mijares, Rafea, Falik & Schipper, 2007). This also initiated the rise of patriarchal religious traditions (Berman, 2000). A lot of time and effort was spent in creating patriarchal rule; it didn’t happen overnight.
Now, it is time to reawaken! Regardless of our intellectual sophistication, the majority of women have not experienced feminine power because of this history of suppression.
Deception: Lilith, Eve and Apples Due to patriarchal ideals emphasizing domination and related hierarchical structuring, the world’s religious traditions relegated women to irrelevant positions. It is a fact, that even in this sophisticated time of technological advances and the like, suppression of the female is still seen in many nations throughout the world. Even though the U.S. tends to take an ethnocentric view of being a progressive model for the world, it is a fact that males seriously out-number females in leadership positions, and it is well documented that women will be paid less for the same position as a man.1 These patterns are entrenched in old beliefs and related behaviors. There are also many women (typically religious fundamentalists of each religion) who simply accept, without question, their demeaned stature. One ludicrous example illustrating gender prejudice against women occurred in 584 C.E. when the Council of Macon met in Lyons, France. Sixty-six men, the majority being Catholic bishops, joined “to determine if women were human (or beasts)” (Mijares, Rafea, Falik, & Schipper, 2007, p. 223). Thirty-one of these men decided women were simply not human (that is almost half of these influential men). The scapegoating of Eve created an opening for such ignorance. According to the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Eve was the first woman, created from Adam’s rib. We are all more than familiar with the Judeo–Christian biblical creation story blaming Eve for listening to Satan and encouraging Adam to eat that apple with her—the fruit of the tree of life.2 (In the Islamic version, Eve acts in unison with Adam.) Few women know that according to earlier stories, Eve was actually Adam’s second wife. Merlyn Stone’s revelations, in her book When God was a Woman (1971), opened our eyes to stories we had simply never known. In early pre-Hebraic Sumerian tales, Lilith is the “hand” of Inanna, Queen of Heaven. In later Hebrew stories, the Sumerian Lilith reappears as Adam’s first wife, but because she refuses “to lie beneath him” and flees, she is demonized. Her next appearance manifests in Kabalistic stories, where she is portrayed as a female demon. These stories tell readers that “Lilith, Queen of the demons, or the demons of her retinue, do their best to provoke men to sexual acts without benefit of a woman, their aim being to make themselves bodies from the lost seed”(Stone, 1971, p. 195). In other words, if it wasn’t for Lilith and these demons seeking material form, men would not masturbate. It is a twisting of tales to assure male dominance of the “seed”—a seed that is solely for procreation and assuring patriarchal lineage. Many modern feminists think these stories are somehow irrelevant in these times, but they fail to see how these religious and mythological stories continue to influence social structures, thereby both damaging the feminine psyche, and, likewise, the archetypal feminine within the male.3 These stories impact social consciousness at its core4—a core that is about to be rattled to its bones. If the later Biblical myth of Eve being created from Adam’s rib automatically relegated the feminine to a lesser position, is it any wonder that Lilith metaphorically refused the missionary position? Sumerian myths reveal a very different understanding of Eve and the rib. Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer (1963) recognized that Hebrew Scriptures had incorporated elements of earlier Sumerian myths, beginning with the paradise legend. In Sumer, Dilmun, was the “land of the living,” a land that was “pure” and “clean” and “bright,” but in this prepatriarchal version of paradise, the feminine does not lose communion with paradise. Instead, she is a healing force as seen in the following stories. One legend tells what happens when Enki, the water god, notices that Dilmun is without water. Enki asks the sun-god Utu to draw forth water from the earth, thereby transforming Dilmun into a garden filled with fruit, meadows and the abundant gifts of nature. Kramer (1963) also illuminates the Sumerian influence upon the later Biblical version of Adam and Eve being evicted from Paradise for eating that forbidden fruit (of self-knowledge). It demonstrates the ways that symbols and metaphor were changed to support a new paradigm. In the earlier Sumerian version (Kramer; Mijares 2003), Ninhursag, “the Great Mother-Goddess of the Sumerians” (Mijares, p. 78) caused eight special plants to grow in the garden. Kramer explains that these sacred plants were able to thrive due to an “intricate process of three generations of goddesses” that had been conceived by Enki. These goddesses had been born “without the slightest pain or travail” (Kramer, p. 148). Although Ninhursag had proclaimed that the plants were not to be eaten, Enki disobeyed and ate each one. This resulted in Ninhursag sentencing him to death. As disease entered into eight organs, Enki’s health began to fail. (The significant part here is that one of these organs just happened to be a rib.) The great Mother-Goddess Ninhursag soon relented, deciding instead to heal Enki. The story tells us that she placed him by her vulva as she birthed eight deities (one for each ailing body part). These deities then healed each illness, but his rib was healed by the goddess Nin-ti who was also known as “the lady of the rib” (Mijares, 2003, p. 79). After studying both Stanley Kramer’s and Cass Dalglish’s research on Sumerian mythology, I included the story of Enki, Ninhursag and the “Lady of the rib” in “Tales of the Goddess: Healing Metaphors for Women” (Mijares, 2003) because it was such a powerful example of how early myths had been changed to lower the status of women. Author, poet, and Sumerian interpreter Cass Dalglish (1996, 2000) explains the double innuendo in the above story of healing of the rib. Nin-ti is the “lady of the rib” or the “lady who gives life”. For Sumerian scholars this is considered to be a great pun, transferred from Sumerian into the Hebraic creation story. Eve as a name actually means “she who makes live.” Sadly, the play on the words “rib” and “live” was lost in the new rendition, but the latter translation served a purpose in that it subordinated women. The equality known in early Sumerian life was hidden. Mixed Messages Regarding Paradise Paradise is always described as a lush garden, filled with flowing water, fruit trees, and other images of abundant nature. This is somewhat puzzling when one considers that patriarchal religions have emphasized a separation of heaven and earth, with heaven being the spiritual direction and everything of form (matter) the lesser one—filled with sin. In this paradigm, one does not seek “to understand the mind or the world in its own terms, but only as clues to the invisible reality of God in heaven” (Leahy, 1997, p. 79). Thus the “sacredness of the material world (that which has form) and ordinary life” (Mijares, Rafea, Falik, & Schipper, 2007, p. 87) has been denied. If the word sin originally meant to “miss the mark” (Douglas-Klotz, 1999), then we have really misconstrued our directions. Also, because of the denial of everything associated with nature and form, these same religious traditions that have ignored the sanctity of nature, do little, if anything, to prevent the corporate world from robbing and destroying her resources. If being cast from the garden of paradise represents the loss of original unity, then Mother Earth should be revered for She is the reconnecting force. The Earth Speaks During 1989 through 1990 I was enrolled in Matthew Fox’s Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California. Most of the students were housed together in dormitories, attending classes, living and breathing this learning environment for a nine-month gestation period. The Institute was in upper Oakland with nearby California redwood forests. Classes focused on healing earth and soul, with an emphasis upon the Divine Feminine. I enrolled in a course to enhance creative writing skills. One day students were given the assignment of going outside the confinements of the room, finding an expression of nature and then allowing it to speak through us (be it a blade of grass, piece of wood, tree or the like). This assignment was not working for me—until I had the realization that I wanted to write as though I was the Earth Goddess herself. I wanted Her words to come through me. Joaquin Miller Park was just up the hill. Some of us began our day with a ritual sunrise walk in this beautiful redwood forest. My plan was that after this walk I would return to the dormitory, and, without thought, allow Her words to stream through me. This is what came: You walk upon my paths, and acknowledge my beauty. But you do not know my power— the power to push forth mountain peaks and open valleys for oceans to fill. A slight pause…awaiting what would come next… but the flow of words did not continue. Instead, an earthquake began. Within hours I would learn the degree of this synchronistic message, as I was sitting at the epicenter of the earthquake (Mijares, 2003; in press). It was obvious that this message about a force within nature that moves mountains, shifts continental plates and “opens valleys for oceans to fill” was extremely relevant. Nature is beautiful, and it is also powerful. As noted earlier, women more often choose to portray the feminine as beautiful (kind, beneficent, serving and so forth), while feminine power goes unacknowledged. If the feminine is a force that moves mountains, then we need this innate power to create significant, much needed, change. More importantly, this is a power that differs from masculine power. The earth’s capacity to shift the ground beneath us comes from a deep inner core—that is both within and part of its nature. Inanna’s journey into the underworld also represents a journey that both accesses and assimilates needed power from within. Inanna Discloses the Way The Sumerian myth5 of Inanna’s journey into the underworld provides great guidance in the journey to healing and wholeness. Inanna is wise and compassionate, she is passionate and sexual—and, she also demonstrates the balancing of beauty and power. According to Babylonian and Assyrian scriptures from approximately 2nd millennium BCE, Inanna, the “Great One,” was summoned forth at the beginning of creation (Douglas Klotz, 2011). She was the Mother, wise and compassionate. In this poem you see that she represents female beauty and goodness: “From what is small and fragile let abundance and power come: let humanity take on the consciousness of the whole creation and be absorbed by this task.” So spoke the Great Ones, shining centers of awareness, the original archetypes of existence, in the primordial beginning. From the energizing dark waves they summoned the Great One (Inanna) in the form of the Mother, Wise Mami— she whose name means the one who responds to cries: “You are the Mother-Womb, radiant source of warmth and life, the one from whose depths humanity may arise. Create this unique form. as a spiral of life into matter— one force of its being always leaving, the other always returning home, the tension balanced by the awareness of the void. “Create humanity as a thin veil that shrouds the Universal Reality. Let its purpose spread open and fertile like a fresh field to be plowed. Let it embrace the empty core of Being covered in layers of activity like an onion’s skin” (Douglas-Klotz, 2011, pp. 21–22). Inanna is associated with the act of creation itself. But other hymns to this Goddess also reveal that Inanna was deeply sensual and connected with nature. Hymns such as the following declare the passion and sensuality between Inanna and her consort Dumuzi.6 This translated third millennium, BCE, Sumerian poem, reveals vivid depictions of nature, passion and sexuality. Inanna says: “Wild bull—pulsing, single-eye of the whole land! I want to fulfill all your needs: I want to force your master to wage justice in the royal place inside. Leave no voice unheard, leave nothing undone! I want to make your seed grow to fullness in my mansion. Dumuzi says: Inanna, your breast is an open field, your wide open spaces gush with greenery like a freely spreading meadow flowing with grain. Your deep waters pour down on me like bread from the source. Water flowing and flowing, bread and understanding from on high. Release the flood for its desired goal, I will drink it all from you” (Douglas-Klotz, 2011, p. 183). These words speak of both nature and sexuality. Unlike the later patriarchal demeaning of women, sexuality and nature, these expressions do not demean natural forces and expressions—but rather both claim and honor their abundant expression. Most women understand maternal qualities, and have also experienced passion and sensuality—but how many women have experienced the journey into the underworlds to confront the power of their dark sister? The hymn describing Inanna’s journey into the depths of the underworld, where she is killed by her dark sister Ereshkigal is a story of both meeting and being consumed by power. It is also a story of death and resurrection7—a journey leading to integration and wholeness. When Inanna returns, she confronts the fact that her consort Dumuzi has taken over her throne. She then replicates Ereshkigal’s power as Inanna banishes Dumuzi and claims her position—a throne she can hold with or without her lover. Although there are other renditions8 of this Sumerian legend, I believe this version speaks to what happened as patriarchy robbed women of their equality in life. It also illuminates the work that women need to accomplish in order to reclaim their inherent royalty as we are all expressions of divine life and as such automatically have equality (more on thrones later in the article). In the beginning of this story, Inanna starts a journey based on compassion. She has learned that her sister, Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld, is suffering for the loss/death of her consort. Inanna wants to comfort her sister despite the warnings of those around her. It is said that the journey into the underworld is a dangerous one—and that it could bring on her death. But Inanna is determined to go to her dark sister. She does concede their warnings in that she tells her devoted servant Ninshubar to take some form of action if Inanna has not returned in three days—for it is the law of the underworld that one cannot leave after entering it. Inanna descends through the seven gates into the underworld, explaining that she is going to Ereshkigal’s realm in order to mourn the loss of Ereshkigal’s husband. At each gate she then relinquishes her royal garments and jewels until, after passing the final gate, Inanna enters the realm of Ereshkigal, naked and stooped over. Inanna begins the journey with the intent of bringing comfort to her sister, but it is not received. Instead, Inanna is met with her sister’s destructive power. Although this story has strong elements of a shamanic journey, it is also a powerful metaphor about knowing the feminine power hidden in the underground of our inner beings. As long as this innate power is unconscious it can act in destructive ways. Perhaps the recognition of it has the capacity to destroy the limited image previously held of one’s self as a woman—a recognition that can precipitate a rebirth leading to wholeness. We must bring our power out of the shadows. The balance of beauty and power is the wholeness that is needed in order to heal our fractured and endangered world.9 During the late 80s, I was doing a lot of healing breath work. I began seeing that unconscious emotions, and also great depths of power, were hidden within the body. When the breath is focused it can stimulate neural networks and power centers. Cellular memories, primal, instinctual energies, can awaken the body–mind from its unconscious slumber (Thurman, 1994; Washburn, 1994; Mijares, 2012). Memory is inherent within the genes and cellular structures of DNA. This memory contains the stories of our genetic ancestors and those of the collective unconscious. These memories also contain dramas depicting human pathos. They are teeming with narratives of destruction, power, and beauty. Repressed feelings, memories, ego-states, sub-personalities, and archetypal forces can be hidden in energy blocks. In short, deep forces were awakening within me. Because I had been raised in a very violent and unloving family, I did not know how to speak up for myself nor had I learned to value my feelings. Although I had much compassion for others, coupled with a deeply rooted sense of integrity and responsibility, I did not know how to protect my boundaries in difficult relational experiences. One day I was going over to my friend’s house to pick up some papers. She was an older woman who had taken the time to teach me much of what she had learned as an editor for a major publishing house, but she was also a domineering woman—who would drain others with lengthy conversations about her past. That day had been a particularly difficult one, and so I told her I would not be able to stay and chat. She immediately began to dominate the situation, and my time. Suddenly, this immense power came forth from within me. It was like fire, and it seemed to come from deep within my belly and yet it felt bigger than my actual physical shape. I restated my purpose to pick up the papers and leave quickly. Her hands actually trembled, and there was immediate respect. Upon leaving I found myself having ordinary thoughts, such as wondering if I should apologize. As the observer of the process, I had had an immediate response within. There was no reason to apologize as I had not attacked her personality nor had I said anything but to state my need for brevity. In fact, reaffirming my original intention had more integrity because it was truthful. A few weeks later, I had a reappearance of this fiery power with another friend. It was a simple circumstance, but one where I needed to claim boundaries and state what I believed. Something new was birthing from deep within me. Even though women are more relational than men, fostered through birthing children and being the primary coordinators in the family, they don’t always know how to handle opposition. Patriarchal conditioning has not allowed women to know their voices. On the social scale, this is a fairly new development for women. Yet, one can see this power awakening within women in various nations around the globe. It is happening quite rapidly, like a spreading fire from within. One sees this in women in the Middle East, as the so-called “Arab Spring” spreads. The numerous televised images of women in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, were seen around the world as women stood equally with men, demanding freedom and equality for all. It is seen as increasing numbers of women defy maledominated religious extremism such as in Saudi Arabia where women are forbidden from driving a car. These women are willing to go to jail or to suffer other consequences, such as being beaten. They are waking up to their power and right to move freely—as symbolized in the act of driving a car. The women of Africa have also shown great power, courage, and beauty, such as Leymah Gwobee, a woman who watched an entire community’s ongoing suffering in Liberia as an extremely patriarchic government went from bad to worse following the 1997 election of the warlord Charles Taylor. Women and young girls were raped, men killed and young boys drugged and forced into becoming boy soldiers. In her words: Despite desires and work for peace, people were still dying and war raged on. In fact, over 200,000 people had been killed by 2002 and one in three persons had been displaced. Something different had to be done. We gathered and decided to use one of the oldest female tactics possible,10 which meant if men chose to go to war, their wives would withhold sex. The numbers of women increased as women developed more confidence and found strength in numbers and our shared unity of intention. (Gwobee, in press) Leymah gathered Muslim and Christian women. First, they withheld sex from their husbands, but then took their mission even further by barricading Charles Taylor and his men. The women surrounded them, locking arms, in order to prevent these men from leaving until authentic negotiations for peace had begun. Then, despite the threats of arrest, Leymah began to strip off her clothes in front of the men—the strongest form of indignation she could demonstrate. She explains that “Even though many of these men had most likely raped other women, combining violence with sex, they were immensely shamed at my demonstration. Somehow my nakedness, along with the nakedness of my soul, brought them to disgrace” (Gwobee, in press). Like Inanna, she had entered this position naked. She faced the warlord directly, and, as a result, the women won their position. Eventually, following numerous meeting and elections, Charles Taylor was banished. The women supported the election of a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, inaugurated in January 2006. These women were motivated by deep love for all, along with the ability to manifest this love in a way that created such immense transformation—fueled by a deep, inherent sense of power. This power was evoked by powerful circumstances, leading them to cast off previously interjected patriarchal patterns. It was similar to the instinctual mother protecting her offspring from any threats. Although increasing numbers of Western women are forming groups to discuss empowering one another, and reaching out via internet discussions,11 this is just a beginning as women also need to heal their relationships with the internalized feminine and likewise with other women. The desire to reach out is generally motivated by an image of women as caring, nurturing and such. It does not address the deeper power—hidden in the shadowed inner realms. The power that arises as we connect with Nature, Mother Earth, will assure the needed changes. First, women need to embark on that deeper journey in order to clear the patriarchal forces within themselves. This is a necessary step if we are to free ourselves from interjected and internal destructive behaviors (Mijares, Rafea, & Angha, 2011). This requires an inner journey—one where we learn to sense our way through dark emotions and motivations deep within unconscious realms. As we become more aware of neurological sensations and intuitively recognize what is behind them, we can heal our relationship with our inner feminine—an awareness that is greatly assisted by breathing processes (Mijares, 2009). The interjected patriarchal forces show up as repressive conditions and internalized voices within consciousness. For example, an unconscious masculine part of oneself can demean the unconscious feminine, causing her to believe, on an inner level, that she is unworthy or doesn‘t know what she believes. This then impairs outer relationships as the woman may project this pattern on other women in order to feel better about herself. When this internal programming is recognized at psychosomatic levels, the pattern can be changed. A recent article in Harper’s magazine noted how generations of feminists have failed to connect with one another, thereby weakening what each generation has contributed. According to the research by its author, each generation tends to emphasize a different direction, thereby undermining and criticizing the work before and after, and confusing definitions of feminine nature (Faludi, 2010). The author’s point was that this was a form of matricide. As long as there is a psychic split within the relational feminine, we cannot bring forth our innate power, this power to move mountains. We need to reconcile differences, and build on one another’s contributions—from Enheduanna’s stories of Inanna through feminists of all eras (Dalglish, 2000; Dalglish, 2008), and all those who work for gender balance. Generations of women have both held and passed on an internal psychic split. Given that the mother is generally the initial relationship, the newborn feminine self is psychically influenced by the mother’s experience at a cellular level. Most likely, the imprinted message from the last five to six thousand years of patriarchal ideology and behaviors has been passed on (consciously or unconsciously), the message that the feminine self is inferior. Also, the mother has her moods, like the changing moon, as does Mother Earth Herself, evidenced in storms, floods, rains and sunny days. According to psychoanalytical perspectives, an unconscious split occurs in those who cannot hold the changes taking place in the mother and/or the environment. If there is trauma or the mother does not provide essential nurturing, the split is exacerbated. Psychoanalysts call this the “good mother”/”bad mother” split. So this equates to an internalized “good woman”/”bad woman” split.In the Introduction to A Force Such as the World Has Never Known (in press), I wrote how: One also sees this split encouraged in religious tales, such as the “virgin” rendition of the birth of Jesus, similar myths related to Guatama Buddha’s birth as well as the births of other historical male figures. The virgin (which actually means someone who is whole in herself) is distorted to represent a woman who is sexless (and whose only role is to be a “pure” vehicle to birth great men). Other women then end up holding the projected opposite—the whore, the bitch, the demon figure (and in many fairy tales she is also depicted as the “wicked stepmother”). (Mijares, Rafea, & Angha, in press) Consider the numerous women who are unable to get along with one another. They are acting out these archetypal influences, diminishing another woman or negating her accomplishments because of envy and the deeply felt sense of incompleteness. Many women dominate or demean others in misbegotten attempts to feel important. Envy is based on a false idea of inferiority. Thus “when we are unable to recognize our own human value or believe in our ability to manifest our intentions in the world—the tendency is to turn against self and others” (Mijares, Rafea, & Angha, in press). Inanna also demonstrated hierarchical behaviors. She was not all light and goodness. In the story of Inanna’s descent to Ereshkigal’s realm, Inanna tells the gate-keepers that she wants to comfort her sister, who is mourning over the loss of her husband,12 thus obtaining permission to pass. Some renditions say that as Inanna enters the underworld, having passed through the final gate, Ereshkigal rises, and Inanna moves in taking over Ereshkigal’s throne.
“Goddess” © 2012, photograph by Raymonde Savoie, all rights reserved. RAYMONDE SAVOIE, born in rural eastern Canada, has been fascinated with dreams ever since she was a little girl. She has used journaling, photography and dream deciphering extensively to heal childhood trauma and its after -effects, and to discover her life purpose. Fascinated with the power of plants and natural spaces to heal both spiritually and physically, Raymonde also creates herbal remedies, flower essences and garden designs specifically chosen to impart healing energies catered to her client’s individual needs. She now resides in New Brunswick, Canada and works in a plant nursery
“Dragonfly” © 2012, photograph by Raymonde Savoie, all rights reserved.